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“Mr. M’Diarmid, of Donaldson’s Hospital, who, without any facts… upon which to ground his opinion, has arrived at a different conclusion”

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 13 September 2019

In 1856, two members of the Committee of the National Deaf and Dumb Association of Ireland, that started the Claremont Institution, came to Scotland and England to examine the major education institutions for the Deaf, and how they were run.  The Honorary Secretary was John Ringland (1816-76), of 14 Harcourt Street, Dublin, a midwifery doctor at the Coombe Lying In Hospital – he was ‘Master of the Coombe’ from 1841-76, and Mr John GelstonI could not find out anything interesting about him in the time available.

Here we have a list of the institutions they visited.  As you will see from the title page, Gelston was with the Inland Revenue.

The introduction to the report credits Harvey Peet’s Report on European Institutions, and Ringland says (p.4), “It affords us much satisfaction to be able to state that in most of his views we entirely concur with Dr. Peet: in the few trifling points upon which we differ with him, we do so with extreme unwillingness, as we feel assured that the conclusions he has arrived at have been the result of unprejudiced judgement, and of earnest convictions.”  One section where they did disagree with Peet was the ‘separation of the sexes’:

With but two or three exceptions, namely, Edinburgh, Donaldson’s Hospital, and, we believe, one other, all the pupils, both male and female, take their meals at the same time in a common hall; but in all we found that there was a separate play-ground for each sex, and that, excepting during the time already stated, they are kept strictly apart. We think it right to observe that at Glasgow the play-grounds are separated by a very low wall, which answers the purpose merely of marking out the point of separation.

With the exception of Mr. M’Diarmid, of Donaldson’s Hospital, who, without any facts, however, upon which to ground his opinion, has arrived at a different conclusion, the Principals of all the Institutions we visited highly approve of these arrangements, so almost universally adopted, and do not believe that any immorality has ever resulted from them, but, on the contrary, consider that they have been the best means of preventing any tendency to it.

In reference to this point, we cannot help quoting the opinion of Dr. Peet, of New York, who in his very interesting report of his visit to the different Institutions for the deaf and dumb in Europe, expresses his conviction, “that the effects of such a system—namely the strict separation of the sexes—would be evil.” He subsequently goes on to say that “with us the sexes, accustomed daily to see each other, are also accustomed to self-control, to the habitual decency of thought, manner, and expression ; are accustomed to put down truant thoughts by religious and moral motives ; are impressed strongly with the truth that their future happiness in this life will mainly depend on their present good conduct ; and, in short, are under all the moral influence that in families and in society preserve the virtue of the young. If for this moral control, aided by a constant supervision, we should substitute strict seclusion from intercourse with the other sex, should we not impress our pupils with the idea that in circumstances of temptation their fall would be inevitable ? If we treat virtue as a hot-house plant, will it endure as well when removed from our conservatory to take its chances in the open air.” (pages 17-18)

I have scanned the whole report with the exception on the Appendix 3, which is a large table covering the differences in how the schools approached certain things, such as the time of meals.  I have however photographed it, but if you have trouble reading it, come in to see it here!

Report of a Deputation from the National Association for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor

“his client was terribly afflicted, and totally unable give any evidence except by Signs” – alleged assault on Emma Conway of Dosthill, 1893

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 23 August 2019

This is a story touching on the life of Emma Conway, a Deaf girl, who was briefly in the news for all the wrong reasons, before sinking again into obscurity.

She was born in Staffordshire, at Brownhill(s), Wallsall in 1869, but the family moved to Dosthill, near Tamworth.  Her father, Isaac, worked as a labourer, and two brothers were miners.  She also had at least two sisters.  Emma was born deaf, and probably had no education in any formal way.  The 1881 census does not say she was a scholar, when she was thirteen.  Her sister, Eliza, was married and lived close by.  She probably had no contact with other Deaf people, and would therefore have grown up isolated from any possibility of learning either sign language or finger-spelling, though the latter would of course only be useful to someone who could read, and we might guess that she could not.  The family and friends must have coped with ‘home signing’ which is often found where a single child is deaf within a speaking community.  Her story illustrates the importance of language in obtaining justice.

Herbert Baylis, was a Fazeley born butcher’s assistant, son of Francis Baylis, a local butcher.  (Note that his name was consistently spelt ‘Bayliss’ below).

The case emerges in local newspapers.  On the morning of the 7th of March, a Tuesday, Herbert Baylis, then 18, allegedly ‘feloniously’ assaulted Emma (Coventry Evening TelegraphWednesday 22 March 1893). The Lichfield Mercury for Friday 24th March 1893, expands the story.  They tell us that Baylis was “summoned by Eliza Holiday to answer a charge of indecently assaulting Emma Conway, a deaf and dumb girl, at Dosthill, on the 7th inst.” Eliza being a sister of Emma.  Mr. E. Argyle, who defended, objected initially, as “the offence was alleged to have taken place in Warwickshire, and proceedings had been taken in Staffordshire.”  Argyle also objected “that the information was not laid upon oath, but by the girl’s sister. He did not deny that defendant went to the house, but asserted that he had a perfect answer to the charge. A summons had been issued for which there was not a shallow of foundation support it.”  Here we see the problem of language, on which the case was to hinge.

In reply to the Bench, complainant’s sister said the girl did not know the deaf & dumb alphabet. She understood what her sister meant by the motions she made.

—Mr. Argyle objected to the sister interpreting the evidence ; it should done by a sworn interpreter.

—After consideration by the Bench, Mr. Argyle said in any case he would have to ask for an adjournment, as his witnesses were not present. He was only instructed that morning, just before coming to the Court. Mr. Argyle added that should strongly object to the sister acting as interpreter.

—The Bench said she could ask someone else to do so. (Lichfield Mercury)

Consequently, the case was adjourned for a fortnight.  It is hardly surprising that the defence should object as the sister was hardly unbiased, and I suppose home sign is not a true language, though it is a form of communication.

The Tamworth Herald – for Saturday the 8th of April 1893, continues the story, calling it “An Extraordinary Case.”

Mr. R. Nevill appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. E. Argyle defended. The case was heard at the last fortnightly sessions, and was adjourned order that someone might be obtained to interpret the girl’s evidence.

—Mr. Nevill said his client was terribly afflicted, and totally unable give any evidence except by Signs. The offence was alleged to have occurred in the forenoon about ten. Mrs Sarah Woods, neighbour who had known the girl for the last five or six years would interpret her evidence.

—At Mr Argyle’s request all the witnesses except Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Holiday, were ordered by the Bench to leave the Court until called.

—Mr. Argyle said the case was the most difficult he had ever known. The girl was not acquainted with the deaf and dumb alphabet.

—Mrs. Wood was then sworn, and said she was the wife of John Wood, miner. She bad known the girl Conway for four and half years, and could understand from her signs what she meant.

—Emma Conway was through the interpreter next sworn, and kissed the book. According to the interpreter the girl conveyed by her signs that the defendant came into the house, and followed her into the parlour, where the assault complained of was alleged to have taken place.

