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“they lose the dull heavy look of a deaf mute…” – Oralist supporter, the Lip-reading teacher, Eliza Frances Boultbee

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 August 2019

Eliza Frances Boultbee (1860-1925) was the daughter of Marian and James Boultbee.  At the time of her birth in Staffordshire, her father was a curate, and in the 1861 census they were staying with her grandfather Thomas Boultbee, who was Vicar of Bidford, Warwickshire.  James Boultbee became Vicar of Wrangthorn, Leeds, from 1866-1908.  Eliza’s younger sister, Anne Gertrude Boultbee (1867-87) was born deaf, and according to the Boultbee family history website, she was taught to lip-read by Eliza.  Presumably this was how she developed her interest in deaf education and oralism.  This is where I hit myself on the forehead, for I have come across the name Boultbee before, though I could not recall the context.  Annie Boultbee was a pupil of the oralist teacher John Barber, at his Edgeware Road school in 1881, who I wrote about exactly one year ago!

In the introduction of her book Practical lip-reading for the use of the deaf  (1902), summarising the history of deaf education through the ages (the familiar litany of Ponce de Leon, Juan Pablo Bonet, William Holder, John Conrad Amman, Samuel Heinicke etc), she makes clear her oralist agenda.  I quote at length to illustrate that. After calling de l’Epee a ‘benevolent man’, she continues –

Heinicke’s system, as we understand it now, enables the deaf to use their voices in the shape of language, and the sense of sight is taught to recognise the varying motions made by the lips and tongue in speaking.  In fact, it enables them to converse as do hearing people; thus they naturally learn much they would have been in ignorance of, had they been left to the companionship of those who only understand by signs.  They listen, as it were, with their eyes.  They are no longer shunned, but looked upon with wonder and interest.  The system gives them an increase of bodily health, constant speech increasing the respiratory action, and consequently inducing greater development of the lungs, making them thus less prone to pulmonary diseases.

In addition to this, they have an improved expression of countenance, they lose the dull heavy look of a deaf mute whose facial muscles are chiefly used in the process of mastication.  Their lives are happier, their disposition improved, and their suspicion of hearing persons decreased.

They are less likely to marry among their deaf allies, and can be instructed in the duties of religion and daily life by any clergyman.  On the other hand, De l’Eppe, by his system, gave signs as the language of thought.  When translated either with the written or spoken word, we soon find they do not follow in the grammatical order of any language, and that conversation is carried on, especially by the pupils, in a very confusing method.

The late Mr. A. A. Kinsey, to whom I have already referred, who did much in his day to diffuse the Oral System in England, refers in one of his pamphlets to this. He proves most convincingly how injurious is the system of teaching by signs : ” The order of the sign language,” he says, ” is an inverted order, and totally at variance with the construction of the English language ; so far from assisting its pupils to a correct expression, it tends to prevent their attaining it.”  He gives an authentic literal translation of the Lord’s Prayer from signs used at an asylum for deaf mutes :

” Father your and mine Heaven ; name Thy hallowed; Kingdom Thy come, men and women all; will Thy done, angels obey people all like ; day this, clay every, give bread, drink, clothes, things all, temptation we fall not; but devil bondage deliver; for Kingdom Thy, power Thy, glory Thy, for ever. Amen.”

Heinicke saw clearly that there could be no combination of these two methods—they are antagonistic in principle. (Boultbee, 1902, p.15-17)

Here is an excerpt from page 18, where Boultbee praises the Milan Conference.

It seems that, like Kinsey, she failed to understand that sign languages have their own structure and syntax, and are not merely the transposition of spoke language into signs.  In fact, to be fair, it took a long period for linguistics to recognise that.

Many thanks to Geoff Eagling for alerting me to Eliza as a student at the Ealing Training College, an oralist foundation which trained a mass of almost exclusively female teachers.  She would have attended from 1882, completing her studies there in 1883, at the same time as Mary Hare.   I have not found her in the 1891 census, but the surname seems to have presented a difficulty to the modern transcribers.  We can say, from a newspaper advertisement in The Queen for Saturday the 15th of September, 1894, that she must have started teaching in 1884 –

LIP READING.—This can be taught at any age to those born deaf or who have become more or leas deaf.  With deaf children to eight years of age is the best time to begin.  In cases of deafness in adult life, lip reading is taught much more readily, and with patience and perseverance a dozen or two dozen lessons, according to circumstances in each case, will be sufficient for complete and permanent mastery of the art.  No knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the organs of speech is required in the learner, though the teacher must have a thorough knowledge of both. The lessons ore extremely simple and easy to understand.  Particulars as to alienist and time required in any particular cue can be obtained by applying to Miss E. F. Boultbee, 37, Gloucester-place, Portman-square, W, who has successfully taught the system for ten years past, and who is always willing to answer applications for information.

