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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


From “The National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf”, to “Action on Hearing Loss”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 December 2011

Brief chronology 1911 to the present

1911 Founded by Leo Bonn, a merchant banker who was himself deaf, as the National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf, based at 28-29 Gwydir Chambers, 104 High Holborn, London WC1

1915-1923 Comparatively inactive due to the war

1924 Reconstituted as the National Institute for the Deaf, based at 67 Frith Street, Soho Square, London WC1

1927 Moved to 2 Bloomsbury Street, New Oxford Street, London WC1 (photo in 16th annual report of work done by Selwyn Oxley – filed with Guild of St John of Beverley annual reports)

1929 First residential home at Barrowford in Lancashire established

1928 ‘Counties Association for the Deaf’ created, establishing the regional services

1934 Moved to 105 Gower Street, London WC1 on 1st December

1937 Opened first hospital-based hearing aid clinic in the UK – which became the prototype for those set up after the 1946 National Health Service Act

1946 First issue of ‘Silent World’, the Institute magazine (later ‘Hearing’, ‘Soundbarrier’, ‘See Hear’, ‘One in Seven’, now ‘Action on Hearing Loss’)

1947 Building of the Technical Laboratory commenced

1948 NID President, the Duke of Montrose, is the first recipient of an NHS Medresco hearing aid

1957 NID Personal Advice Bureau set up

1959 BBC ‘Play Precis’ scheme initiated

1961 Queen approved addition of ‘Royal’ to mark the Institute’s jubilee year

1967 Launched ‘Sound’, the UK’s first audiological journal – which in

1973 became ‘British Journal of Audiology’, the official journal of the British Society of Audiology

1971 101 and 103 Gower Street acquired for expansion

1983 The Telephone Bureau for the Deaf (TED), later renamed the Telephone Exchange for the Deaf, set up. Replaced by Typetalk in 1992

1992 Name changed to Royal National Institute for Deaf People, to reflect politically correct use of language

1994 Doug Alker, the first Deaf Chief Executive appointed

1996 Moved to 19-23 Featherstone Street, London EC1 on 15th January

2011 Celebrated centenary and updated name to Action on Hearing Loss

Brief Bibliography

Proposals for setting up a national body:

1) Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1898, 5, 19-27

2) Teacher of the Deaf, 1909, 7, 106

3) Teacher of the Deaf, 1910, 8, 106

4) Teacher of the Deaf, 1911, 9, 39

5) 1st annual report. National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf, 1912, pp. 7-9

LILBURN, G. The years behind us. Silent World, 1954, 9, 176-80

LYSONS, C.K. Some aspects of the historical development and present organisation of voluntary welfare societies for adult deaf people in England 1840-1963. Unpublished, 1965. pp. 100-12, 274-77

MAYLED, J. RNID. 1986. pp. 9, 18-24, 31-34

Origins and early history. British Deaf News, 1979, 12, 65-67

ROWE, B.R. The National Health Service…and fifty years of hearing aids. BSA News, 1998, 25, 6-7

Silent World, 1962, 17, 270-272

The development of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. *In* GREGORY, S. and HARTLEY, G.M. Constructing deafness. Pinter Publishers in association with the Open University, 1991. pp. 285-89

The Rev. Charles Rhind, chaplain and teacher, and his brother James

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 2 December 2011

The Rev. C. Rhind (1813-88) Teacher of the Deaf

Born on 5th of October 1813, and privately educated, from an early age Rhind was engaged in teaching Deaf children, being at the age of 16 appointed as a teacher under Dr Watson at the Old Kent Road School.  After 11 years he then moved to Belfast where he was Head of the Deaf School, the Ulster Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and Blind from July, 1840, until September 1846, when the Institution moved into new premises (Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education).  His next move was to Aberystwyth where he founded the first Welsh Deaf School and was its first Principal.  The school later moved to Swansea as the Cambrian Institution.

Rev. C.Rhind

Rhind seems to have found it hard to settle for any length of time for he was soon off again, this time to the position of Principal of the Institute of the Deaf and Dumb, at Henderson Row in Edinburgh, and leaving there he began to work as missionary for the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb on 1st December 1860.  Rhind had a small salary as the organisation was poor, and he ministered in the south of London as a missionary.  At this time the church for the Deaf St. Saviour’s in Oxford St was newly completed, and when the chaplain Rev.Samuel Smith died in January 1883, Rhind, who had become a Deacon in 1878, being the only suitable candidate, took over the position which he maintained until retirement three months before he died.

