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“translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs” – Edward Townsend, teacher at Edgbaston

Hugh Dominic WStiles5 July 2019

Edward Townsend (1846-1933) was a teacher of the deaf who became headmaster at the Edgbaston school. He was born in Battersea, son to William Townsend, a baker, and his wife Sarah.  It seems perhaps astonishing to us now, to discover that very often teachers began to learn their trade at the age of 14, as soon as they themselves had left school.  Townsend was that age when he started to teach – or perhaps learn to teach – at the Doncaster Institution, under Charles Baker and along with Walter S. Bessant, who went on to become headmaster at Manchester.

In 1895 he was interviewed by the British Deaf Times –

Essentially a bright engaging man, of most expressive countenance, with great command of facial expression—all the features well-defined and, even when in exaggerated play, pleasing, intelligent, and always full of animation and of purpose; he is a man of enthusiasm in his work and in the doing of it, but with the fortiter in re qualified by the suaviter in modo of cultured gentleness. The very man to teach with energy and spirit, and with expressive kindly countenance those banished children of misfortune—the isolated deaf and dumb. “How then “—after seeing some of the details of his work and system—” how then did you become associated with this special branch of education ? ” we asked Mr. Townsend, with considerable curiosity as to his reply. ” Did you apply yourself to the work from any conviction or tendency towards it, or—” ” Simply drifted into it,” is the response.

Mr. Townsend, who had of course already determined upon, and qualified himself for, an educational career, heard quite by chance that an assistant-teacher was required at the Yorkshire Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, at Doncaster. He applied for and obtained the appointment and became the assistant of Mr. Charles Baker, the head-master, and brother of the late Mr. Alfred Baker. (British Deaf Mute, p.113)

According to the 1861 census his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Joseph Jones were national school teachers.  That suggests how it came to be an idea for a career.  From his obituary in the Teacher of the Deaf we can say he must have been at Doncaster until he was eighteen, then spent eighteen years at the Old Kent Road Asylum, where we find him in the 1871 census.  I looks as if all the teachers were bachelors, but Edward married, I think in 1871, and moved to the Margate branch of the school.  In 1882 he was appointed to replace Arthur Hopper, who had died, and presided over the rebuilding of the school.

He was, according to his obituary, “not opposed to Oral Teaching,” and was a strong advocate of finger-spelling.  The British Deaf Mute article also seems to stress he was – at least at that time – far from being opposed to the manual system –

Mr. Townsend is also opposed to the advocate’s for supplanting, or at least depreciating, the manual and gesture method of teaching by the undue adoption of the ” oral ” system. The “oral” system, although regarded as a novelty, is in fact identified with the earliest known efforts of communication with deaf-mutes, but this gave place in a large measure, and particularly is France and in England, to the use of gestures and the finger alphabet, and at the present time, either the manual method or what is known as the ” combined system ” is still largely employed in the United Kingdom, and also in America, where the education of the deaf and dumb is carried to a more successful issue than in any country in the world. (British Deaf Mute, p.115)


Above we see Edgbaston girls in a composition class, probably Edwardian period.

Of his fitness for the position he holds there can be, as we have said, no question. He has ability, enthusiasm, and tactical skill. The children love him and he has the confidence of all with whom he is brought into official relations. He is a member of the committee of the College of Teachers of the Deaf, and one of its examiners. He is also the vice-chairman of the National Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Dr. Elliott being the chairman. He is therefore largely in request at meetings of teachers—and of the deaf themselves, being a very Daniel to interpret visions of flying fingers to the hearing, and, vice versa, translating with a fluent ease the addresses of ordinary speakers into the silent but expressive language of signs for the benefit of the deaf. Concerning methods of education Mr. Townsend, for the present, maintains a discreet reserve. But the eclectic system—any method for good results—appears to be most in favour at the Edgbaston Institution and is meeting with encouraging success. That the school and the energetic principal, whose career we have thus faintly sketched out, will have many years of usefulness before them is our sincere hope and wish. (Ephphatha)

In the British Deaf Mute, he is quoted as defending the idea of Deaf Institutions against attacks by a eugenicist –

Mr. Townsend has quite recently controverted in toe local press a conclusion which Sir James Crichton Browne advanced in his lecture on “Heredity,” delivered in the Athletic Institution, viz. : “That the association of deaf-mutes in schools and institutions, the one in which Mr. Townsend’s charge is detrimental, because apt to encourage marriages between persons similarly afflicted, and thus tend through their offspring and the process of heredity to the production of a deaf and dumb variety of the human race.” Professor Graham Bell of telephone celebrity, was the initiator of the theory lately formulated here by Sir James Crichton Browne, but Mr. Townsend’s experience leads him to suppose that the theory is fallacious ; and that, except in very occasional instances, the offspring of deaf mutes are in possession of their normal faculties. He says, moreover, a much greater evil is consanguineous marriages, and on the occasion of our visit pointed out several pupils who were the children of first cousins and other close-blooded relationships. (British Deaf Mute, p.114-5)

Townsend retired to Bournemouth, where he died in 1933, and was buried in Witton, Birmingham.

I am grateful to www.interpreterhistory.com for showing me correspondence of Townsend with Sibley Haycock from the Cadbury Archives in Birmingham.

Edward Thompson, Ephphatha, 1897, p.8-9

Mr. Edward Townsend, The British Deaf Mute, Volume 2 no. 20 p.113-5

W.H.A., Obituary, Teacher of the Deaf, 1933 p.55

1861 census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2198; Folio: 117; Page: 3; GSU roll: 542934

1871 census – Class: RG10; Piece: 601; Folio: 111; Page: 3; GSU roll: 818907

1881 census – Class: RG11; Piece: 985; Folio: 69; Page: 21; GSU roll: 1341234

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 2360; Folio: 120; Page: 7

1901 census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2816; Folio: 43; Page: 29

1911 census – Class: RG14; Piece: 5841; Schedule Number: 215

 

The ‘Thankful Hearts League’ School for the Deaf, Jerusalem, 1931-? – “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”

Hugh Dominic WStiles12 April 2019

Having previously covered Mary Chapman and her missionary deaf school work in south Asia, we recently mentioned her Jerusalem school in relation to the beginnings of Israeli Sign Language.  Chapman raised funds through the “Thankful Hearts League” to found a mission school for the Deaf in Jerusalem, and started the school in 1931 according to Höxter (p.118).  He continues,

Until now it has had but few pupils, mostly native Arab children, who receive their instruction in the English language from the directress in a small congenially arranged dwelling house. The school has a homelike atmosphere; the lovable directress cares for her small charges with affection and devotion. She has taught the deaf for thirty years in many lands. One of her former pupils from Burma instructs the children in manual training and drawing. With the younger children the method of instruction depends mainly upon observational activity, seeking to direct attention to training in lip-reading. Speech instruction is carried on by the single-sound method. The school should grow in the near future.