At the time of the 1901 census, Eliza was staying with the Scottish minister and journalist, William Robertson Nicoll in Hampstead, London, and is described as a school teacher working on her own account at home.

In the 1911 census, when Eliza Boultbee was living in Members Mansions, 36 Victoria Street, S.W. London (her address in her 1903 book and her 1913 book), with Joyce Visger Lloyd (1895-1984), a sixteen year old deaf girl who was born in Assam, and was presumably a private pupil.  Her grandfather was Major-General Francis Thomas Lloyd, R.A.,who was commandant of Woolwich from 1887–1901.  Joyce married William Whitham Coultas in 1919, and he went into the diplomatic service.  Joyce travelled with him to South East Asia and there is a lovely photograph of them in that link.

A review of her 1913 book, in The Norther Whig for the 18th of December, 1913, says,

Lip-reading is a method conversation wherein the eyes of the deaf replace their ears, and they see instead of hear the words of the speaker as they leave his lips. The many advantages of this method —its rapidity, for one thing, and the fact that it enables anyone talk to the deaf without knowledge of the sign language (not part of the equipment of the normal individual) —are self-evident that one cannot understand why Miss Boultbee should think it necessary to drive them home at such length. Even for those who happily preserve their sense bearing, one can imagine it becoming fascinating and at times useful pursuit. the technical side Miss Boultbee’s book consists of chapters on the mechanism of speech and how to teach, learn, and practise lip-reading. Hints are given to the deaf on the art of conversation, and all the influence of such things as cheerfulness, tact, concentration, and apathy. Sir James F. Goodhart, M.D., supplies an introduction to what should prove a useful and stimulating little work.

Eliza Boultbee died at a nursing home in Bedfordshire in 1925.

UPDATE 21/8/2019

More Miss Boultbees

Thanks to the prompt from Geoff Eagling, below, I can also say that the youngest sister of Eliza, Agnes Clara Boultbee (1875-1951), also attended the Ealing College, from 1893-4, after which she taught at the Norther Counties Institution in Newcastle, presumably giving that up when she married the Rev. James Wallace, Vicar of Barnsbury, in 1906.  It seems probable that she was also the Miss Boultbee who was teaching at the Ealing College’s associated schools, Eaton Rise and Elmhurst, and left in April 1902 according to a newspaper report  (Middlesex & Surrey Express – Wednesday 08 July 1903).

Regarding the two other Miss Boultbees, the 1911 student, Miss M. Boultbee, who worked afterwards at the Ealing College, and Marjorie Boultbee who qualified in 1916, one is probably the Marjorie Boultbee who was a niece of Eliza and Agnes, daughter of their (vicar) brother Henry Travis, and born in 1889, married 1932 to the Reverend Hugh Birley.  I suspect this Marjorie was the person who advertised “MISS MARJORIE BOULTBEE (Certificated Teacher of the Deaf) gives Lessons in Lip- Reading to the Deaf and Partially Deaf. For terms apply ESSEX LODGE, LIVERPOOL GARDENS, Worthing” in the Worthing Gazette – Wednesday 11 June 1919.  Trying to find them in the 1911 census is tricky to say the least!

Anyway, I think we can be confidant that they were all closely related.

Boultbee, E.F. Practical lip-reading for the use of the deaf. 1902

Boultbee, E.F. Help for the deaf – what lipreading is. 1913

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2236; Folio: 28; Page: 5; GSU roll: 542940

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4562; Folio: 130; Page: 21; GSU roll: 847141

1881 Census – Eliza – Class: RG11; Piece: 4538; Folio: 6; Page: 5; GSU roll: 1342092

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

1891 Census – not found her – it seems the transcribers have trouble with the surname…

1901 Census – Eliza Boultbee – Class: RG13; Piece: 120; Folio: 118; Page: 27

1901 census – Joyce Lloyd – Class: RG13; Piece: 564; Folio: 10; Page: 12

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 492

William Whitham Coultas

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

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 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 Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb” – William B. Smith, & James Hawkins – a Reader & an Author

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 February 2017

Three headmasters 1907William Barnes Smith (1840-1927) was a younger brother of the Rev. Samuel Smith, first vicar of St. Saviour’s, and missioner to the Deaf of London.  He was born in Leicestershire, and spent 54 years teaching up to his retirement in 1908.  His older brother was the Rev. Samuel Smith, of St. Saviour’s London.  William trained under Charles Baker of Doncaster, then worked under Andrew Patterson at Manchester before spending 12 years with Dr. Buxton at Liverpool.  In 1873 he was appointed headmaster of the Bristol Institution (see obituary).  He also acted as Secretary to the Bristol Mission for the Deaf after retirement.  His son Alfred G. Smith trained at the Fitzroy Square Training College, then became headmaster of the Osborne Street  School for the Deaf, Hull (Teacher of the Deaf, 1915, vol. 13, p. 27).