—Agnes Aucott (11), [an error for Allcott] residing with her parents at Dosthill, said defendant drove to Conway’s house.  She heard him ask Conway where someone lived.  Witness then informed defendant that the girl was deaf and dumb, and he asked whether Conway’s mother was alive, and she replied in the negative.  He also asked whether the girl had a sister and brother, and she said yes, adding that the brother had gone to work.  She saw the defendant follow the girl Conway down the passage towards her house, and she afterwards went and told Mrs. Holiday.

— Cross-examined : She had often seen the defendant, but had not spoken to him before.  He came to Dosthill twice a week.  She saw the defendant with the tobacco pipe produced in his hand. She did not hear him asking the girl for a match ; but she saw him show her a penny.  The penny was not a match box. Between her seeing the defendant follow Conway down the passage and her telling Mrs. Holiday, she heard the barking of the dog which is kept as a protection to Conway.  She heard no screaming.

—Eliza Holiday, wife of Joseph Holiday, miner, Balfour’s buildings, Dosthill, said she was a sister of Emma Conway, and lived next door but one to her.  In consequence of what the previous witness told her she went to her sister’s house.  She went in the back door, and saw the defendant pushing against the parlour door.  She asked him what he wanted and he gave no answer.  The dog which was chained up in one corner of the house was savagely barking, and she could hear the sound some crying.  She again asked the defendant what he wanted, and he said “a match.”  She told him that she hoped he would not be caught there again.  Afterwards, defendant used a threatening expression to her, and at that moment he had a knife in his hand.  After getting defendant out of the house she went in and found Conway crying, and in consequence of what the girl made her understand, she took out a summons against the defendant next morning.

—Cross-examined : She had never dealt with the defendant, but she owed something to defendant’s father, and she thought that when the bills were put right she would owe only 6d.  There was some ill-feeling over the matter.  She did not go to Mrs. Cook and say that defendant had “struck my poor sister.”  When she accused defendant twenty minutes afterwards of committing an assault upon her sister, defendant said that if she did not take care he would have her locked up for making such an accusation.

— [During this witness’s cross-examination the persons occupying the gallery gave vent to some laughter, whereupon the chairman threatened that the gallery would be cleared if any further expression of feeling were made.]

— Emma Simpson, wife of George Simpson, miner, and living next door Conway’s house, said in the forenoon of the day in question she heard noises from the next house as of someone screaming, and also of dog barking.  She sent her daughter to Conway’s to see what was the matter.

—Cross-examined : She owed to defendant’s father.

—This was all the evidence for the prosecution.

—Mr. Argyle submitted that there was no case against the defendant such any grand jury would entertain.

—The Chairman held that there was a case for the defendant to answer.

—Mr. Argyle said he would therefore advise his defendant to reserve his defence.  After a consultation with the defendant, and the defendant’s father, Mr. Argyle said he still held that there was not shadow of a case against the defendant, and he could not recede from the position he had taken up.  There was no corroboration of the evidence. The case would have to go for trial unless their worships decided to dismiss it.

—The Chairman said the Bench would have to send the case for trial to the Quarter Sessions.

—Defendant was allowed bail in the sum of £50, his father giving the necessary sureties.

The defence was trying to imply that the witnesses had an interest in seeing Baylis lose the case.  As to the nature of the alleged assault, it is typically opaque

The case came before a grand jury – used in England  and Wales until the 1930s – at the end of June.  The Leamington Spa Courier for Saturday the 1st of July, 1893, said that the grand jury was told that,

The most difficult case they would have to deal with was a charge of assault upon a deaf and dumb girl who had not been instructed in the deaf and dumb alphabet.  The only means of understanding her was by signs and gesticulations, and none but some of her neighbours could tell what she meant.  He would advise them to be very careful with the case, and, unless they were satisfied that the petty jury were likely to understand the case, it would be safer to throw out the bill.

That is exactly what happened, as we read in the Alcester Chronicle for Saturday the 1st of July, 1893, which reports that that Baylis was acquitted –

The prosecutrix, who is deaf and dumb, did not appear to understand the nature of an oath, and the case was accordingly dismissed, no evidence being tendered.  The magistrates promised get the girl into deaf and dumb asylum.

I am not sure that the magistrates understood what ‘deaf asylums’ were. She was not a child, so unless they were going to get someone to help teach her as an adult, say from one of the Midland missions, I am not sure what they were expecting. She would have been worse off in a workhouse, and it seems that her family were looking out for her and caring for her.  Additionally as we have said, the finger-alphabet is useless without an understanding of spelling, so unless Emma could read, which does not seem likely, the only sensible thing would have been for her to be taught sign language.

Baylis seems to have died in Lewisham in 1933.*

In 1911 Emma was living with her older sister, Catherine, and her husband James Besant, a carter, at 23 Paddock Lane, Walsall.  She died in 1946, never having married.

Coventry Evening TelegraphWednesday 22 March 1893 – other newspapers as quoted a

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 2915; Folio: 122; Page: 48; GSU roll: 836406

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 2775; Folio: 17; Page: 28; GSU roll: 1341664

1891 Census – Emma –  Class: RG12; Piece: 2211; Folio: 64; Page: 7

1891 Census – Eliza –  Class: RG12; Piece: 2211; Folio: 64; Page: 8

1891 Census – Bayliss – Class: RG12; Piece: 2211; Folio: 23; Page: 9

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 17169; Schedule Number: 20

1929 – Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 909

*There is another Herbert Baylis who was born in India who some family history researchers seem to have confused with this Herbert Baylis.  His father was

Theophilus Ledbook Baylis

“they lose the dull heavy look of a deaf mute…” – Oralist supporter, the Lip-reading teacher, Eliza Frances Boultbee

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 16 August 2019

Eliza Frances Boultbee (1860-1925) was the daughter of Marian and James Boultbee.  At the time of her birth in Staffordshire, her father was a curate, and in the 1861 census they were staying with her grandfather Thomas Boultbee, who was Vicar of Bidford, Warwickshire.  James Boultbee became Vicar of Wrangthorn, Leeds, from 1866-1908.  Eliza’s younger sister, Anne Gertrude Boultbee (1867-87) was born deaf, and according to the Boultbee family history website, she was taught to lip-read by Eliza.  Presumably this was how she developed her interest in deaf education and oralism.  This is where I hit myself on the forehead, for I have come across the name Boultbee before, though I could not recall the context.  Annie Boultbee was a pupil of the oralist teacher John Barber, at his Edgeware Road school in 1881, who I wrote about exactly one year ago!

