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Lord Charnwood and the National Institute for the Deaf, 1924-35

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 February 2012

Lord Charnwood

Lord CHARNWOOD (1864-1945), was born Godfrey Rathbone Dawson in Hampshire in 1864.  He was the son of a Hampshire barrister of Quaker stock.  One of his brothers Sir Francis Benson became a noted Shakesperean actor, while the eldest brother was the great arts and Crafts designer, William Benson.

Although the National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf was formed by Leo Bonn in 1911, it fell into a period of quiet and relative inactivity due partly to the First World War. The need for a national umbrella organisation for all the various deaf related charities and institutes still existed however.  The response came by giving the Bureau a new name and putting it on a more solid basis in finance and administration. In March 1924,  Lord Charnwood became the first President of the re-constituted body, the National Institute for the Deaf (N.I.D.). It was  a post he held until 1935 when it was taken up by the Duke of Montrose.  Charnwood had been introduced to charitable work involving the Deaf by A. J. Story, and became involved with the work of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf as President in 1923. In his address to the Kingsway Hall meeting setting up the N.I.D. on March 19th 1924, Charnwood said,

I have two things that ought to be said about the deaf. Their misfortune is not one that instantly appeals to sympathy. Everyone sympathises with the blind. You do not instantly discover that the deaf are deaf. I confess frankly myself, that my inclination is to be irritated with the person who is deaf. It is not sufficiently appreciated that a person who is deaf from birth or from a very early period of life is really shut out, at any rate from the earliest and most important years of life, from the improvements of mental development which are open to the rest of us, even to the blind.

Though admirable work is done in many parts of the country, there does not exist at this moment anything like a central national organisation charged with looking after the general interests and welfare of the deaf.

Charnwood was a Liberal MP for a few years, then was called to the bar. He was deeply interested in Church affairs. “His own personal views on religion were set out in a very candid study of St John’s gospel, According to St. John (1926), and, in revised form, in A Personal Conviction (1928)” (Oxford DNB). He also wrote a highly acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Obituary. Teacher of the Deaf, 1945, 43, 22. (photo between p. 20 and p. 21)

NID Annual Reports

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (entries for all three brothers)

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