On the 20th of June, 1864, William B. Smith bought a copy of The physical, Moral, and Intellectual Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb: with some practical and general remarks concerning their education.  I know this as he wrote that in ink on the title page, pencilling ‘Liverpool’ underneath.  Later, he wrote his name and address inside the front cover – 5 Rokeby Avenue, Bristol .  He later gave the book to Selwyn Oxley.  This book, which had been published in London in 1863, was written by James Hawkins (1830- after 1891).  Hawkins was born in Wolvercut, Wolvercott, or Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, in about 1830.  I do not know how he came to become a teacher of the deaf (perhaps a thorough search of various surviving records might illuminate that), but by the 1851 census he was an assistant teacher at the Old Kent Road Asylum, along with George Banton, (b.ca. 1812), Edward J Chidley (b. 1819), Edward Buxton (b.ca. 1826), William Stainer (b. 1828), Charles Toy (b.ca. 1832), Alfred Large (b.ca.1835), and Emma Rayment (b.ca.  1829).

The present crude state of all physiological, as well as pathological science, necessarily renders very conjectural any remarks upon the origo mali, or the phenomena of disease.  The fall of Adam is one of the most favourite of the theories which are nursed by Divines and others, in an excess of Hutchinsonian zeal; and to this ‘excellent foppery of the world,’ as Shakespeare has it, they like to attribute every bodily affliction and mental evil that can happen to mankind.  Argumentative reasoning, however (of this kind especially), shows ‘an indiscreet zeal about things wherein religion is not concerned,’ as weak as it is undoubtedly fallacious, and affords them but a poor ‘coigne of vantage;’ for the majority of our inborn  and acquired calamities are ofttimes none other than the ‘surfeit of our own behaviour,’ the spontaneous results of injury done to the functions of the body, by throwing its natural and complex organization out of gear, and not, as many would make us believe, always direct constitutional imprints of the Creator’s anger on his creatures. (Hawkins, 1863, Preface, p.iii-iv).

Hawkins must have had a good education.  In his preface alone he mentions Paley and Malthus, as well as quoting Ovid and, perhaps ingenuously, “no cormorant for fame,” Peter Pindar.  The names of more classical authors are dropped in when opportunity allows.  He cites Niebuhr, who

called the office of the schoolmaster one of the most honourable occupations of life.  He could well have added, and one in which a thorough manliness of character is also most essential; for there is not one where all the manly virtues are more called into exercise.  Moral courage, unsullied reputation and integrity, sound religious principles, firmness of purpose and gentleness of demeanour ought ever to be his most distinguishing traits, if he aspire to any degree of eminence in his profession. (ibid, p.98)

It is all the more poignant then, that for some reason, by 1871, when he was living in Greenwich with Charles Henry James, Harbour Master at the Port of London, he was ‘unemployed’, and ‘formerly Assistant Teacher to the Deaf & D. Institute’.  I wonder what caused him to be dismissed.  Did his book upset people?  It would seem unlikely that a book published eight years earlier might cause his dismissal.  Is it possible he was tutoring Ellen James, who was deaf, though by then aged 25?  In the 1881 census he was a ‘wholesale stationer’ visiting the James family.  It looks as if something or someone destroyed his life as a teacher.  If you discover more about James Hawkins, who does not seem to have married, and who I cannot find after the 1891 census when he was a visitor in St. Pancras, please comment.

Here is a page from the text.  Click to enlarge.Hawkins 2


Obituary, Mr. W.B. Smith, The Teacher of the Deaf, 1927, vol. 25 p.35


Hawkins, James, The physical, Moral, and Intellectual Constitution of the Deaf and Dumb: with some practical and general remarks concerning their education. 1863, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, London

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 758; Folio: 34; Page: 31; GSU roll: 824727

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1509; Folio: 41; Page: 5; GSU roll: 1341364

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 139; Folio: 71; Page: 1; GSU roll: 6095249

*”This is the excellent foppery of the world that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on.” Edmund in King Lear.