In the introduction of her book Practical lip-reading for the use of the deaf  (1902), summarising the history of deaf education through the ages (the familiar litany of Ponce de Leon, Juan Pablo Bonet, William Holder, John Conrad Amman, Samuel Heinicke etc), she makes clear her oralist agenda.  I quote at length to illustrate that. After calling de l’Epee a ‘benevolent man’, she continues –

Heinicke’s system, as we understand it now, enables the deaf to use their voices in the shape of language, and the sense of sight is taught to recognise the varying motions made by the lips and tongue in speaking.  In fact, it enables them to converse as do hearing people; thus they naturally learn much they would have been in ignorance of, had they been left to the companionship of those who only understand by signs.  They listen, as it were, with their eyes.  They are no longer shunned, but looked upon with wonder and interest.  The system gives them an increase of bodily health, constant speech increasing the respiratory action, and consequently inducing greater development of the lungs, making them thus less prone to pulmonary diseases.

In addition to this, they have an improved expression of countenance, they lose the dull heavy look of a deaf mute whose facial muscles are chiefly used in the process of mastication.  Their lives are happier, their disposition improved, and their suspicion of hearing persons decreased.

They are less likely to marry among their deaf allies, and can be instructed in the duties of religion and daily life by any clergyman.  On the other hand, De l’Eppe, by his system, gave signs as the language of thought.  When translated either with the written or spoken word, we soon find they do not follow in the grammatical order of any language, and that conversation is carried on, especially by the pupils, in a very confusing method.

The late Mr. A. A. Kinsey, to whom I have already referred, who did much in his day to diffuse the Oral System in England, refers in one of his pamphlets to this. He proves most convincingly how injurious is the system of teaching by signs : ” The order of the sign language,” he says, ” is an inverted order, and totally at variance with the construction of the English language ; so far from assisting its pupils to a correct expression, it tends to prevent their attaining it.”  He gives an authentic literal translation of the Lord’s Prayer from signs used at an asylum for deaf mutes :

” Father your and mine Heaven ; name Thy hallowed; Kingdom Thy come, men and women all; will Thy done, angels obey people all like ; day this, clay every, give bread, drink, clothes, things all, temptation we fall not; but devil bondage deliver; for Kingdom Thy, power Thy, glory Thy, for ever. Amen.”

Heinicke saw clearly that there could be no combination of these two methods—they are antagonistic in principle. (Boultbee, 1902, p.15-17)

Here is an excerpt from page 18, where Boultbee praises the Milan Conference.

It seems that, like Kinsey, she failed to understand that sign languages have their own structure and syntax, and are not merely the transposition of spoke language into signs.  In fact, to be fair, it took a long period for linguistics to recognise that.

Many thanks to Geoff Eagling for alerting me to Eliza as a student at the Ealing Training College, an oralist foundation which trained a mass of almost exclusively female teachers.  She would have attended from 1882, completing her studies there in 1883, at the same time as Mary Hare.   I have not found her in the 1891 census, but the surname seems to have presented a difficulty to the modern transcribers.  We can say, from a newspaper advertisement in The Queen for Saturday the 15th of September, 1894, that she must have started teaching in 1884 –

LIP READING.—This can be taught at any age to those born deaf or who have become more or leas deaf.  With deaf children to eight years of age is the best time to begin.  In cases of deafness in adult life, lip reading is taught much more readily, and with patience and perseverance a dozen or two dozen lessons, according to circumstances in each case, will be sufficient for complete and permanent mastery of the art.  No knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the organs of speech is required in the learner, though the teacher must have a thorough knowledge of both. The lessons ore extremely simple and easy to understand.  Particulars as to alienist and time required in any particular cue can be obtained by applying to Miss E. F. Boultbee, 37, Gloucester-place, Portman-square, W, who has successfully taught the system for ten years past, and who is always willing to answer applications for information.

At the time of the 1901 census, Eliza was staying with the Scottish minister and journalist, William Robertson Nicoll in Hampstead, London, and is described as a school teacher working on her own account at home.

In the 1911 census, when Eliza Boultbee was living in Members Mansions, 36 Victoria Street, S.W. London (her address in her 1903 book and her 1913 book), with Joyce Visger Lloyd (1895-1984), a sixteen year old deaf girl who was born in Assam, and was presumably a private pupil.  Her grandfather was Major-General Francis Thomas Lloyd, R.A.,who was commandant of Woolwich from 1887–1901.  Joyce married William Whitham Coultas in 1919, and he went into the diplomatic service.  Joyce travelled with him to South East Asia and there is a lovely photograph of them in that link.

A review of her 1913 book, in The Norther Whig for the 18th of December, 1913, says,

Lip-reading is a method conversation wherein the eyes of the deaf replace their ears, and they see instead of hear the words of the speaker as they leave his lips. The many advantages of this method —its rapidity, for one thing, and the fact that it enables anyone talk to the deaf without knowledge of the sign language (not part of the equipment of the normal individual) —are self-evident that one cannot understand why Miss Boultbee should think it necessary to drive them home at such length. Even for those who happily preserve their sense bearing, one can imagine it becoming fascinating and at times useful pursuit. the technical side Miss Boultbee’s book consists of chapters on the mechanism of speech and how to teach, learn, and practise lip-reading. Hints are given to the deaf on the art of conversation, and all the influence of such things as cheerfulness, tact, concentration, and apathy. Sir James F. Goodhart, M.D., supplies an introduction to what should prove a useful and stimulating little work.

Eliza Boultbee died at a nursing home in Bedfordshire in 1925.

UPDATE 21/8/2019

More Miss Boultbees

Thanks to the prompt from Geoff Eagling, below, I can also say that the youngest sister of Eliza, Agnes Clara Boultbee (1875-1951), also attended the Ealing College, from 1893-4, after which she taught at the Norther Counties Institution in Newcastle, presumably giving that up when she married the Rev. James Wallace, Vicar of Barnsbury, in 1906.  It seems probable that she was also the Miss Boultbee who was teaching at the Ealing College’s associated schools, Eaton Rise and Elmhurst, and left in April 1902 according to a newspaper report  (Middlesex & Surrey Express – Wednesday 08 July 1903).

Regarding the two other Miss Boultbees, the 1911 student, Miss M. Boultbee, who worked afterwards at the Ealing College, and Marjorie Boultbee who qualified in 1916, one is probably the Marjorie Boultbee who was a niece of Eliza and Agnes, daughter of their (vicar) brother Henry Travis, and born in 1889, married 1932 to the Reverend Hugh Birley.  I suspect this Marjorie was the person who advertised “MISS MARJORIE BOULTBEE (Certificated Teacher of the Deaf) gives Lessons in Lip- Reading to the Deaf and Partially Deaf. For terms apply ESSEX LODGE, LIVERPOOL GARDENS, Worthing” in the Worthing Gazette – Wednesday 11 June 1919.  Trying to find them in the 1911 census is tricky to say the least!

Anyway, I think we can be confidant that they were all closely related.

