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I said to her, “The child’s head is cut off.” I have seen her several times since, and she still insists that the head came off. Esther Dyson 1807-1869

Hugh Dominic WStiles29 November 2019

William Dyson (baptised 1804) and his sister Esther, were born in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, and were both Deaf.  They were children of Isaac and Hannah Dyson, and Esther was the youngest of eight.  I do not know the fates of all the children, but one of the newspapers said that they had no parents or siblings surviving in 1831, though there were other Dysons still in the village.  I came across Esther’s story in the newspaper archive, and it is a sorry tale of neglect.  I will leave it to the papers to tell the story.

CHILD MURDER. Sheffield, Sept. 30.

Some excitement has been occasioned in Sheffield and the neighbourhood for the last two days, in consequence of the discovery of child murder, young woman, 23 years of age, at a village called Ecclesfield, on the road to Leeds from Sheffield. The accused person is Esther Dyson, a deaf and dumb girl, working at a thread-mill at that place, girl of exceeding good appearance, and remarkably shrewd and cunning.

THE INQUEST.

On Thursday, a respectable body of men assembled at the house of Mr. Ashton, the Black Bull Inn, in Ecclesfield, near Sheffield, before Mr. B. Badge, coroner for that district of Yorkshire, on view of the body of the child, when the following evidence was adduced -Ellen Greaves, the wife Thomas Greaves, of Ecclesfield, in the county York, file-cutter, deposed – I knew Esther Dyson, single woman, who is about 23 years of age; she is deaf and dumb ; I live next door to her, and she lives with her brother, who is also deaf and dumb. Three or four months ago I challenged her with being in the family way, but she denied it; she has sufficient knowledge, in my opinion, to know what is right or wrong, and I can make her understand by signs what I mean. About a month ago I again challenged her with being with child, and she seemed angry with me, and she told me signs that it was some stuff that she had applied inwardly and outwardly to her throat, which had made her body swell. I made signs to her to begin and make some clothes for her child, at the same time showing her my infant, but she seemed to blow it away, making signs showing that she was not with child; I was in the habit of seeing Esther Dyson daily. On Friday last, the 24th ult., I saw her about twelve o’clock, at her own house-door, and she appeared quite big in the family way ; I did not see her again till about nine o’clock on Saturday morning, when she was washing the house-floor, and she seemed pale, languid, and weak. On Saturday morning last, about nine o’clock, I motioned her to know how she was; she then had a flannel tied round her neck. She motioned to that she had thrown up a large substance, and it had settled her body. About three o’clock on Sunday last, the 20th inst., I went to her house, and her brother motioned me that his sister was in bed very sick, but I did not go up stairs. About four o’clock on the same day, she appeared poorly and weak, and I desired her brother make her some tea, and I stopped till she took it. I left about five o’clock Sunday afternoon. From her altered appearance I have doubt she had been delivered of a child.

Hannah Butcher corroborated the above evidence, and said, that from her observation, as a married woman, she believed the prisoner had been delivered of a child on the Friday.

William Graham examined.- I am a blacksmith. I know the prisoner, and think her intelligent. On Saturday night last, 20th inst., at about 8 o’clock, I was returning home to Ecclesfield from Wortley, and I met the prisoner in Lee-lane, in Ecclesfield township, with something wrapped before her apron. She was on a footpath leading from Ecclesfield to Wortley and about 600 yards from the Cotton-mill Dam, where the body of female child has been found. She having passed, I met H. Woodhouse, and he asked me if it was not the dumb girl whom I had met ? and I said yes, it was.

