A link to our project funders…

Our project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust, who administer the legacy of William Hesketh Lever – one of two brothers whose business became ‘Unilever’. Lever was made ‘Lord Leverhulme’ in 1922. You can read more about Lever on wikipedia, or on the pages of the Leverhulme Trust itself.

We knew that William Hesketh Lever experienced deafness, and this is one of the main reasons why we asked the Leverhulme to fund the project. What we didn’t realise was that there was a direct link between Lever, and the original St Saviour’s church, and the work of the AADD. But there is!

Today, as I was looking through the lists of those who gave a donation to the work of the AADD in the early 1900s, I noticed this entry:Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 12.58.22Lever gave a direct donation of £10 – which at the time was about £500 – to the work of the AADD.

It was only a one-off donation, but it is great to have found evidence that – in funding our work – the Leverhulme Trust are continuing to fund (now research work) on the Deaf church… in the tradition of their founder.

The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes

OK, I’ll admit it – this is a bit of fun for a Monday… but I’ve been working through the later years of St Saviour’s, Oxford Street, and into the Acton years of the church. In doing so, I stumbled upon the following in the account of the laying of the foundation stone at Acton in 1924.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 14.17.31

Now, I don’t know about you, but I found the idea of the Prince of Wales being met by an order of ‘Buffaloes’, quite amusing… In actual fact, this reference is not to buffaloes at all, but rather speaks about the link that the Association had with Masonic, and non-Masonic (but similar) organisations. The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes was not a masonic order, nor was it royally approved, nor did it date from antediluvian (i.e. before the flood) times, nor did it consist of buffaloes… However, in common with the Masonic Lodge, it was a very large, charitable organisation with powerful and influential members, particularly known for their philanthropy.

I say ‘was’ – it still exists.

The ROAB is just one of the colourful organisations associated with the story of the Deaf church in London. We’ll try and bring you more as we discover them.

Sometimes, you just need to draw…

Today, I thought I’d share something of what I’ve been doing. Since this morning, I’ve been working through the descriptions of activities in the Annual Reports of the AADD from about 1864, noting down all the religious services, lectures, classes and other meetings that they had, where they had them, and who was in charge of them. I’ve been drawing lines to map where they continued from year to year, where they started, and when they stopped.

This is the start of a big piece of work to scope out the whole spectrum of the AADD’s work, and to look at things like

  • Periods of growth, and shrinking
  • Handovers from one missioner to the next
  • Development of particular areas in London
  • Types of services and when they started
  • … and so on.

So far, all I’ve really been able to do is map the activities generally, with a few comments on who was involved, and some of the very basic changes in the organisation.

So here’s the whole map (excuse my feet):

2015-01-23 16.36.40


Here’s the first page,2015-01-23 16.36.47


and the last…2015-01-23 16.37.00

You can see the growth in activities… and that’s without taking into account that the top and bottom lines in the final picture represent entire churches… so they had about 10 or so services within that one line.

The wider section in the middle is when the AADD split its activities into four (and then five) districts, each with its own staff.

2015-01-23 16.36.56

This map will need finishing, and formalising, and then other information can be added. The number of those attending services, who ran which service (there’s a little of that already if you look closely), what the missioners daily timetable and weekly activities looked like, and so on.

We’ll also be able to start locating all of the buildings that were used, and see how their location corresponded to Deaf populations, transport, and other historical information about London at the time.

Gradually, we can build up a picture of the Association, and how it responded to needs within the Deaf community and, as it became more of an established charity, how it responded to the economic environment.

I’ll put more up as we get there… only about another 25 more years to map!!


H.L. (again)

A few days ago, I posted on H.L. and his initial placement at Hart’s, and then at Heal and Son’s.

It seems things still didn’t go well for him there. In 1862, we find him again being helped by the Association. This time, their reporting and attitude is different. In both previous cases, they have made a lot of the fact that he is nearly blind, and that he only has one leg. Deaf and blind, and lame – he seems to be a poster case for the Association’s involvement.

