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

Hugh Dominic WStiles29 November 2019

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

CHILD MURDER. Sheffield, Sept. 30.

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

THE INQUEST.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The coroner having summed up,

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY, March 25. CHARGE OF MURDER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…so I think she was fortunate.

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

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

Esther 

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

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

England, Select Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

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

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

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

William

Deaths, 1875, March – 

DYSON  William  71  Wortley  9c 191

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

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

 

Louisa Allchin & Harry Collcutt, Margate & Old Kent Road pupils

Hugh Dominic WStiles22 November 2019

Harry Edgar Collcutt was born in Oxford in 1861, and lost his hearing aged two according to the 1911 census.  His father Henry was then a college servant, later a butler.  The family clearly fell on hard times, as we see in the short card pictured and transcribed here –

Harry E. Collcutt, Aged nine years,

Resident at Henley-on-Thames, is a Candidate for Admission into the above Asylum. His mother is paralysed; his father is broken in health; four young children are dependent upon these afflicted parents. The Votes and active interest of Subscribers are most earnestly requested in aid of this pressing case of urgent need, for the January, 1870, and subsequent Elections, by the following :—
Rev. Dr. PLUMPTRE, Master of University College, Oxford.
Rev. Dr. SYMONDS, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford.
Rev. Dr. OGILVIE, Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.
Dr. ACLAND, Regius Professor of Medicine, Oxford.
Professor WALL, Balliol College, Oxford.
Professor JOWETT, Balliol College, Oxford.
Rev. A. M. W. CHRISTOPHER, Rector of St. Aldate’s, Oxford.
Rev. T. A. NASH, Rector of St. Philip’s, Heigham, Norwich.
Rev. B. S. FYNCH, Rector of St. Paul’s, Deptford.
T. COMBE, Esq., M.A., University. Press, Oxford.
Alderman T. RANDALL, Oxford. (uncle of the above?)
G. C. HITCHINGS, Surgeon, Oxford.
Proxies will be received by the Rev. A. M. W. CHRISTOPHER, Park Town ; and Mr. J. T. K. CASTELL, 4, St. John’s Terrace, St. Giles’, Oxford. (uncle of the above?)

I suppose these are all people who would have known his father.

Harry was indeed a successful candidate, and we see that he was at the Old Kent Road Asylum in the 1871 census.  I am not clear what happened to his father, but he was living as a lodger with various people, being a gamekeeper at Caversham in 1881, and ended up in 1891 as a gardener, not with the family.  Harry trained as a cabinet maker.  He died in 1927.

In 1893 Harry married London-born Louisa Charlotte Catherine Allchin (1866-1933).  Louisa was Deaf from about 5 years old, according to the 1911 census.  Her father was a rent collector.  She attended the Margate School, and you can see her there on the 1881 census.

