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An Example of (Amateur) Deaf History – Mr Pike and the Plymouth Mission

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 July 2012

A local Deaf man who worked without pay as a missioner at the Plymouth Mission from its foundation in 1897 until Hiram Blount’s appointment in 1899, Frank Pike (1859-1929) was a bookbinder by trade. His is a name that I came across as a Mr Pike, first name unknown, who was supposedly the first missioner at the Plymouth Mission. The same information was on the Plymouth website. I found him by looking through the website Ancestry.co.uk and the census returns for 1901 looking for a Pike who was listed as ‘Deaf’. I only had to look at a few before I found him. Knowing his age in 1901 I could work out an approximate birth year, then use the Free BMD website to see if I could work out when he died. Then I looked in the Mission annual report for 1929 and it has a short note by C.E. Spooner about his death, confirming that it was the Frank Pike I was looking for.

The George Frith book Chosen Vessels mentions him in passing on page 53. A good deal of groundwork family, and indeed, Deaf history, involves this sort of thing, and it is something that anyone with a little time and patience can do. Looking at Frank Pike in earlier census returns shows that his father was a butcher and/or cattle dealer. Frank attended the West of England Institution for the Deaf and Dumb as we see in the 1871 census, where he would have been taught by the head, Mr William R. Scott (born in Stamfordham, Northumberland in about 1811).

The British Deaf Mute Vol 5 1895-6 p.191 Click on for a clearer version

As we see in the picture above, Pike was not in fact the first missioner in Plymouth. That seems to have been the ‘mute’ Mr E. Jones. I have not had the time to search for him – that is one for the Deaf historians and other amateur researchers!

Finally, we have another item from the British Deaf Mute, which says that E.S. Lancaster who was a J.P. and a business man who employed deaf mutes, interpreted for those at this particular meeting. He was a tailor by trade, born in Portsmouth.

British Deaf Mute Volume 5 1895-6, p.212 Click for a large version

British Deaf Plymouth Mission Annual Reports in the Library

1914/15, 1915/16, 1918/19, 1919/20, 1921/22, 1923/24, 1928/29, 1929/30, 1935/36-1945, 1946/47, 1948/49-1957/58, 1960/6`, 1961/62, 1963/64-1965/66

Updated 6/4/2018