Chapman had the help of her long-time colleague Miss Martin, and the Burmese Deaf young man, Bolo.  She appears to have written regular newsletters to her Thankful Hearts League supporters in the U.K., and they must have assisted with both money and material items such as clothes. In 1937 the school had a visit for Sir Arthur Wauchope the High Commissioner, who gave £10 for the school.

The school taught the boys with lipreading, and they learnt to lipread both English and Arabic.  She says in the 1938 newsletter, “There are some sounds in Arabic which seem almost impossible to lip read, or to get a born deaf child to say, but we are persevering !!!”

Further on she tells us this story –

Two of the Sergt. Majors came to our help one Sunday morning, when a Moslem man brought his little son to our School. The Matron of the Government Hospital most kindly said she would take the boy, give him a carbolic bath, and get the Doctor to examine him, before we admitted him to school. Miss Walden and I were so relieved, as we were alone with the boys, all the others having gone to Church, but our joy was short lived, for the telephone went, and the Matron said she was sending Ally back, as his screams, and kicks were frightening all the patients, many of whom were seriously ill. We knew that once the father had left, Ally would settle down happily with the other boys, so I went next door, and these two Sergt. Majors gladly came in, took the boy from his father, and gave him a bath. The Matron sent an Arab policeman from the hospital to help the father bring the boy back to school, for the poor man could do nothing with his son, and he is only seven years old . The policeman asked to see the school, and was amazed to see such a happy well behaved number of deaf and dumb boys!! and great was his astonishment when the boys spoke to him in Arabic, and answered the questions he asked them ; he went away saying “This is a wonderful place, here little devils are turned into angels”.

The school was still going in 1948, as Miss Mary F. Chapman’s School for the Deaf and Dumb, at 135 St. Paul’s Road, Jerusalem.  I  wonder if the school closed with the crisis that saw war in Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel?  If you have any information, please add it below.  I include the 1937 newsletter as a picture, and the 1938 one as a pdf.  If there are other newsletters surviving, it would be nice to know.

As usual, click onto smaller images for a larger size view.

Höxter, Richard, The Deaf and Provision for Their Education in Palestine. American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 82, No. 2 (March, 1937), pp. 117-121

American Annals of the Deaf Vol. 93, No. 1 (January, 1948), pp. 48-60

Michael Reed OBE, teacher, psychologist, & RNID Chairman 1975-85

Hugh Dominic WStiles23 November 2018

Michael Reed, (1913-99) was a psychologist, audiologist, and teacher of the deaf, and was the first educational psychologist in England to work with deaf children.  He was employed at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, London, from 1949-1961.  He then moved to the Inner London Education Authority as Her Majesty’s Inspector for Special Education, with responsibility for deaf pupils.  He remained there until his retirement in 1978, and then settled in Canada in 1989.

Michael Reed was the author of the Reed Picture Screening Test (see below) and Educating hearing impaired children, published by the Open University Press in 1984.

He had a long involvement with the NID/RNID.  He was co-opted onto the NID Medical and Scientific Committee in 1956, then elected onto the Council of Management in 1957.  He became Vice-Chairman of the RNID in 1972, and Chair from 1975-85.

In 1986 he was awarded the OBE and created a Vice-President of the RNID for life.

Here we see him in 1984, in the centre, flanked by Tom and Brenda Sutcliffe, from the then RNID magazine, Soundbarrier.

AKHURST, B.A. Michael Reed OBE 1913-1999. Psychologist, 2000, Jul, 2000, p.338.

REED PICTURE SCREENING TEST FOR HEARING This was a set of pictures of everyday objects for screening primary school children’s hearing, devised by Michael Reed and published by the RNID in 1960.

He uses the language of the time – ‘defect’ sounds uncomfortable to us now, and probably did in the 1960s to some.

PICTURE SCREENING TEST OF HEARING By Michael Reed, B.SC.
THERE IS NO DOUBT that the earlier a hearing defect is discovered the more the handicap caused by such a defect can be alleviated. The picture presented by severe or total deafness is all too obvious, but in the case of slight or moderate deafness, the picture is sometimes more obscure. Many children have been thought to be mentally very dull when, in fact, they have been partially or severely deaf. Frequently they had become frustrated and non-co-operative and therefore it had become difficult to establish the true facts. Many simple cases of deafness have been misdiagnosed because a complete understanding of the effects of distorted hearing or slight hearing losses has been lacking. Children with slight hearing losses which are not obvious may become educationally retarded in the adverse noise conditions of a class-room. Therefore it is extremely important to discover any significant hearing loss as soon as possible in order to be aware of the problem and so help the child. If there is a slight loss of hearing for all frequencies throughout the speech range, or severe loss for frequencies above 1000Hz, there will be some disability in discriminating between consonants. The R.N.I.D. Picture Screening Test has been designed around this simple fact. It is interesting to children and therefore fairly certain of ensuring their co-operation, and is easy both to carry around and to use.
The test is made up of several separate cards each of which has four pictures. The names of the pictures conform with the following conditions.

1. The words must be monosyllabic so that the rhythm of that word does not give a clue.

2. The words in any one row must contain the same vowel sound.

3. The words must be those within the vocabulary of the children to be tested.

The test as designed here can be used for children with a mental age of four years and older and with many children of mental age of three years. To ensure that the child to be tested knows the name of the picture, he is told how to name the pictures first, especially with very young children. If the child calls the owl a bird, one says ‘That’s right but I am going to call it an owl.’ Similarly if the hen is called a chicken, or the sheep a lamb, or the lamb a sheep, he is told that it is to be called a hen a sheep and a lamb so that the words do have the common vowel sound. If the child does not know any words then one cannot test in this way and if in doubt, a full audiometric examination must be requested.

REED, M. A verbal screening test for hearing. proceedings of the 3rd World Congress of the Deaf, Weisbaden, 1959. Deutschen-Gerhorlosen-Bundes, 1961. pp. 195-97.

HOLDING, B., HOLDING, J. and OWEN, A. Prawf clyw darluniadol Dyfed. British Journal of Audiology, 1987, 21. 147. (Welsh version)

McCORMICK, B. Screening young children for hearing impairment. Whurr, 1994. pp. 76-77.

