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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 14 June 2019
The Frederick’s Road School, sometimes Frederick Road, was founded in 1893. It was on what is now known as Mandela Road, north of Custom House, E.16. It seems to have closed between 1930 and 1939, from mentions in the NID Handbook, most probably 1938. It came under the West Ham education committee.
The head teacher in 1913 was Miss Margaret E. Oldfield. In 1924 she was still there, but by 1930 the head was a Miss Lucy Elizabeth Mullen. Lucy Elizabeth Septimia Jane Mulllen, was born in Walthamstow on the 11th of December, 1883, and died in Croydon in 1959. Her father was a teacher, and I have been unable to find her in the 1911 census. Thanks to Geoff Eagling who tells us that Oldfield trained at Ealing, while Mullen was at Fitzroy Square (see comment below).
The school took children from aged five, with a catchment area of ‘the south-west of the borough, also from part of East Ham and Barking (1913), Clerkenwell to West Ham (1930). In 1913 ‘accommodation’ (day attendance) was for up to 44, in 1924 20, but back up to 40 in 1930.
In 1913 we are told they used oral and finger-spelling for education, in 1924 and after just ‘oral.’ It probably closed in 1938 when Water Lane School in Stratford also closed, and Miss Mullen became head of the Turnmarsh (now Tunmarsh) Lane School. The new school took children at five or under, teaching the boys woodwork, metalwork, bookcraft (printing and binding I would suppose) and technical drawing, while girls did cookery, needlework, dressmaking etc, the usual division of labour in that age. “The school is fitted with cinema, epidiascope and spray baths.”
I am not sure when it ceased to be a Deaf school, but the Turnmarsh Lane School building is still there, and is still a school. The photograph here is of uncertain date, but probably circa 1920.
NID Handbook, for various years
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 7 June 2019
What I have to share about Bernard Alfred Morrison comes from a couple of autobiographical articles written for the British Deaf Times in 1923. He tells us that he
was born at the coastguard station, Annagassan, Co. Louth, Ireland, on August 5th, 1897, and was baptized by the Presbyterian minister. He lost his hearing and speech through an illness when very young. His father served as coastguard for about six years at Cranefield, Annagassan, and Greenore, after having seen service in the Navy and cruised in Spanish, Chinese, and West Indian waters. In 1901 the family moved to Glasgow, where Mr, Morrison worked as a general labourer for two years. Then Mr. Morrison secured an appointment as caretaker of the old ship, H.M.S. Collingwood, anchored at Colintraive, Kyles of Bute, to which he removed with his family in 1903
It sounds like a great life for a child. They lived on the old ship for three years, sometimes fishing with from a boat, and at times gathering shellfish on the beach. They had sailing excursions to Rothesay and Ormidale, and a steamboat journey to Rothesay every Thursday.
Visitors came in boats to see the ship and were shown over by Mr. Morrison; there had been six old ships at first, but now the Collingwood was the only one stationed there. Bernard’s eldest brother had joined the Navy in Ireland and was serving on H.M.S. Hampshire, when he contracted inflammation of the lungs and died in July, 1907. At the same time Bernard’s little sister died of an accident. Brother and sister were buried in the churchyard in the wood by the shore at Colintraive, Bernard helping his father to dig the grave.
H.M.S. Collingwood was consigned to the shipbreakers about this time, and Bernard’s father was transferred to another old ship, H.M.S Alexandra, but soon she also was condemned, and was towed round the coast via Liverpool and the Isle of Wight to London in December, 1908, to be broken up.
Bernard was sent to Donaldson’s Hospital, Edinburgh, in September, 1906,
under Miss Henderson, from whose class he passed to Miss Crockett’s, thence to Miss Rintoul’s. While here he learned lip-reading, drawing and day-modelling. A bad attack of measles sent him to the school hospital, after which he spent a month at convalescent homes at Davidson’s Mains and Mumps. His parents now living in London, he joined them there, saying farewell to Donaldson’s on April 8th, 1909, and travelling from Edinburgh to London under the care of the guard, to be met by his parents at Euston.
