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“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

 

WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION – 1933

Hugh Dominic WStiles16 April 2019

Doris Florence Morgan was born in Acton on the 13th of August, 1906, daughter of a ‘glove cleaner’ (later a dry cleaner) Henry Morgan, and his wife, Florence.  The 1911 census, at which time they were living at 34 Goldsmith Road, Acton, tells us she was ‘deaf and dumb from birth.’  George William Munday was born in 1905, son a Albert (a cabman) and Annie Isabella.  The 1911 census tells us that he was ‘deaf and dumb from 1 year.’  The two were married in April, 1933.

This story is simply told as all I have apart from this information, what I have is two newspaper clippings with Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable scrawl, which tell the sad story:

WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION
Forty people who were guests at the wedding, ten days ago, of a London deaf and dumb girl, will reassemble on Saturday at Golders Green, N.W., when the young bride is to be cremated—in her bridal gown.

The girl, Doris Morgan, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., married George Mundy, of Hendon, N.W., also a deaf mute.

After a short honeymoon at Hastings, they returned to their new home last Saturday. On Sunday she was taken ill and became unconscious. She died next morning without recovering consciousness.

“She was a bright girl, strong and capable at her work,” said her father last night. “She was the last person one would have thought would meet with so sudden a death.” (Daily Herald, 20/4/1933)

A second report says –

Wedding March at a Funeral
DEAF AND DUMB BRIDE CREMATED IN WEDDING DRESS
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was played by the organist and the funeral service was translated into the deaf and dumb language at the cremation at Golders Green to-day of Mrs. Doris Florence Munday, aged 26, of Mansell-road, Acton, W., the deaf and dumb bride who died nine days after her marriage.

Her husband, who is also deaf and dumb, attended the service with friends who were at the wedding. The dead woman was cremated in her bridal clothes in a white coffin.

The Rev. Herbert Trundle, chaplain of the Crematorium, read the service aloud which was interpreted in the deaf and dumb language by the Rev. H. M. Ainger, assistant chaplain to the Royal Society of the Deaf and Dumb, who officiated at the wedding of the couple a fortnight ago. (Evening Standard, 21/4/1933)

1911 Census (Morgan) – Class: RG14; Piece: 6958; Schedule Number: 493

1911 Census (Munday) – Class: RG14; Piece: 7109; Schedule Number: 286

The ‘Thankful Hearts League’ School for the Deaf, Jerusalem, 1931-? – “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”

Hugh Dominic WStiles12 April 2019

Having previously covered Mary Chapman and her missionary deaf school work in south Asia, we recently mentioned her Jerusalem school in relation to the beginnings of Israeli Sign Language.  Chapman raised funds through the “Thankful Hearts League” to found a mission school for the Deaf in Jerusalem, and started the school in 1931 according to Höxter (p.118).  He continues,

Until now it has had but few pupils, mostly native Arab children, who receive their instruction in the English language from the directress in a small congenially arranged dwelling house. The school has a homelike atmosphere; the lovable directress cares for her small charges with affection and devotion. She has taught the deaf for thirty years in many lands. One of her former pupils from Burma instructs the children in manual training and drawing. With the younger children the method of instruction depends mainly upon observational activity, seeking to direct attention to training in lip-reading. Speech instruction is carried on by the single-sound method. The school should grow in the near future.

Chapman had the help of her long-time colleague Miss Martin, and the Burmese Deaf young man, Bolo.  She appears to have written regular newsletters to her Thankful Hearts League supporters in the U.K., and they must have assisted with both money and material items such as clothes. In 1937 the school had a visit for Sir Arthur Wauchope the High Commissioner, who gave £10 for the school.

The school taught the boys with lipreading, and they learnt to lipread both English and Arabic.  She says in the 1938 newsletter, “There are some sounds in Arabic which seem almost impossible to lip read, or to get a born deaf child to say, but we are persevering !!!”

Further on she tells us this story –

Two of the Sergt. Majors came to our help one Sunday morning, when a Moslem man brought his little son to our School. The Matron of the Government Hospital most kindly said she would take the boy, give him a carbolic bath, and get the Doctor to examine him, before we admitted him to school. Miss Walden and I were so relieved, as we were alone with the boys, all the others having gone to Church, but our joy was short lived, for the telephone went, and the Matron said she was sending Ally back, as his screams, and kicks were frightening all the patients, many of whom were seriously ill. We knew that once the father had left, Ally would settle down happily with the other boys, so I went next door, and these two Sergt. Majors gladly came in, took the boy from his father, and gave him a bath. The Matron sent an Arab policeman from the hospital to help the father bring the boy back to school, for the poor man could do nothing with his son, and he is only seven years old . The policeman asked to see the school, and was amazed to see such a happy well behaved number of deaf and dumb boys!! and great was his astonishment when the boys spoke to him in Arabic, and answered the questions he asked them ; he went away saying “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”.