Harry Wellington White, oralist “When I went to Manchester… the tone of the institution was undoubtedly sign…. it was like a fever lurking about”

Hugh Dominic WStiles17 August 2018

Harry Wellington White was born in October, 1854, son of Wellington White, a ‘quartermaster of militia,’ born in Tipperary, and his wife Anne, from Kildare. The oldest sister was born Van Diemen’s Land, then a brother was born in Dover, a second brother was born in Lancashire, and his younger brother in Hampshire, so presumably the father was being sent around the empire for his work.

Harry White began working as a clerk, presumably when he left school. He was employed as a clerk in the offices of the Great Western , at General Manager’s office at Paddington in November, 1876. He remained an employee there until February, 1879, when he resigned.  He would then be aged a little over 24, and we might suppose that it was then, or shortly after, that he enrolled as a trainee teacher of the deaf at the Ealing ‘Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System.’  He took a two and a half year course there, and qualified in 1881 in the same cohort as Mary Smart, and was it seems the only male teacher to qualify there, which seems extraordinary.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that there were far fewer me interested in becoming teachers in the latter years of the 19th century.  Previously I think male teachers had often gone into teaching as pupils who became teachers, then learnt on the job in deaf schools, but this would require research to confirm.

Having qualified, he was appointed Vice-Principal under Arthur Kinsey.  He was sent out from Ealing as an acolyte, and Benjamin St. John Ackers who lead the society as Honorary Secretary, wrote in the annual report for 1884 (p.10) –

Somewhat earlier in the year your Honorary Secretary attended the Annual Meeting of the Manchester Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, as a subscriber to that Institution, where it will be remembered Mr. H. W. White, our late Vice-Principal, was engaged in the work of training the teachers employed there, to carry on the German System.  Mr. White had represented to your Society that certain changes in the arrangements of the Manchester Institution were absolutely necessary for the ultimate success of the work.  Your Honorary Secretary’s attendance, upon the occasion referred to, was to urge the adoption of these proposed changes upon the Manchester Committee, and also the further engagement of Mr. White for another twelve months ; this latter proposition, we are sorry to learn, has, from want of funds, not been accepted.  The period of Mr. White’s engagement with your Society having expired, we were in strong hopes of seeing him at the head of some British Institution, carrying on successfully the work for which he has been trained.  About this time the Head Mastership of the West of England Institution, at Exeter, fell vacant, and Mr. White was at once advised to apply for the post, but he did not feel at liberty to do so.  Shortly afterwards a similar vacancy occurred at the Liverpool Institution ; again he was urged to apply.  Owing, possibly, to delay in forwarding his application, he was not successful in obtaining the appointment.  Upon the termination of the Society’s agreement with Mr. White an agreement was executed with Mr. Alfred Batchelor to train at the College, and to give his services to the Society in such ways as might be required for their work.

The Manchester Schools Sixtieth Annual Report for 1884 (we have not got the 1883 Report) tells us that “the arrangement referred to in the last Annual Report as having been made with Mr. White, Vice-Principal of the Ealing College, is being brought to a satisfactory termination ; and it is gratifying to your Committee to find that the Oral Classes, as organised by their Head Master, [W.S. Bessant] are working so nearly upon the lines laid down by Mr. White in his lectures, that very little alteration in them has been rendered necessary. (Annual Report, 1884, p.6).

It seems Ackers was, however, rather disappointed with White.  He wanted to expand the oralist approach by getting his man into a big school.  Perhaps White felt that running a private school would be more rewarding.  In October, 1884, White published a booklet with W.H. Allen, publishers, Speech for the Dumb. The Education of the Deaf and Dumb on the “Pure Oral” System.  He laid out the oralist approach, and concluded with an appendix on ‘Hints for the management of a deaf child.’  This included ‘Do not allow him to shuffle his feet when walking.’  Interestingly, one of our regular visitors tells me that she was told the same thing at school – perhaps this was part of the long legacy of the Ealing College?  In the introduction to that essay, when he was living at 3, Blenheim Terrace, Old Trafford, Manchester, he says, (p.v) that “I am desirous of opening a small private and select school for deaf children of the higher classes, at Bowden, Cheshire.”  Of course he adds, needlessly, “signs and the manual alphabet being rigidly excluded.”

I am not sure if that school got going, as by July 1885 he was offering lip reading lessons and his address was 4 Osman Road, West Kensington Park.  Not long after, we find numerous advertisements for White’s private deaf school, at 115 Holland Road, Kensington, in The Times and London Evening Standard (see British Newspaper Archive), as well as mentions in The Lancet (by February 1886).  He was, that same year one of the witnesses for The Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and the Dumb (1889).  (We have the full text, and electronic access through Parliamentary Papers database.)  He was asked about his time at Manchester on Thursday the 18th of March, 1886.  You may recall that Ackers was on the commission, so I do not think it would be unfair to say that there was already an oralist bias –

7969. When you first went there was that the commencement of the change ? — No, they had endeavored to introduce the system, and I suppose it would be
maintained that they had introduced it. Of course one is very delicate upon a matter of that kind; there are certain susceptibilities to consider; I think they claimed that they introduced the system; but I went there to assist them to carry it on to probably a higher pitch, and farther extent.

7970. Do you claim that you made great progress is the teaching of the teachers there ? — Undoubtedly.

7971. And also the pupils themselves ? —  Certainly.  Of course my individual efforts could not have shown very great results in the children except through the teachers that I trained.  I could not be expected to teach 160 children, nor would my results be very much in twelve months; but I think that, taking class and class with the teacher that was attached to it, the whole tone of the training showed itself clearly in the education of the children.

Further on he says (paragraph 8007),

When I went to Manchester, of course the tone of the institution was undoubtedly sign.  From the point of view of a pure oral teacher it was like a fever lurking about (that is a rather strong way of putting it), and it wanted removing before you could expect to do anything with the children on the opposite system.

8008. You mean tho fever of the sign system ? — From our point of view, though that is rather a strong way of putting it; but it certainly was very infections. The new children and the children taught on the oral system were very prone to fall into the ways of those who had a system of signs around them.  The consequence was that I saw it rapidly running through the whole institution.  In six weeks or two months the children who had newly entered were as full of signs as thosewho had been there for six years, though probably not knowing so many signs.  The only hope of introducing the pure oral system would have been the removal of the whole of those sign children, and that is what I advocated.  I wrote a letter to tho committee and advocated the taking of a new house somewhere in the neighbourhood for the purpose; but they said that they could not possibly do it, that the expense was more than they could meet, and that things would have to go on as they were going on.