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

Abdulla Iddleby/Ydlibi and the Cairo Deaf School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 July 2015

Born in Manchester in 1871, Abdullah J. Iddleby was the son of an Irish mother and a Syrian father.  Because his surname was sometimes transliterated in different ways, it is not easy to track him in online records, and I have not with certainty worked out his parents’ names, but it is possible that they were an Ali Ydlibi and Rebecca Hinchey his wife, as they married in Salford registration district in 1870, the year before Abdulla[h] was born.  It is possible that Abdullah’s is the death recorded as Ali A. J. B. Ydlibi in Stockport in 1952, aged 81.  If his father was Ali Ydlibi (Ydilbi) senior, he was a British subject, born in Syria which was then a part of the Turkish Empire, and I imagine may have been involved in the Lancashire cloth trade in some way.

When he was two his parents went to Egypt, and later on he was educated at a or the British Syrian School in Beirut, where he learnt Arabic (Bayrout as the article in British Deaf-Mute (1895 has it).  It was while he was there that he lost his hearing, although he did retain some.  Later on the article, which is by one ‘Agnes’, it says that he was taught by Alexander Melville, “for the past two years” as a private pupil.  He must have been a student/teacher as he is described as having taught at Llandaff.  Our records of Llandaff are not complete and a quick look did not show his name, perhaps as it was for a period when we have no annual reports.  The peculiar thing is that Melville died in 1891, so someone is confused here.

IddlebyAbdullah, who would seem to have been from a Christian family, kept up a correspondence with missionaries in Egypt, who had said there were many Deaf people who were not being educated.  Arthur Upson from a previous blog entry, is not mentioned, but must have known Abdullah later on.School Cairo

The Nile Mission Press for 1906, Blessed be Egypt, says this –

The Class for Deaf and Dumb Boys, which we opened about two years ago, under Mr. Abdullah Iddleby, has been remarkably successful in the matter of general instruction, and the progress of the boys has been extraordinary. But the number of pupils has always been small ; the parents will not send their boys, as they do not believe until they see for themselves that such instruction is possible, and so we recently came to an arrangement with a leading Copt at Zagazig, Paris Effendi Yusef, who will provide a house, etc., and give the opportunity of trying it as a Boys School. Any friends who know of deaf and dumb boys will do well to communicate with Mr. Iddleby, c/o Paris Effendi Yusef, Zagazig.

I suspect that he taught with the combined method, which was used at Llandaff.

He worked with the Church Missionary Society, who proveded a room in in Sharia Muhamed Ali for a year and a half, with Iddleby having five pupils.  The work was supported by Lord Cromer, but when he left Egypt it ended.  He started up again with support of the Pasha (Idris Ragheb) and Egyptian authorities, in the same street, later having 13 pupils.  “His Excellency Idris Pasha is indeed a shelter in a weary land, as far as the deaf and dumb are concerned” says “Pharos” in The British Deaf Times (1909).  Clearly there was an underlying proselytizing element to these early schools, but perhaps the children were from coptic families.

There were other earlier attempts to start education for Deaf children in Egypt.  Miles (2005, see link below) says,

Volta Bureau records (1896; 1900, 1901) noted that “Schools are also reported to exist in Algiers and Syonfieh, Egypt”, and listed three teachers and 37 pupils at Algiers in 1900, 2 teachers and 6 pupils in Egypt in 1901. A Cairo source had a school for “Blind and Dumb” [= Deaf] opening in 1874 and reporting annual data for some years (Heyworth-Dunne, 1968, p. 390).

A footnote adds the following  –

Knowledge of this 19th century work now seems absent from the deaf education world in Egypt, where it is believed that the first school for the deaf was started in 1936. However, a news item “In Cairo” (1909) noted “the establishment of a school for the deaf in Cairo, where it has for three years had a prosperous existence.” A Volta Review article tells of Mme. Sémély Tsotsou founding “L’Ecole L’Espoir” (The Hope School) for 30 deaf children at Alexandria in 1934 (“A School for the Deaf in Egypt”, 1941), with photograph and details of one deaf pupil, nine-year-old Andrée, who had made good progress in speaking French. Another item in 1947 noted that Egypt had then a school for about twenty children at Cairo, a government school “being launched at Alexandria”, and a private school run by “a Greek lady, Madame Semely Tsotsou”, who was also responsible for training 15 Egyptian teachers (“The Deaf in Egypt”, 1947). One small deaf girl, Athanassia Boubouly, is pictured there with her teacher. Lababidi & El-Arabi (2002, pp. 9, 38-43, 101-103, 146-48, 176) collate useful evidence for current activities by and for deaf Egyptians, including interviews with two deaf mothers (the artist and actress Hanan Marzouk, and the Sign specialist Hanan Mohsen), some Deaf organisations, and a Deaf Theatre director. Early information on the school at Algiers has also not been readily available. A brief note in 1927 reported the installation of M. Ayrole in place of the retiring principal M. Rolland (Lamarque, 1927).

