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“the trouble… starting through one of them brushing some water on to the other’s coal” – Deaf Derbyshire Dress Maker, Sarah (H)annice Sneap, née Grainger,1871-1955

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 14 November 2019

Sarah Grainger was born on the 11th of January, 1871, in Stoneyford (a small place right on the railway line that seems to have disappeared from modern maps), Loscoe, Derbyshire, and her birth registered as Sarah Hannice Grainger.  Her parents were Frances and Samuel Grainger, and her father worked in a colliery as an engine driver.  She attended the Derby School under Dr. William R. Roe, and in the beautifully produced quarterly magazine for the school, Our Deaf and Dumb for September 1895, her photograph appears with a column that was, I imagine, written by Roe.

At the time it came out, Sarah was working as a dress maker.  Roe tells us that the photographer has not flattered her.  He continues,

Our friend, when a pupil here, showed no special aptitude in any particular line, but a cheerful willingness to do whatever she was called upon to undertake, and to ‘do it well.’ This, after all, is a very good trait in anyone’s character, and reminds us of a leading statesman, who, on being reminded by a fellow-statesman that he used to be only a boot-black, replied, Didn’t I black the boots well r That’s the point, to do well’ all we undertake, and then success is sure to follow, as in the case of our friend, who is now in business for herself as a dressmaker, and, we are told, ‘has a nice little connexion.’ When travelling once, a lady told us she thought our old pupil improved both in lip-reading and speech.’ This is encouraging to us, and no doubt is a great aid to our friend in speaking on business matters to her customers.

We know she has had many obstacles in her way, and are glad of it. Yes, the true value of a difficulty has never yet been estimated. It is a real stimulus. It is like a ladder set up that one may climb. It is a tacit invitation to command the outlook. It is the open door of opportunity. It is the intimation to look within and discover one’s latent powers, and use them. Very few come up to their highest measure of success. Some fail through timidity or lack of nerve ; they are unwilling to take the risks incident to life, and fail through fear in venturing on ordinary duties ; they lack the pluck necessary to success in life. Others fail through imprudence, lack of discretion, care, or sound judgment. ‘They over-estimate the future, build air-castles, venture beyond their depth, fail, and fall. A still greater number fail through lack of application and perseverance. They begin with good resolves, but soon get tired of that and want a change, thinking they can do much better at something else, and, alas ! move aimlessly from one thing to another without any set purpose in view. No one has a right to live aimlessly, for no one has a right to abandon reason and self-control, and consent to be a mere waif, drifting hither and thither like chaff before the wind. Whether deaf or hearing we are endowed with reason, conscience, and will, in order that we may both become and do that which is noble and beneficent. Let us remember that we live in a busy world, where the idle and lazy do not count in the plan of campaign ; and let every girl now within the walls of our Institution—yea, and those who have left us, too—remember the good old text, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.’

In 1905 Sarah married a Deaf man from Ilkeston, who was ten years younger, a labourer and coal hewer called John Henry Sneap (1881-1936).  Sneap was possibly the same person who was recorded as having an accident in the Derby Daily Telegraph for Friday 31st of May, 1935 –

John Sneap (60), miner, of Marehay was admitted to the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary to-day with a severely injured right leg. He is employed by the Butterley Co., and was caught by a fall of bind in the Marehay pit.

If that is him, it may have contributed to his death the following year, as he died in 1936.

Just as I thought I had finished writing this, I discovered that Sarah was another Deaf person who made it into the local press, in an unfortunate minor case.  This is from the Mansfield Reporter for Friday, the 23rd of November, 1917, adjacent to stories about cauliflower thefts and damaging turnips 

DEAF AND DUMB WOMAN IN COURT.

Two Selston women aired their grievances before the magistrates, the trouble apparently starting through one of them brushing some water on to the other’s coal. The complainant was Elias Jane Swain, and she said that a week ago last Tuesday the defendant Sarah A. Sneap, who is deaf and dumb, and who had the assistance of her brother-in-law as interpreter, struck her on the face with a yard brush, and when she put her hand up to defend herself she got a second blow on the arm.

—When this was explained to defendant through the deaf and dumb alphabet, she stated, through the same means, that complainant struck her first, and that she then acted in self defence.—The brother-in-law: She can’t hear or speak, but she has instincts, and she knows that complainant has made game of her, and has put her fists into her face.

—Defendant: I have not done such a thing.

—Complainant’s little boy said defendant struck the first blow, and then his mother took the brush away from her, and struck her with it.

—The Bench dismissed the case.

—The brother-in-law asked for some form of protection for Mrs. Sneap, but was told she must take proceedings with this end in view.

We learn from this that John Sneap’s brother could presumably sign, though it is always difficult to be sure whether someone is only using the ‘finger alphabet’ or is properly interpreting with sign language, as local reporters would possibly not have been clear as to the difference.

Sarah lived on in Basford, closer to Nottingham, and died in 1955.  Her death merited a notice in the Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press for Friday, the 6th of January, 1956 – 

BRINSLEY RESIDENT’S DEATH.

The death occurred on Wednesday of last week of Mrs. Sarah Annice Sneap, of 37, Plain Spot, New Brinsley, at the ago of 84 years. Although deaf and dumb, Mrs. Sneap led very active life, and was well-known locally for her dressmaking abilities, which she carried on until prevented by her declining years.

The funeral took place at St. James’ Church. Brinsley, and was conducted by the Rev. F. H. Newbery on Saturday last.  Mrs. Daff, sister of deceased, was unable to attend.

The chief mourners were: Mr. and Mrs G. Grainger, Mr. and Mrs. R. V. Daff, Mr. and Mrs. H. Reynolds, Mr. and Mrs. A. Daff, Mr. and Mrs. I. Daff. Mr. B. Eley, Mrs. Clarke, Mrs. Mellors, Mrs. Williamson, nephews and nieces; Mr. L. Moore and Mrs. Ayre, cousins; Mr. W. Rockley, friend; Mr. Fox (Deaf and Dumb Institute secretary); Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Chamberlain, friends.

Floral tributes were sent all the above; also Annice. Mabel and family; Mr. and Mrs. Rockley and Shirley; Mr. and Mrs. Purdy; Mr. and Mrs. Riley and Kit; Mrs. Andrews; Friends and Neighbours of Plain Spot and Frances Street.

Sarah Annice Grainger, Our Deaf and Dumb, September 1895, Vol. 2 no. 2 p. 25

Grainger

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 3320; Folio: 40; Page: 6; GSU roll: 1341791

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2658; Folio: 32; Page: 3

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 3143; Folio: 51; Page: 41

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6254C

Sneap

1901  Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 3150; Folio: 72; Page: 28

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 20357

Derby Daily Telegraph – Friday 31 May 1935

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