Boultbee, E.F. Practical lip-reading for the use of the deaf. 1902

Boultbee, E.F. Help for the deaf – what lipreading is. 1913

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2236; Folio: 28; Page: 5; GSU roll: 542940

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4562; Folio: 130; Page: 21; GSU roll: 847141

1881 Census – Eliza – Class: RG11; Piece: 4538; Folio: 6; Page: 5; GSU roll: 1342092

1881 Census – Annie – Class: RG11; Piece: 1362; Folio: 38; Page: 12; GSU roll: 1341330

1891 Census – not found her – it seems the transcribers have trouble with the surname…

1901 Census – Eliza Boultbee – Class: RG13; Piece: 120; Folio: 118; Page: 27

1901 census – Joyce Lloyd – Class: RG13; Piece: 564; Folio: 10; Page: 12

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 492

William Whitham Coultas

Stolen watches, & an experiment that didn’t happen: William Cheselden, the Deaf Countess, & Charles Ray

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 9 August 2019

William Cheselden (1688-1753) has been called “one of the most brilliant operators whose achievements are on record” (DNB 1921-2, p. 192)He was born in Burrough-on-the-Hill (but in the parish of Somerby), Leicestershire,  and trained under William Cowper (1666-1709), an anatomist who was  involved in an early plagiarism scandal.

Cheselden became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1712, and in 1713 published a student book, The Anatomy of the Human Body.  He married Deborah Knight on the 24th of July, 1713, at St Olave, Bermondsey.  She appears to have been the daughter of Thomas Knight, and niece of  Robert Knight, the chief cashier of the South Sea Company, who escaped prosecution in connection with the accompanying ‘bubble’ in 1720.  (Sir Robert Walpole’s rise to power was linked to Knight, the South Sea Company and its demise.)  It seems that Cheselden invested £1,000 in the company in 1714, the same amount as Sir Isaac Newton.  Perhaps he was ‘encouraged’ by his wife or her family.

Henrietta Howard (1689-1767), Countess of Suffolk, was born Henrietta Hobart at Blickling Hall, Norfolk.  She had  a very interesting life, but a very difficult one.  She married Charles Howard, later 9th Earl of Suffolk.  He was a gambler, and was violent towards her.  Whether her hearing loss was caused by being abused by her husband, or from some other reason we cannot say.  Her hearing loss was however central to her life, already seeming apparent in 1721. In 1727 she told Swift she had ‘a bad head and deaf ears’ (Borman, p.97).  Alexander Pope wrote this of her –

I know the thing that’s most uncommon;
(Envy be silent and attend!)
I know a Reasonable Woman,
Handsome and witty, yet a Friend.

Not warp’d by Passion, aw’d by Rumour,
Not grave thro’ Pride, or gay thro’ Folly,
An equal Mixture of good Humour,
And sensible soft Melancholy.

‘Has she no Faults then (Envy says) Sir?’
Yes she has one, I must aver:
When all the World conspires to praise her,
The Woman’s deaf, and does not hear.

She was known for her discretion it seems – probably as she could not follow much of the gossip of court (ibid. p.98).  Henrietta became a friend of Queen Caroline before the accession of George II, and later became one of the king’s mistresses.  Cheselden became Surgeon to the Queen in 1727 (Cope, p.32).  At that time doctors still had a very imperfect understanding of the hearing system, and new discoveries were being made.  Cope says that Queen Caroline herself was “rather deaf” (Cope, p.32), and that as a consequence a ‘test’ operation was planned as an experiment on a prisoner, to find a cure or rather a treatment for deafness.  This hearing loss or deafness is something unsubstantiated by any other source I have been able to find.  Either Cope misunderstood, and substituted the Queen for the Countess, or he had some other information.

Charles Ree, Rey or Ray of St. Martin’s in the Fields was a barber.  In 1730 he was “indicted for feloniously stealing 5 Silver Watches, value 30 l. in the Dwelling-House of Paul Beauvau, the 29th of October” (Old Bailey Records).  he was sentenced to death, which was commuted to transportation.

According to Horace Walpole,

“(112) Lady Suffolk was early affected with deafness. Cheselden, the surgeon, then in favour at court, persuaded her that he had hopes of being able to cure deafness by some operation on the drum of the ear, and offered to try the experiment on a condemned convict then in Newgate, who was deaf. If the man could be pardoned, he would try it; and, if he succeeded, would practise the same cure on her ladyship. She obtained the man’s pardon, who was cousin to Cheselden, who had feigned that pretended discovery to save his relation-and no more was heard of the experiment. The man saved his ear too – but Cheselden was disgraced at court.”

Here we have the report from the Monthly Intelligencer for January, 1731.  It seems that Ray was to be reprieved from his sentence in return for being the guinea pig in an experiment to understand the role of the tympanum, in order to try to treat deafness.

The same volume of the Monthly Intelligencer continued the story, with an attack by ‘Quibus’ in an imagined lecture, which was written by Thomas Martyn, botanist.

And then continued on page 19 where a defence of the operation at the Royal Society is quoted.

The older Oxford DNB 1922 article says,

In December 1727 Cheselden was appointed surgeon to Queen Caroline. Later on he would appear to have been out of favour at court, and was not called in during the Queen’s last illness. An improbable story is told that Cheselden gave offence in high quarters by neglecting to perform a certain experimental operation on a condemned criminal. The proposed experiment consisted in perforating the membrana tympani, or drum of the ear, so as to show whether this part is the seat of hearing, and whether the operation could safely be done to relieve deafness. Cheselden in his Anatomy tells the story as follows : ‘Some years since a malefactor was pardoned on condition that he suffered this experiment, but he falling ill of a fever the operation was deferred, during which time there was so great a public clamour raised against it that it was afterwards thought fit to be forbid.’ Proposing the operation, rather than neglecting to do it, was more probably the offence.

The quote seems to be from the 1740 edition of the work. 

In Sir Zachery Cope’s 1953 biography of Cheselden, he says that Walpole is incorrect, and that such an incident would be unlikely to lead to a loss of favour at court.  “From the point of view of the health of the Queen her change of surgeon may well have been unfortunate for, as is well known, she died from the results of a strangulated umbilical hernia and Cheselden had already published an account of his successful treatment of such a hernia”. After her death Cheselden continued to be referred to as ‘surgeon to her late Majesty’ (p.35).

Gossip though he was, Horace Walpole knew the Countess well, so surley his information would have come from her?  Borman says that Henrietta would listen to Walpole’s questions with a tortoiseshell ear trumpet, and almost whisper her replies (p.252).  It seems unlikely that there was a familial relationship between Cheselden and Ray, but the rumour must have persisted.  It is possible, but we would need to trace records for Ray before he was prosecuted.  Is it possible that as Ray was a barber there was a connection with the barber-surgeons?

Cheselden was buried at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.  The Countess of Suffolk was buried in Berkeley Castle, with her second husband.

As for Charles Ray, the Ipswich Journal for Saturday the 6th of March, 1731, says “Charles Ray, who received Sentence of Death, but upon his submiting to have an Experiment try’d upon his Ear, by an eminent Surgeon, for the better finding out the Cause and Cure of Deafness, was afterwards order’d for Transportation; is continued in Jail, his Transportation being stopt.”  The Caledonian Mercury for Tuesday the 30th of March, 1731, says “The Experiment that was to have been made on the Ear of Charles Ray, is now laid aside, and he is to have a free Pardon. ‘Tis to be feared, that as there has been so great a Clamour against this Experiment, neither this nor any other useful Experiment will ever be made this way.” 