Cairo deaf schoolHow long Iddleby stayed in Egypt, I have no idea.  If anyone comes comes across him in any records, please update us below.

Abdulla[h] married Edith E Keay in Stockport in 1915, and she died in 1943.



Both those articles are based on British Deaf Mute and British Deaf Times articles.

Marriages Dec 1915  Keay Edith E and Iddleby Abdulla J S, Stockport 8a 82

Deaths Jun 1943, IDDLEBY Edith E 71 Hyde 8a 118 (for both see the Free BMD)

Deaf People Living and Communicating in African Histories, c. 960s – 1960s


The Deaf of Egypt, British Deaf Mute, 1895, p.39, vol 5 no.50

Pharos, The Deaf and Dumb of Egypt, The British Deaf Times, 1909, Vol. 6 no.65, p.97-99

Roe, WR., The deaf and dumb in Egypt, in Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917, p.204-6



The Wych School, Hampstead

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 6 March 2015

The Wych School in Hampstead was started I believe around 1902. In the 1901 census the Headmistress, Cecile M Parker (aged 26), was living in South Hill Park, Hampstead, along with Martha S Suiter of Southport (aged 28), both being described as teachers of the deaf.  They must however have been teaching elsewhere, running a day school.

Born in Surbiton circa 1875, in the 1881 census Cecile Parker was, aged only six, already being boarded out in London.  In 1891 she was a school boarder at a private school in Hilldrop Road, Islington, with three other Parker girls who I surmise were her younger sisters.

The Wych school taught orally, with an emphasis on lip reading.  They held an annual, well attended, open day, as well as regularly having visitors ‘drop in’ to watch the children being taught.  Some might be kind and say that ladies of leisure in those times probably thought they were doing what was expected and sociable, others might have a less charitable view.

Wych School 001At any rate, the school seems to have been fairly well supported.  At the 1905 summer bazaar, on 11th of July, the aims were –

1 To widen the children’s interests in life.
2 to arouse their sympathy for others, and to awaken the desire to help them.
3 To increase their vocabulary.
4 To teach them the use and value of money in a practical way.
The Bazaar was a great success in every way. The children were the stall-holders, and managed very well with the money. Three stalls were arranged in the drawing room – a large one each for Cecily & Claude, & a small 2nd stall for Cliff. Each stall was draped with pink muslin & the top of each covered with green muslin. Behind each stall we pinned up strips of brown paper, & on this we put up various notices about the articles. Cicely sold all the needlework doyleys, tidies, pincushions, some blotters, [jean’s?] boxes, etc. Claude had on his stall all the arving, boxes of home made sweets, “Turkish” boxes filled with sweets, frames, penwipers, some blotters & photographs of the school.

How do we know this?  Well, in in 1956 Ronald Hyett Suffolk Missioner to the Deaf and Dumb, found the school book that Cecile used to record the visitors in the period from December 1904 to February 1906.  I suppose if Cecile Parker died unmarried in Norfolk in 1952, that would explain how the book ended up in Ipswich.  Martha Suitor died in Cumberland in 1956.

Wych 2 001

Here is the school as it was in 1911, with the school then at 9 Keats Grove, Hampstead, London:

Cecile Mary Parker   Head 1875 36 Female Single TEACHER OF THE DEAF Surbiton, Surrey, England
Meta Suiter          Head 1874 37 Female Single TEACHER OF THE DEAF Cumberland, Cumberland, England
Jean Bassett              1891 20 Female Single SCHOOL   South Africa  – Deaf from 6yrs
Muriel Holmes             1893 18 Female Single SCHOOL   York, York, England – Deaf from birth
Dora Hubbard              1897 14 Female SCHOOL Leicester, Leicester, England – Deaf & Dumb
Dora Redhead              1900 11 Female SCHOOL Berlin, Germany – Deaf & Dumb
Lenore Dawson             1902 9 Female SCHOOL   Unknown  – Deaf & Dumb
Clifford Adams            1896 15 Male Single SCHOOL Lesbury, Buckingham, England  – Deaf from 1 yr
Edward John Mansell      1897 14 Male SCHOOL Asti, Sussex, England – Deaf & Dumb
Alex Holmes               1898 13 Male SCHOOL York, York, England – Partially Deaf
Teddy Skuse               1906 5 Male SCHOOL London, United Kingdom – Deaf & Dumb
Lizzie Macbean   Servant 1884 27 Female Single MOTHERS HELP WANDSWORTH, England
Rotha Inch       Servant  1895 16 Female GENERAL SERVANT DOMESTIC Foxearth, Essex, England

By 1923 the school had moved to Haslemere, and we have quite a few photographs of it there.