Fanny Guest, a gentleman’s servant, who had been in conversation with Woodhouse, deposed to her having also seen the dumb girl pass her, with something under her apron.
James Henderson, overlooker of the thread-mill belonging to Mr. Barlow, knows the prisoner and her brother, who is also deaf and dumb. They have worked in the mill 11 years. Is satisfied that the dumb girl is capable of distinguishing right from wrong. On Sunday last witness went to Wm. Dyson, the dumb man’s house, and he willingly gave me his keys to examine the boxes belonging to him. I saw nothing suspicious in his room. I then examined the prisoner’s room, and I found blood on the chamber floor, and blood partially wiped off the floor. The wall was also sprinkled with blood. I withdrew the curtain of her chamber window, and observed marks of blood on the window bottom. I opened a hand-box, and found two aprons and a skirt, on which appeared as if a substance had been laid upon them, the blood having run through the skirt. The prisoner came up stairs, and, by signs, desired me to come away, and not search. Being convinced that something wrong had been done, I sent for the vestry clark, and in his presence searched the prisoner’s box, and found several articles, from which it was evident that they belonged to person who had been delivered of a child. On Monday last, about an hour after the child had been found in the dam, it was brought to the Ecclesfield workhouse, and laid down she blamed him? She then satisfied me that he had no-thing to do with it, but that she had done it herself .She told her brother in my presence that she did not throw the child into the dam. She merely laid it in. I conceive the prisoner to be a shrewd, clever woman.

Ann Briggs examined – I am the wife of Thomas Briggs, cutler of Ecclesfield. The piece of green cloth produced by Wm. Shaw, the constable, and in which the child was found, is part of a sofa cover belonging to Wm. Dyson, prisoner’s brother ; I took the body of the child out the cloth, and then to the workhouse ; I also, at the same time, took the head of the child also found in the dam, out of a separate piece of green cloth, which also belonged the sofa alluded to. I have practised as midwife for upwards of 20 years, and it is my opinion that the head of the child had been cut off by some dull instrument. Mr. Thomas Yeardley, who has a dumb child of his own gave me some books, which are published for the purpose of instructing deaf and dumb children; for up- wards of 12 months I instructed the prisoner in signs and learning her the dumb alphabet, and she obtained that instruction that I am convinced she can understand me ; she is of very quick apprehension. Monday last I went to the prisoner, and asked her to explain the manner to me how she was delivered of her child. I said to her, “The child’s head is cut off.” I have seen her several times since, and she still insists that the head came off. On reproving her with throwing it into the dam, she showed that she had, not thrown in it, but had laid it in pretty and nice.

James Machin deposed that, in consequence of information given him Sunday night, he went to the prisoner’s house, and found it in the state described by the other witnesses. I, assisted by W. Shaw, the constable of Ecclesfield, searched the dam, and pulled out the headless body of a fine full-grown infant – a female. This witness went on to corroborate the testimony of Henderson and Greaves, as to the appearance, in the prisoner’s bed-room.

Sarah Ingham deposed – l am the governess of the Ecclesfield workhouse. I went to the house of Dyson, and received from Henderson certain articles wrapped in bundle; they were saturated with blood. The articles produced are the same, and have been in my care ever since. I examined the breasts of the prisoner, and found a deal milk in them. She told the same story to the manner in which the head came off, she did the other witnesses. I produced a knife to her, and showed signs that she bad cut the head off. But she threw herself on one side, and shunned the idea.

Wm. Shaw, the constable of Ecclesfield, confirmed the testimony of Machin.

Mr. Wm. Jackson, lecturer on anatomy, stated that on the 27th day of September last he examined Esther Dyson the prisoner, and she had every appearance of having been recently delivered. He was decidedly of opinion, from the examination, that the head of the child had not been torn or screwed off by the mother. He had had no doubt, from the particular examination of the body of the deceased, and from the appearance that it exhibited on that examination, that the child was born alive.

Mr. Joseph Campbell, surgeon, having also examined both the woman and the child, fully corroborated Mr. Jackson’s testimony.

The coroner having summed up,

The jury retired, and in few minutes returned with verdict of Wilful Murder against Esther Dyson.