I wonder what became of him?

Here I have tried to sketch out the relationships between the people mentioned.

Borman, Tracy, Henrietta Howard, King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant. Jonathan Cape, 2007

Charles Ray, John Winslow, Theft – theft from a specified place, Theft – receiving, 4th December 1730 Old Bailey Records

Cheselden, William.  Anatomy of the Human Body. London: William Bowyer, 1712

Cope, Sir Zachery, William Cheselden, 1688-1752, E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh & London, 1953

Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-22 London, England: Oxford University Press; Volume: Vol 04; Page: 192 1921-2 edition

Horace Walpole’s Letters p.141 & 148

John Kirkup, ‘Cheselden, William (1688–1752)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5226, accessed 22 Sept 2017]

https://epdf.pub/a-political-biography-of-alexander-pope-eighteenth-century-political-biographies.html

https://words.fromoldbooks.org/Chalmers-Biography/c/cheselden-william.html

https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-75056?rskey=roxYmw&result=3

“Dummy” the deaf so-called ‘witch’ of Sible Hedingham

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 2 August 2019

The village of Sible Hedingham was once known as the birthplace of the condottiero Sir John Hawkwood, but after a trial in 1864, it became known for an assault on a deaf ‘witch’ who shortly after died of his injuries.  It is therefore one of the last ‘witchcraft’ cases in Britain.

We do not know the name of the deaf man – he was locally, unimaginatively, called ‘Dummy’ (circa 1780-1863), but his real name is unknown and possibly now unknowable.  He was supposedly from France, and had lived in mud hovel locally for seven or eight years.  Before that, some newspapers reported that he was in Braintree.  Locally it seems he was known as someone people went to for ‘divination’ or fortune telling, and from papers gathered in his hut by the police, we can recognize the syntax and sounds of Essex dialect –

“Her husband have left her manny years and she want to know weather he is dead or alive.” “What was the reeson my sun do not right ? i meen that solger.” “Do you charge any more ?” The answer to this question was doubtless satisfactory, for this momentous question was then put: “Shall I ever marry ?” Love letters from girls to their sweethearts were also found with “Shall I marry ?” and “How many children shall I have ?” written in pencil on them. The most business-like of all the notes was the next one, “Did you say we kild your dog ? If you do I will send for the policeman.” Nor were his patrons altogether confined to the lower orders. One letter states that the lady was “comen herself on Mundy to see yoo, and she gave you oll them things and the shillin.” In the hovel were found, besides between 400 and 500 walking sticks, a quantity of umbrellas, some French books, a number of tin boxes, some foreign coins, chiefly of the. French Empire, and about a ton of rubbish which it was found impossible to classify in the inventory that was taken. The most definite ideas about the man have been suggested by the following questions which were found written seriatim on a scrap of paper. “Were you born at Paris ?” “The name of the town where you were born ?” “When was your tongue cut out ?” “Le nom de votre ville ?” The answers were no doubt made by signs. (Times of September 24th, 1863)

This shows how widespread folk beliefs were in the late 19th century, in an area that was infamous for Matthew Hopkins and witchcraft trials in previous centuries.

Emma Smith, thirty-six, and Samuel Stammers, twenty-eight, were taken to court for leading a mob in an assault on the poor old man, which led to his death the next day.  The old man was accustomed to visit

the village of Ridgewell, a few miles distant from Hedingham, and there made the acquaintance of the prisoner Smith, at the beer-house of her husband. It seems that on the occasion of one of these visits to Ridgewell, the poor old man wanted to sleep at the prisoner’s house, and on her refusing to allow him to do so, he stroked his walking-stick, and used other threatening signs to her as signifying his displeasure at her refusal; and although he could neither hear nor speak he had no difficulty in understanding and making himself understood, and some of these signs accompanied by violent gestures were looked upon with considerable awe. Soon after this expression of the old man’s displeasure, the prisoner Emma Smith became ill and disordered, and was reduced to a low, nervous condition, and at once expressed her conviction that she had been bewitched by old Dummey, and that she would never recover till she had induced him to remove the spell from her, and made several applications to him for that purpose, as it would seem, without effect. At last, and while labouring under great mental and nervous excitement she went from her home at Ridgewell to Sible Hedingharn on the evening of the 3rd of August, 1863, and met old Dummey at the Swan public house, which is situated about a quarter of a mile from Dummey’s hut. They remained there together for some hours, she endeavouring to persuade him to go to Ridgewell with her and sleep in her house, and offering him three sovereigns to do so. Dummey, however, refused to go, and drew his fingers across his throat, implying that he was afraid of having his throat cut. As soon as it became known in the town that a woman from Ridgewell, who had been bewitched by old Dummey, was at the Swan, a great number of villagers flocked to see her, and the Swan soon became a scene of riot and confusion, and the old man was pulled and danced about, falling once or twice violently to the ground. The prisoner Smith still continued to urge the old man to go home with her, repeating that she would give him three sovereigns, and would treat him well, and that she had been in a bad state for nine or ten months, and that she was bewitched. After the closing of the Swan the parties adjourned outside, and the prisoner Smith was seen standing by the side of Dummey, declaring that he should go home with her. She then tore the old man’s coat, struck him several times over the arms and shoulders with his stick, and kicked him and dragged him down to a little brook which runs across the road, and down a lane near the Swan; and was proved to have said to him, “You old devil, you served me out, and now I’ll serve you out.” Smith then shoved him into the brook, and when he was getting out the other side she went round over a little bridge, and the other prisoner, Stammers, went through the brook, and they both pushed him back into the brook. (Reynolds’s Newspaper – Sunday 13 March 1864)


The old man was found the next day in his hut by Mr. Fowke, a local Poor Law guardian, shivering in his wet clothes.  “The post mortem examination showed that the lungs and kidneys were much disorganized, the pericardium adhering to the heart, and a “suffusion of lymph on the membrane of the brain, indicating recent inflammatory action, and the witness gave it as his opinion that he died from the disease of the kidneys, produced by the immersion in the water, and the sleeping in his wet clothes, and in this opinion the witness was corroborated by another medical man who attended the post mortem examination.” (Reynolds’s Newspaper – Sunday 13 March 1864)

At the March Assizes at Chelmsford, the two were found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced by Lord Chief Justice Earl to six months’ imprisonment.  Samuel Stammers presumably lost his business – he had employed 4 people as a builder, according to the 1861 census, and though he had a daughter in 1868, she died that same year.  He himself lived only until 1869.  Emma Smith, I have not found, so I do not know what happened to her.  The whole sorry tale illustrates how ignorant people can be with regard to those who they cannot understand.