Being too old for the day school at Randall Place, he was sent to the Homerton Residential School in January, 1910, learning first from Mr. Taylor and then from Miss Chappell. Here he learned carpentry, wood-carving and French-polishing, and on Sundays attended Sunday School and the confirmation class. As first prize-winner in the examination he was transferred, together with John Allen, who was second, to Anerley School for the Deaf, Easter, 1912, the two attending as day scholars and being placed in the seventh class. Here he continued his carpentry, wood-carving and French-polishing, eventually again corning out first in examination.
On leaving Anerley School, Bernard was assisted by Mr. Bassett to find work at Messrs. Jones and Ffulbert’s piano factory, Brixton, where he stayed for seven months making piano legs and trays, leaving because he was set on piecework.
Meanwhile, a year before he left Anerley, he had come across St. Barnabas’ Church for the Deaf and Dumb, Deptford, during a walk (Sept. 26th, 1912), and became a regular attendant, attending also the Woolwich services. He was confirmed at the Bishop’s private chapel at Sydenham, Nov. 23rd, 1912.
When he left the piano factory, Bernard Morrison received four letters from the After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf and Crippled Children, and presently was apprenticed for four years to Messrs. Smith and Co., Woolwich, as a joiner. This occupation, however, proving too dangerous, he left in April, 1914, and eventually found work with Messrs. Parker, of Peckham, at making window-frames, doors, etc., staying with this firm for nearly a year.
It is interesting to see how he was moved to different schools, though I do not suppose his experience was typical. The “After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf and Crippled Children” was a voluntary organisation that worked with the London County Council and included an L.C.C. person on its board, while it had some funding from the Ministry of Labour and from donations, and they used the money to help defray travel costs, pay for tools and boots to help a school-leaver get into work. the earliest note I have found of this organisation is from the National Bureau’s handbook of 1913 – “After-Care Association for Blind, Deaf, and Crippled Children Apply to Miss Skinner, 91, Parliament Chambers, Great Smith Street, S.W.”
In July, 1915, Morrison took up war-work at Woolwich, “being accustomed to machinery and careful in its use” but this ended after eighteen months. He then did similar work with Messrs. Wheater and Sons, managing drilling and cutting machines, then after leaving that firm, Morrison
was helped by Mr. Pearson, the Government work-seeker, to a job at Woolwich Dockyard as leather-maker; he proved, however, too late for this job, so went back to Peckham and found employment at making telegraph boxes. After five years he is still working at Peckham.
Morrison has been a member of the B.D.D.A. for three years, and attends the bi-monthly meetings. When the war broke out he joined the C.E.M.S.
The remainder of Bernard Morrison’s articles is a listing of places he had visited; in 1919 “at Whitsuntide, he went to Margate by the ” Royal Sovereign ” steamer, and in the course of his four-days’ holiday saw the Institution for tho Deaf at Margate, and visited two deaf men at Ramsgate”; that same year “he visited Pett Scout Camp to see Joe Barnett with hearing scouts; went for a long walk to Battle to see the castle; viewed Hastings Castle and a German submarine, and returned to London with the scouts safe and sound.”
He was well acquainted with people in the deaf community, and with missioners to the Deaf, like the Rev. A. W. Blaxall and the Rev. F. W. G. Gilby.
His mother died on 29th January, 1921, and his father,
on 1st May 1922, met with an accident at work, and had to be taken to the Seamen’s Hospital, but has recovered. His youngest brother joined the Army on 16th June, 1919, and after training at Grantham for the Machine-gun Corps, was transferred to Chatham, and thence to Co. Cork ; then was transferred from the M.G. Corps to Army Reserve, and is now at Folkestone.
I was not able to find Bernard definitively in the www.ancestry.co.uk website, but from what Norma McGilp found it seems likely that he ended up living in an institution in south London. Whether he really have mental health issues or was just put there as he was an inconvenience to others, we cannot say. At least for a time he seems to have mixed with the London Deaf community, as I found him in several photos with other people.
Bernard Alfred Morrison, Edited by G.F. British Deaf Times, 1923. vol. 20, p.4-5, & 24-5
Report of the Committee of Inquiry Into Problems Relating to Children with Defective Hearing, HMSO, 1938
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 24 May 2019
Regular readers may recall two instances of Deaf artists being killed crossing the road, namely Minkowski, and Kerr. Perhaps they are more likely to be dreamers than the rest of us, but anyway, this old illustration points out the dangers of traffic, probably dating to around 1920.