The school was still going in 1948, as Miss Mary F. Chapman’s School for the Deaf and Dumb, at 135 St. Paul’s Road, Jerusalem.  I  wonder if the school closed with the crisis that saw war in Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel?  If you have any information, please add it below.  I include the 1937 newsletter as a picture, and the 1938 one as a pdf.  If there are other newsletters surviving, it would be nice to know.

As usual, click onto smaller images for a larger size view.

Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121

American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 93, No. 1 (January, 1948), pp. 48-60

The Origin of Israeli Sign Language & Deaf Education in Israel

Hugh Dominic WStiles29 March 2019

According to Meir and Sandler’s 2008 book, A Language in Space: the Story of Israeli Sign Language (p.185), we know nothing of the signs used by deaf people, Jewish or Arabic, in the late Ottoman period in Jerusalem.  Persecution in Europe in the 1930s saw immigration into British mandated Palestine, and an early Deaf immigrant was Moshe Bamberger, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1935 (ibid).  A ‘Jewish School for Deaf Mutes’ had been established there in November, 1932, with the backing of a Jewish man from Shanghai who had lost his hearing, and a teacher from the Jewish Deaf School in Berlin was appointed as head.

The Jewish school for the deaf, which has the major part in the education of the deaf in Palestine, was called into being mainly by the efforts of the otologist, Dr. Marcus Salzberger, who soon after his settling in Palestine (1923) conceived the plan to establish such a school. As funds were necessary for such an undertaking, the carrying out of plan took several years. He found in Miss Jessie Samter of Rechowoth, near Tel-Aviv, a valuable aid who succeeded in procuring some funds from America. To manage the school they found an instructor who professed to have had training in Poland to teach the deaf. Under these auspices there was opened in 1930 in Tel-Aviv the first Jewish school for the deaf in Palestine, an enterprise which lasted for two years. In the year 1929 there died in Shanghai one Leone A. Levy, who at the age of thirty had become deaf. He left his fortune to the Alliance Israélite Universelle with the request that a school for the deaf be established in a Jewish center. Dr. Salzberger went to Paris and prevailed upon Professor Sylvain Levy, the then president of the Alliance, to found the school in Jerusalem under the direction of a specialist in the education of the deaf from Germany, the present director. It was opened in November 1932 with two pupils. (Höxter, p.118-9)

The influence of German sign Language (DSL) was important on the development of Israeli sign Language.  Bamberger met two other Deaf people in Jerusalem, Aryeh Zuckerman, who had also been a pupil at the Berlin School at Weissensee, and a local man, Yehezkel Sella, and they formed the nucleus of the Jewish deaf community in Jerusalem (Meir and Sandler, p.186).  Although the Jerusalem school was oralist at first, it seems that when they could the children naturally used sign language (ibid p.198).  With contributions from immigrants from different places in Europe and native Deaf people, Israeli sign language had a mixed origin, which makes it interesting as a subject for linguists to study.

We have a document from 1969 by J. Shunary, attached below, which is a brief history of the formation of Israeli sign Language.  One of the sources was Zillah Farkash.  Neither of those people is mentioned in the index of Meir and Sandler, so perhaps they did not have this document.  Shunary says,

it is very difficult to determine which of the original German signs did in fact displace local signs, and which were rejected by the local deaf population as being unsuitable.  (For example, one source claims that the signs “not good,” “Jew,” and. “English” were discarded.)  Usually the Germen signs, described by one veteran as highly flexible and refined, were accepted as being in accordance with the character of locally used signs. It in therefore probable that there was a process of mutual interaction between local and imported signs, with a resulting trend towards increased refinement and stylization [sic] of newly created signs.