His older brother James (b.1812), was also a Teacher of the Deaf, as was a sister.  James taught at the Old Kent Road School and was later Head of the Liverpool Deaf School (1836).  In the 1851 census he was living in Oxford Street (East), with private pupils Mary Riley aged 11, and Thomas Bennett aged 14.  After a few years he started a private school in the neighbourhood of Regents Park and Maida Vale, according to old index cards we have in the library.  By 1861 however, from the census returns we can see that he had become a civil servant and was a clerk in the India Office.  James died in 1895.

Gilby describes Rhind as

A venerable figure, short, stout, bald, with a bushy white beard and moustache, he was a jolly old soul indeed.  In spite of his great punctiliousness in the keeping of statistics and accounts and in the making of appointments and future arrangements, and a certain fussiness incidental to over-anxiety, the good man enjoyed his life and his family, I am sure.  He usually wore a skull-cap, was sensitive to draughts, and loved a needed snooze in his armchair after dinner.

When Rhind left London for Bromley he was already failing in health.

On July 4th I visited the Rev. C. Rhind at Bromley for the last time.  He was very near the end then.  I find I wrote in my diary “Mrs. Rhind will not long survive him”.  And so it happened.  He passed away in his sleep on Saturday, July 7th and his wife entered into her rest ten days later, on the 17th.  I interpreted to the deaf who were present at Mr. Rhind’s burial at Kilburn on July 12th, and attended Mrs. Rhind’s on 21st. (Gilby)

See also various school annual reports

Gilby’s memoirs

Appreciation. Deaf and Dumb Times, 1889, 1(1), 6. (illus)

The Ulster Institution for the Deaf Dumb and Blind, Quarterly Review of Deaf Mute Education, January 1891, 2, 262-69, 289-95.

[Updated 17/11/2015]


The Reverend F.W.G. Gilby, O.B.E.

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 November 2011

GILBY, F.W.G. (1865-1949)

Son of “deaf-mute” parents and a missioner to the deaf, Frederick Gilby was born in North London on 3rd of July 1865. He was educated at Bishops Stortford and Shepton Mallet in Somerset. From the age of eleven he was interpreting for the Deaf in public. In 1883 the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb made him a student-missionary and he went on to study at King’s College London and Durham. Marrying in 1892, the same year he was ordained, Gilby moved back to London and on the death of the Rev. Rhind (see entry for the Jewish School) became minister for the Deaf church St.Saviour’s in Oxford St, which was demolished in 1923. After various moves he went to Bath in 1928 as a missioner to the Deaf, then was encouraged to carry on similar work in South Africa for 2 1/2 years. Although he returned to England to retire, the need for a Deaf school in the West Indies once more drew him abroad, and in both Jamaica and Trinidad he founded schools for Deaf children. When his wife died in British Guiana he returned to England at the age of 79, marrying his cousin Edith Gilby in 1945. He died in 1949 and is buried in Woking’s famous Brookwood cemetry.

The last page of Gilby’s Jamaica diary


Gilby signs ‘God’

British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1892, 2, 1. (photo)

The Rev. F.W.G. Gilby as sign-maker.  British Deaf Times, 1904, 1(5), 97-101.

The Rev. F.W.G. Gilby, M.A. British Deaf Times, 1918, 15 (169-170), 1-3.

Resignation of the Rev.F.W.G.Gilby, British Deaf Times, 1932, 29 (341-2), 53-4.

(Includes photograph)

GILBY, F.W.G. Seventy two years among the deaf and dumb. The author, 1937?

(RNID Library class mark: YBX JAK 9)

Thumb-Nail Biography No.6, The Rev FWG Gilby, Silent World 1946 1(6), 171

An Old war Horse Looks Behind, Silent World, Aug 1947, 2(3), 80-83 & 95

Obituary.  Ephphatha, 1949, 1(7),  3-4.

Obituary. Somerset Diocesan Mission to the Deaf and Dumb 1949. p. 11.

The National Deaf Club

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 November 2011

NATIONAL DEAF CLUB (1906- ?2006 )

Founded as the Deaf Friends’ Association in 1906, by Mr Durlacher, the Deaf son of Queen Victoria’s chiropodist, who thought that the young Deaf of London wanted a better centre to meet in than cafes. This was the first club founded and run by deaf people, without assistance from a missioner; amalgamated with Richmond Deaf Club in 1955, keeping its original name. One of the founders was H.N.Lowry who later emigrated to the U.S.A. Other founders included M.S. Fry and A.J. Wilson. Below is a page from the British Deaf Times describing the foundation of the club. It was certainly still going in the 1980s, but I am not sure about what happened after that. Can anyone tell us?

FRY, M.S. The history of the National Deaf Club. British Deaf Times, 1914, 11, 31-35.

A.J.W., In Memorium: The Late H.Newton Lowry, British Deaf Times, 1932, 29 (345-6), 132

50 years of ups and downs of the National Deaf Club, 1906-1956. National Deaf Club, 1956? (RNID Library location: A64 (REF)

NAPIER, M. The National Deaf Club, 1906-1931. National Deaf Club, 1984.