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 17 May 2019
An American Deaf man of the late 19th century, Marcus Hill Kerr was born in Liberty Township, Jackson, Michigan, in 1845. His father Robert was a farmer with at least eight children, and as the town was settled in 1835, the Kerr family must have been one of the first in the district. When he was three he suffered from ‘brain fever’ and lost his hearing as a result. When he was twelve he was sent to Flint, to the Michigan School for the Deaf, and he graduated from there in 1865 (Gallaher, p.142, from which much of what follows comes, and Obituary). Kerr went on to study at Gallaudet, to what level I cannot say – Gallaher says merely he ‘spent some time’ there.
His artistic talent was evident as a child – for example, he drew ‘an Indian shooting an elephant on a small wooden box’! The article in Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America seems to have been from interview with Kerr, and we have a few particular details of his early life, such as that he would read newspapers at the local ‘news depot’ but as he could not afford to buy them, he would draw pictures from memory afterwards.
Marcus’s first oil painting was painted when he was thirteen and was of his old shepherd dog. He also made landscapes and portraits, ‘for a living’ before going to Rochester, New York, to study under a ‘celebrated artist’ Professor Adam Springfield.* Before that he had been entirely self-taught. Kerr went on to the artists’ colony in New York we are told, and then travelled to Europe in 1871, including visits to London, Düsseldorf and Paris. The article says he ‘studied’ in these places. Probably that means he was studying under his own steam, and we may wonder how long he was studying with the celebrated Professor. Springfield was a witness to Kerr’s passport application, in September 1872 – was he going abroad then, after getting married, rather than in 1871? That would be an area for further research.
In September 1871, he married a Deaf lady from Jackson, called Adele George (1834-1921), nine years his senior, but who had also been at the Michigan School. His obituary does not mention her, but does say he lived at the corner of Elm street and Main. Adele is herself really interesting, and if you can you should read the article on her by Seitz and Laffrado cited below. She was a poor Deaf woman who found her voice, writing and publishing her life story, A brief narrative of the life of Miss Adele M. George: (being deaf and dumb) in a number of different editions over many years, from 1859, then selling sufficient copies to rescue herself and her mother from homelessness.
Adele married a cousin, Harrison Jewell, and they had three children including a Deaf son who went to the Michigan School but died aged sixteen. They were divorced, and then Adele married Marcus Kerr. The marriage was not successful in the long run, and they had to endure the loss of three children in infancy. Their divorce in 1890 was reported in the newspapers, as Kerr was well known, though Adele (Adell) is described in the city directory for Jackson in 1899 and also in 1902, as ‘Kerr, Adelle (wid Marcus H) bds 736 S Milwaukee’ – in other words she was calling herself a widow before Marcus died (Seitz and Lallrado p.174). Kerr had accused Adele of “extravagance and desertion” (ibid.). we might wonder what blame he carried – he did not wait about, marrying another deaf lady, Mamie E. Nettleton of Indiana, in January 1891.**
Kerr spent his later years in St. Louis, moving there in 1885, painting the ex-mayor Walbridge, as well as a pastel of the Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, which was exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and was presented to the college. He also painted Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell. Do these portraits survive?
The most bizarre thing about Marcus Kerr, is his entry in Peeps into the Deaf World, where we discover that he trained a pug to perform various tricks. It was this picture that got me looking into his life. Whether this was a pastime or perhaps an additional source of income I do not know. I am sure there is more to discover. His end was sad, and a fate shared by many deaf people over the years. He was knocked over when crossing a road on the 10th of April, 1903, by a car he did not of course hear.
Mamie is pretty opaque in the records – at least after a brief search I have not been able to pin her down, neither have I found Kerr on the 1900 census, but I have little time to look. Did their marriage last, or did she die? In his obituary she is not named. That obituary, in the Jackson Citizen, quoting the St. Louis Post and Dispatch, says he had a studio at 3837 Delmar Avenue (see article on Find a Grave in the link below).
*Someone I have not been able to track down in the brief time available to research this blog in any detail, but have found this romantic Victorian historical painting by him.