In 1903, a party of Deaf from Reading visited Oxford, and Harry was mentioned –

OXFORD DIOCESAN CHURCH MISSION THE DEAF AND DUMB.
The combined excursion of the Reading and Oxford members in connection with the above mission took place on Saturday, the 8th inst,, and was fortunately favoured with fine weather. About fifty from Reading arrived in Oxford at 8.35 a.m., and were conducted to Christ Church College, where they ware received by Mrs. Spooner (secretary) and Mrs. Biggs, the latter of whom explained that Dr. Biggs would have been present had he not been called upon to deliver a lecture at the University Extension Summer Meeting now being held. The party were shown over the chief features of the College—the kitchen, the dining-hall, the Cathedral, etc.—by Mr. Francis, the head verger, his explanatory remarks being interpreted by Mrs. Spooner. Next they walked through Christ Church Meadows and Botanic Gardens to Magdalen College, where Mr. Francis again acted cicerone, and caused the chapel opened specially for them to see. Later, they proceeded up the famous High-street to the Sheldonian Theatre, where they were joined by some fifty more members from Oxford and vicinity. The whole party then drove off in five brakes, accompanied the Missioner (Mr. George Mackenzie) for the old-world village of Woodstock. After luncheon they went into the fine demesne of Blenheim, and were shown many objects of interest in the park and gardens the Secretary to the Duke of Marlborough. A return drive by a different route brought the people to New College in Oxford, where they ware photographed and then entertained totea by the Warden and Mrs. Spooner. There were numerous friends the Mission present, the Rev. A. Negus, Miss A. Randall, Miss Miss Barnby, Miss Steedman, and others. The Warden (Canon Spooner) spoke few words of welcome, which were interpreted the deaf and dumb language by Mrs. Spooner. A vote of thanks to the Warden and Mrs. Spooner was moved by Mr. G. Mackenzie (the Missioner), who said this was the most successful ex- cursion ever held in connection with the Mission. Mr. Radbone seconded, and asked Mrs. Spooner to accept a framed photograph of this gathering, subscribed for the majority of the people, as a memento and a slight mark of their appreciation. Mr. H. Collcutt supported, remarking that the sea of happy and smiling faces he saw in front of him testified to the all-round enjoyment. He also took the opportunity, being Oxonian, add a word of welcome to the Reading friends. The vote was carried by acclamation. The Warden and Mis. Spooner briefly responded, expressing the pleasure it had given them to entertain the visitors. Mr. C. Leavey (Reading) also spoke a few grateful words on behalf of the Reading visitors. Before dispering homewards the party were taken over New College. It may be mentioned that the deaf and dumb in Reading are increasing numbers, and that consequently they feel the want of a small and central institute where they can hold meetings of various kinds, and where the work of the Mission can carried on. (Reading Mercury – Saturday 22nd August, 1903)

The Rev. and Mrs Spooner, are the famous Oxford Spooners.  Mrs Frances Spooner was the founder of the Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf.  After her, her daughter Rosemary was deeply involved in the mission, and also learnt sign language.

I wonder if that photograph is still to be found somewhere?

Louisa 

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 754; Folio: 64; Page: 10; GSU roll: 824725

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 986; Folio: 132; Page: 3; GSU roll: 1341234

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1055; Folio: 14; Page: 22

Harry

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 601; Folio: 113; Page: 8; GSU roll: 818907

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1502; Folio: 80; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341363

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1168; Folio: 27; Page: 19

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1384; Folio: 134; Page: 2

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 8132; Schedule Number: 270

Rosemary Spooner

A History

 

 

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEAF AND DUMB WOMAN IN COURT.

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

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

—Defendant: I have not done such a thing.

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

—The Bench dismissed the case.

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

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

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

BRINSLEY RESIDENT’S DEATH.

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

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

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

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

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

Grainger

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

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

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

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6254C

Sneap

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

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 20357

Derby Daily Telegraph – Friday 31 May 1935

Prize Letters from Abraham Fink, Catherine Lewis, and Edith Dingley, to ‘Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf’, & a Deaf Private School

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 November 2019

Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf  was a London-based magazine, that was intended as a national church magazine for the Deaf.  One of the main editors was the Reverend Fred Gilby.  They had a regular children’s page written by ‘Aunt Dorothy’ and the editors offered prizes – we cannot say what – to letter writers.  It seems there were some regular writers.  In the June edition, there is a letter from Abraham Fink – not the first from him that year.

Abraham was, he tells us, 15 years and 5 months old, so would have been born in 1880/81.  His birthplace was Russian Poland, and he was the son of Solomon and Rebecca Fink.  I assume that the came to London in the 1880s.

The Finks had nine children altogether, and were Naturalized on the 7th of April, 1903, at which time Abraham is said to be twenty, and so ‘under age.’  He was in fact about 23, but presumably this saved him having to undergo the same process as a Deaf person, which might have been more difficult.  Note that I spell naturalized with a ‘z’ – this is because the act was the ‘Naturalization Act.’   The family lived for many years at 49 Buxton Road – presumably now lost or with a changed name, but near Brick Lane.