The coroner then issued a warrant for the unfortunate woman’s committal to York Castle, to take her trial the ensuing Lent Assizes. (London Evening Standard – Saturday, 2nd October, 1830)

It would be interesting to trace Yeardley’s child, and work out which book she or he was taught with – I would suggest Watson’s as used in the Old Kent Road Asylum.  No one seems interested in who the father might have been – no doubt there was plenty of speculation locally.  How much Esther knew of what society deems right and wrong, we can only guess.

Six months later, the case was decided in the Assizes.

FRIDAY, March 25. CHARGE OF MURDER.

ESTHER DYSON was this morning placed at the bar, charged with the wilful murder of her female bastard child, at Ecclesfield, near Rotherham, on the 24th of Sept, last.
In consequence of the prisoner labouring under the infirmity of having been born deaf and dumb, the greatest interest was excited, and the galleries were crowded on the opening of Court.

The prisoner is 26 years of age, but does not appear so old. She is rather tall, and of slender make. She has light hair and complexion, and of rather a pleasing and pensive cast of feature. She was dressed in a coloured silk bonnet, a light calico printed dress, and a red cloth cloak. She had the appearance of a respectable female in the lower walks of life.

The Clerk of the Arraigns having read over the indictment, which contained four counts, in which the charge was differently stated, put the question, “Guilty or Not Guilty,” to which, in consequence of her infirmity, she made no answer.

The Jury was then impanelled, pro forma, to try whether she stood mute of malice, or from the act of God.

James Henderson was then sworn, who deposed that he communicate ideas to her by signs. He was then sworn to interpret the various questions to the prisoner.

In reply to a question from the judge, the witness stated In reply to a question from the judge, the witness stated that the prisoner had no counsel – that she had no father, mother or relative, except a brother, who was himself deaf and dumb.

His Lordship said she must have counsel, and at his request Sir Gregory Lewin undertook to conduct the defence. years, endeavoured to make the prisoner understand, by signs, that she might object to any of the gentlemen of the Jury, but he failed to make her comprehend the Jury, but he failed to make her comprehend the nature of the question.

The Jury returned a verdict “that the prisoner was not sane.”

The Judge then directed her to be remanded, and every proper means taken to instruct her. In a previous part of the proceedings, the Judge said he should reserve the point tor the consideration of the Judges, whether she should be tried upon the charge, or confined during the King’s pleasure. (York Herald – Saturday, 26th of March 1831)

Esther seems to have lived out her life in the asylum, dying in 1869, and was buried on the 23rd of March 1869, at the Parish of Stanley, York, England.  William died, I think, in 1875.

We should recall that at this time you could be hanged for robbery and assault – that was the fate of three young men at the same assizes – Turner, Twibell and Priestley-

“Lord have mercy upon your souls.” During the passing of the sentence, Turner wept bitterly ; and, at the conclusion, exclaimed ” Oh, dear.” Twibell also sobs, and cried out – Oh, Lord spare our lives.” (ibid)

…so I think she was fortunate.

It really is not my intention to continually add lurid stories of death here, but that was life at the time.  This tale is another one that points to the sad way many Deaf people in the past were unsupported, though it also shows that 19th century society was not without compassion, and how, despite their faults, the Institutions (schools and missions) could reduce this from happening as often, by giving children the ability to communicate and belong to a community.

Incidentally, Sir George Lewin came to an unfortunate end after getting into financial trouble.

Esther 

1841 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 1271; Book: 10; Civil Parish: Wakefield; County: Yorkshire; Enumeration District: West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum Yorkshire; Folio: 51; Page: 16; Line: 10; GSU roll: 464241

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 Class: HO 27; Piece: 42; Page: 403

England, Select Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

https://ourcriminalancestors.org/the-story-of-esther-dyson/

‘Natural Pantomime’: Spectacle, Silence and Speech Disability Kate Mattacks

https://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/topic/9047-infanticide-by-a-deaf-and-dumb-mother/

William

Deaths, 1875, March – 

DYSON  William  71  Wortley  9c 191

1871 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 2335; Folio: 241; Page: 21; GSU roll: 87581-87582 

Yorkshire CCLXXXVIII.8 (Ecclesfield; Sheffield) 
Surveyed: 1890, Published: 1892

 

ARRET DU CONSEIL D’ÉTAT Concernant l’éducation et l’enseignement des Sourds et Muets: Order of the Council of State concerning the education & teaching of the Deaf & Mute

Hugh Dominic WStiles21 November 2019

A memorable day in French Deaf History… translation below.

