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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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Summerford Board School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 14 April 2016

Mary E. Smart  (c.1860-1918) and Peter Dodds  (1859-1939), were teachers of the deaf at Summerford Street Board School, Bethnal Green, London, [sometimes Summerfield (1890s) and now Somerford St., just by the railway line at Bethnal Green], around 1900.  They appeared in The British Deaf Monthly in 1900, in photographs submitted to the paper by Fred Doughty (1882-?), a pupil at the school.  According to his obituary in the Teacher of the Deaf, the Northumbrian born Dodds was trained at Manchester under Andrew Patterson, and later worked at Margate, before he moved to the London Board SchoolIn 1901 he became the head of the Exeter Institution, remaining there until his retirement in 1923.

With regard to methods Mr. Dodds has an open mind. Whilst assured that, given proper conditions, the Oral Method is the best, he would adopt any method which would, in his opinion, confer the greatest benefit upon the child. His strong advocacy of the Gouin Method of teaching language may still be fresh in the minds of teachers. (British Deaf Monthly, 1901 p.210)

Unfortunately the article skips over his time in London.

In 1881 Mary Smart was living and working at The Elms, Castle Bar Road, site of the Ealing Training College, which was under the then superintendent, Mary A.J. Hobson (born on St.Vincent, West Indies, circa 1841, died 1915).  The student teachers are listed as follows –

DoddsAgnes Newth     31
Isabel Spring     30
Agnes Pengelly     24
Harriett Davy     21
Maria Hotton     27
Marianne Thomas     23
Fanny Rutherford     21
Lilly Nickels     20
Mary Smart     21
Diana Wrench     18

Miss SmartMary died in 1918, so perhaps she was a victim of the influenza outbreak (thanks to @DeafHeritageUK for finding that out).  She lived with her sister in Caledonian Road in 1901.  The article from The British Deaf Mute, tells us that she was born in Edinburgh, and that her first acquaintance with the deaf was with a girl at a private school in Edinburgh.  She came to London to graduate from the Ealing College in 1880 (p.133).  She worked for the London School Board for a while, then privately, but “was not happy trying to compel one favoured little deaf child to receive what many others would be only to [sic] thankful to have the chance of getting,” so she returned to work in an L.S.B. school.  Although she lived some way from the school, she opened a Sunday School, and helped departing pupils in getting employment.  There is a photograph of Miss Smart here.  She was certainly at the school in 1885, as her name is mentioned by a pupil, Abraham Fink, in a letter to Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, p.113.

Fred Doughty has been hard to track down.  He was the son of a metal plate worker, and seems to have trained in the same trade, according to the 1911 census.  That census tells us that he was totally deaf from an accident aged 2 1/2.  He took the school class photos which Ernest Abraham published.   In 1911 he lived with his parents, William and Sarah Ann, in 1a Cornwall Rd, Mile End.

All these people are full of potential for interesting research and much fuller ‘potted biographies’ than we can put here.  Additionally, the London Board Schools, and similar schools other than the big Deaf Instititutions, are deserving of much fuller treatment.  Places to research this are of course local newspapers and archives such as the London Metropolitan Archive.

The school building still exists, as part of the present school in Somerford [sic] Street, and you can see how small it is on Bing Birdseye which you can turn around to see the building from a different angle.  It probably had two classes only, from the size of the building.

Summerford Smart

Summerford DoddsMary Smart 1881 Census Class: RG11; Piece: 1344; Folio: 48; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341327

Mary Smart 1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 171; Folio: 84; Page: 19

Fred Doughty 1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 1625

British Deaf-Mute, 1896, 5, 133-34.

Charles Booth Online Archive

Mr Peter Dodds, British Deaf Monthly, 1901, p.209-10

M.H.M., Miss Mary Smart, British Deaf Mute, 1896, p.133-4.

British Deaf Monthly, 1900 June, vol.9 p.172 (photo of Miss Smart and class)

British Deaf Monthly, 1900, Feb, vol.9, p.76 (Mr. Dodds and Class)

Our Photographic Competition, British Deaf Monthly, 1900 p.76 (Picture of Dodds in the class as shown above)

18/4/2016 Updated with death date of Mary Smart, thanks to @DeafHeritageUK

10/6/2016 Added more on Miss Smart