Abraham attended the Summerfield, or Somerford Road School, and was a pupil of Mary Smart.  After leaving school Abraham became a Cabinet Maker, his job in 1901, but later he became a Furrier, which was his job in 1911, at which time he was living at 8 Leman St, Aldgate.  He married Deborah Cohen, a hearing girl, in 1908, and they had I think two sons, Bennett, and Gerald.  He died in Harrow Hospital on the 7th of October, 1956.  Another Deaf life that was unspectacular, but which illustrates the British Deaf experience in the last century.

Edith Maud Dingley was born in Birmingham, on the 17th of December. 1885, and was deaf from birth according to the 1911 census.  Her father, Richard, was a Birmingham jeweller, and in 1911 they lived at 330 Hagley Road, Edgbaston.  She never married, and she is given no occupation on the census return.  She had lost a brother at Arras in 1917.  The 1939 register says she was ‘incapacitated’ so perhaps she had other health issues, or was that just a code for her deafness?  She died in 1943.

Catherine Lewis, was born in Bangor, North Wales, in 1884.*  In the 1891 census, she was living in Sutton Coldfield, at a school in someone’s house, with five other deaf children.  She was only seven at the time, and the household, headed by George Masters, a commercial Traveller, was at 70 Anchorage Road, Sutton Coldfield.  I was fascinated to see that this was yet another private Deaf school, run by Fanny Masters, nee Fanny Armitage Rutherford (1860-1945) the wife of George.  Her nephew, Albert Rutherford, son of her brother, was also Deaf, and living with the family.

1891 Census –

George Masters Head Male 42 1849 Cirencester Gloucestershire
Fanny A Masters Wife Female 31 1860 Nottingham Nottinghamshire
Jenny A Jones Servant Female 26 1865 Birmingham Warwickshire
Albert M Rutherford Nephew Male 19 1872 Birmingham Warwickshire  Deaf
Harriet F Wacker Pupil Female 15 1876 Wolverhampton Staffordshire  Deaf
John H Croxford  Pupil  Male 14 1877  Gloucester Gloucestershire  Deaf
Henry Lowe  Pupil Male 9 1882  Birmingham Warwickshire  Deaf
Arthur R Tatlow  Pupil Male 9 1882  Glasgow  Deaf
Catherine Lewis  Pupil Female 7 1884  Bangor Caernarvonshire  Deaf

In the 1881 census, Fanny Rutherford and her nephew Albert, were at the oralist Ealing Training College, the Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System.

In the 1901 census – (at Gravelly Hill, Erdington)

George Masters Head 52 1849 Male Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England
Fanny Armitage Masters Wife 41 1860 Female Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Albert M Rutherford Nephew 29 1872 Male Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
Ethel Perkins Boarder 11 1890 Female Astwood Bank, Warwickshire, England
Minnie Pountney Servant 19 1882 Female Birmingham, Warwickshire, England

In the 1911 census –

George Masters Head 1849 62 Male Married Companys Secretary Cirencester 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Fanny Armitage Masters Wife 1860 51 Female Married School For Deaf Children Nottinghamshire 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Mildred Rutherford Sister 1839 72 Female Widowed Living On own Means Cirencester 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Albert Masters Rutherford Nephew 1872 39 Male Single Merchants Clerk Birmingham 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Cecil Hull Jordan Pupil 1895 16 Male Single At School Handsworth, Birmingham 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Dorothy Violet Lepage Sanders Pupil 1895 16 Female Single At School Crudwell Nr Malmesbury 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
James Gordon Calder Pupil 1901 10 Male Single At School Smethwick 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham
Winifred Adams Servant 1892 19 Female Single Domestic Servant General Walsall 72Kingsbury Road Gravelly Hill Birmingham

It would make a really interesting project, to trace all those Ealing teachers and see where they ended up, then look at census returns and map and follow through with all their pupils.

Anyway, we can also now see that Edith Dingley was one of Fanny Masters’s pupils as well.  It seems that middle class families were the people who most feared sending their children to ‘ordinary’ public Deaf Schools, and chose instead small private schools.

I do not know what happened to Catherine after leaving school.