Gallaher, James E., Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America, 1898 (2nd ed.) p.142-3
Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917 p.290-1
The St. Louis Republic. (St. Louis, Mo.), 11 April 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020274/1903-04-11/ed-1/seq-3/>
Seitz, Rush, and Laffrado, Laura, Adele M. George Jewel Kerr (1834–?), Legacy Vol. 30, No. 1, Special Issue: Women Writing Disability (2013), pp. 172-183
US Census returns
Year: 1850; Census Place: Liberty, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: M432_352; Page: 402A; Image: 556
Year: 1880; Census Place: Jackson, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: 585; Page: 424D; Enumeration District: 123
Passport Record – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 187; Volume #: Roll 187 – 01 Aug 1872-30 Sep 1872
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]
James William Arthur Sturdee, R.A.D.D. Chaplain to the Deaf, Deptford – “As an interpreter he was valuable”
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 10 May 2019
Born in Deptford, Kent, in 1846, and son of James Sturdee, a tailor, and his wife Maria, James William Arthur Sturdee (1846-1910) was educated at Dartford Grammar School (which Gilby has, probably erroneously, as Deptford Grammar School). “By some means he came into contact with the Rev. S. Smith, and on his advice went to the Institution at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he learned to teach the deaf for a space, and returned to London later, where he became a student missionary to the deaf, attending lectures at King’s College, and was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Rochester in 1876.” (Gilby, 1910)
In 1875, the Kentish Mercury for Saturday 5th of June, 1875, relates a Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb meeting, in which a lecture was interpreted by Sturdee. The lecture was by Mr. T. Brain on “The Manners and Customs of the East.”
Mr. STURDEE said after such an admirable lecture, it was not necessary for him to say much to them, but he was in duty bound to thank the assembly for the interest they were taking in his work amongst the poor afflicted people in their midst. Had it not been for the sign language, many present would have gone any perfectly ignorant of the nature of the lecture, but now they were perfectly acquainted with all that had been said by the lecturer, and in consequence would be able to read their Bibles with greater attention (applause). There were over 50 deaf and dumb persons in that neighbourhood, and he was afraid when be went to Woolwich and other places he would find many more who had not been brought under the influence of the Association.
It seems however, that the congregation found Sturdee unsatisfactory because he was, at least early on, rather poor at signing. He was then at some point dismissed by the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, then later re-employed. Gilby does not say that, and gives Sturdee some credit at least in the Ephphatha obituary:
The erection of the little Church of St. Barnabas was due to his energies, and as a Freemason he found his connections of-much use in raising the funds. The foundation-stone of St. Bamabas’ was laid by W. J. Evelyn, Esq., the donor of the site, on May 13th, 1882 and the church was opened on St. Barnabas’ Day, June, 1883
Gilby only mentions the Rev. Sturdee four times in his incomplete memoir, and then only in passing. He says in 1888,
I left London on April 30th for my third and last term at Durham, breaking the journey this time at Birmingham in order to see the Edgbaston Institution for deaf children. Mr. Edward Townsend, the Head Master, was already known to me. Our friendship was to last many years. I lunched with Canon Owen Vicar of St. George’s, Edgbaston. (He is now Dean of Ripon). Very soon after this he became Chairman of our Committee in London. He told me he was doing all he could to get me licensed to St. Saviour’s the following Christmas. I was surprised, knowing there was another Chaplain, the Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, of Deptford, much older than myself. (p.80)
In 1892 Sturdee was offered the living of Compton Dundon, in Somerset. The Silent World, says he left London for health reasons, but perhaps he felt he had been passed over. Later, in 1898, he moved on to the large parish of St. David’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham. He died in Edgbaston in February 1910.
The Silent World says, “As an interpreter he was valuable, and was always a welcome preacher at the Birmingham Adult Deaf Mission Hall.”
John Lyons of Bristol University kindly sent me the following, which I reproduce in full, as for some reason since the UCL blog ‘improvements’ it seems impossible to comment. Many thanks to him.
Sturdee is a very interesting, if rather peripheral, figure. He tried to become Chaplain at St Saviour’s in 1888 as Charles Rhind’s replacement. He was asked to demonstrate his signing ability in front of around 50 deaf people—“a good proportion from Deptford”, where he was chaplain—along with another candidate, a Mr Hill.
Sturdee’s signing abilities had long been questioned, had led to him being let go by the Association after the appointment of William Stainer in the early 1870s, before returning, first as a shared missionary between East End and South East and then as full-time missionary for the Greenwich and Deptford Auxiliary. So even though this was taking place after some dozen or so years working in South East London, Sturdee still had to prove his skills.