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 121; Folio: 132; Page: 34

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 603

Edward Chidley, Teacher of the Deaf in Old Kent Road and Dublin

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 October 2012

Edward James Chidley (1819-1881) was born at Shipston-on-Stour on the 15th of March 1819, the posthumous son of Edward Chidley, a master builder who was killed in a work accident. When he was eight he was sent to the London Orphan Asylum where he stayed for five years. After a period working for a solicitor he entered the Old Kent Road Asylum as a teacher under Thomas Watson. The Rev. Charles Rhind said of him

He was of a most amiable disposition, and we were great friends the whole of the time I was with him at the Asylum, and I never knew him to have had a disputed or angry word with any one. He was very fond of reading, and was nearly always to be seen with a book in his hands. He was considered by the headmaster to be an efficient teacher, and one in whom he placed the most implicit confidence. He was one of that kind of men who said little but did much. (see Obituary)

With him there at the time as fellow teachers were the Rev. William Stainer, and McDiarmid and Large who were later at Donaldson’s Hospital in Edinburgh (see In Memorium p.81).  He remained there for eighteen years then was appointed headmaster of the National Institution for the education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor of Ireland better known from its location near Dublin as the Claremont Institution. He was there for twenty-five years until his death in 1881.

He ran into problems at Claremont. The whole organisation was tied up with meetings and the pupils were expected to learn English history rather than concentrate on acquiring language skills first. Regarding lip reading and oral education

He acknowledged its usefulness in exceptional cases, but in regard to the rank and file of the congenitally deaf it was to Mr Chidley an exploded delusion. He had seen all the successful pupils of Dr. Joseph Watson, who had followed the practice as diligently as anyone could. He had followed it with equal assiduity himself. And if he had abandoned it as not worth the time and trouble, it was not, he said, without reason. He trusted to his own experience. The “combined system,” as a general one, was a palpable failure, and the “pure oral method” a stumbling block.Upon the feasibility and merits of the latter, he entertained doubts, which were little, if anything , short of utter unbelief.He was incredulous of the rigid rejection of signs; he distrusted the tests; the accounts he read were those of a philanthropy without discernment, in alliance with flippancy and plausibility. Qualities which were, in short, the pet aversion of his life he discovered in the “purist” advocacy, much of which was therefore vitiated, and to be rejected as so much rubbish.


Obituary. Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1881, 9(101), p.69-70. (frontis.)

D.B., In Memorium – E.J. Chidley. Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1881, 9(102) p.81-2


A Magazine Intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, Vol.3, No. 30, p.86-7

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1888, 1, 364-374.

British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1895, 4, 145-146. (illus)

Educating the deaf of Ireland. III. The work at Claremont. British Deaf Times, 1904, 1(10), 217-19. (photos)

POLLARD, R. The Avenue: the history of the Claremont Institution (1816-1978). The author, 2001. (illus)

Annual Reports in Library – 1825-1826, 1829, 1831-1837

Includes report for the Juvenile Association for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and Dumb of Ireland 1830 (within the 1829 main report)

The Northern Counties School for the Deaf in Newcastle

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 28 September 2012

The Northern Counties School for the Deaf (originally the Northern Asylum for the Blind, Deaf, and Dumb) was the first public Deaf School to be founded in Queen Victoria’s reign in June 1838. The school’s first location was in Pilgrim St, Wellington Place.  Its first head was Mr A. Patterson (according to Selwyn Oxley’s card index*), but then a Mr Gould took over and he was in turn replaced by William Neill (in 1845/6) who had been at the Yorkshire Institution.

The first annual report that we have(1846) tells us that there were at the time of writing 31 inmates,

“of these nine are Blind, and twenty-two are Deaf and Dumb.  During the last year eleven Deaf and Dumb children have left the Asylum, and these have been apprenticed to useful occupations, or have returned home to assist their parents. […] It has been well ascertained that there cannot be fewer than five-hundred-and-fifty Deaf and Dumb in the four Northern Counties, of whom only twenty-five are at present under tuition, viz.:- 22 in the Northern Asylum; 1 in the Liverpool Institution; 1 in the Yorkshire Institution; 1 in the Manchester Institution.”

Born in Denny near Stirling on 31st of October 1818, at the age of only fourteen William Neill commenced work as a teacher under Duncan Anderson at the Glasgow Institution where he remained eleven years (Deaf and Dumb Times).  At a meeting in December 1848 Neill carried his plan to separate the education of the blind, and after a brief move to Charlotte Square, in 1861 the Institution moved to specially created premises in North Rd.  The arms manufacturer Sir W.G. Armstrong contributed generously to the cost of the new building.