[…]

8059. Do you think that the time will ever come when the sign and manual systems will disappear altogether ?  — I see no reason why they should not.

8060. Do you think there is every reason why they should ?—At present there are very few reasons why they should.  If the Government take the matter up and grant assistance to the work, I see every reason why the sign system should be stamped out, and the oral system entirely established in its place.

In both the 1861 and 1871 census records, Harry White was living at home with his parents in 7 Hackney Terrace, Cassland Road. He moved with them at some point after that, to 3 Poplar Grove, Hammersmith.  In January 1891 he married Emma Parrell, at St Mary Magdalene, Peckham, and at that time he was described as a teacher on his marriage certifiate, but in the 1891 census a ‘Teacher of the Deaf’.  In both the 1901 and the 1911 censuses, they were recorded as living in 13 Sinclair Gardens, Hammersmith.

After some years he seems to have turned away from being purely a teacher of the deaf, though he may well have still had deaf pupils, for he describes himself as ‘Speech Specialist’ in both 1901 and 1911 census returns.  He wrote a few other short items, one we have, The Mechanism of Speech (1897), and a book we do not have, Hearing by Sight (18-?) which is held in Aberdeen University, possibly a unique copy.

I cannot say anything of his later carreer, but that he had three children, one son who attended Cambridge university (Harry Coxwell White), and that he died in 1940.

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Collection: Great Western Railway Company: Staff Records; Class: RAIL264; Piece: 6

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 332; Folio: 73; Page: 58; GSU roll: 818902

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 60; Folio: 19; Page: 32; GSU roll: 1341013

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 39; Folio: 182; Page: 34

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 50; Folio: 21; Page: 33

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 255

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Oct 21, 1885; pg. 2; Issue 31583.

The Standard (London, England), Tuesday, July 14, 1885; pg. 8; Issue 19032

“Notwithstanding the importance attached to gesture-language by the teachers of the Combined Method, they do not teach it” – Zenas Westervelt

Hugh Dominic WStiles6 July 2018

We have a small collection of original annual reports for various United States Deaf Institutions from the 19th century.  There is for example a run for the Clarke School from the first report in 1867 all the way to 1961.  There are some shorter runs and odd volumes or single reports.  Here we have the Rochester, Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, Thirteenth Annual Report for 1890.

At that time the principal was Zenas Freeman Westervelt (1849-1918).  Born in Columbus, Ohio, Westervelt‘s New York born mother mother Martha Freeman was matron of the Ohio Institution, and he grew up there, so we must suppose he was very familiar with sign language – or gesture as he calls it.  He became a teacher of the Deaf in the Maryland School (1871-3), before moving to the New York Institution (1873-5) (American Annals of the Deaf, 1918 p.226).  In New York he was one of “five bright young teachers under Dr. Isaac Peet, who later became principals or superintendents and of whom Dr. Westervelt was the last survivor” (ibid.).

Westervelt had been gathering names of Deaf children in western New York state who were not in school, and Mrs. Gilman Perkins, who had a Deaf daughter Carolyn, and asked Westervelt to start a school there (1872).

He chose to use the manual alphabet, spelling English, as the medium of instruction –

to the exclusion of the sign language […] thus placing the pupils in a constant environment of the English language.  He was also an advocate of oral teaching. (ibid. p.227).

In the thirteenth Annual Report for the school, Westervelt wrote an article called The American Vernacular Method (p.43-60) as he termed it.  He discusses what he calls The American Combined Method, and how it used –

the language of gesture, and the idea of the idea of the combination is that through this medium the attempt shall be made to teach English composition and reading, dactylology, speech and speech-reading on the lips, and aural apprehension.[…]

Notwithstanding the importance attached to gesture-language by the teachers of the Combined Method, they do not teach it; that is, there is no systematic instruction looking to the mastery of the language by the little deaf child.  The teachers, however, use it to the little ones, expecting them to understand; the older pupils use it with the same confidence that the children will learn its meaning through use, as it is the vernacular of the Combined-Method schools. […] One not familiar with the work of the profession might be justified in asking,: at what grade in the Combined-Method schools is the limit (p.47-8)

He develops his argument, and I cannot do justice to it so include the whole of this, the first of two articles (1890 and 1891?).  I suppose the second part is in the following annual report – unfortunately we do not have that.

His relationship with sign language is complex.  He does not appear to have been anti sign language, indeed he call it “ingenius [sic],” and says of De l’Epee that “What he accomplished was giving to the deaf signs for ideas, words, which they could readily use and comprehend” (ibid. p.48-9).  Yet he says gesture is more restrictive in expression and vocabulary, and that (p.52) “No books have been written in gesture.”  Further on, he says-

Yet when the educated gesturer is compared with the deaf mute as he was before the invention of the gesture-language of De l’Epee, the incalculable good that it has accomplished  is manifest.  Under the circumstances which prevailed during the early years of deaf mute instruction, when those admitted to the schools were adults or fully grown youths, and the time allowed at institutions was but four years, there was doubtless need of gesture language.

It seems clear that he did not mean oral education – “the following summary of the reasons which have led me to oppose the “Combined Method,” which teaches through “signs,” also the “German Method,” which teaches through speech” (p.45).  What he wanted was for Deaf children to acquire English and an ability to read and write English using the manual alphabet – finger spelling – later called the Rochester Method.  “It were better for every child who is to spend his life among the American people that he should be brought up an American and not a foreigner.”  He wanted Deaf children to fit into American life and language as immigrants did – or at least as some did if you read the footnotes in his article (see page 60 particularly).

Presumably in that second part he explains his attitude to the “German Method,” and then his system.  There must be copies of all these reports in U.S. libraries.  Perhaps if someone comes across it they could scan it and make it available online.

From 1892 passport records we know Westervelt had at that time brown hair, an aquiline nose, grey eyes, a square chin, and was 5′ 8″ tall.  He was twice married, firstly in 1875 to Mary H. Nodine (died 1893) then in 1898 to Adelia C. Fay, whose son Edmund he adopted.  He died of heart failure on 17th of February, 1918.

As to how anyone could have lip-read him with that beard, we cannot hazard a guess.