Some in the village were thoroughly appalled that their name was besmirched by a mob.  In the Essex Standard, for Friday 25th March, 1864, there is a letter that was sent to the Times by the Rector

I hope that in justice to myself and other residents within the parish of Sible Hedingham, you will kindly insert a few remarks with reference to the case of man-slaughter tried at the last Chelmsford Assizes, and reported in the columns of your widely-circulated journal. Too much commendation cannot possibly be bestowed on Mr. Fowke for the pains which he has taken in bringing to punishment the perpetrators of so wanton an attack upon a poor and afflicted old man ; but, at the same time, it would be most unfair that an impression (certainly erroneous) should get abroad that there were not many other persons in the parish who regarded with horror and detestation the gross outrage committed on the night of the 3rd of August. I therefore feel called upon to assure the public, through the columns of your newspaper, that a subscription will be entered into among the parishioners whereby the expenses of this trial will be defrayed. Furthermore, perhaps I shall be only justified in adding that as soon as I had learnt of the treatment which the poor old man had received I hastened to the spot, that I spent the greater part of the afternoon in administering to him consolation, that I went myself to the surgeon to see whether I should be justified in having the sufferer removed to the Union, that I then procured the cart for him and saw him placed in it, and, moreover, that, with the assistance of the superintendent of police, I went to every house in the village where I thought I might gain sufficient information to lead to a warrant being issued against the aggressors in this most disgraceful affair. As Mr. Fowke had heard of the attack early in the morning and had been with the poor old man previously to my arrival, and, like a good Samaritan, administered comfort to him ; and as he had, moreover, in the capacity of guardian, sent for the superintendent of police, we thought it advisable, after due consideration, that the summons should be issued in bis name; but at the same time there is scarcely a man in the parish who will not, I believe, readily come forward to prevent the burden of the expense falling upon his shoulders. May I add one word more? In spite of the stigma which has been cast on the parish of Sible Hedingham from the publication of so unfortunate a catastrophe, I fearlessly challenge any person unprejudiced and capable of judging to visit the poor in their cottages, to inspect the schools within the place, and to observe the general tone of the parish, and I do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce an opinion that such a person will arrive at the conclusion that, in regard to intelligence, civility, and general good conduct, the much-maligned inhabitants of Sible Hedingham are considerably above, rather than below, the average. During the eight years that poor old ‘ Dummy ‘ resided in this place he was treated with the greatest kindness, both by the rich and the poor, and nothing ever occurred to cause the slightest apprehension that his end would have been so tragical.

Punch had this satirical poem, printed again in the Brecon Reporter and South Wales General Advertiser for Saturday 10th October, 1863

The Serfs of Castle Hedingham.

Ye wives of Castle Hedingham, ye matrons, and maids,
Who follow in such thorough style the wizard finder’s trades;
Your shud’ring countrymen all in tones of loathing say,
The fiends of Castle Hedingham, how horrible are they!

Just like the savage feminines who own Dahomey’s rule,
They show the wild oat fierceness of the Charlotte Corday school;
With hearts that scorn the softness that should female impulse sway,
The fiends of Castle Hedingham, how horrible are they!

Ye men of Castle Hedingham, and ye that represent (?)
The stain on England’s franchise list in British Parliament;
What say you, Major Beresford, of this most Tory trait,
The serfs of Castle Hedingham, how ignorant are they!

Saint Stephen’s could well spare you, and you’d for once of use,
If leaving Tory platitudes, you’d study to produce
A landlord who, Conservative, could yet unblushing say,
The tenantry of Hedingham, how well informed are they!

Presumably he was buried in a pauper’s grave.

[Note – the captions to the photos in Oxley’s hand, he had the wrong information and wrong date.]

Deaths Dec 1863  Unknown, Dummy, Halstead 4a 216

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard – Saturday 26 September 1863 p.4

http://www.foxearth.org.uk/HeadinghamWitchcraftCase.html

The Microphonograph of François Dussaud, 1897

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 26 July 2019

In the late 19th century there was an explosion in the development of electrical apparatus, particularly related to the telephone.  Some of these inventions would have implications for the eventual development of ‘assistive devices’ for deaf people, what we could call hearing aids.

François Dussaud (1870-1953) was a Swiss-born inventor, from Stäfa near Zurich (note he is also claimed for Geneva).  His father Bernard was a School Inspector.  He studied under the biologist Emile Yung, and was clearly talented, becoming a Phd in 1892.  He became Privatdozent at the University of Geneva in 1894.

A couple of years later he moved to Paris, and had what seems like a golden period of invention.  Dussaud worked on sound and light, and his first invention was the ‘Microphonograph,‘ followed by the ‘Teleoscope‘ and the ‘Multiphone.’

In January 1896, Dussaud was inspired by “the fate of an unfortunate deaf mute” and he

resumed a study that he had begun some time before, and applied his efforts to the finding of an apparatus that should increase the intensity of sound at will.  After a year of research, he, on the 29th of December last, operated with entire success, before a certain number of physicians, in the laboratory of physiology of the Sorbonne, the instrument to which he has given the name mentioned above. The amplification of sounds seemed extraordinary, and on the next day Dr. Laborde, superintendent of the laboratory of physiology, presented to his colleagues of the Academy of Medicine the result of the observations that he had made with the apparatus under consideration.

The microphonograph consists of two parts, a registering apparatus and a repeater.

The Registering Appantus,—This consists [see above figure] of a horizontal cylinder actuated by clockwork. Upon this cylinder is fixed a wax roller in front of which a piece of the size and shape of a watch is moved through a mechanism. This piece is formed essentially of small electromagnets that act upon a disk which controls the tool that is designated to engrave the wax. For registering feeble sounds, there is placed in the region corresponding to the organ to be examined a microphone of a peculiar system, that is connected with the microphonograph registering apparatus by an electric current, derived from 1 to 60 small sulphate of mercury elements. Through the intermedium of this current, the sounds collected by the microphone are faithfully repeated by the disk of the microphonograph and inscribed upon the wax by the graver.  (The Phonoscope, June 1897, p.10)

Another article explains,

EDISON tells us that he will shortly be able to make the blind see by means of the X rays. Meanwhile, Professor Dussaud, of the University of Geneva, has invented an apparatus to enable the deaf to hear. The microphonograph he has just issued to the world magnifies the human voice in the same way as a lens magnifies a picture. It is simply a telephone connected electrically with a phonograph, but a far more sensitive phonograph than Edison’s ordinary model. There is, of course, an electric battery, sulphate of mercury being used, and from one cell to sixty cells, according to the degree of deafness of the person. Of course, the apparatus is useless in case of absolute deafness ; but, fortunately, such an infirmity is far rarer than is suspected. Ninety-five per cent of so-called stone-deaf persons can be made to hear and understand by means of Professor Dussaud’s invention. How ? You speak into the phonograph. You make it repeat your words, which are transmitted by a sort of microphone and speaking tube into the deaf ear. Professor Dussaud, in the same order of ideas, is preparing for the 1900 exhibition an apparatus which will enable 10,000 people, who may be all deaf, to follow a lecture. (The Charities Review)

The American Annals of the Deaf, explored the use of the Microphonograph for Deaf education, in a series of articles.