ARRET DU CONSEIL D’ÉTAT 

Concernant l’éducation et l’enseignement des Sourds et Muets.

Du 21 Novembre 1778. Extrait des Registres du Conseil d’État.

LE ROI étant instruit du zèle & du désintéressement avec lequel le sieur Abbé de l’Épée s’ai dévoué depuis plusieurs années à l’instruction des Sourds & Muets de naissance, & dei succès presque incroyable de sa méthode, Sa Majesté auroit cru devoir prendre sous sa protection un établissement aussi utile & en assurer la perpetuité; Elle auroit résolu en conséquence d’y destiner une portion des biens que les monasteres des Célestins, situés dans le diocise de Paris, & dont la Congrégation ne doit plus avoir lieu, conformément aux Lettres patentes du 5 avril dernier, tiennent de la libéralité des Rois ses prédécesseurs; pour y parvenir, de charger les Commissaires établis pour l’exécution de l’arrêt du Conseil du 23 mai 1766, de lui proposer les moyens qu’ils estimeront les plus, convenables pour le succès de ses vues. Maiscomme l’examen de ces différens moyens & leur exécution pourroient exiger des délais & qu’on ne peut prendre des mesures trop promptes pour venir au secours de ceux qui font assligés d’une infirmité mer sâcheure & former des Instituteurs capables de perpétuer une méthode aussi intéressante pour l’humanité Sa Majesté a jugé convenable de commettre particulièrement deux lesdits Commissaires pour veiller de concert avec les autres, à tout ce qui peut préparer & accélérer ledit établissement, même de les autoriser à employer provisoirement à cet effet les fourmes qu’ils jugeront nécessaires à les faire acquitter sur la partie libre des biens que Sa Majesté entend un jour y être destinée. A quoi voulant pourvoir: Oui le rapport & tout considéré; LE Roi ÉTANT EN SON CONSEIL, a ordonné & ordonne, que par les sieurs Commissaires établis pour l’exécution de l’arrêt du 23 mai 1766, concernant les Ordres réguliers, sera incessamment procédé à l’examen des moyens les plus propres pour former dans la ville de Paris un établissement d’éducation d’enseignement pour les Sourds & Muets de naissance des deux sexes, & proposé à Sa Majesté tels Statuts & Règremens appartiendra, tant pour la fondation , que pour le gouvernement & direction dudit établissement; & en attendant qu’Elle y ait pourvu définitivement, ordonne Sa Majesté que sur la portion libre des biens que les monastères des Célestins situés dans le diocese de Paris, tenaient de la libéralité des Rois ses prédecesseurs, il sera, sur les ordres du sieur Taboureau, Conseiller d’État, & du sieur Évêque de Rodés, que Sa Majesté a commis & commet pour veiller particulièrement à tout ce qui peut accélerer & préparer ledit établissement, payé & délivré par les sieurs Bollioud de Sainte-Julien, Commis à la régie desdits biens, par les arrêts des 29 mars & 6 juillet 1776, les sommes qui seront par eux jugées nécessaires, soit pour ta subiessiance & entretien des Sourds & Muets qui seraient sans fortune, soit en général pour toutes les dépenses préparatoires dudit établissement, desquelles sommes il sera, par lesdits sieurs de Saint-Julien, rendu un compte séparé dans la forme à eux prescrite par lesdits arrêts; quoi saisant, ils en seront bien & valablement quittes & déchargés.

FAIT au Conceil d’État du Roi, Sa Majesté y étant, tenu à Versailles le vingt-un novembre mil sept’cent soixante-dix-huit. Signé MULOT.