In 1850 Neill married the Institution’s matron, Miss Jessie Cunningham Wright. In his obituary the Deaf and Dumb Times says

Mr Neill saw the Deaf and Dumb Institution of this city at its lowest ebb, and frequently he had to advance money out of his own pocket to keep the Institution going. Through his exertions- ably aided by his devoted wife- he saw the institution gradually grow in importance, usefulness, and influence, and has lived long enough to see it not only entirely free from debt, but almost self-supporting.

Click onto the picture for a larger size.

Neill was followed as head by Mr Andrew Wright (1890-?1910).  Wright was born in Edinburgh in 1834, then studied at the Edinburgh Royal High School which he left in 1869.  He came to the Northern Counties School shortly after that, becoming second master in 1883 (Ephphatha, p.41).

“In this rush for the ‘betterment’ of teachers,” said our own Gamaliel, “there is a distinct tendencyto run too fast and too far, and, as you know, I have not hesitated to raise my voice, feeble though it be, against it. […]
“Your leading horses, Otium and Oralism, are no doubt nice looking, sleek, and well groomed animals,” continued Mr. Wright, “but they will give you a nasty spill if they are not kept well in hand, and there are already indications that the man on the box is losing control. My advice is to ‘swop horses’ ere you reach the stream, and if you replace your leaders with these two thoroughbreds, Self-Denial and Anti-Humbug, you’ll mount the hill of Secondary Education, now looming in the distance, in grand style.”

“And do you consider that a commensurate improvement has also been effected in the education of deaf and dumb children?”

Andrew WrightMr. Wright’s answer is somewhat startling.  “I am afraid not,” said he.  “Doubtless a much larger proportion is being educated, but I do not find that the standard of general education has advanced.  I admit that their school curriculum now includes more subjects than were thought of 20 or 30 years ago, but we must confess to a weakness in their composition, and a meagreness in their general knowledge and attainments that was not so apparent in former days.”

I thought of men like Armour, Paul and Agnew; of Muir, Maginn, and McGregor; of Bright-Lucas, Payne, Davidson, and many another, and recognized that, compared with these, the scholars of the present day were “no great shakes.”  I asked Mr. Wright to what he attributed this “unsatisfactory state” of affairs.

“Some headmasters and teachers with whom I have discussed this subject, attribute this decline to the time spent over articulation; others say that now-a-days too much time is devoted to kindergarten and manual training during school hours.  But be the cause what it may, the result is one which we must all deplore.” (Ephphatha, P.41-2)

After Andrew Wright, came Mr D.C. Baldie (1910-26, then administrative head for a further two years); Miss Hutchinson (teaching head 1926-8); Mr W. Wearmouth (from 1928 to 1963); Mr F.W. Hockenhull (1963-65).  During the war the school was temporarily evacuated to a camp on the Northumberland coast.  According to the 1941 Annual report, the school resumed at the Institution on the 3rd of April, 1940.  The same report tells us that 5 tons of potatoes were produced from 3/4 of an acre of the school’s land put under cultivation – a valuable addition to the war effort at a time when food production was critical.  In 1946, one of the teachers, Mr. Mundin, left to become head of Mary Hare School.

The 1978-9 Annual report has this brief chronology of the school –

1838 School founded in Wellington Place
1849 School moved to Charlotte Square
1861 School moved to a new building on the Great North Road
1905 Extensions to School Building
1909 School Hospital opened
1955 Nursery Department building opened
1966 Major alterations and extensions to Junior and Secondary teaching accommodation
1967 New Senior Residence, Swimming Bath and Gymnasium opened
1968 Provision of car parking facilities for pupils’ transport
1971 Extensions to Nursery Department teaching and residential accommodation and provision of Educational Assessment facilities

In 1963 when Wearmouth retired, he wrote in the Annual Report,

I am pleased to record my appreciation of the excellent work Mr. Boon has done for the School.  He was always available to help out and I thank him sincerely for the valuable aid he gave me.  I will miss him as we have been colleagues for some 40 years.

