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“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

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles16 August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 21/8/2019

More Miss Boultbees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 492

William Whitham Coultas

“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

 

Frederick’s Road, West Ham, Deaf School (1893-1937)

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 June 2019

The Frederick’s Road School, sometimes Frederick Road, was founded in 1893.  It was on what is now known as Mandela Road, north of Custom House, E.16.  It seems to  have closed between 1930 and 1939, from mentions in the NID Handbook, most probably 1938.  It came under the West Ham education committee.

The head teacher in 1913 was Miss Margaret E. Oldfield.  In 1924 she was still there, but by 1930 the head was a Miss Lucy Elizabeth Mullen.  Lucy Elizabeth Septimia Jane Mulllen, was born in Walthamstow on the 11th of December, 1883, and died in Croydon in 1959.  Her father was a teacher, and I have been unable to find her in the 1911 census.  Thanks to Geoff Eagling who tells us that Oldfield trained at Ealing, while Mullen was at Fitzroy Square (see comment below).

The school took children from aged five, with a catchment area of ‘the south-west of the borough, also from part of East Ham and Barking (1913), Clerkenwell to West Ham (1930).  In 1913 ‘accommodation’ (day attendance) was for up to 44, in 1924 20, but back up to 40 in 1930.

In 1913 we are told they used oral and finger-spelling for education, in 1924 and after just ‘oral.’  It probably closed in 1938 when Water Lane School in Stratford also closed, and Miss Mullen became head of the Turnmarsh (now Tunmarsh) Lane School.  The new school took children at five or under, teaching the boys woodwork, metalwork, bookcraft (printing and binding I would suppose) and technical drawing, while girls did cookery, needlework, dressmaking etc, the usual division of labour in that age.  “The school is fitted with cinema, epidiascope and spray baths.”

I am not sure when it ceased to be a Deaf school, but the Turnmarsh Lane School building is still there, and is still a school.  The photograph here is of uncertain date, but probably circa 1920.

NID Handbook, for various years

Marcus Hill Kerr – a Deaf American Artist & … Animal Trainer (1845-1903)

Hugh Dominic WStiles17 May 2019

An American Deaf man of the late 19th century, Marcus Hill Kerr was born in Liberty Township, Jackson, Michigan, in 1845.  His father Robert was a farmer with at least eight children, and as the town was settled in 1835, the Kerr family must have been one of the first in the district.  When he was three he suffered from ‘brain fever’ and lost his hearing as a result.   When he was twelve he was sent to Flint, to the Michigan School for the Deaf, and he graduated from there in 1865 (Gallaher, p.142, from which much of what follows comes, and Obituary).  Kerr went on to study at Gallaudet, to what level I cannot say – Gallaher says merely he ‘spent some time’ there.

His artistic talent was evident as a child – for example, he drew ‘an Indian shooting an elephant on a small wooden box’!  The article in Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America seems to have been from interview with Kerr, and we have a few particular details of his early life, such as that he would read newspapers at the local ‘news depot’ but as he could not afford to buy them, he would draw pictures from memory afterwards.

Marcus’s first oil painting was painted when he was thirteen and was of his old shepherd dog.  He also made landscapes and portraits, ‘for a living’ before going to Rochester, New York, to study under a ‘celebrated artist’ Professor Adam Springfield.*  Before that he had been entirely self-taught.  Kerr went on to the artists’ colony in New York we are told, and then travelled to Europe in 1871, including visits to London, Düsseldorf  and Paris.  The article says he ‘studied’ in these places.  Probably that means he was studying under his own steam, and we may wonder how long he was studying with the celebrated Professor.  Springfield was a witness to Kerr’s passport application, in September 1872 – was he going abroad then, after getting married, rather than in 1871?  That would be an area for further research.

In September 1871, he married a Deaf lady from Jackson, called Adele George (1834-1921), nine years his senior, but who had also been at the Michigan School.  His obituary does not mention her, but does say he lived at the corner of Elm street and Main.  Adele is herself really interesting, and if you can you should read the article on her by Seitz and Laffrado cited below.  She was a poor Deaf woman who found her voice, writing and publishing her life story, A brief narrative of the life of Miss Adele M. George: (being deaf and dumb) in a number of different editions over many years, from 1859, then selling sufficient copies to rescue herself and her mother from homelessness.

Adele married a cousin, Harrison Jewell, and they had three children including a Deaf son who went to the Michigan School but died aged sixteen.  They were divorced, and then Adele married Marcus Kerr.  The marriage was not successful in the long run, and they had to endure the loss of three children in infancy.  Their divorce in 1890 was reported in the newspapers, as Kerr was well known, though Adele (Adell) is described in the city directory for Jackson in 1899 and also in 1902, as ‘Kerr, Adelle (wid Marcus H) bds 736 S Milwaukee’ – in other words she was calling herself a widow before Marcus died (Seitz and Lallrado p.174).  Kerr had accused Adele of “extravagance and desertion” (ibid.).   we might wonder what blame he carried – he did not wait about, marrying another deaf lady, Mamie E. Nettleton of Indiana, in January 1891.**

Kerr spent his later years in St. Louis, moving there in 1885, painting the ex-mayor Walbridge, as well as a pastel of the Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, which was exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and was presented to the college.  He also painted Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell.  Do these portraits survive?

The most bizarre thing about Marcus Kerr, is his entry in Peeps into the Deaf World, where we discover that he trained a pug to perform various tricks.  It was this picture that got me looking into his life.  Whether this was a pastime or perhaps an additional source of income I do not know.  I am sure there is more to discover.  His end was sad, and a fate shared by many deaf people over the years.  He was knocked over when crossing a road on the 10th of April, 1903, by a car he did not of course hear.