*Thanks to John Lyons for identifying Catherine Lewis in the 1891 census, and enabling me to write a bit about her story.

Abraham Fink

Naturalization – Class: HO 334; Piece: 35

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 265; Folio: 30; Page: 55

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 304; Folio: 18; Page: 28

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 1489

Edith Dingley

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2390; Folio: 47; Page: 3

1901 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 17917; Schedule Number: 237

1911 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2814; Folio: 150; Page: 13

1939 Register – Reference: RG 101/5526A

Catherine Lewis

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2438; Folio: 90; Page: 13

Fanny Masters

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1344; Folio: 48; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341327

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2875; Folio: 130; Page: 41

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 18341

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5490G

“His appearance is mild, but rather sullen” – a Manslaughter charge against a Deaf man in Manchester, 1853

Hugh Dominic WStiles25 October 2019

I came across the following story from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser for Saturday the 10th of December, 1853:

Charge of Manslaughter against a Deaf and Dumb Boy.
John Flannagan, a deaf and dumb youth, was charged with killing a boy named John Stanley, on the Garratt-road, near Manchester, on the 17th September, by throwing him into the canal. The prisoner being deaf and dumb, the proceedings attendant on the investigation created considerable interest. Mr. Andrew Patterson, teacher in the Deaf and Dumb Institution, at Manchester, was sworn to act as interpreter. -It appeared the prisoner had been an inmate of this institution for three years, and was considered a lad of considerable aptitude and sharpness. Mr. Monk prosecuted, and Mr. Wheeler defended. After some discussion between the legal gentlemen, it was admitted that the evidence was insufficient to establish so serious a charge manslaughter. On investigation it appeared that the prisoner and another boy were proceeding along the road when they were joined by the deceased, who soon after attempted to take a stick from one of the boys, and the prisoner seized hold of him. A struggle ensued, and deceased was tumbled into the canal.

This is very interesting, but John Flannagan proved tricky to pin down.  The article says he was a pupil at the Manchester School for three years, so he ought to be on the list of pupils for 1851 and 1852, years we have school reports for, and one would expect he  would also be on the list of pupils for the 1851 census, but I could find no mention of him in either place. We have Andrew Patterson sworn in to interpret in court, although it is not clear that his services were required.  Furthermore, we see a Deaf person coming out the right side of justice.  A sad and unfortunate story, with an appropriate ending, or so I thought.

However, the story is more complicated.  Newspapers today frequently get facts wrong and misspell names, and that was equally true in the past.  When no amount of searching gave me a hint of John Finnigan, I looked again at that report.  I realized it said he ‘had been’ an inmate of the institution, so he was a bit older.  I looked at the earliest annual report we have for the school, 1850, and there is a John Finnigan, aged 15 in March 1850, from Manchester, “father a nailer, 2 deaf and dumb” admitted to the school July 28th, 1845.  Now we were getting somewhere, and a new search of the newspaper archive found an earlier version of the story, from September, just after the incident, which gives it a completely different slant.  This came from the London Daily News for Thursday the 22nd of September, 1853:

THE MURDER AT MANCHESTER.
John Finnigan, the deaf and dumb boy, charged with the murder of James Shanley, a child six years old, by throwing him into the Rochdale Canal, at Manchester, on Saturday, was again brought up for examination, yesterday, before the magistrates at the Manchester City Police Court.

Betsey Shanley, the mother of the deceased, said her son left home between 5 and 6 o’clock on Saturday evening, and she never saw him alive afterwards.

Thomas Shanley, the father of deceased, said, I live at 13, Taylor’s-court, Oxford-street. I called at all the police-stations on Saturday night, and did not return home till past two o’clock on Sunday morning, and on Sunday I made time same round again, also calling at the workhouses, without obtaining any information whatever of my son. I and another man found him in the canal on Sunday after- noon, between 2 and 3 o’clock.