At the end of the 1930’s and in the early 1940’s members of the deaf association customarily met on the Tel Aviv seashore and in a certain cafe on the main road, or in private homes. Although many were illiterate or poorly informed and were not able to obtain much information from the usual channels, this lack did not prevent them from playing important roles in the forming society. The home of three members served as a central meeting place. A central social role was also played by another member, a tailor of limited means. Although illiterate, he was an outstandingly warm host and his house was always crowded with visitors. Another focal meeting place was the home of “Educated” Egyptian-born brother and sister who had recently immigrated from France. Conversation at meetings concerned everyday affairs, work, current events, films they had seen, jokes mimed by a few members with considerable pantomimic talent and a good sense of humor, and naturally, plain gossip too. News items were related to those who were illiterate by the “Educated.” At that time group games as they are played. today were not the custom. However, the Europeans used to invent sketches, and programs were performed for special occasions, religious festivals, etc. A member who was hard of hearing served for some time as producer of these sketches. (Shunary, p.2)

There was also a French Convent School,  St. Vincent, of which Höxter says, “In the convent school, deaf, blind and crippled children are under the care and instruction of French nuns. The number of deaf children and the method of instruction are unknown to the writer of this paper, as no visitors are admitted to this convent school.” (p.117)

The third school, was that run by Mary F. Chapman who I have written about with regard to her mission work in Ceylon and Burma.  I will come back to that school in a future post.

A Pioneer again goes pioneering. Further work for the deaf and dumb in Palestine. British Deaf Times 1931, p.75

Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Sign_Language

Meir, Irit, and Sandler, Wendy, (2008) A Language in Space: the Story of Israeli Sign Language. Chapter 11, The History of the Deaf Community in Israel p.185-216

Shunary, J., (1969), Social Background of the Israeli Sign Language

The Rev. Canon Vernon Jones, “Godfather of the Deaf and Dumb”

Hugh Dominic WStiles22 March 2019

Vernon Herbert Jones was born in Islington on the 20th of October, 1882, son of a principal clerk with Thames Conservancy, Herbert Jones, and his wife Hellen Jones.  In 1891 the family was living in Highbury Road,  and in 1901 in Baalbec Road, which is by Highbury Fields.  He went to Highbury College in London, then on to University College, Durham, where he became interested in work with the deaf community, under the influence of Canon Adamson, who had founded the Northumberland and Durham Deaf Mission.  perhaps he was also influenced by his own increasing hearing loss.  There were other churchmen in his family, the  two brothers, Canon Rich Jones who ‘discovered’ the Saxon church at Bradford-on-Avon, and the Rev. Flood Jones, Precentor at Westminster Abbey.

Finishing his degree in 1907, he went to train at the Margate School, was ordained, and in 1910 appointed as Chaplain with the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb, a position he held for the next 27 years, at St. Bede’s Clapham and then St. John of Beverley, Finsbury Park.  It was his work there getting the building work done that earnt him the name “Godfather of the Deaf and Dumb.”  He also edited the Deaf Church periodical, Ephphatha.  He was made a Canon of Salisbury in 1945.  He was involved in the work of both the B.D.D.A. and the N.I.D., and was a Freemason from 1912.

In 1920 he married Violet Watson (1893-1964) a deaf lady from Stoke Newington, who was according to the 1911 Census, ‘Deaf from birth.’  I do not know where she went to school or if she was privately educated.  Vernon Jones collapsed and died in Highgate High Road on Saturday, June the 21st, 1947.

He wrote many articles over the years, including this pamphlet, The Challenge of the Sentry, which highlighted the additional risks that Deaf people were under during wartime, for example in the blackout being unable to hear traffic, and the risk of being shot by a sentry – something that did happen.

A friend of his told a newspaper reporter, “He was one of the country’s greatest experts on the sign language of the deaf.  To see him ‘sign’ the Lord’s prayer was a wonderful experience – both for deaf people and for others.”  Selwyn Oxley wrote his obituary in The British Deaf Times,

as a preacher we yield to none that he was one of the very best in the Anglican Church, whether in the spoken word or in Deaf Manual signs.  he was simple, thoughtful, original, practical, suggestive, and always effective and one never heard him without learning something new and practical.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 177; Folio: 142; Page: 41

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 201; Folio: 12; Page: 15

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2243

Violet Watson – 1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 1045

Obituary – The British Deaf Times, 1947, p.82-3

Obituary – Deaf Quarterly News, 1947, p.7

Obituary – Silent World, 1947, August, p.78

“How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour” – Mary Ann Frances Burnell – A Sampler, 1870

Hugh Dominic WStiles15 March 2019

Mary Ann Frances Burnell was born in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, in 1857, daughter of a labourer, William Burnell (aslo Burnal) and his wife, Elizabeth.  She was not described as deaf in the 1861 census when she was three, but a later census says she was ‘deaf from birth’ (1891).  She had at least one hearing brother and sister surviving, but many more that died very young.