Obituary, American Annals of the Deaf, 1918 Vol.53 (2) p.226-7

Padden, C. and Gunsauls, D.C., How the Alphabet Came to Be Used in a Sign Language. Sign Language Studies vol.4 (1) 2003

Westervelt, Z.F., The American Vernacular method, (p.43-60) in Thirteenth Annual Report of the Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, 1890

1860 Census – Year: 1860; Census Place: Columbus Ward 3, Franklin, Ohio; Roll: M653_964; Page: 127; Family History Library Film: 803964

1900 Census – Year: 1900; Census Place: Rochester Ward 17, Monroe, New York; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0137

1910 Census – Year: 1910; Census Place: Rochester Ward 17, Monroe, New York; Roll: T624_992; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0159; FHL microfilm: 1375005

Passport Records – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 396; Volume #: Roll 396 – 24 Jun 1892-29 Jun 1892

Job Platt Barrett, F.E.S., Teacher of the Deaf & amateur entomologist -‘signs turn this dreary world of ours into a “little heaven”’

Hugh Dominic WStiles12 January 2018

Job Platt Barrett (1838-1916), or J.P. Barrett as he was known, was a long serving and influential Teacher of the Deaf.  Born on the 29th of June, 1838, at Marsden, he began his teaching life with Charles Baker at Doncaster, and was, according to The British Deaf-Mute ‘“articled” after a rough and ready fashion’ on the 6th of January, 1851, when he was 12 (p.170).  He is to be found on the census for April 1851 as an apprentice teacher, on probation, along with Edward Bill of Birmingham, then aged 15, and with two older full apprentice teachers, Samuel Smith and Noah Freeman, both from Leicestershire.  Colleagues of his at Doncaster included Alexander Melville, J.W. North, and Samuel Smith was called, ‘his particular friend’ (British Deaf Mute, p.170).

Leaving Doncaster in June 1857 he became a tutor to a ‘ward in chancery’ but when the child became ill Barrett lost that position.  On the 25th of January, 1858 he was engaged by Thomas James Watson and moved to the Old Kent Road Asylum – we are told as ‘the first teacher from the provinces’ (ibid).  He married Sarah Dodson in Canterbury in 1861.  In 1881 he moved to the new school in Margate, living with his wife Sarah at the nearby village of Birchington, where in his spare time he pursued antiquarian interets in local history, writing historical articles as ‘John Pharos’ (see various obituaries).  He remained at the school until retirement in 1908.  By now a widower, he then moved back closer to London and according to probate records his last address was in Forest Hill (Ephphatha p.469).

In 1896 he estimated that 3,000 pupils had ‘come under his ken’ so he was probably quite influential. He held that the pupil was ‘the important factor for consideration’ and clearly was frustrated by what he called ‘”fads” of Committees, Inspectors, Head-Masters, and of individual teachers’ (British Deaf Mute, p.170-1).  He wanted an association for teachers that was ‘sufficiently powerful to prevent such ill-advised appointments as have recently taken place’ (ibid).  I wonder to whom he was referring?

The article shows him to have been in favour of sign language, in the perhaps paternalistic way that some in favour of the ‘combined’ method had.  I leave the reader to judge:

Another point that he is not afraid to speak out strongly upon, is the use (and misuse) of signs.  Whenever he hears anyone condemn the use of signs in toto, he invariably asks: Can the speaker sign fluently?  Has he or she a thorough acquaintance with the language of signs?  Without that knowledge the importance and the power of signs are unknown and unappreciated.  He adds that only an expert signer can fully recognise the pleasure that the afflicted congenital deaf-mute derives from signs.  To him, signs turn this dreary world of ours into a “little heaven,” they are both poetry and music to him, and for those intellects are not of the brightest, and their number is large, signs are an absolute necessity.

Much has been done for the deaf and dumb during the past century, but Mr. Barrett points out that the education of a deaf and dumb child still begins as it always has done at zero, and the pupils at the beginning of this century were equally well taught with these of the present day. (ibid, p.171)

His life was touched by tragedy after he retired in 1908.  On the 28th of December, on a holiday visiting his son Arthur in Sicily, where he spent time looking for butterflies, they narrowly escaped death in the terrible earthquake, only for his daughter-in-law Jemima, and his grandson Claude (born in April 1905) to be killed (see obituaries and www.ancestry.co.uk).   His son, a merchant, returned to England, and remarried in 1913.*

Barrett was an avid entomologist all his life.  I expect he was encouraged in that interest when he was with Charles Baker, as Baker had earlier produced a book on butterflies when he was at the Birmingham Institute in 1828.  Richard Elliott says in one of his three obituaries of Barrett that,

In the course of many years he collected and arranged a collection of British insects, which, we hear, he has left to the British Museum.  We believe it one of the most complete in existence, and is worthy of his fame as one of the first entomologists of the present day. (Ephphatha, Elliott p.469)

In fact the collection went to the Horniman Museum, at least according to the obituary in The Entomologist’s record and journal of variation (p.44).  There are two obituaries of him in Entomological journals.  He was one of the key people behind the foundation of the South London Entomological Society, which eventually became The British Entomological and Natural History Society.

It was at his house in Peckham the South London Entomological and Natural History Society was founded.  1872 is the accepted date but informal meetings were held there a year or two previously.  He was elected President in 1877 but resigned membership just before his removal to Margate, and did not rejoin til 1900. (H.M[oore])

Moore also tells us that

Since his retirement from active work, in 1908, he had for some years given an evening’s entertainment to the deaf of South London, to which he frequently invited the writer, who felt himself the only deaf person present.  Those who were at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society last year will remember the “tale of a tramp,” told by the President, that Mr. Platt-Barrett told on his fingers to his deaf and dumb guests shortly afterwards, who laughed as heartily as the fellows who heard it.

His friend of fifty years, G.T. Porritt, says in his obituary (The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine) that he was one of the founders of the South London Entomological Society, “practically the founder […] The meetings were first held at his house in Peckham where he acted as the Secretary, becoming the third Presdient, in 1877” (Porritt, p.69).

He gets a mention in Michael A. Salmon et al’s The Aurelian Legacy (2000), though the authors, who gave him the wrong Christian name, thought Barrett had a hearing loss, probably assuming that as he was at the Doncaster Institution he was Deaf, whereas he was training as a teacher, and from a misunderstanding of the passage above, where Barrett was hearing a story then interpreting it to his Deaf friends.**

He died on the 27th of December, 1916.  His wife had predeceased him in 1883, and after retirement he went to live with his daughters.  He was buried in Burchington, at her side.

The top picture shows him in 1857, the second one is to be found in both his obituary in Ephphatha and Teacher of the Deaf.

