Ancestry UK

Midland / Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Derby, Derbyshire

The Asylum (or Institution) for the Deaf and Dumb was founded in 1873 by William Robert Roe. Its first premises were opened in Derwent Street in 1874, with Roe as the teacher. Roe was an advocate of the manual system (teaching sign language and finger spelling) as opposed to the oral system (teaching children to articulate and lip read), as he felt that the former could be used with a much larger proportion of his pupils.

William Robert Roe. © Peter Higginbotham

From around 1879, the establishment became known as the Derby & Derbyshire Deaf and Dumb Institution and then as the Midland Deaf and Dumb Institution. It successively relocated to Becket Well Lane, to Green Lane, and then to Friar Gate, where in 1890 it was reported that:

the present home includes a schoolroom for 100 children, and1 recreation grounds of two acres, and the total cost, including site, was £4,800: the institution not only boards, clothes and educates deaf and dumb children, but renders assistance to deaf and dumb persons of all ages, who are of good character: religious services are held every Sunday in the sign language: there are now 57 children in the institution, which is entirely supported by public subscriptions.

On 3 November 1892, the foundation stone for a new building on the Friar Gate site was laid by the Duchess of Devonshire. It was formally opened on 18 October 1894 by the Duchess of Rutland. The architect, Mr Ernest Ryley, provided a detailed description of the building:

The new building is three stories in height, exclusive of basement, attics, and central clock tower. Besides containing the headmaster;s residence, it is designed to accommodate 120 children (60 boys and 60 girls), with the necessary teaching staff and servants. The architectural style is a free treatment of the English renaissance prevailing during the latter part of the seventeenth century, but the original design was slightly modified to reduce the cost. The building is divided into four distinct blocks, viz.:— The Central Block with Girls' Wing on the east, Boys' Wing on the west, all fronting Friar-gate, and the Administrative Block at the back; the whole making one compact building. There are broad corridors on each floor, extending longitudinally through the Central Block and joining the two wings. These corridors are connected by three staircases — the principal one In the centre, and one in each wing. There are transverse corridors connected with the wing staircase on the ground floor, leading from the main corridor to the back and side entrances and general dining hall. Off these transverse corridors e are the hat and cloak rooms. The staircase and corridors are well lighted, and designed to be fireproof. The wings, are separated from the centre block by fire proof division walls with iron doors, so that the i- different blocks can be shut off in case of fire, each block having its own staircase ; the egress from the I upper floors could, in case of fire be considered perfect in this respect. The central block contains on the la ground floor the principal entrance, vestibule, hall, e principal staircase-office and board-room on the if right, head-master's dining and drawing-rooms If on the left-with members' lavatory and cloakroom, dispensary, housekeeper's stores, &c., at the back. On the first floor it comprises bedrooms, bath-room, &c. for the headmaster, and one boys' dormitory and one girls' dormitory. On the second floor two sick wards, one for boys and one for girls, with nurses' room between, also girls' and boys' dormitory. There is a verandah behind each sick ward, with a south aspect, for the use of the convalescent. The attics are occupied by servants' bedrooms, stores, &c. The girls' wing contains on the ground floor the day room. 36ft. 6in. by 17ft., with female teachers' sitting room adjoining, and girls' lavatory in close proximity; on the first floor two dormitories, four female teachers' bedrooms adjoining (each having a supervision window over eight to twelve beds); the second floor is similar to the first, and the attics contain box and store rooms. The boys' wing is similar in arrangement to the girls' wing, as last described, with male teachers' sitting room and bedrooms adjoining the day room and dormitories respectively, The administrative block at the back contains, on the ground floor the kitchen and sculleries with larders and other conveniences on opposite side of passage; and on the first floor store rooms. The general dining hall, which adjoins the kitchen and crockery scullery (between which serving and receiving hatches are placed) is 34ft. x 24ft. and 18ft. high to the collar beam, with four large windows overlooking the playground, and having opened timbered roof of four bays. It is reached from opposite ends by the boys' and girls' transverse corridors before mentioned, and at the side by a large door leading from the principal entrance hall. In the basement, which is approached by boys' and girls' staircases, a general bathroom is placed under and occupying the same space as the general dining hall, and is reached on opposite ends in the same manner. It contains eight baths and two dressing rooms. It The school, boys' workshops, and the girls' and boys' gymnasiums are in the rear of the main building; these detached buildings were erected before the commencement of the new institution. The heating chamber and various stores are also arranged in the basement, and ample light is obtained. The building is lighted throughout by the electric light supplied my from the Corporation mains, and the corridors, staircases, and principal rooms. &c., are heated by hot water pipes. The cooking generally is done by gas ranges. The ventilation of the building generally has been carefully considered, fresh air inlet tubes are introduced where required, and the outlet flues are constructed in the tower, &c. Cross ventilation is is obtained in all the principal rooms by opposite windows. Special attention has been given to the drainage scheme which is on the most approved system, and will allow of a complete examination of every drain throughout the building being made within an hour; the drains can be flushed through from the various manholes, and the whole system is under in immediate inspection. The main drain is cut off from the sewer by an intercepting chamber, and the system in is properly ventilated by fresh air inlet tubes and foul air extraction pipes, which rise about two feet above the roofs; this secures a through current of air, admitted at the lowest and extracted at the highest ends. The institution is designed so that the sexes are entirely separate, and the children will not be able to traverse the front entrance or central block without detection. The headmaster's residence being placed in the middle of the central block gives him perfect supervision of the whole of the building.

Among those attending the opening ceremony was Dr William Stainer, who ran a number of homes for deaf children in London. He expressed the view that the institution should use both the oral system of teaching in such cases as were practicable, and the sign system for those who could not learn to speak.

At its opening there 70 children in the institution: 41 boys and 29 girls. Of these, 48 had been born deaf, 16 had become deaf as a result of some medical condition, and in the six remaining cases, the cause was unknown. In one family of 9, consisting of 6 boys and 3 girls, the former were all deaf and dumb, 4 of whom has been admitted into the institution, and the two others were to be taken as soon as they were old enough. The three girls in the family all had perfect hearing and speech.

The Institution site is shown on the 1899 map below.

Institution for the Deaf and Dumb Friar Gate site, Derby, c.1899.

Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Derby, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1897, Queen Victoria granted the Institution to add the prefix 'Royal' to its name. In around 1905, it adopted the name the Royal School for the Deaf.

Gymnastics at Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Derby, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Recreation Ground, Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Derby, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1900, a sanatorium was erected on land adjoining the est side of the School, donated by by Sir Henry Howe Bemrose.

In 1901, a house on Willington Road at Etwall was purchased as a convalescent home, known as the Country House branch.

William Roe headed the Institution until his death in 1920. he was then succeeded by his son William Carey Roe, known as Carey Roe. He retired in 1946.

In 1972, the School moved to new out-of-town premises on Ashbourne Road. Modern housing now occupies the Friar Gate site.


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