Mamie is pretty opaque in the records – at least after a brief search I have not been able to pin her down, neither have I found Kerr on the 1900 census, but I have little time to look.  Did their marriage last, or did she die?  In his obituary she is not named.  That obituary, in the Jackson Citizen, quoting the St. Louis Post and Dispatch, says he had a studio at 3837 Delmar Avenue (see article on Find a Grave in the link below).

*Someone I have not been able to track down in the brief time available to research this blog in any detail, but have found this romantic Victorian historical painting by him.

Gallaher, James E., Representative Deaf Persons of the United States of America, 1898 (2nd ed.) p.142-3

Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917 p.290-1

The St. Louis Republic. (St. Louis, Mo.), 11 April 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020274/1903-04-11/ed-1/seq-3/>

Seitz, Rush, and Laffrado, Laura, Adele M. George Jewel Kerr (1834–?), Legacy Vol. 30, No. 1, Special Issue: Women Writing Disability (2013), pp. 172-183

US Census returns

Year: 1850; Census Place: Liberty, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: M432_352; Page: 402A; Image: 556

Year: 1880; Census Place: Jackson, Jackson, Michigan; Roll: 585; Page: 424D; Enumeration District: 123

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895

Kerr’s Gallaudet page

Passport Record – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 187; Volume #: Roll 187 – 01 Aug 1872-30 Sep 1872

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]

Adele M George Kerr

Marcus H Kerr

 

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

“A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” – Mary Corbishley’s Oral School at Cuckfield (1937-96)

Hugh Dominic WStiles5 April 2019

It seems peculiar, but there were a large number of privately run Deaf Schools in Sussex in the 19th century.  We might suppose it was the comparative closeness to London and the rural setting – also perhaps cheaper large buildings or houses suitable as small schools – that made it attractive.  Cuckfield House was one such.  It was founded by Mary Stephens Corbishley (1905-1995).  She was born in Worcestershire, and was a sickly child, enduring a number of bouts of illness.  She began working as a nurse to a Jewish family in Brighton in 1928, then the following year started to look after the 5 1/2 year old daughter of a doctor in Worthing, a girl who was then discovered to be going deaf (Stewart, p.14).  Mary taught herself lip-reading by watching herself in the mirror.

Around that time she met Frank Barnes (1866-1932), the Teacher of the Deaf who had recently retired to the south coast, after being head of the Penn School.  She had no school diploma and was therefore ineligible for a teacher training course such as that in Manchester, however, Barnes was sufficiently impressed by her to nominate her for associate membership of the National College for Teachers of the Deaf in 1929/30 (Stewart, p.18).  She was offered a trainee teacher post by Mary and Ethel Hare’s Dene Hollow School, in 1931.  While at that school she met and made friends with Miss Jessie B. Hancock, who had gone to America as nurse to a deaf boy, then trained and taught at the oralist Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis for a while (Stewart, p.31).

Some years previously, Corbishley had had a ‘spiritual’ conversion and became quite religious (Corbishley, p.25).  It seems that eventually this spirituality began to conflict with the more secular nature of Mary Hare’s school, and Corbishley resigned on the 10th of March 1937 (she called it her ‘Thanksgiving Day’), although Mary Hare wrote her a nice reference (Stewart p.21-3).  She soon happened upon a bed-sitter flat in Hassock, and was asked to take on teaching an eleven-year-old girl, Jean.  Two more pupils quickly appeared, along with the threat of legal action by her former employer – “A letter arrived in May which sent me to Psalm 46:10” (Corbishley, P.40). Her landlady’s son who was studying law, helped her with advice and the firm of solicitors he worked for wrote a letter in return and the matter was quickly closed (ibid).

Corbishley found a permanent home for the school in Cuckfield in May, 1939.  A copy of the school brochure from an uncertain date, but perhaps 1940s, tells us that fees were £50 a term.  A brochure tells us,

The Aim of Cuckfield House is that deaf children should grow up in a healthy environment, with a variety of interests and the ability to enter into the normal activities of hearing children. To achieve this, special attention is given to Language, Speech and Lip-reading. A wide experience of the needs of the deaf has proved the necessity for constant intercourse with hearing people. A child accustomed to read only the lips of the teachers is at a disadvantage in both social and business spheres. Cuckfield House is fortunate in that it has a large circle of hearing friends, who frequently visit the School. The School stands in its own grounds, with playing fields adjoining, and is situated in the village of Cuckfield, one mile and a half from Haywards Heath.

During the war Ian Stewart tells us that Deaf London pupils from the Randall Place L.C.C. School, Roan Street, Greenwich, were evacuated to Cuckfield, but although orally taught (under a Miss G.A. Kirby in 1939), Corbishley was ‘disturbed’ to see them signing, so they were segregated from her pupils, lest they teach them signs (Stewart, p.42)!

Miss Hancock left in 1947 and worked privately  in Midhurst, before moving to South Africa (Stewart, p.59).

The school closed on July 19th 1996, shortly after Corbishley’s death.

http://cuckfieldmuseum.org/buildings/millhall

School Brochure, circa 1939/45?

CORBISHLEY, M., Corby. 1980

Stewart, Ian M., Mary Stephens Corbishley M.B.E.: A biography of her life and work at her Oral School for Deaf Children in Cuckfield, East Sussex, the U.K. 2010

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

“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