WearmouthInterestingly, the 1964 report tells us (p.7) that there had been a drop in numbers as there were no longer partially hearing children in the school. There were 170 pupils registered that year.  In 1965 Mr. Hockenhull and his wife left to become Headmaster and Matron of the Yorkshire Residential School in Doncaster on the 1st of January, 1966, where he replaced D R. E.S. Greenaway. The new Head was Lionel Evans. In the 1968-9 Annual Report it seems that there were 198 pupils from fifteen Local Education Authorities. The prize-giving in 1970 was done by Mr and Mrs John R. Boon. John Boon was at the school for 43 years, 26 as Deputy Head, and Mrs Boon was at the school for 19 years.  The 1980-81 report shows that the school was facing a financial crisis, and that the number of registered pupils was down to 125 from the previous year when it was 143.  In his comments, John Atkinson the Chairman of the Governors, said that the drop meant that some positions in the school had therefore become redundant.  The drop was a direct result of increased ‘mainstreaming.’  At the time Evans was The Powrie Doctor Visiting Professor of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet College.  The acting Headmaster, T.A. Purdy, defended the school:

Dr. Conrad’s recent research strongly indicated that the ‘combined method employed in this School is the most appropriate method for the education of profoundly deaf children.  The publication “Psychology and Communication in Deaf Children” by R.D. Savage, L. Evans and J.F. Savage, which is based on research carried out in the School from 1973-79, has now been published and complements Conrad’s findings, adding evidence as to the efficiency of “manual media for for transmission of linguistic information” (p.245). There is also an abundance of American research which has findings supporting the use of this method.  The School has a staff well-skilled in using the combined oral-manual method.

The following year, the number enrolled had dropped further to 104, 46 resident and the remainder day pupils.  There was a consequent drop in staffing levels, and in the last annual report we have, for 1982-3, there were only 98 pupils, down from 188 a decade earlier.  The school celebrated its 150th year anniversary in 1989.  It seems to still be going according to the OFSTED reports (below).  It seems there are school records in the Tyne and Wear Archives.

Further Reading:

Mr. Andrew Wright, an interview. Ephphatha 1898, p.41-2

HALL, I. Keeping it in the family: five generations of deafness at the N.C.S.D. Deaf History Journal, 2000, (3), 8-20.

History. Annual report, 1979-80. p. 26. [just the timeline above]

Magazine intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, 1878, 6, 155-58.

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1891, 2, 321-326.

School for the deaf in Newcastle upon Tyne celebrates its 150th anniversary. British Deaf News, 1989, 20(3), p.6

Wagg, Henry,  A Chronological Survey of Work for the Blind from the Earliest Records up to the Year 1930

William Neill  (1818-90)

Deaf and Dumb Magazine (Glasgow), 1880, 8, 97-98 (illus between p. 105 and p. 105)

Obituary. Deaf and Dumb Times, 1890, 1 (12), 141-42. (illus)

Obituary. Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute education, 1890, 2, 203-06

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1890, 2, 161-62

Also Annual Reports for:

The Northern Asylum for the Blind and the Deaf and Dumb, 1845-1847

The Northern Counties Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (and other names), 1851-5, 1884, 1886, 1910-11, 1913-15, 1919-20, 1923, 1925-48, 1949/50-70/71, 1974/75-77/78, 1979/80-82/83

OFSTED Reports

EDITED 3/10/2014 *This information is confirmed by other sources – see blog entry on Patterson.

EDITED 21/6/2016 Substantial quote from Wright added.

EDITED 27/2/2017 Added much more on the post-war years in response to a comment to bring the item up-to-date.



Derby conference, Teachers of the Deaf, 1920

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 1 June 2012

On December 11th 1920, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell attended the Derby meeting of the Executive of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf, attending a luncheon in his honour. Click onto the picture for a larger image. The photograph has a number of well remembered teachers of the Deaf as well as those who have faded from memory. On the front row extreme right we have the oralist Mary Adelaide Hare (1875-1945),  Principal of Dean Hollow Oral School, Burgess Hill. The grammar school named after her was a re-foundation of this school. On the extreme left of the front row, Blanche Nevile (1871-1962), the first headmistress (1895-1925) of Tottenham Day School (later the Blanche Nevile School). We have some early records of that school in the library.  To the right of white-bearded Bell is A.J. Story, who we have talked about before. Between Nevile and Story is George Sibley Haycock (1871-1944). Haycock was a pupil teacher at the Doncaster Institution for the Deaf in 1885, later becoming head of the Fitzroy Square Training College for Teachers of the Deaf (1907-19).

Behind Story in the second row is Miss D. E. Baker (1881-1947) Head of the Gem Street Deaf School in Birmingham. Fourth from the left in the second row is F. Ince Jones, of the Northampton School.

At the back on the extreme left is Frank G. Barnes (1866-1932), headmaster of Homerton School for the Deaf, 1900-21. The school moved to Penn in 1921. Next to him is N.S. Folwell who was later Head at The Mount, Stoke. At the extreme right in the back row, William Carey Roe, O.B.E. (1887-1952).  Carey Roe was a teacher under Story at Stoke, and just a couple of years after this photograph he became first secretary for the National Institute for the Deaf.

For more information on these people see – Teacher of the Deaf, various issues.