This French website, Phonorama, has a nice photograph of Dussaud in his laboratory at the Sorbonne, and a photograph that the engraving above must owe something to.  This engraving illustrates Dussaud and a young Deaf boy, with the ‘ah!’ moment, for want of a better term, that is sometimes depicted in video clips of people who have cochlear implants turned on for the first time.

He produced other inventions, worked for Pathé for a while, and he also pioneered a way of playing sound with film.  During the First World War he worked as a scientific assistant on the war effort.  Dussaud spent the Second World War in Switzerland, and died in Paris in 1953.

Dussaud

The Microphonograph, British Deaf Monthly, 1898, p.148-9

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —I American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. Vol. 45, No. 6 (OCTOBER, 1900), pp. 495-503

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —II American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 46, No. 1 (JANUARY, 1901), pp. 24-38

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —III American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 46, No. 2 (MARCH, 1901), pp. 149-158

Ladreit de Lacharrière, The Dussaud Microphonograph, American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 44, No. 1 (JANUARY, 1899), pp. 28-32

The Microphonograph, The Charities Review; New York Vol. 7, Iss. 5,  (Jan 1, 1898): 980

The Microphonograph – Scientific American

The Teleoscope – Scientific American

The Multiphone – Scientific American

SA Supplements 45, 1155 supp, 18457 (February 1898)

 

Annie Scandrett of Liverpool – a supposed miracle cure of a ‘deaf’ woman, 1923

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 19 July 2019

In 1923 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancashire sent a group of people to the shrine at Lourdes with Archbishop Keating.  Among them was a soldier, Jack Traynor, badly wounded in the war, and supposedly a man who was then miraculously cured.  The visit was filmed as a short reel film called “Our lady of Lourdes” and was shown in cinemas in Liverpool.

One story in the Liverpool Echo, has a photo of Traynor and Scandrett, with the following note –

WALKING AND HEARING AFTER LOURDES.

Mr. Traynor. of Liverpool, who was taken to Lourdes in a bathchair, pacing the deck of the Channel boat on the way home, chatting with Miss Scandrett, also of Liverpool, who says Lourdes has cured her of her deafness. Mr. Traynor, an ex-naval man, was wounded in the war, and paralysis followed. Miss Scandrett had been practically deaf for 12 years.

Traynor is only of passing interest to us as he was not deaf, and I have nothing to say about his ‘miracle,’ but Annie Scandrett is worth investigating a little more.

Traynor said to the Rev. Patrick O’Connor,

a Protestant girl from Liverpool had come to the Continent on a holiday tour.  She got tired of all the usual show places and happened to come to Lourdes. She was a trained nurse and, seeing all the sick, she offered her services to help in the ‘Asile.’  Her parents in England, upset at her decision to stay as a volunteer worker in Lourdes, sent out her sister to keep her company.  The two girls went down to see the Liverpool pilgrims.  They remembered having seen me sitting in my wheelchair outside my house at home and they volunteered to take care of me. I gladly accepted their kind offer, and they washed and dressed my sores and looked after me during my stay in Lourdes. (see I Met a Miracle)

Note that he fails to mention her name, even though he knew it.  Annie was born in Liverpool on the 24th of September, 1884.  At some point the family moved to Aston, Birmingham, where she was living still in 1911.The film seems to have been propaganda for the church.  At one film showing at the Egremont, Annie was persuaded to stand up and talk (The Bioscope).  It would be interesting to know if the film still exists.

Her story was revived in 2016 when a former neighbour spoke to a local paper.  He related what Annie had said –

She said she had been sat by his bedside in his room one day when a white dove came through the window and circled right round.  It then landed on the headboard of the bed.  Annie had been deaf but the next morning when she went down to breakfast she realised she could hear again.  The first words she heard were ‘please can you pass the butter’.

Traynor does not mention a dove, the accepted typical bird of ‘miracles,’ representing the holy spirit.

It certainly seems curious that she chose to holiday in the area in 1923, as it was quite unusual for working people to go on holiday to the continent at that time, so I suspect that her visit was planned, but of course we cannot know now.

There is no mention of deafness on any of the three census returns.  She claimed her ‘deafness’ had lasted for twelve years, from around 1911.  If we had the 1921 census that might be revealing, however her ‘deafness’ is undefined, and I would suggest that she probably was never ‘deaf’ as we might understand it.  At any rate we can agree that it was probably a defining moment in her life.

Annie lived in Norris Green, Liverpool, until her death in 1961.

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2422; Folio: 132; Page: 25

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2885; Folio: 104; Page: 9

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 18328

1939 Register – RG 101/4390D

The Bioscope – Thursday 13 September 1923 p.64 

Liverpool Echo – Monday 30 July 1923 p.6

The above picture is from our photo collection – Probably from the Liverpool Daily Post.

War-time Belgian Refugees, 1914-18

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 12 July 2019

During the First World War Belgium was over run by the Germans, and there were many refugees.  Here we have a group of Deaf refugees.  I have no idea where these people were, possibly the photo was in London but I cannot be certain.  Modern Belgium seems extremely divided in its Deaf communities, Flemish and Walloon – see this Wikipedia article on Flemish Sign Language but I suppose that was less the case in the war.

I wonder if anyone recognises the people in this group.  To me, the three ladies look very similar – perhaps they were sisters.  I have not had time to look for information in the British Deaf Times, but I am sure there are some mentions of refugees.  All the major Deaf Schools in Belgium and in north-east France would have been affected or perhaps closed.  After the war a group of London Deaf went on a visit to areas affected by the conflict, particularly Lille.  I hope to cover that in a future blog.

Gatrell, Peter, Zhvanko, Liubov (eds) Europe on the Move: Refugees in the Era of the Great War. MUP, 2017

Jenkinson, Jacqueline, Belgian Refugees in First World War Britain. Routledge, 2017

“translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs” – Edward Townsend, teacher at Edgbaston

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 5 July 2019

Edward Townsend (1846-1933) was a teacher of the deaf who became headmaster at the Edgbaston school. He was born in Battersea, son to William Townsend, a baker, and his wife Sarah.  It seems perhaps astonishing to us now, to discover that very often teachers began to learn their trade at the age of 14, as soon as they themselves had left school.  Townsend was that age when he started to teach – or perhaps learn to teach – at the Doncaster Institution, under Charles Baker and along with Walter S. Bessant, who went on to become headmaster at Manchester.

In 1895 he was interviewed by the British Deaf Times –

Essentially a bright engaging man, of most expressive countenance, with great command of facial expression—all the features well-defined and, even when in exaggerated play, pleasing, intelligent, and always full of animation and of purpose; he is a man of enthusiasm in his work and in the doing of it, but with the fortiter in re qualified by the suaviter in modo of cultured gentleness. The very man to teach with energy and spirit, and with expressive kindly countenance those banished children of misfortune—the isolated deaf and dumb. “How then “—after seeing some of the details of his work and system—” how then did you become associated with this special branch of education ? ” we asked Mr. Townsend, with considerable curiosity as to his reply. ” Did you apply yourself to the work from any conviction or tendency towards it, or—” ” Simply drifted into it,” is the response.