A special Trustees meeting on Feb 14th 1888 received a report drawn up by Mr Bather, Mr Davidson, Mr Bright Lucas, and Mr Salmond about the event which had taken place that afternoon. The materials selected were the general confession, the collect for Ash Wednesday and the Gospel for that day. Sturdee went first.
“He spelled through the General Confession. He says it has been his practice always to do so because he expects the congregation to join in it. The other prayer and the gospel he signed, and he then gave a short address or sermon. His spelling is distinct enough but there is no fluency in it – every word and letter is spelt alike without variation of tone or emphasis. He succeeded best in his address.”
Hill followed but struggled to convince the audience he had the relevant skills.
When audience comments were solicited, “several said Mr Sturdee was a good hard working man but no one distinctly stood up for his signs or spelling.”
It was proposed at the event that a temporary appointment be made or that the Association wait for Gilby. If pushed, the sub-committee recommendation would be for Sturdee. But instead Stainer was appointed as a temporary chaplain under the direction of the local parish vicar, J W. Ayre. Sturdee, pushed out by Stainer and later by Gilby and with his skills still deemed inadequate, eventually moved into a hearing ministry in Somerset.
Gilby, F.W.G., Death of J.W.A. Sturdee, Ephphatha, 1910, p. 78
The Late Rev. J.W.A. Sturdee, The Silent World, 1910, vol. 2, p.32
Thanks to Norma McGilp @DeafHeritageUK for additional information.
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 3 May 2019
Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who was born 250 years ago, in 1769, suffered from noise-related hearing loss caused by artillery. William Wright tells us,
The Duke of Wellington was inspecting an experimental carriage for a howitzers and whilst in advance of the gun, gave the word ” Fire ;” the result was the rupture of the membrane of the drum of the left ear. The Duke went immediately to Mr. Stevenson who told his Grace the story, about thickening the drum of the ear. The solution of caustic was applied; instant pain ensued, from the caustic passing through the ruptured membrane amongst the ossicula, and very sensitive internal tissues. Within six hours the Duke was conveyed home from Lord Liverpool’s, in a state of insensibility, and it was only by most careful, skilful treatment that his life was then preserved. He went to Verona, a great sufferer, and the country had very properly to make a handsome compensation to Dr. Hume, and his family, for giving up his practice to attend the Duke on his mission. (Wright, 1860, p.75-6)
Graham Smelt says that this was on On August the 5th, 1822. His hearing loss was made considerably worse by the botched treatment, a story related by a Mr Gleig, in an anecdote that suggests it was Hume who was to blame –
The Duke, many years ago, being deaf, sent for his medical man, who poured some stuff into his ear, not knowing that the drum of the ear was broken. This proved very mischievous in its results. The Duke said it was not sound that was restored to him; it was something terrifically beyond sound: the noise of a carriage passing under his window was like the rolling of thunder. Thus suffering, he returned home about the middle of the day, and went to bed. Next day, Dr. Hume called and found the Duke staggering about the room. Dr. Hume, although he well knew the Duke’s temperate habits, supposed that he had taken a little too much wine overnight, and had not recovered from it. He was leaving the room, when the Duke said to him : Hume, I wish you would look to my ear ; there is something wrong there.’ Hume looked and saw that a furious inflammation had begun, extending to the brain ; another hour, and the stuff would have done for the Duke what all his enemies had failed to do : it would have killed him. Hume bled him copiously, sent for Sir Henry Halford and Sir Astley Cooper, who treated him with great skill, and brought him round. The poor man came next day and expressed his great regret. The Duke spoke to him in his kindest manner and said, I know you did not mean to harm me ; you did your best, but I am very deaf.’ Upon which, the Doctor said, I am very sorry for it ; but my whole professional prospects are at stake, and if the world hears of it I shall be ruined.’ ‘The world need not hear at all about it,’ said the Duke; ‘keep your counsel, and I’ll keep mine.’ The Doctor, encouraged by this, went a little further : Will you let me attend you still, and let the world suppose that you still have confidence in me ?’ ‘No, no,’ said the Duke, ‘I cannot do that ; that would not be truthful.’ (Davies, 1854 p.16-17)
To me this sounds like a well-rehearsed anecdote, but there is something ‘missing,’ it seems to me, in Wright’s account, in that he seems to imply that Hume had some hand in the affair without explicitly saying so. Or is he just omitting Stevenson’s name, and ‘the poor man’ is Stevenson? Smelt says that Stevenson was to blame, and that Hume treated him afterwards. In an earlier book, Wright tells us –