This beautifully done sampler was made by her when she was a pupil at Edgbaston School, which she entered aged 9 in 1867, and left in 1873.  It says,

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower
Mary Ann Frances Burnell
Aged 14 years 1870
Deaf and Dumb School
Edgbaston

It may not surprise you to know that she became a lace-maker – Northamptonshire being famous for its lace at that time.  In the 1881 census she was living with her parents in Cosgrove.  By the late 19th century however, modern materials and methods of mass manufacture had ruined the old lace-making trade, and she and her mother were working as laundresses, a very tough job.  Mary died in Oxfordshire, in 1947, never having married. 

I wonder if the sampler came to us via Selwyn Oxley.  He went on several mission trips to Oxfordshire and worked there in some capacity for a while on a voluntary basis.

On the left is a list of some of the pupils in the school in 1872.  Click onto the image for a larger size.  It is possible that we could find her in some of the mission news, but it seems likely that as an adult she was the only Deaf person in her immediate area, and she lived in a village rather than a town where she might have had the company of other Deaf people as she had at school.

The Embroidery & Seamstress pictures come from the 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary Prepared for the use of the Deaf and Dumb.


1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 927; Folio: 29; Page: 16; GSU roll: 542722

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1537; Folio: 28; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341370

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1189; Folio: 20; Page: 7

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1413; Folio: 25; Page: 13

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 8351; Schedule Number: 79

Free BMD Deaths Mar 1947 Burnell, Mary A F aged 89 Oxford 6b 1242

Arthur MacDonald Cuttell -“He hoped that the day would come when the Union Jack… would fly over an open college door, where the deaf could secure higher education, which was their unquestionable right”

Hugh Dominic WStiles8 February 2019

Arthur MacDonald Cuttell, (1869-1904), was an editor of Ephphatha and then later of the British Deaf Mute.   Born in Cornwall, son of the Rev. A.W. Cuttell of Margate, he became deaf through scarlet fever when he was nine.   He was educated at Helston Grammar School, then later in Matlock, Derbyshire.  He was apprenticed at the Crown Derby Works, where he became an artist decorating ceramics.

It was whilst at Derby Mr. Cuttell’s attention seems to have been drawn to work upon behalf of the deaf and dumb, and, leaving an artistic career, he entered the Derby Institution for the Deaf, and for a time worked as a teacher under Dr. Roe. He also undertook mission work amongst the adult deaf of Derby. Leaving Derby, he went to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and, during the illness of the Rev. W. W. Adamson, acted as missioner to the deaf of that city and district. In 1897 he was appointed missioner to the deaf of Leicester and county, and upon their behalf he laboured until his death. (Obituary)

In Gilby’s unpublished memoir, Cuttell gets two brief mentions.  One might have expected more as they worked together as editors.

on July 9th, 1902, the Bishop of Barrow in Furness was with us at St. Saviour[‘]s Parsonage.  “Us,” I imagine as being Rev. W.W. Adamson and the late A.M. Cuttell.  We three were Editors of the Church Messenger and we being all in sympathy with the progress and proper carrying on our work on Church lines, took counsel together.  The title of the “Council of Church Missioners” appears as such on that date. (Gilby, 172/15)

He married in September 1901, a hearing lady, Edith Violet Vaille, who was a Ripon born governess.  She re-married in 1908, a few years after his death.

He was, his obituary says, “A man of many talents, and possessed of a bright and ready wit, he will be sorely missed by a very large circle of friends and acquaintances; especially severe is his loss to the deaf of Leicester and county, whose friend and missioner he had been for the past seven years.”

In the 1899 National association of Teachers of the Deaf Conference at Derby, Cuttell expressed his hope for future higher education for the deaf –

Mr. CUTTELL, whose remarks were read by Mr. Townsend, said that as he was not aware how far his voice would reach, he would borrow that of a friend. He appealed to the members of the Conference to do all that they could to secure the privileges of Higher Education for the Deaf. Those pupils who showed marked ability had, certainly, as much right to it as they had to their primary education. He hoped that the day would come when the Union Jack, as well as the Stars and Stripes, would fly over an open college door, where the deaf could secure higher education, which was their unquestionable right. (p.162, with adjacent photo)

