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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

“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

Annie Scandrett of Liverpool – a supposed miracle cure of a ‘deaf’ woman, 1923

Hugh Dominic WStiles19 July 2019

In 1923 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancashire sent a group of people to the shrine at Lourdes with Archbishop Keating.  Among them was a soldier, Jack Traynor, badly wounded in the war, and supposedly a man who was then miraculously cured.  The visit was filmed as a short reel film called “Our lady of Lourdes” and was shown in cinemas in Liverpool.

One story in the Liverpool Echo, has a photo of Traynor and Scandrett, with the following note –

WALKING AND HEARING AFTER LOURDES.

Mr. Traynor. of Liverpool, who was taken to Lourdes in a bathchair, pacing the deck of the Channel boat on the way home, chatting with Miss Scandrett, also of Liverpool, who says Lourdes has cured her of her deafness. Mr. Traynor, an ex-naval man, was wounded in the war, and paralysis followed. Miss Scandrett had been practically deaf for 12 years.

Traynor is only of passing interest to us as he was not deaf, and I have nothing to say about his ‘miracle,’ but Annie Scandrett is worth investigating a little more.

Traynor said to the Rev. Patrick O’Connor,

a Protestant girl from Liverpool had come to the Continent on a holiday tour.  She got tired of all the usual show places and happened to come to Lourdes. She was a trained nurse and, seeing all the sick, she offered her services to help in the ‘Asile.’  Her parents in England, upset at her decision to stay as a volunteer worker in Lourdes, sent out her sister to keep her company.  The two girls went down to see the Liverpool pilgrims.  They remembered having seen me sitting in my wheelchair outside my house at home and they volunteered to take care of me. I gladly accepted their kind offer, and they washed and dressed my sores and looked after me during my stay in Lourdes. (see I Met a Miracle)

Note that he fails to mention her name, even though he knew it.  Annie was born in Liverpool on the 24th of September, 1884.  At some point the family moved to Aston, Birmingham, where she was living still in 1911.The film seems to have been propaganda for the church.  At one film showing at the Egremont, Annie was persuaded to stand up and talk (The Bioscope).  It would be interesting to know if the film still exists.

Her story was revived in 2016 when a former neighbour spoke to a local paper.  He related what Annie had said –

She said she had been sat by his bedside in his room one day when a white dove came through the window and circled right round.  It then landed on the headboard of the bed.  Annie had been deaf but the next morning when she went down to breakfast she realised she could hear again.  The first words she heard were ‘please can you pass the butter’.

Traynor does not mention a dove, the accepted typical bird of ‘miracles,’ representing the holy spirit.

It certainly seems curious that she chose to holiday in the area in 1923, as it was quite unusual for working people to go on holiday to the continent at that time, so I suspect that her visit was planned, but of course we cannot know now.

There is no mention of deafness on any of the three census returns.  She claimed her ‘deafness’ had lasted for twelve years, from around 1911.  If we had the 1921 census that might be revealing, however her ‘deafness’ is undefined, and I would suggest that she probably was never ‘deaf’ as we might understand it.  At any rate we can agree that it was probably a defining moment in her life.

Annie lived in Norris Green, Liverpool, until her death in 1961.

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2422; Folio: 132; Page: 25

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2885; Folio: 104; Page: 9

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 18328

1939 Register – RG 101/4390D

The Bioscope – Thursday 13 September 1923 p.64 

Liverpool Echo – Monday 30 July 1923 p.6

The above picture is from our photo collection – Probably from the Liverpool Daily Post.

Henrietta Oliver, aka Mrs Henrietta Pratt of Thatcham – “the barest bones of Deaf History”

Hugh Dominic WStiles21 June 2019

This is an example of the barest bones of Deaf History, and as such is typical, not just of a Deaf person in the last centuries, but of any ordinary person who led a relatively quiet life.

Henrietta Jane Oliver was born on the 8th of August, 1860, in Baughurst, Hampshire.  She seems to have been deaf from an early age – some census returns say ‘from birth’ some ‘from childhood’.  Her parents, David Oliver and Hannah Smith, were agricultural workers, though her father was a carrier for a while.  It seems probable that she did not get an education at a deaf school but as she would have attended one some time in the 1870s it may be that a search would find her.  In 1881 and 901 censuses she was living with her mother, as respectively a wool sorter and then a laundress.  Her younger sister

Her younger sister, Emily Kate Oliver (b. 1872) married Warwickshire born William Pratt in about 1900.  William’s uncle, Thomas, does not seem to have married, but presumably meeting Henrietta through her sister, they got together, and she married Thomas Pratt, in 1905 when she was 44 and he was 57.

Thomas Pratt, who was born in Culworth, near Banbury, Northamptonshire, in 1849, was not deaf according to the 1911 census, but as you will see from Selwyn Oxley’s inimitable scrawl, it is possible that he was deaf when Oxley met him in the 1920s – he wrote “Mr & Mrs Pratt (D & D)”-  that  could  be  read  either way.  Thomas  had  been  a groom in 1901, living in Thatcham with his brother and his family.  In 1911 he was a ‘retail  hawker  of  firewood’ – perhaps that is why he later had a donkey?

I wonder if she attended the Reading Mission at all?  I am not sure how Oxley came across her, but there are photographs of a well-off Thatcham farmer and his family, George Wallis, so perhaps they were somehow acquainted and introduced Oxley to Mrs Pratt.

Henrietta died in 1953 aged 92.

A photograph and some census records – I have no more to add – but a careful search of records might dig up further details.Nice hat!