He clearly had the respect of Richard Elliott, who says,

Mr. Barrett was a real friend of the deaf and dumb.  He was never tired of advocating their interests, or of trying to serve them.  He had a real knowledge of their mentality, and a full power of communicating with, and influencing them by that means.  (British Deaf Times, p.45)

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/1198262/person/24108738661/facts [log in required]

Barrett, J.Platt, Butterflies.  Ephphatha 1913, p.346-7

Biography. British Deaf-Mute, 1896, 5, 170-71. (photos)

Census 1851 – Class: HO107; Piece: 2347; Folio: 193; Page: 32; GSU roll: 87606

Elliott, R., Mr J.P. Barrett, Ephphatha, 1917 p.468-9 (photo)

Elliott, R., Mr J. Platt Barrett, Teacher of the Deaf, 1917 vol. 15 p.20-22 (photo)

Elliott, R., The Late Mr J.P. Barrett, The British Deaf Times, 1917, Vol. 14 p.44-5

H.M. [H. Moore], Obituary, The late J. Platt-Barrett, F.E.S., The Entomologist’s record and journal of variation, 1917 vol. 39 (2), p.43-4

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Consulate, Palermo, Italy and predecessor: Miscellanea; Class: FO 653; Piece: 21

Porritt, H.M., J. Platt Barrett, The Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 1917, vol. 53 p. 69-70

  • There is often mention of ‘fosse comuni’ (mass grave), but my Sicilian born colleague is unsure where they are. The Cimitero Monumentale, where some of the dead were buried in Messina, has an English section.  The house was at Via Pozzo Leone, 5: https://tinyurl.com/y8cxvmo6
  • **This was then picked up on by Harry G. Lang and Jorge A. Santiago-Blay in their article ‘Contributions of deaf people to entomology: A hidden legacy,’ where they naturally assume that Barrett – Job not James – was Deaf.  That article is however well worth reading.

Oralist Arthur Alfred Kinsey of the Ealing Training College, “most uncompromising champion of the system to which he was devoted”

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 December 2017

Arthur A. Kinsey,  (1850–1888) was the Principal of the Ealing Training College, and an oralist teacher of the deaf.  He was born the son of an Arthur Kinsey, ‘gentleman’.  From his evidence to the Royal Commission we know that part of his education was in Germany. It may be that explains why I have been unable to find him in 1861 or 1871 or 1881 census returns.  He was the leading instrument for oralism in the period from 1877 to his death on Christmas Day, 1888.

When the Ealing Society was founded, he was introduced to Benjamin Ackers, presumably on account of his knowledge of German.  He was to be trained in the ‘German’ system, as oralism was also known.  From his testimony to the Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb (pages 245-55) that would have been circa 1875.  He was to become the Principal of the academy when it opened in 1878, and to that end he travelled extensively in Europe, and was educated in Germany on the ‘oral’ system.  He remained for some time at Osnabrück, where he studied and then taught under  Rössler, who had been a pupil of Professor Moritz Hill of the Weissenfels school.  He also attended the school in Riehen, and visited schools in the U.S.A., where he studied under Bell (1876).  In 1877 he was one of those who led the oralists at the Conference of Head masters of Institutions and of other workers for the Education of the Deaf.

the rival systems were there brought face to face, and the great controversy between them began in England.  Mr. Kinsey entered upon the contest with all the fiery zeal of a combatant, and was, from first to last, a fearless and most uncompromising champion of the system to which he was devoted; ready to do battle in its defence at all times, in all places, and against all comers; giving no quarter, expecting none, accepting none.  Opinions will, of course, always be divided as to whether this is the best way in which to advance a new cause, but into such a question as this, beside a grave so prematurely opened and so newly closed, we do not enter here.  […] we cannot be surprised that in taking up a cause which at once came into conflict with that which so long had held the ground, opposition waxed warm in an ardent, able advocate like Mr. Kinsey.  Rightly or wrongly, this was his way: and no one will deny that he did possess in the fullest degree the courage of his convictions. (Obituary, p.60)

He was the secretary for the English-speaking section at the Milan Congress in 1880, and in Brussels in 1883, and the volume of proceedings in English was compiled from his official minutes as Secretary (ibid).

In 1882 Kinsey married Margaret Eveline Isabella Underwood, and after his death she continued at Ealing as Principal.  On his marriage certificate he described himself as ‘Professor’.  They had a son, Arthur Francis St John Kinsey (1883–1936).

His funeral was at Highgate cemetery.

Below, a page of his testimony from the Royal Commission report1889, vol.3.

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1190; Folio: 124; Page: 18

Obituary. Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1889, 2, 59-61.

Royal Commisssion on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb

The Morning Post (London, England), Thursday, December 27, 1888; pg. [1]; Issue 36358.

https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/6936422/person/6957008876/facts?ssrc=

[Updated with Mrs Kinsey portrait 8/2/19]

Ethel Mary Bullock, “Miss Boo” and her private Deaf School(s)

Hugh Dominic WStiles15 September 2017

Ethel Mary Bullock was the daughter of a linen draper, Francis Bullock and his wife Annie.  She was born in Marylebone in 1870, probably in 72 Edgeware Road, where they were living in 1871 and in 1881.  By 1881 the family had grown quite large, with ten surviving children.  Ethel became a teacher of the deaf, training to use the oral oral method under van Praagh in Fitzroy Square Training College.  She qualified in 1890 (for this & what follows, see the obituary by Ross, 1962).*  In the 1901 census, when she was 31 and living with her older sister and widowed father at the same address, she was described as a ‘deaf mute teacher.’

Ethel attended the 1903 National Association of Teachers of the Deaf conference, and at that time she was living in Brook Green, near Hammersmith, but after a quick glance at the lists of delegates at later conferences through the next two decades, I did not spot her name again.

In 1903 she opened her own school in Chiswick, where the 1907 to 1909 phone books have her name in large print as a ‘Certified Teacher of Deaf (Oral System), Defects of Speech, Stammering &c., Lip-reading.’  The school in Chiswick was at 45 Fairlawn Avenue, which was and still is an ordinary suburban house.  I suppose she moved there from Brook Green.  From Chiswick, at some point the school moved on to Hampstead, in fact what we would now call Swiss Cottage, at 141 Fellows Road.  The 1911 census has her there but she made a mess of the form, putting herself as head of the household down the list of six inhabitants, and filling in the box which was left for the enumerator.  The teaching staff are described as ‘Educational’ in the occupation column, and there was only one pupil living in who was not described as deaf.  Perhaps she was just setting up the school again or was only taking day pupils.  She was still there in the 1919 phone book, but the following year finds her in Ashdown House, Rosslyn Hill, N.W.3. **