Deleau states that he can reach the cavity of the tympanum by a bent probe, or catheter. If he even can do so, which I consider is very problematical, I am convinced the operation is attended with considerable danger, for the ossicula (the small bones) which extend from the inside of the membrana tympani, to the opposite side of the cavity, would be in great danger of being forced from the situation in which Providence has been pleased to place them, or their functions would be otherwise diminished, or destroyed, and such would be the effect of any injury being inflicted on this delicate organization, that inflammation of the brain, and even death, would be a probable consequence. An example of this was unfortunately nearly afforded about the end of 1822, or beginning of 1823, in the case of the Duke of Wellington, a lotion of lunar caustic had been dropped into the external auditory passage, there was an opening at the time through the membrane (or drum), from an accidental cause, and the caustic lotion entered the cavity beneath, containing the highly sensative [sic] integuments, and machinery therein placed ; the results were intense pain; in a few hours inflammation of the brain, with symptomatic fever, and his life was only preserved by the most prompt and efficient treatment pursued by his Physician, aided by other medical and surgical advice derived from the first men of the age. In June, 1823, I was called into attendance on his Grace, as his aurist, and continue still to attend him when necessary ; even at this distant period from the unfortunate occurrence, the Duke feels sufficient unpleasant effects occasionally, not to allow him to forget it, independent of the privation of his left ear.* Similar, if not even worse, must necessarily be the consequence of introducing an instrument into the cavity of the tympanum, even if the patient be in a state of health; but if there exist any tendency to inflammatory action, scrofula, or erysipelas, the danger is increased, and the disastrous effects, or even fatal termination of the experiment, for it is nothing more in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, unavoidable. (Wright, 1839, p.55-7)
* In pp. 159 and 160, of “An Exposition of Quackery and Imposture in Medicine,” written by Dr. Caleb Ticknor, of New York, republished in this country, which I edited, and upon which I wrote copious notes, will be found a further account of the Duke of Wellington’s case.
Note how free doctors were then with patient information, while the patient was still alive. Smelt suggests as well as the seriously damaged ear, he also had noise-induced hearing loss in his other ear as he got older.
In 1852 the Duke wrote in a letter,
I have none of the infirmities of old age I excepting Vanity perhaps. But that is a disease of the mind, not of the Body ! My deafness is accidental ! If I was not deaf, I really believe that there is not a youth in London who could enjoy the world more than myself or could bear fatigue better, but being deaf, the spirit, not the body, tires. One gets bored, in boring others, and one becomes too happy to get home. (Wellington, 1854, p.314-5)
Losing his hearing had other consequences, as we see from this on February 20th, 1848 from the Greville memoirs –
At the House of Lords on Friday night, for the Committee on the Diplomatic Bill. Government beaten by three, and all by bad management ; several who ought to have been there, and might easily have been brought up, were absent : the Duke of Bedford, Duke of Devonshire, Lord Petre, a Catholic, dawdling at Brighton, and Beauvale. The Duke of Wellington, with his deafness, got into a complete confusion, and at the last moment voted against Government. (Greville, 1888, p.129)
When he was in his eighties, as members of Derby’s 1852 government were announced, the now quite deaf Duke kept repeating, “Who? Who?” It became known as the “Who? Who?” ministry.
Davies, George Jennings, The completeness of the late duke of Wellington as a national character, 1854
Greville, Charles Cavendish Fulke, The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV, King … 1888
Hazlitt, William, ed, Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington, The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, Volume 2, 1854
Smelt, Graham, Wellington’s Deafness. Abstract presented at the meeting British Society for the History of ENT, Held December 1st 2011 In the Toynbee McKenzie Room, at the Royal Society of Medicine, London
Wright, William, A few minutes’ advice to deaf persons…, 1839
Wright, William, On the varieties of deafness and diseases of the ear, 1829
Wright, William, Deafness and Diseases of the Ear: The Fallacies of Present Treatment Exposed … 18
By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 26 April 2019
Kathleen Trousdell Shaw was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, in 1865, daughter of a doctor Alfred Shaw, who was at the time working in London. According to her the Silent World article, she was brought up in Ireland, where the family was from, when she was a child. The story related in that article, is that when she was nine she was ‘enthralled’ watching a stonemason carve the lettering for her grandmother’s tombstone in the churchyard (where it does not say), and the mason gave her some stone and two chisels so that she could try carving herself. Her talent was sufficiently remarkable that she was sent to Dublin Art School aged ten. The article on her from Freeman’s Journal, says, “There is a gruesome poetry about the picture, a tiny soft-lipped child stands by and gravely watches a man engaged upon work of the significance of which she is utterly unconscious.”