A PARIS DE L’IMPRIMERIE ROYALE. 1778
I hope French readers will forgive the ‘Google Translation’ – at least it gives a flavour of the original.

The King being informed of the zeal and disinterestedness with which the Abbé de l’Épée devoted himself for several years to the education of the deaf and dumb by birth, and of the almost incredible success of his method, his majesty would have thought it his duty to take under his protection an institution so useful and to ensure its perpetuity; It would have resolved accordingly to destine a portion of the goods that the monasteries of Celestins, located in the diocese of Paris, & whose Congregation no longer must take place, in accordance with the Letters Patent of April 5, hold the liberality of Kings his predecessors; in order to do so, to instruct the Commissioners established for the execution of the Council’s decision of May 23, 1766, to propose to him the means which they consider the most suitable for the success of his views. But as the examination of these different means and their execution might require delays, and measures can not be taken too quickly to come to the rescue of those who suffer from a crippling infirmity and to train teachers capable of perpetuating a method. As important to humanity, His Majesty has judged it appropriate to commit particularly two of the said Commissioners to watch together with the others, all that can prepare and accelerate the said establishment, even to authorize them to use provisionally for this purpose the they will judge it necessary to have them paid on the free part of the property which His Majesty intends to be destined for it one day. What does it mean to provide: Yes the report & all considered; THE KING BEING IN HIS COUNCIL, has ordered and orders, that by the Sieurs Commissaires established for the execution of the decree of May 23, 1766, concerning the regular Orders, will be proceeded without delay to the examination of the most suitable means to form in the city of Paris, a school of education for the deaf and dumb of birth of both sexes, and proposed to His Majesty such statutes and regulations will belong, both for the foundation, and for the government and direction of the establishment; and while waiting for it to be definitively settled, orders His Majesty that on the free portion of the property which the monasteries of the Celestines situated in the diocese of Paris, held from the liberality of Kings his predecessors, he will be, at the orders of the Lord Taboureau, Councilor of State, and of the Bishop of Rodés, whom his Majesty has committed to pay particular attention to all that may speed up and prepare the said establishment, paid for and delivered by the Sieurs Bollioud de Sainte-Julien, manager of the property, by the judgments of the 29th of March and the 6th of July, 1776, the sums which shall be deemed necessary for them, either for your subsistence and maintenance of the deaf and dumb, who would be without fortune, or, in general, for all the preparatory expenses of that establishment, of which he is, by the said sisters of St. Julian, rendered a separate account in the form prescribed to them by the said judgments; what is striking, they will be well and validly quit & discharged.

GIVEN at the Council of State of the King, His Majesty being held at Versailles this twenty-first day of November, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight.

The original is in our collection, in a frame.

Corrections to the translation below, or email me!

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEAF AND DUMB WOMAN IN COURT.

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

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

—Defendant: I have not done such a thing.

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

—The Bench dismissed the case.

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

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

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

BRINSLEY RESIDENT’S DEATH.

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

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

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

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

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

Grainger

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

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

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

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6254C

Sneap

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

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 20357

Derby Daily Telegraph – Friday 31 May 1935

” People who can hear think it is rather comic not to be able to, instead of a bitter tragedy” – Felix Joubert’s Royal Ear Hospital memorial, “Deafness Listening”

Hugh Dominic WStiles4 October 2019

In 1927, Neville Chamberlain, then Minister for Health, opened the new Royal Ear Hospital building in Huntley Street.  Ninety-two years later, the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, which incorporated the Royal Ear Hospital, is moving back to Huntley Street in two phases.

The Huntley Street site was paid for by Sir Geoffrey Duveen (1883-1975) who was a barrister and, like his father, a philatelist.  The hospital was a memorial to his parents.