The Late Arthur Macdonald Cuttell, BDT 1905 p.41-2

1899 National Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Proceedings of the Biennial Conference

Proposed Council of Ministers, BDT 1905 p.219

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 3004; Folio: 113; Page: 16

From Oralism to Sign Language – Missioner J.B. Foster -“deaf due to a severe shock to his nervous system”

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 February 2019

Joseph Bradley Foster (1863-1940) was born in Edinburgh, son of Joseph Foster, a ‘commercial agent,’ and Emily Ann Foster.  There were at least eight children.  When he was about eighteen months old, “he became deaf due to a severe shock to his nervous system” (quoted in Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 p.109-10, which I follow closely, along with the BDT article).  Note how the author says ‘became deaf,’ rather than ‘lost his hearing,’ which is a subtle but interesting difference.

When he was five, his family moved to Glasgow.  We are told that from there he was sent to New Barnet and London, to be educated by Mr. Van Asch, the teacher who was the first to introduce the German or Oral system of education (ibid, & British Deaf Times 1934, p.29).  He remained with Van Asch for about six years or four years, depending on the two articles and presumably his memory when interviewed, and then attended an academy for hearing pupils in Glasgow.  He was considered one of Van Asch’s best pupils (British Deaf Times).

He became apprenticed aged 16 (1879/80) to a Glasgow printer or ‘Lithographic Artist,’ as it says on the 1881 census. At that time (and in 1891) the family lived in No 32 Queen Square, Kinning Park, which looks to be a pretty row of stone houses in the Govan area.  Attending local Deaf social gatherings it seems that Joseph then came across sign language for the first time.  He joined eagerly in with the mission as an assistant to James Muir, and learnt sign language.  Gradually the mission work became more important to him, and he was appointed missioner in North and East Lancashire in 1892, before moving on to Carlisle.

The article tells us that he could

articulate very plainly, and is a skilful lipreader. Through Mr. Henderson, of Glasgow, his views on the utility of the Oral system were laid before the Royal Commission, and, from his own perspective, Mr. Foster showed very clearly that, although it was in many cases a most useful accomplishment, it was of comparatively little value to the deaf in general.

On the 6th of September, 1899, Foster married a Deaf lady, Bessie Wolfenden (1873-1904), daughter of a brewer/’hotel proprietor’ (publican), Robert Wolfenden. Bessie was being boarded out when she was seven, with her brother and two sisters.  At the time of her marriage she was living in Dale Street, Lancaster, while Joseph’s address was in Carlisle.  Perhaps they had met some years before, when he was the local missioner?  In 1901, when they were in Rickergate, Carlisle, they had a daughter, Gertrude B. Foster, two months old at the time of the census.  Joseph and Bessie are both described as ‘Deaf’ but they had servants, including one who was ‘Deaf and Dumb,’ Mary Ostell, born in Whitehaven in 1879.  Mary’s mother Annie Ostell (b.ca 1854) was also ‘Deaf and Dumb’ according to the 1881 census. The 1911 census does not say Annie Ostell was Deaf, but does say her eighteen year old lodger, Thomas Cunnings, was. ‘Deaf and Dumb.’  Was the 1881 record meant to say deaf after Mary’s name?  There is clearing an interesting web of connections for someone to explore.

Sadly, Bessie died only a few years later, in 1904.

Foster later worked as a missioner in Leicester (1905-12/13), Oxford (1912/13-18), where he gave Selwyn Oxley ‘some insight into mission work,’ Gloucester (1918-23) and Exeter, where his assistant Mr. Dodds was headmaster at the Deaf School.  In the 1939 Register he was living in retirement in with his sister Lilian and daughter Gertrude.  He died in 1940 it seems, in Honiton.*

*unless I have the wrong J.B. Foster

Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 p.109-10

Retirement of Mr J.B. Foster. British Deaf Times, 1934, Mar-Apr, 29-30

Census 1881 Scotland – Parish: Glasgow Kinning Park; ED: 35; Page: 11; Line: 3; Roll: cssct1881_251

Census 1891 Scotland – Parish: Glasgow Govan; ED: 35; Page: 10; Line: 8; Roll: CSSCT1891_298

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 4867; Folio: 165; Page: 34

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 19314

Bessie Wolfenden

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 4270; Folio: 64; Page: 10; GSU roll: 1342021

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3466; Folio: 42A; Page: 31

Mary and Annie Ostell

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 5160; Folio: 35; Page: 6; GSU roll: 1342245

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 31307