Mr. Townsend, who had of course already determined upon, and qualified himself for, an educational career, heard quite by chance that an assistant-teacher was required at the Yorkshire Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, at Doncaster. He applied for and obtained the appointment and became the assistant of Mr. Charles Baker, the head-master, and brother of the late Mr. Alfred Baker. (British Deaf Mute, p.113)

According to the 1861 census his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Joseph Jones were national school teachers.  That suggests how it came to be an idea for a career.  From his obituary in the Teacher of the Deaf we can say he must have been at Doncaster until he was eighteen, then spent eighteen years at the Old Kent Road Asylum, where we find him in the 1871 census.  I looks as if all the teachers were bachelors, but Edward married, I think in 1871, and moved to the Margate branch of the school.  In 1882 he was appointed to replace Arthur Hopper, who had died, and presided over the rebuilding of the school.

He was, according to his obituary, “not opposed to Oral Teaching,” and was a strong advocate of finger-spelling.  The British Deaf Mute article also seems to stress he was – at least at that time – far from being opposed to the manual system –

Mr. Townsend is also opposed to the advocate’s for supplanting, or at least depreciating, the manual and gesture method of teaching by the undue adoption of the ” oral ” system. The “oral” system, although regarded as a novelty, is in fact identified with the earliest known efforts of communication with deaf-mutes, but this gave place in a large measure, and particularly is France and in England, to the use of gestures and the finger alphabet, and at the present time, either the manual method or what is known as the ” combined system ” is still largely employed in the United Kingdom, and also in America, where the education of the deaf and dumb is carried to a more successful issue than in any country in the world. (British Deaf Mute, p.115)


Above we see Edgbaston girls in a composition class, probably Edwardian period.

Of his fitness for the position he holds there can be, as we have said, no question. He has ability, enthusiasm, and tactical skill. The children love him and he has the confidence of all with whom he is brought into official relations. He is a member of the committee of the College of Teachers of the Deaf, and one of its examiners. He is also the vice-chairman of the National Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Dr. Elliott being the chairman. He is therefore largely in request at meetings of teachers—and of the deaf themselves, being a very Daniel to interpret visions of flying fingers to the hearing, and, vice versa, translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs for the benefit of the deaf. Concerning methods of education Mr. Townsend, for the present, maintains a discreet reserve. But the eclectic system—any method for good results—appears to be most in favour at the Edgbaston Institution and is meeting with encouraging success. That the school and the energetic principal, whose career we have thus faintly sketched out, will have many years of usefulness before them is our sincere hope and wish. (Ephphatha)

In the British Deaf Mute, he is quoted as defending the idea of Deaf Institutions against attacks by a eugenicist –

Mr. Townsend has quite recently controverted in toe local press a conclusion which Sir James Crichton Browne advanced in his lecture on “Heredity,” delivered in the Athletic Institution, viz. : “That the association of deaf-mutes in schools and institutions, the one in which Mr. Townsend’s charge is detrimental, because apt to encourage marriages between persons similarly afflicted, and thus tend through their offspring and the process of heredity to the production of a deaf and dumb variety of the human race.” Professor Graham Bell of telephone celebrity, was the initiator of the theory lately formulated here by Sir James Crichton Browne, but Mr. Townsend’s experience leads him to suppose that the theory is fallacious ; and that, except in very occasional instances, the offspring of deaf mutes are in possession of their normal faculties. He says, moreover, a much greater evil is consanguineous marriages, and on the occasion of our visit pointed out several pupils who were the children of first cousins and other close-blooded relationships. (British Deaf Mute, p.114-5)

Townsend retired to Bournemouth, where he died in 1933, and was buried in Witton, Birmingham.

I am grateful to www.interpreterhistory.com for showing me correspondence of Townsend with Sibley Haycock from the Cadbury Archives in Birmingham.

Edward Thompson, Ephphatha, 1897, p.8-9

Mr. Edward Townsend, The British Deaf Mute, Volume 2 no. 20 p.113-5

W.H.A., Obituary, Teacher of the Deaf, 1933 p.55

1861 census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2198; Folio: 117; Page: 3; GSU roll: 542934

1871 census – Class: RG10; Piece: 601; Folio: 111; Page: 3; GSU roll: 818907

1881 census – Class: RG11; Piece: 985; Folio: 69; Page: 21; GSU roll: 1341234

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2360; Folio: 120; Page: 7

1901 census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2816; Folio: 43; Page: 29

1911 census – Class: RG14; Piece: 5841; Schedule Number: 215

 

Henrietta Oliver, aka Mrs Henrietta Pratt of Thatcham – “the barest bones of Deaf History”

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 21 June 2019

This is an example of the barest bones of Deaf History, and as such is typical, not just of a Deaf person in the last centuries, but of any ordinary person who led a relatively quiet life.

Henrietta Jane Oliver was born on the 8th of August, 1860, in Baughurst, Hampshire.  She seems to have been deaf from an early age – some census returns say ‘from birth’ some ‘from childhood’.  Her parents, David Oliver and Hannah Smith, were agricultural workers, though her father was a carrier for a while.  It seems probable that she did not get an education at a deaf school but as she would have attended one some time in the 1870s it may be that a search would find her.  In 1881 and 901 censuses she was living with her mother, as respectively a wool sorter and then a laundress.  Her younger sister

Her younger sister, Emily Kate Oliver (b. 1872) married Warwickshire born William Pratt in about 1900.  William’s uncle, Thomas, does not seem to have married, but presumably meeting Henrietta through her sister, they got together, and she married Thomas Pratt, in 1905 when she was 44 and he was 57.

Thomas Pratt, who was born in Culworth, near Banbury, Northamptonshire, in 1849, was not deaf according to the 1911 census, but as you will see from Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable scrawl, it is possible that he was deaf when Oxley met him in the 1920s – he wrote “Mr & Mrs Pratt (D & D)”-  that  could  be  read  either way.  Thomas  had  been  a groom in 1901, living in Thatcham with his brother and his family.  In 1911 he was a ‘retail  hawker  of  firewood’ – perhaps that is why he later had a donkey?

I wonder if she attended the Reading Mission at all?  I am not sure how Oxley came across her, but there are photographs of a well-off Thatcham farmer and his family, George Wallis, so perhaps they were somehow acquainted and introduced Oxley to Mrs Pratt.

Henrietta died in 1953 aged 92.

A photograph and some census records – I have no more to add – but a careful search of records might dig up further details.Nice hat!

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 6390; Schedule Number: 247

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1143; Folio: 74; Page: 2

1891 Census – I could not find her

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1266; Folio: 141; Page: 8; GSU roll: 1341309

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 1246; Folio: 147; Page: 10; GSU roll: 827837

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 718; Folio: 133; Page: 18; GSU roll: 542690