(RNID Library location: C865 (REF)

NAPIER, M. The National Deaf Club, 1956-1981. National Deaf Club, 1986.

(RNID copy missing)


Van Praagh & the rise of Oralism

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 18 November 2011

William VAN PRAAGH (1845-1907)

While other teachers such as Thomas Braidwood in Britain and the Abbé de l’Epeé had used some oral teaching in the 18th century, it was the German Samuel Heinicke who founded what became known as ‘Oralism’ or ‘the German method’ for teaching Deaf children.  In 1778 when Heinicke set up a school in Leipzig which he directed until his death in 1790 (see Wikipedia entry here – Heinicke).  He proved very influential and his followers took the Oral method to Holland.

Wolf  Saloman Van Praagh was born in Holland into a Dutch Jewish family.  He took the name William when he settled in England in 1866 (see interview in British Deaf Mute and Weinberg).  William had been sent to take charge of the Jewish Deaf School by the influential Dutch oralist David Hirsch, Director of the Rotterdam School (see McLoughlin).

In 1871 Van Praagh published a phamphlet (unfortunately not held by us) which moved for the establishment of Day Schools for Deaf children.  Possibly influenced by this and partly as a consequence of the success of the Jewish School, Baroness Mayer (see previous post) wished to start a non-sectarian school and spread the use of the Oral system.  The Association for the Oral Instruction the Deaf and Dumb was set up in 1871, and an associated training college the following year.  The Normal School and Training College was then established in June 1872 in Fitzroy Square, not far from Euston Station, with Van Praagh as the director.

Van Praagh wanted Deaf children to mix with the non-deaf population, and was opposed to the combined lip-reading and manual method of education. The British Deaf Mute article from 1894 includes an interesting interview with Van Praagh in which the following is said –

“The Rev.T.Arnold recently made use of the remark that the combined method of instruction is ‘irrational and immature.’ Is that your opinion , also?”
“Yes. I prefer any system in its purity to any combined methods of instruction.”

Van Praagh died after his annual public demonstration in Fitzroy Square.  His last words were “Gentlemen, I have finished,” then he collapsed with an attack of ‘angina pectoris’.  Immediately after his obituary in the British Deaf Times for 1907, there is a short article on ‘The Shortcomings of the “Oral” Method’, which concludes “Every teacher of the deaf ought to master the sign language of his pupils.”  The spread of Oralism did, and continues to generate great anger in the Deaf community. In his 1910 book ‘The Deaf Child‘ (p.121), James Kerr Love said “Teachers have divided themselves into opposing camps of oralists and manualists, and until this opposition ceases, the deaf child must suffer.”

Andreas Markides, The speech of hearing-impaired children. 1983.

Appreciation. Teacher of the Deaf, 1907, 5, 178-81.

Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1894, 3(33), 113-15. (photo)

Love, James, 1858-1942.:  The deaf child : a manual for teachers and school doctors. Bristol, 1911

McLoughlin, M. G.:  A history of the education of the deaf in England. Liverpool :   [the author] ,   1987

Obituary. British Deaf Times, 1907, 4 (44), 185-86. (photo)

Obituary. American Annals of the Deaf, 1907, 52, 499.

Van Praagh, William,  Lessons for the instruction of deaf and dumb children in speaking, lip-reading, reading and writing… Illustrated. London, Trubner, 1884.

WEINBERG, J. The history of the Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children, 1865-1965.

The Deaf Baronet

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 28 October 2011

FAIRBAIRN, Sir Arthur Henderson (1852-1915)

Sir Arthur Fairbairn was a worker with the deaf who was himself deaf.  His grandfather was the Scottish engineer Sir William Fairbairn who had a successful career designing steam engines and bridges, and his father Sir Thomas became a great patron of the arts, cultivating friendships with Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Holman Hunt.  Sir Thomas commissioned Thomas Woolner to make a marble statue of his eldest surviving children entitled Constance and Arthur, or, Deaf and Dumb (1857–62).  Sir Arthur and his sister Constance were educated by Henry Brothers Bingham formerly of Edgbaston Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.  Arthur Dimmock in his 2002 article says “Arthur and Constance were taught by fingerspelling and sign language so both were never efficient with speech and lipreading through their lives” (Dimmock 2002).

Sir Arthur was involved with Deaf causes for example acting as Honorary Treasurer to the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb (RADD) and as patron of the British Deaf and Dumb Association (BDDA).

GILBART-SMITH, J.W. Sir Arthur Fairbairn and his surroundings: the story of a deaf and dumb baronet. Cassell’s Magazine, 1904, 606-612. (photos) (RNID Library location: B5903)

Well-known deaf persons: Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn, Bart. British Deaf Times, 1904, 1, 17-18. (photo)

Cartoon and brief biography. Mayfair, 1912, 7(89), 25 Jul, 910.