By 1923 the school had moved again, and the phone book for that year gives her address as Kingsfield House, Oxhey, near Bushey, Herts.  Oxhey is now a suburb of Watford.  Here was see the advertisement for the school in the front of the proceedings for the International Conference on the Education of the Deaf for 1925.  KingsfieldIt was there at least until 1927, but by the 1930s the same building had become a boys school and, yes, they had moved yet again, to Park Hill, Hemel Hempsted, where the school was definitely re-established by 1929.  The school looks superficially similar to the Kingsfield site, in park-like grounds, and it looks from the photos as if they even moved the ‘wigwam’ – their outdoor teaching hut (All About the Deaf p.xiv).  Park HillMiss Bullock must have only ever had short leases on these places, for yet again the school moved, to Folkestone at a date in the 1930s which I cannot pin down, then on to “Ingleside,” Tilehurst Road, Reading, where the school was in 1939 (All About the Deaf, p.66).  I cannot imagine it survived for long after the outbreak of war, and by the time we find Ethel next, in the 1947 telephone directory, she was living at 25 The Roystons, Surbiton.

It is very interesting that the school moved so often.  In her brief appreciation of Bullock, Miss J.P. Ross says,

Far from interfering with continuity of progress, these changes of environment proved helpful to the children’s interests and development.  This was largely due to the systematic language course , originally introduced by Miss Nevile, which was followed throughout the school, and which produced most gratifying results.
Miss Bullock, who was affectionately known as “Miss Bo,” had a genius for obtaining the best efforts from both pupils and staff, who were always willing to respond to her high ideals.

Ethel Bullock died aged 92 on the 25th of March, 1962, at a nursing home in Surrey.  She was an almost exact contemporary of Blanche Nevile, who also trained at the Fitzroy Square Training College, and who also died in 1962.  The big question for me, is why did she move premises so often?  It is hard to gauge how successful she was as a teacher, for we cannot know now how many pupils she had or who they were, unlike some of the earlier private schools where pupils are named in census returns.

*At the time of the 1891 census she was a visitor in Scotland, with no job description given.

**Incidentally, her younger brother Albert, who was an architect, also has his phone number in New Bond Street on the same pages as Ethel.

Ross, J.P., Miss Bullock.  The Teacher of the Deaf 1962, vol. lx no. 357 p.279

Census 1871 – Class: RG10; Piece: 165; Folio: 63; Page: 6; GSU roll: 823301

Census 1881 – Class: RG11; Piece: 147; Folio: 17; Page: 27; GSU roll: 1341033

Census 1901 – Class: RG13; Piece: 110; Folio: 72; Page: 31

Census 1911 – Class: RG14; Piece: 615

International Conference on the Education of the Deaf, London and Margate, 1925.

National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf, Handbook for 1913, also N.I.D. All About the Deaf handbooks for 1929, 1932 and 1939.

 

Another private deaf school, another ardent oralist – John Barber, “a man of sincere religious fervour whom we all respected”

Hugh Dominic WStiles11 August 2017

Teacher of the deaf John Barber, was born in the village of Edenham, Lincolnshire in 1836.  I have no details of his early life, but according to his marriage certificate his father was a farmer, George Baker.  By 1861 he was a schoolmaster at the village of Irby in Lincolnshire.  I have not tracked him down in any earlier census returns but that could be because of transcription errors ‘hiding’ his name – or perhaps I gave up looking too soon.  By 1866 he was living in London.  I have no idea how he came to be involved with deaf education, but in that year he founded his private school, and married Lois Elizabeth Taylor, the daughter of a clergyman.  At that time he was living in Southgate (north London).  Sadly she died in early 1872.  In the 1871 census he was living at Fairview Lodge, Edmonton, as a ‘teacher of the deaf and dumb,’ but with only one pupil listed as living in, Robert Burrell, who was not recorded as deaf (however see below).

In 1875 he married Amy Smith Hodges, and they had three children, and by the time of the 1881 census, they were established at ‘Inglefield,’ Edgware Road.  This is perhaps the same as the address, ‘Inglefield,’ Christchurch Avenue, Brondesbury, N.W. where the school was until 1903.  In that year – see below – they moved nearby to 186 Willesden Lane, though that building has since been lost to redevelopment.

The 1881 list of pupils and teachers includes the following – William Burrel, who was the younger brother of Robert, and Beatrice, their sister.  Note the widespread origins of the pupils.

Margaret A. Rossiter Assistant 23 1858 Female Governess Teacher Of The Deaf Ceylon, East Indies
Ethel Marion Robinson Assistant 20 1861 Female Teacher Of The Deaf Wymondham Leicestershire
Annie G. Boultbee Scholar 16 1865 Female Scholar Leeds Yorkshire
Edwin Docharty Scholar 15 1866 Male Scholar Lanarkshire
William Burrell Scholar 15 1866 Male Scholar Fornham Suffolk
Ada S. Russell Scholar 13 1868 Female Scholar Islington Middlesex
Merton J. Mansfield Scholar 12 1869 Male Scholar Notting Hill Middlesex
Augusta Challis Scholar 12 1869 Female Scholar Buckhurst Hill Essex
George B. Challis Scholar 10 1871 Male Scholar Buckhurst Hill Essex
Frederick W. Talbot Scholar 11 1870 Male Scholar Batley Yorkshire
Beatrice Burrell Scholar 10 1871 Female Scholar Fornham Suffolk
James Hudson Scholar 11 1870 Male Scholar Scarborough Yorkshire
Wilfred Docharty Scholar 9 1872 Male Scholar Lanarkshire
Adelina Glasgow Scholar 10 1871 Female Scholar Marylebone Middlesex
Katie Mannering Scholar 6 1875 Female Scholar Islington Middlesex

In 1891 they had thirteen pupils, but in 1901 only three.  Ethel Marion Robinson was still a teacher living and working with Barber in 1903.  It seems that in the late 19th century, women teachers often remained unmarried.  I wonder why that was – perhaps it has to do with attitudes to women in work, or perhaps it provided a woman with some freedom from the constraints of a Victorian marriage.  Ethel died of pneumonia, in 1905, aged only 44.

She was one of the earliest Members, by examination, of the College of Teachers of the Deaf; and she joined the Union of the Teachers of the Deaf on the Oral System at its commencement, ansd was frequently present at its meetings in which she took a deep interest.

She won the affection of her pupils by her unwearied kindness […] (Teacher of the Deaf, 1905)

By 1911, he was living at 45 Fordwych Road, Cricklewood, with two deaf pupils, one from Ireland and one born in India, presumably to an army or civil service family.  In the National Bureau’s Deaf Handbook for 1913, the school was established at 41 Plympton Road, Brondesbury, a three-floored terraced house.