If this is the same H.L, now, he’s simply ‘Lame as well as Deaf and Dumb’. And he’s not given a great deal of help either; simply a ‘box and stock of small articles to sell in the streets’. Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 14.57.35

This is still a reasonable living as long as it was consistent. Most of Victorian life was lived in the streets, which were extremely busy. There was a reasonable wage to be had if what you were selling was something that people wanted. Of course, there were some, like matchmakers and sellers, who were the lowest of the low and really extremely poor. H.L. hasn’t, therefore, hit rock bottom – but he’s no longer able to maintain regular work.

Part of the philanthropic trade-off in the 19th century was that, if you were given help, you demonstrated your gratitude by working hard to improve yourself. The AADD were clearly able, and willing to help some. But H.L.’s case suggests that he couldn’t keep to his end of the bargain, so expectations were adjusted.

Still, he hasn’t been relegated to the level of some who are simply sustained by AADD gifts, or placed by them in the workhouse. They do, at least, provide him with initial stock.

It’ll be interesting to see if he reappears further down the line… again.

St George the Martyr, the location for a Southwark mission

By 1859, the AADD’s annual report described additional meetings in ‘St George’s school room, Southwark’. The schoolroom was attached to the church of St. George the Martyr, Southwark, whose rector was the Rev. William Cadman.

This is the church in about 1840


I can’t find any reference to a school room. Interior photos suggest that the lower windows weren’t for a downstairs, but were underneath the interior balcony, and as in most Anglican churches, what was under the sanctuary was the crypt.

It is possible, however, that the school room was connected to the nearby workhouse. The area was extremely poor. In fact, it was the site of the Marchsea debtors prison where Charles Dickens’ father was imprisoned. The prison shared a wall with the churchyard. Dickens lived nearby for a time, and knew the church well. He used the church as part of the landscape for Little Dorrit, where some scenesare set within the church itself.


More on H.L.

Yesterday, I shared information from the 1859 Annual Report of the AADD about help given to ‘H.L’ who was found work in Hart’s Gas fitting works.

The following year, 1860, also provides more information about H.L. It appears that the position at Hart’s didn’t work out, and so we find him being relocated at Heal and Son’s.Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 13.14.47Heal and Son’s was (still is!) a furniture manufacturers, and it is likely that this provided H.L. with a wider range of jobs to do. Many of the workshop-type skills taught to young deaf people in schools in France and the US were furniture-based, and blindness wasn’t a great obstacle; cushion stuffing and chair-seat weaving were often touted as blind-specific jobs.

It’s revealing that it’s hard to get any information about Heal’s employment of Deaf people on the Internet. Any search immediately links ‘heal’ with ‘deaf’ and brings up religious healing ministries. Of course that, in itself, speaks volumes about the legacy of religious/deaf connections…

To get more specific information on whether Heal was a particularly welcoming employer to disabled people, we might actually have to go to Heal’s archive at the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

‘Pecuniary’ cases

After the Association was reconfigured in 1854, each year’s Annual Reports give details of “Pecuniary cases”; in other words, those deaf people to whom the Association had given either financial or other employment or material support.

Here’s one from 1859Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.33.08

The image reads

“H.L. Besides being deaf and dumb is nearly blind, and has a wooden leg: was a great burden to his mother. Now earns his own livelihood in Mr. Hart’s factory”.

Without going into the committee minutes, it’s hard to get any more details. And there’s an ethical question about whether we should. Certainly, it might be possible to identify H.L. but since the name is not public, it’s perhaps better to leave the identity of this particular person secret.

Similarly, we don’t know whether this is a C19th case of Ushers, or whether his blindness came about at the same time as the loss of his leg, perhaps in an accident. London was certainly a dangerous place to live, and traffic and other kinds of accidents were very frequent.

This candidate, however, was one of those lucky ones to find a job in Mr Hart’s gas-fitting works. Hart is recorded as providing employment to a number of Deaf people in the 1859 Annual Report.