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 6390; Schedule Number: 247

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1143; Folio: 74; Page: 2

1891 Census – I could not find her

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1266; Folio: 141; Page: 8; GSU roll: 1341309

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 1246; Folio: 147; Page: 10; GSU roll: 827837

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 718; Folio: 133; Page: 18; GSU roll: 542690

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

The Danger of Deafness

Hugh Dominic WStiles24 May 2019

Regular readers may recall two instances of Deaf artists being killed crossing the road, namely Minkowski, and Kerr.  Perhaps they are more likely to be dreamers than the rest of us, but anyway, this old illustration points out the dangers of traffic, probably dating to around 1920.

 

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

 

Kathleen Trousdell Shaw, sculptor (1865-1958)

Hugh Dominic WStiles26 April 2019

Kathleen Trousdell Shaw was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, in 1865, daughter of a doctor Alfred Shaw, who was at the time working in London.  According to her the Silent World article, she was brought up in Ireland, where the family was from, when she was a child.  The story related in that article, is that when she was nine she was ‘enthralled’ watching a stonemason carve the lettering for her grandmother’s tombstone in the churchyard (where it does not say), and the mason gave her some stone and two chisels so that she could try carving herself.  Her talent was sufficiently remarkable that she was sent to Dublin Art School aged ten. The article on her from Freeman’s Journal, says, “There is a gruesome poetry about the picture, a tiny soft-lipped child stands by and gravely watches a man engaged upon work of the significance of which she is utterly unconscious.”

She gained medals and prizes and when fifteen years old managed to collect £25 with which she went to Paris and joined her elder sister in a tiny flat in the Quartier Latin. To her great joy she was accepted as a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where there were no fees, and where she could study under the most eminent French artists and sculptors.

At seventeen she returned to Dublin where she did a few portrait busts, including one of Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, but before long she was travelling again, having won a scholar-ship of £200 for two years. This enabled her to carry out her ambition of going to Rome where she attended the studio of M. Charles Desvergne and led a pleasant life among the artists and critics, besides meeting young people of her own age at parties and dances.

[…] From the age of thirty she was stone deaf. She returned for a time to London, and worked in Julian’s studio and in the British Museum, when she got the chance of going to Athens with her friend, Miss Venning.* They went in a French ship and she made a medallion portrait of the French captain which delighted the sailors. ‘C’est lui-meme,’ they said, ‘It is he himself’.

In Athens the British Ambassador befriended them and used to take them out in his yacht to visit some of the beautiful islands, and Miss Shaw did several portraits of diplomats and some of lovely Greek children. When she returned to England she lived for a time at Knutsford in Cheshire, doing portrait busts both in bronze and marble and exhibiting in the Royal Academy. One of the Duchess of Buckingham in marble was specially admired. Later in London she made busts of Lord Avebury, the beautiful Countess Annesley and many distinguished people, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy and in the Paris Salon. […]

Her work was recognized and honoured when she was made a Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1907. She was the first woman sculptor to be made a member of any Royal Academy in the British Isles. (James, p.266-7)

According to the 1901 census, Shaw saw at that time living in York Street Chamber, Marylebone, a near neighbour being Rosamond Venning.  These chambers were “The York Street Chambers were built in 1892 to house single professional women and the tenants were principally artists, authors, nurses.”  It would possibly be useful to anyone trying to uncover more about Shaw, to have a look at what records survive – it might for example tell us how long she was there.

It seems that Venning was involved in the suffrage movement as can be seen from a letter in the Women’s Library Archive.  By the time of the 1911 census, they were living together in 13 Belsize Park Gardens, and Shaw is described as Venning’s adopted daughter.  Their friendship must have begun much earlier, for the article says ‘until she was thirty she could just hear the voices of two people, her mother and her friend Miss Rosamund [sic] Venning’ (p.266).  As she made a relief of Venning in 1892, they must have been acquainted at least no later than that.

She lived with Rosamond at Pitt Cottage, Cadmore End, Buckinghamshire, in the 1920s, during which period she lost her sight, and when Rosamond died she left her estate to Kathleen.

Kathleen Shaw died on the 30th of June, 1958, in Amersham Hospital.

Among her work is the bust of Archbishop Alexander, husband of the Deaf hymn-writer, Fanny Alexander, in Armagh Cathedral, and the Armagh war memorial.  A war memorial font cover in Cadmore Church, with a silver figure, was made with gifts of silver from villagers. Also, she made a monument to two Venning ancestors at Totnes.

How tragic that blindness cut short her career.

This reference gives a long list of here work –

‘Miss Kathleen Trousdell Shaw’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 

*Venning seems to have been an antiquarian – see https://archive.org/stream/annualreportamern115amer/annualreportamern115amer_djvu.txt and also https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Folk-lore_-_A_Quarterly_Review._Volume_5,_1894.djvu/366.

James, The Honorable Mrs. B.R., Kathleen Trousdell Shaw, Silent World, 1954, p.266-7

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 111; Folio: 158; Page: 39

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 609

Ancestry.com. Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898 [database on-line]. 

Freeman’s Journal – Tuesday 01 May 1894, p.6 

Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 06 April 1895, p.3

Villagers Humble Gifts, Yorkshire Evening Post – Saturday 24 April 1920 p. 6 

Western Times – Monday 14 April 1902, p.2

WEDDING PARTY AT A BRIDE’S CREMATION – 1933

Hugh Dominic WStiles16 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

A second report says –

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

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

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

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

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