She gained medals and prizes and when fifteen years old managed to collect £25 with which she went to Paris and joined her elder sister in a tiny flat in the Quartier Latin. To her great joy she was accepted as a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where there were no fees, and where she could study under the most eminent French artists and sculptors.
At seventeen she returned to Dublin where she did a few portrait busts, including one of Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, but before long she was travelling again, having won a scholar-ship of £200 for two years. This enabled her to carry out her ambition of going to Rome where she attended the studio of M. Charles Desvergne and led a pleasant life among the artists and critics, besides meeting young people of her own age at parties and dances.
[…] From the age of thirty she was stone deaf. She returned for a time to London, and worked in Julian’s studio and in the British Museum, when she got the chance of going to Athens with her friend, Miss Venning.* They went in a French ship and she made a medallion portrait of the French captain which delighted the sailors. ‘C’est lui-meme,’ they said, ‘It is he himself’.
In Athens the British Ambassador befriended them and used to take them out in his yacht to visit some of the beautiful islands, and Miss Shaw did several portraits of diplomats and some of lovely Greek children. When she returned to England she lived for a time at Knutsford in Cheshire, doing portrait busts both in bronze and marble and exhibiting in the Royal Academy. One of the Duchess of Buckingham in marble was specially admired. Later in London she made busts of Lord Avebury, the beautiful Countess Annesley and many distinguished people, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy and in the Paris Salon. […]
Her work was recognized and honoured when she was made a Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1907. She was the first woman sculptor to be made a member of any Royal Academy in the British Isles. (James, p.266-7)
According to the 1901 census, Shaw saw at that time living in York Street Chamber, Marylebone, a near neighbour being Rosamond Venning. These chambers were “The York Street Chambers were built in 1892 to house single professional women and the tenants were principally artists, authors, nurses.” It would possibly be useful to anyone trying to uncover more about Shaw, to have a look at what records survive – it might for example tell us how long she was there.
It seems that Venning was involved in the suffrage movement as can be seen from a letter in the Women’s Library Archive. By the time of the 1911 census, they were living together in 13 Belsize Park Gardens, and Shaw is described as Venning’s adopted daughter. Their friendship must have begun much earlier, for the article says ‘until she was thirty she could just hear the voices of two people, her mother and her friend Miss Rosamund [sic] Venning’ (p.266). As she made a relief of Venning in 1892, they must have been acquainted at least no later than that.
She lived with Rosamond at Pitt Cottage, Cadmore End, Buckinghamshire, in the 1920s, during which period she lost her sight, and when Rosamond died she left her estate to Kathleen.
Kathleen Shaw died on the 30th of June, 1958, in Amersham Hospital.
Among her work is the bust of Archbishop Alexander, husband of the Deaf hymn-writer, Fanny Alexander, in Armagh Cathedral, and the Armagh war memorial. A war memorial font cover in Cadmore Church, with a silver figure, was made with gifts of silver from villagers. Also, she made a monument to two Venning ancestors at Totnes.
How tragic that blindness cut short her career.
This reference gives a long list of here work –
*Venning seems to have been an antiquarian – see https://archive.org/stream/annualreportamern115amer/annualreportamern115amer_djvu.txt and also https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Folk-lore_-_A_Quarterly_Review._Volume_5,_1894.djvu/366.
James, The Honorable Mrs. B.R., Kathleen Trousdell Shaw, Silent World, 1954, p.266-7
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 111; Folio: 158; Page: 39
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 609
Ancestry.com. Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898 [database on-line].
Freeman’s Journal – Tuesday 01 May 1894, p.6
Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 06 April 1895, p.3
Villagers Humble Gifts, Yorkshire Evening Post – Saturday 24 April 1920 p. 6
Western Times – Monday 14 April 1902, p.2