Barber died in 1919.

For some tome past he had been an invalid and unable to attend the meetings oif the National College of Teachers of the Deaf and the Pure Oral Union.
Mr. Barber succeeded Mr. Ackers as Chairman of the Pure Oral Union, and upon the conclusion of his term of office he was unanimously elected a Vice-President of the Union. […]
Mr Barber did excellent work in his school at Brondesbury, and his old pupils revere the memory of their teacher and friend. (J.F.W., 1919)

Gilby mentions him in passing – “Mr. J. Barber, of Brondesbury […] who took private oral pupils: a man of sincere religious fervour whom we all respected” (Gilby memoir p.55)

It would make a really interesting dissertation project for a student with an interest in Deaf Education to look at the census returns of pupils & see what became of them.  Perhaps we could compare them with pupils from poorer backgrounds at public institutions.  For example, in 1911 Beatrice Burrel was unmarried and living with her parents (her father was a ‘farmer and director of companies) and her older brother Walton Robert – we assume ‘Robert’ in the 1871 census – was also there working as a photographer.  Yet another Deaf photographer!  But, that they were living at home, makes me wonder how well they were able to communicate outside the family.  Beatrice died within living memory, in 1956, and her brother Walton Robert in 1944.  There were two other deaf siblings – as well as William, there was Maud.  They were living together, and all the children seem to have been single.

Walton Robert’s photos are in the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds Branch.

When we write this blog, we never quite know where it will end up!  If you know more about the Burrels, do contibute below.

Private school advertsObituary Notice, Teacher of the Deaf, 1905, 3, 266

J.F.W., Death of Mr J. Barber, Teacher of the Deaf, 1919, 17, 120.

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2376; Folio: 104; Page: 2; GSU roll: 542962

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 1342; Folio: 56; Page: 34; GSU roll: 828284

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1362; Folio: 38; Page: 12; GSU roll: 1341330

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1044; Folio: 152; Page: 32; GSU roll: 6096154

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1224; Folio: 54; Page: 1

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 634

Beatrice Burrel & Walton Robert Burrell

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 10646; Schedule Number: 4

William Burrell and Maud Clare Burrell

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 10633; Schedule Number: 15

http://www.gritquoy.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I4669&tree=001Master

Heraldic Artist, Robert Ockleston (1845-1937) and his wife, Sarah Ann Brentnall (1849-1922) ‘she was related to the authoress “George Elliott”‘

Hugh Dominic WStiles23 June 2017

Ockleston robertRobert Ockleston (1846-1938) was born in Tabley Brook, Cheshire, in 1846.  His family could, we are told in his obituary (from which much of what follows is taken),  be traced back to the reign of John.  He had an uncle of the same name who was a successful doctor in Cheadle, giving out little white pills, which he even took himself when he had a nasty fall from his horse.  Robert was one of fourteen children, which seems a large family even for that age.  He lost his hearing after an attack of ‘brain fever’ when he was four years old, circa 1850.  He was admitted to the Manchester School for the Deaf and Dumb at Old Trafford, on August the 1st, 1853, as a paying pupil.  He left aged 16, in 1862 – as we see here below, he was one of the oldest pupils by that time.Manchester pupils 1862

He moved to London and became an apprentice heraldic artist in London, eventually setting up at Hatton Gardens with a Mr. Rogers.  Rogers predeceased him, and he carried on the business until he retired at 65, and he continued to work at home drawing up pedigrees and documents until his eyesight failed him aged seventy-eight.

He was Regular at St. Saviour’s church.  He had previously attended the services that were held by the Rev. Samuel Smith at the Regent Street Polytechnic.  At St. Saviour’s he met Sarah Ann Brentnall (1849-1922), a Deaf teacher of the deaf at a Stainer L.C.C. school, at Winchester Street, Pentonville, according to the Ephphtha articles (Ephphatha 1923, and Ephphatha 1938).  They were married by Sam Smith at St. Matthew’s, Oakley Square, on the 29th of July, 1776.  In 1882 they moved to Hornsey, then in 1905 went to Stroud Green.

Ockleston SarahSarah was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, on the 25th of March, 1849, and as the 1881 census says she was ‘deaf only’ as opposed to Robert being ‘deaf and dumb,’ we might suppose that she lost her hearing after she had acquired spoken language.  Indeed, this is confirmed by her obituary which tells us that she lost her hearing aged six after scarlet fever (Ephphatha, 1923 p. 701).  The 1871 census does not mention deafness after her name, but the 1881 does.  Her obituary tells us about her education;

She was not sent to school, but was taught at home, and the love of reading was particularly cultivated, reading aloud being especially encouraged so that she might not forget how to speak.
Her parents and sisters communicated with her by means of the finger alphabet, but she did not associate with other deaf people till she was about 17.  She was then living in Liverpool and heard for the first time of the Mission for the Deaf there.  This opened up to her a new world of friends. (ibid)

Sarah moved to London, becoming a teacher, and began attending St. Saviour’s.  It seems she also wrote poems that were published in A Magazine for the Deaf  the Sam Smith St. Saviour’s church publication (ibid).  As with other teachers of the deaf who were themselves deaf, Sarah lost her job in 1881 when the school became ‘Oral’ in its main form of education (Ephphatha 1923, p. 702).  ‘At language, whether spoken or written, she was extremely gifted, partly due, perhaps, to the fact that she was related to the authoress “George Elliott”‘ (ibid).  It would be interesting to know what her actual relationship with George Elliott was.

Sarah remained involved in the various mothers’ meetings as well as being Vice-President of the Ladies section of the National Deaf Club (ibid).

Robert worked closely with the church, becoming a ‘lay reader’ in 1911 after he had retired.  He was a churchwarden at the church of St. John of Beverley in North London until 1937, when he stood down at the advanced age of 91.  He died  in December 1937 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.

UPDATED 26/6/2017: Thanks, as ever, to Norma McGilp of @DeafHeritageUK for the additional references to Sarah Ann, and for telling me where to find pictures of them.

If you are aware of any of his work surviving somewhere, please comment.

The Passing of Mr. Robert Ockleston, Ephphatha, No.116, p. 1991, Jan-Mar 1938

Sarah Ann Ockleston (née Brentnall), Ephphatha, No. 56, p. 701, Winter, 1923

Picture of Robert in Ephphatha, Christmas 1915, p. 411

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 7210; Schedule Number: 230

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 275; Folio: 67; Page: 11; GSU roll: 1341059