Angus Thorley, a little boy, ten years of age, who in giving his evidence, displayed considerable dullness of apprehension, said, I was going up Garratt-road for a walk on Sunday, with another boy, when two boys came behind us. One of them was going to throw me into the canal, and the other got hold of the boy who was with me, by the clothes, and threw him into the water. I know it was Sunday.

Alderman Walker- What day did you say it was when you were here before ?

Witness – I said it was Sunday. I don’t know what time it was. We were going over the bridge. I go some- times to school on Sunday, but I could not go that day. There were no workmen or carts about. I don’t know when I told my mother about it. I had never before seen the boy who threw the deceased into the canal, but I know the prisoner is the same. I am sure he did it on purpose, and then he ran away.

Mr. Superintendent Taylor, of the Manchester police, said this boy (the last witness) came to the Police-office shortly after 10 on Monday morning with his mother and the deceased’s father, and stated that on Saturday [not Sunday] evening he was taking a walk up Garratt-road with another boy, when the prisoner came up and threw his companion into the water.

Mrs. Thorley, the mother of the witness Angus Thorley, said – My son came home on Saturday night about seven o’clock, looking very downcast, and laid his head against the wall. He has often been stoned and ill-used by other boys in the street, and I thought they had been molesting him as usual. On Sunday night, after the body had been found, I was putting him to bed, when he laid his head on his breast, and said ” Mamma, I have seen the little boy that was drowned;” and afterwards started up and exclaimed “I saw him throw him in though.”

There being no further evidence, the prisoner was remanded till Friday.

Mr. Pattison [sic], master of the Deaf and Dumb School at Old Trafford, interpreted the evidence to the prisoner, who seemed, by signs and gestures, indignantly to deny every- thing that appeared to criminate him. He is said to be a very intelligent boy, and can write very well. He is apprenticed to a joiner, and his father is a nail maker, residing in Chorlton-upon-Medlock. The prisoner was educated in the Deaf and Dumb School, where he had the character of a very headstrong and self-willed boy, but never manifested a disposition from which it could be inferred that he was likely to commit a serious crime like this. His appearance is mild, but rather sullen.

Further reports emerge, all with some slight variations of names and spelling, due to the mis-hearing of names & having to guess at spellings for names heard in court. The Sun (London), for Thursday the 22nd of September, 1853, repeats that report, verbatim.  The Stamford Mercury for Friday the 16th of December, 1853, has the victim as ‘James Shandley’.  One of the papers tells us the victim was six years and eight months old.*

Another version in the Manchester Times for Saturday the 24th of September, 1853, gives the fullest account of the original hearing [I have added some paragraphs not in the newspaper, to make it easier to read]:

WILFUL DROWNING OF A BOY IN THE CANAL
On Wednesday, at the City Police Court, John Finnigan, a deaf and dumb lad, aged eighteen, was again brought before the magistrates upon the charge reported in our last paper, of having caused the death of James Shanley, a child of six or seven years old, by throwing him into the canal adjoining Messrs. Bellhouse’s timber yard, Garratt Road. The prisoner’s parents live at 31, Leigh-street, Chorlton on Medlock, and he himself is apprenticed to Mr. M’Lean, builder, on the Stretford New Road; he has been five years in the Deaf and Dumb Institution, at Old Trafford, and, in despite of the deprivation of his senses, he is considered intelligent, and has been usually well conducted; he can read and write well. The child whose death was the subject of inquiry belonged to a poor man’s family, at 18, Taylor’s Court, Oxford Road. His mother states that he went out to play between five and six o’clock on Saturday evening last, and never returned. His father, Thomas Shanley, went in search of him on Saturday evening, and called at all the police stations in the town, but could hear no tidings of the child that night. On Sunday morning, he went out again early, and continued his search; went to the workhouses and other places, but could get no intelligence of the lost boy. It was between two and three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, when the dead child was found in the canal by his father, assisted by a young man of the neighbourhood. On Monday morning, the father of the dead child, accompanied by a little boy named Angus Thorley, with his mother, came to Mr. Taylor, the ‘superintendent of police at the Chorlton Town Hall, to make known the statement of the boy Angus Thorley. This witness, who is ten years old, told Mr. Taylor then, that, on Saturday evening, he was with the other child, James Shanley, whose name he did not know ; and that, in their play, they walked along the canal by the Garratt Road, and he there saw the prisoner, with another big boy ; and that, after a short time, although nothing had been done or said between them, the prisoner caught up the little fellow Shanley, who was with witness, taking hold of his clothes behind, and threw him into the water, and then ran away—that he (the witness) ran after the prisoner, but could not overtake him, and that some one told him it was “the dummy boy”. The mother of Angus Thorley described the manner in which her son came to tell her this story of what he had seen. She said: I was very strict with him, and frequently forbid him to go near the water (which might amount for his not mentioning the matter to his mother at first). On Saturday afternoon, be came home to be washed, about five o’clock, and when he came home he was not like as at other times, but he laid his head against the wall, and was very quiet. I noticed him then, but I thought it was because some of the Irish boys, who have a great antipathy to him, and have stoned him several times, had been at him as usual. I washed him myself, as I always do, and put him to bed, and nothing more was said by him that night, only that several times after be asked me for drink, and his aunt also gave him water to drink. On Sunday night, he was going to bed at the usual time, and I was up with him myself, and put him to bed ; but when he was undressed, he sat on the ground, and held his head on has breast; end at last he said to me, “Mamma, I’ve seen that little boy that was drowned,” and I said, “What little boy ?” for I had not heard then of the other child being lost; and he said, “The little boy that was thrown into the canal !” I said, “What do you mean, child ?” Then he looked up and said, “I saw him throw him in,— he’s black, mamma, and he had salt on his stomach.” This means the corpse of the child, which, when it was taken out of the canal, was discoloured, as commonly happens with dead bodies, so  probably, the boy, Angus Thorley, had been lingering about the place on Sunday afternoon when the dead child was taken out, and had seen salt rubbed into the abdomen, in the hope of restoring life. The boy having told his mother the story of what he had witnessed, she took him to the father of the dead child Shanley, and he brought them to the police superintendent. The boy was again examined by the magistrates on Wednesday ; Mr. Gray, of the office of Mr. W. P. Roberts, attending as attorney for the prisoner, and Mr. Patteson [sic], of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, to interpret the evidence to the prisoner.

—The young witness was evidently confused, but his manner was very childlike and simple; he said now, differently from what he had said on Monday, that it was Sunday afternoon, instead of Saturday. when he saw the prisoner throw the child who was playing with him into the water; the place was “just as they were going over the bridge beside where they wind the planks up.” He seemed quite sure, on looking at the prisoner, that he was the same person who threw the boy in,—and that he threw him in on purpose, not accidentally; he (the prisoner ), with another boy, were coming behind witness and the deceased, over the bridge, when the prisoner caught hold of the loose skirts of his clothes behind, lifted him, and threw him into the canal, and then “chased off”. No other person was near at the time. The witness repeated, that this happened on Sunday ; but he did not seem to know much of the days of the week; he went to a Sunday-School “sometimes,” but had not been to school that day. At present, no information could be obtained as to the other lad, who was stated to have been with the prisoner when this was done; and the prisoner had nothing to say for himself, or was advised by his attorney to say nothing. He was, therefore, remanded to Friday for further inquiry.

—He was again brought up yesterday, and discharged from the custody of the court.

–The coroner for the city, Mr. Herford, held an inquest on Wednesday afternoon, at the Royal Infirmary; when the prisoner, with his attorney, were present; and the boy, Angus Thorley, then repeated his original statement, in the following words:—On Saturday afternoon, me and the boy that is dead were going up the hill out of Garratt Road, and going across the bridge over the canal at the timber-yard; and that boy (the prisoner) and another boy came behind us. I said to the boy that was with me,”Cut away;” and he (the deceased probably) tried to take the stick from me; then, the master was coming, and the other boy (who was with the prisoner) ran away. The dummy boy then laid hold of the boy who was playing with me, taking him by the clothes, with one hand his neck and the other his back part, and threw him in; his feet went first into the water. The dummy boy then ran away and turned up an entry, but he did not get into Garratt Road. I did not see him again; I had never seen the “dummy” boy before. In reply to questions from Mr. Gray, the boy said: I know I told the magistrates that that this was on Sunday, but it really was on Saturday, it was about five o’clock, and as light as it is now. I had no quarrel about the stick with the boy that is dead; but he wanted it, and took hold of it.