WAR AGAINST DEAFNESS. There is great sympathy as well as great friendship, between the two men who are putting up a memorial to the conquest of deafness at the Royal Ear Hospital in London Felix Joubert, the artist who designed the charming group of “Deafness Listening,” has had to give up the art of the foils, at which he won international fame, owing to ear trouble. Geoffrey Duveen, the man who gave the memorial and has rebuilt add re-endowed the hospital at his own expense, is a business magnate of varied interests, who has found deafness a great burden and is determined to alleviate it where he can. “You’ve no idea how widespread it is,” he told me, “especially among the children in the elementary schools. Deafness gets no sympathy! People who can hear think it is rather comic not to be able to, instead of a bitter tragedy.”—”Mr. Gossip” In the “Daily Sketch” (Belfast Telegraph)

The artist of the attractive bronze plaque, Jules Felix Amedée Joubert, was born in London in 1872, son of Henri, an upholsterer who had a business in the Kings Road, Chelsea.  Henri’s father, Jean Baptiste Amidée Joubert, also  an upholsterer, born in Paris in 1796.  He came to London, where he married Louise Pariens in 1828, and died in Marylebone, in 1866.  He was certainly not described as deaf when younger, but in 1927 he was fifty-five, and presumably age-related hearing loss meant he could not hear the judges when fencing, which is what we might suppose caused  him to give it up.  Duveen obviously felt his hearing loss keenly, and thousands of patients ever since have cause to thank him for his generosity.

I have found scattered records of Felix Joubert, as he seems to be most commonly known, but I am sure that someone could probably put together an interesting essay on him with a little archival work.  Many newspaper records mention him for his fencing, and while he was on the initial team for the 1912 Olympics, he was not in the team that finally competed.  One of Joubert’s passions was for old arms and armour, and he made a collection which he donated to the Musée Masséna in Nice, in 1925.  He is also supposed to have ‘forged’ items – perhaps it would be kinder to say ‘imitated’, but maybe he just took his chances to make some money from gullible people with money.  During the Great War he designed a trench knife that was supposed to follow an ancient Welsh pattern but was in reality his own design, with influence from ancient swords.

For many years the Jouberts lived in a house at 2 Jubilee Place, Chelsea.  I do not know where Joubert studied, but he married Blanche Cappé in 1907.

Joubert was it seems friendly with many famous people, including the Prince of Monaco and the Rothschild family.  He designed scenes for the theatre in 1912 (The Stage – Thursday 03 October 1912), a stained glass window in 1918, the first with a khaki clad soldier according to the Illustrated London News (Saturday 08 June 1918), and he even made a film in 1922.  Clearly he was a talented and interesting man.

Incidentally, it seems Duveen’s wife was the first person to have a radio in her car – a cadillac – in Britain, in 1926, but this involved her chauffeur slinging a 50 foot aerial between the car and a tree (The Times, 1997)!

Joubert died in Nice on the 1st of June, 1953, and is buried in Brompton cemetery.

The idea of the ‘conquest of deafness’ is one that might still appeal to some in the medical profession, but a greater understanding of Deaf people and deafness suggests that it is probably a form of words we now best avoid.

Joubert is seen here dressed as a knight presumably in his own armour, at the Chelsea Arts Club Ball (The Sketch – Wednesday 13 March 1912).

Belfast Telegraph – Wednesday 04 July 1928

Eason, Kevin The Times (London, England), Saturday, February 1, 1997, Issue 65802, p.1[S1] 

Illustrated London News – Saturday 19 February 1927 

Leeds Mercury – Thursday 10 February 1927

Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]

https://saintyrieixlaperche.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/felix-joubert-lorfevre-londonien-famous-london-art-restorer-auteur-de-la-copie-du-chef-reliquaire-de-saint-yrieix/

https://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib1_1271953076

1851 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 1475; Folio: 380; Page: 8; GSU roll: 87798

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 82; Folio: 112; Page: 41; GSU roll: 1341018