The late Sir Arthur H. Fairbairn, Bart. ROE, W.R. Peeps into the deaf world. Bemrose & Sons, 1917.  pp. 280-282. (photos)

BRADDOCK, G.C. Notable deaf persons: Sir Arthur H. Fairbairn, Bart. British Deaf Times, 1941, 38(453-454), 81-82.

DIMMOCK, A.F. Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn (1852-1915): Britain’s deaf and dumb baronet. Deaf History Journal, 2002, 6(1), 32-34.

Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn, a Deaf-Mute Baronet.  The Silent Worker, vol. 11 no. 1 (September 1898), p.3

Helen Keller, George Stephenson and the Rev. W.H.Oxley

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 21 October 2011

These two pictures are taken from a booklet for the Guild of St. John of Beverley. Helen Keller is so famous that she really needs no explanation. We have a couple of letters in our archives signed by her after she had been on a visit to England.

To the right are the Rev. W.H. Oxley and his friend Mr George  Stephenson. They were members of the Guild of St. John of Beverley. The Guild was founded in Yorkshire in 1896, using St.John of Beverley as its inspiration. It was reconstituted in 1915 with a southern branch that seems to have been run largely by the Rev. Oxley’s son Selwyn. Selwyn Oxley was a curious character. He dropped out of university due to illness that sound like it was psychological, and then a chance meeting on a train got him interested in mission work with Deaf people. Through the 19th century and early 20th century there was a close association between mission work and Deaf education. From his home in Victoria Rd the younger Oxley took to his mission with gusto, travelling around the country by motor car and horse drawn caravan, then stopping and discovering if there were any Deaf people in the district. Oxley Made a large collection of books relating to all aspects of hearing and deafness, and these books remain a key part of the library collection. Many of them have his spidery hadwriting inside the front cover and the Guild bookplate.  After his death the books were donated to the library by his wife who also wrote his biography. An collection of postcard sized photographs forms an important part of this donation, and these are available for researchers to use.

More on George Stephenson of Sheffield at a later date.

Helen Keller to the left, and Rev. Oxley with George Stephenson to the right.


Helen KELLER (1880-1968)

American deaf-blind writer and international icon

CROW, L. Helen Keller: rethinking the problematic icon. Disability and Society, 2000, 16(6), 845-859.

Selwyn OXLEY  (1890-1951)

16th annual report of general honorary work done for the deaf…; by Selwyn Oxley.  The author, 1928. (Filed with Guild of St John of beverley annual reports)

Obituary. British Deaf Times, 1951, 49(565/568), 23.

Obituary. Teacher of the Deaf, 1951, 49, 81.

Selwyn Oxley and his library. Silent World, 1954, 8(8), 238-39.

Rev. W.H. OXLEY ( 1848 -1924)

Father of Selwyn Oxley.

Obituary. Ephphatha, 1924, 63, 845-46.

Guild of St. John of Beverley (1896-?

We have only a few annual reports but we do have minute books for some years in the 1920s and also various pamphlets and other records. It appears that some remnant of the Guild remains as a very small charity. I suspect that with the death of Selwyn Oxley and his wife its powerhouse was gone and it declined.




The British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women in Hackney

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 14 October 2011

Recently we have had a couple of enquiries about this home. It was established May 1851 as the British Asylum for Deaf and Dumb Females. Two deaf women got in the way of a Mr and Mrs Sutton’s carriage and “it was necessary for the footman to go to them. This brought to light the fact that they were deaf and dumb, and so aroused the interest of Mr and Mrs Sutton that they got together a committee of ladies and gentlemen, a secretary was appointed, and in 1851 the British Asylum for Deaf and Dumb Females was founded.”

The home in 1921 when is was visited by Selwyn Oxley (quoted above), was in an attractive Queen Anne house which was later demolished to make way for local authority housing in the 1930s. We have a number of annual reports in the RNID Library but what has proved difficult is establishing exactly when the home finally closed. It seems to have been 1986 from some reports, but I have not seen any mention of the closing in contemporary sources.


50th Jubilee report. British Deaf Monthly, 1902, 11, 517.

 My Day in London: Recording a Visit to Certain London Homes for the Deaf  , with notes on other aspects of their work, by Selwyn Oxley. Guild Pamphlet No.4, 1921.

The British Asylum for Deaf and Dumb females. Ephphatha, 1910, 5, 74. (illus)

SAINSBURY, S. Regulating residential care: a case study of a voluntary home. Avebury, 1989. (This is a study in social policy in which the name of the home concerned is not given but can be deduced from internal evidence.)