—The superintendent of police stated that the witness had picked out Finnigan, the deaf and dumb lad, from amongst five others, and identified him as the one who threw the little fellow into the water. He had, also, shown them the place on the canal bank, which was about thirty yards distant from the place where the corpse was found; but if the locks were open there would be current strong enough to carry the body that distance, there is a coping stone three-quarters of a yard above the water.

—Mr. A. Paterson, surgeon, had examined the body, but found no marks of violence ; drowning was the cause of death.

—The inquest terminated by the jury finding a verdict of “Manslaughter” against John Finnigan, who has been, accordingly, committed for trial.

Further reported in the Liverpool Mercury for Tuesday the 27th of September, 1853, the writer says “The evidence was very meagre and unsatisfactory. […] The prisoner had a man with him, who also attempted to throw Thorley in. Prisoner and the man ran away, and Thorley says he ran after the prisoner, and saw no more of Shanley.”

Here we have Thorley saying someone else was there who attempted to throw Thorley in to the canal.

In the Kentish Gazette for Tuesday the 27th of September, 1853, Thorley’s mother said that he

has often been stoned and ill-used by other boys in the street, and thought they had been molesting him as usual. […] Mr. Pattison, master of the Deaf and Dumb School at Old Trafford, interpreted the evidence to the prisoner, who seemed, signs and gestures, indignantly deny everything that appeared to criminate him. He is said to be a very intelligent boy, and can write very well. He is apprenticed to a joiner, and his father is nail maker, residing in Chorlton upon-Medlock. The prisoner was educated in the Deaf and Dumb School, where he had the character of very headstrong and self-willed boy, but never manifested a disposition from which could be inferred that he was likely to commit serious crime like this.

It seems to me that there is far more going on here than has emerged in any of the court sessions.  All I have is various suspicions and more questions.  Clearly Thorley was the subject of bullying ‘by the Irish boys’ which perhaps might include Finnigan, but whatever the story was with the stick, we can only guess.  Did Thorley invent the story to cover an argument he had with Shanley? Who was the fourth person, the young man with Finnigan, and what was that about “the master was coming” – who was the master?  Why did Thorley run after Finnigan and not cry out for help?  Why do we hear nothing from Finnigan, if he was innocent?  Thorley was supposed to be 10, however the only person I can find on the census who seems to match, is an Angus Thorley who became a porter, dying aged 38 in 1885.  There are not many Angus Thorleys, so I am confident that this is him.  That suggests that he was only six years old at the time of the death of James Shanley, rather than ten.

Was the victim James or John, Shanley or Shandley or Stanley?!  You see the problem with using newspapers as historical sources.  The Morning Post for Thursday, the 8th of December, 1853, has a name that is impossible to ready but must be James  —ley.  I have not definitively found his death record, or his family.

There is more to be found on Finnigan.  In 1859, at Manchester Cathedral, he married a Deaf girl, Eliza Barlow (1837-78).  Eliza was born in Staffordshire, at Newcastle under Lyme, and was described as Deaf and Dumb on the 1851 census. She was at the Manchester Deaf school as well.  John Finnigan was born in Manchester, according to the 1861 census, but in Ireland, according to the 1871 census, when he was living in Hulme as a Pattern Maker.  The 1881 census has his age as 30, with him born at Salford, Eliza being dead by then.  His marriage record tells us that he was a son of Thomas Finnigan, nailer, so we can be sure that he is the right Finnigan.  I cannot find him in later census returns but an ancestry family tree has him dying in 1924.  John’s brothers were also pupils.