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 59; Folio: 156; Page: 6

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 72; Folio: 143; Page: 43

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 381

James Herbert Roxburgh, Deaf Hero, 1923 – connecting the dots…

Hugh Dominic WStiles20 September 2019

James Herbert Roxburgh was born in December 1898, probably in Dublin.  According to his marriage certificate, his father, also James, was a ‘painter [or perhaps printer] traveller’.  He may be the James Roxburgh who attended the Claremont Institution and was there in the 1911 census, with an unknown girl called Roxburgh who was aged 10 and possibly a sister.   The 1901 Irish census has James, a Scottish printer manager, and Salvation Army member, with a son William Roxburgh aged seven who was deaf.  William sadly died in 1907, aged 13.  Another son, Bertie, who was two, is I believe, James Herbert.  His deafness may not yet have been apparent.  They probably abbreviated Herbert to Bertie as the father was also called James.  That could explain why I am unable to find his birth record.  The girl on the Claremont census was almost certainly Bertie’s younger sister, Dorothy Emma Roxburgh, who was aged six months in the 1901 census.  Dorothy was recorded as living with her mother, and her brother Ronald, in the 1939 register, at 4 Charnwood Grove, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, England, and she died in Bath in 1984.*

James Herbert emerges from obscurity into a fleeting moment of fame, not far from the spot where the River Fleet enters the Thames.

In 1923 he was working on the photographic staff of Boots, Stamford Street, London.  On August the 25th, he was returning from work at about 12.30 pm, when he saw a crowd of people staring down at the river by Blackfriars Bridge.  When he reached there he saw a boy struggling in the water.  Pausing only to remove his hat and coat, he dived in, and got his left arm under the boy’s armpits, raising him up.  He swam back to the steps, where he proceeded to resuscitate the unconscious boy.

The rescue was entirely unassisted, and the tide was running up very strongly at the time.

Although another man failed to reach the lad before he had been brought ashore, he assisted in the effort to revive him, which was successful, and the seven-year-old boy (son of an ex-soldier) was taken home by his parents. The rescue was witnessed from the Bridge by five of the rescuer’s fellow-workers, whose evidence and full particulars have been forwarded to the Royal Humane Society. (British Deaf Times)

There are steps on each side of the south end of Blackfriars Bridge – it could have been from either of those that he made his rescue.  It is nice for us that in Selwyn Oxley’s photo collection, there is a reproduction of the Royal Humane Society’s award.
You may be interested to note that James Roxburgh is the third Deaf swimming hero I have written about on the blog, and there are others.

James was recorded as working as a ‘photographic copyist’ in the 1939 national register.

In 1931 James married Estelle K Maclean.  Estelle was the daughter of a Scottish born Concertina Tuner (a very specific job!), James Maclean.  In 1911 he had been married to his wife Jane for twenty-four years, so I suppose he moved to London in the 1880s, and they had four children.  Estelle and her brother Gordon James Maclean (1889-1964), a cabinet maker, were both ‘deaf from birth’ according to the 1911 census, at which time the family lived at 23 Ashburnham  Grove, Greenwich.  In 1919 Gordon married Annie Florence Harvey (1897-1957) who was also Deaf from aged two, and who lived with her family at The Cottage, Hythe Road, Willesden Junction.

James and Estelle retired to Torbay, where he died in 1986, and she died in 1988.

If you can add anything more about the lives of these four related Deaf people, please do below.

Deaf man’s brave act: a Thames rescue. British Deaf Times, 1923, 20 (239/240), 105.

Lyons, Minna, Who are the heroes?  Characteristics of people who rescue others.  Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 3 (2005)3– 4, 239–248

Roxburgh –

Marriage 1931 – Reference Number: p78/pau1/007

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/405I

Maclean –

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 533; Folio: 156; Page: 50

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2680

Harvey –

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 224

*Thanks to Norma McGilp for spotting James and Estelle’s death records, and for digging out additional family links.

 

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles13 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

Hugh Dominic WStiles23 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

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles2 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

War-time Belgian Refugees, 1914-18

Hugh Dominic WStiles12 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

Hugh Dominic WStiles5 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