In the school register, on a page kindly sent to me by our great Deaf History sleuth Norma McGilp, it tells us John was born on the 25th of March, 1835.  It adds in the comments field, information from the Rev.Downing who ran the Manchester Adult Society, presumably added in 1878 –

The eldest of the four Deaf and Dumb in the family, and probably the best of them, but he married a Deaf and Dumb woman of intemperate habits, by which she hastened her death, and whom I buried last week. Their eldest daughter is the mother of an illegitimate child.

I do not know Manchester so pinning down the locations with name changes of streets is not easy, but this is where the Bellhouse building was here but was I assume not where the timber yard was, which must nonetheless be in central Manchester.  Please comment if you know where Garratt Rd. was, or can pinpoint the spot where the tragedy occurred.

In addition to the papers quoted above –

*Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 24 September 1853

Morning Post – Thursday 08 December 1853

Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930 (Cathedral)

Eliza Barlow

1851 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4002; Folio: 19; Page: 31; GSU roll: 846101

John & Eliza Finnigan –

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2921; Folio: 31; Page: 6; GSU roll: 543050

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4002; Folio: 19; Page: 31; GSU roll: 846101

John Finnigan –

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 3962; Folio: 7; Page: 7; GSU roll: 1341946

Angus Thorley – 

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 3887; Folio: 47; Page: 41; GSU roll: 1341928

A Deaf Welsh Swimming Hero, Charles Payne, 1923

Hugh Dominic WStiles17 October 2019

In the British Deaf Times for 1923, right below that for Herbert Roxburgh, is the following article on Charles Payne (1894-1979), as another one one of those Deaf swimming heroes.  They got his name wrong of course, as newspapers do…

A WELSH HERO.
Charles Pain [sic], of the Manchester Arms, Menai Bridge, has been presented by Mr. John Edwards, chairman of the local Urban Council, with an illuminated address, the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society, and £3 in recognition off his bravery in rescuing from drowning off the Menai Bridge Pier, on June 28th last, the young daughter of Mr. John Owen, Greenbank, Menai Bridge.

Councillor Captain Davies said Pain’s act spoke well for his swimming powers.

It transpired that this was Pain’s fourth rescue of persons from drowning, two of them at Menai Bridge. Pain, who is deaf and dumb, handed in a written acknowledgement of the presentation, and also expressed his thanks briefly by means of the deaf and dumb alphabet.

He was born in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, on the 22nd of December, 1894, son of an Essex born mariner, Charles Payne senior, and his Welsh born wife, Margaret.  They were living in Anglesey by 1881, though in a quick search I did not identify Margaret’s maiden name.  They had ten children, five living in 1911.  At least three were deaf, Charley or Charles, Jenny born around 1886, and William, born around 1885.  I do not know where they went to school – if you discover that or know more please tell us in the space below.  In the 1911 census, Jenny is said to be Jenny Jenkins, married for three years with a son Charles William Jenkins who was a year old and born in Cheshire.  I have not tracked Jenny down elsewhere.  William sadly died aged eighteen, in 1902.

I know Charles married Annie Hughes (born 1895) in 1925, and they had several children.  He became a house painter (1939 register), and died in 1979, but that is all I can add, so he is yet another person who was perfectly ordinary and anonymous for most of his life, but when an opportunity presented itself, did something remarkable.

A Welsh Hero.  British Deaf Times, 1923, 20 (239/240), 105.

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 5574; Folio: 33; Page: 25; GSU roll: 1342338

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 5277; Folio: 91; Page: 12

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 34471; Schedule Number: 156

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/7516H

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles20 September 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxburgh –

Marriage 1931 – Reference Number: p78/pau1/007

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/405I

Maclean –

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

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2680

Harvey –

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 224

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

 

“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

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

Hugh Dominic WStiles9 August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to Horace Walpole,

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

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

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

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

The older Oxford DNB 1922 article says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder what became of him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horace Walpole’s Letters p.141 & 148

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

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

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

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

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

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