Institution / Royal Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, Manchester, Lancashire
Manchester's Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, originally known as the Institution for the Instruction the Deaf and Dumb, were founded in 1823. The Institution resulted from the joint efforts of Robert Philips, father of one of Manchester's first post-Reform Act MPs, and William Bateman, a local cotton manufacturer two of whose children were deaf and dumb. Philips had acquired an interest in the subject after encountering difficulties in obtaining a place in any of the existing institutions for a deaf and dumb girl in his neighbourhood.
The Institution's first premises, in a rented building on Stanley Street, Salford, were opened on 28 February 1825, initially with eight girls and six boys. Children were admitted between the ages of eight and thirteen, but often stayed until they were sixteen. All the pupils were boarders. The first master was William Vaughan, who died in 1834 at the age of forty-live. The second master was H. B. Bingham, of Exeter, who left in 1843, when be was succeeded by his assistant, Andrew Patterson.
As the demand for places grew, funds were raised for a new building. The charity acquired a site adjoining the Botanic Gardens on Chester Road, Old Trafford. Part of the site was then sold to Henshaw's Blind Asylum. A joint scheme was developed in which the two new buildings would both be linked to a central chapel, to be used by both institutions. The two buildings, broadly similar in layout, and the chapel were all designed by Richard Lane and being 'semi-detached', allowed more of the funds to be allocated to the elegant frontage of the complex. The foundation stone for the scheme was laid on 23 March 1836, with the official opening taking place on 21 June 1837.
The School site is shown on the 1915 map below.
Andrew Patterson headed the institution a few months before his death in 1843. During his tenure, the use of the oral method — teaching the children to speak, rather than only using visual communication — was given much greater emphasis. Patterson was succeeded by Mr. W. S. Bessant, who had previously served for some time previously as master of oral instruction
In September 1860, an institution for deaf and dumb infants was opened at the west side of the site. Intended to receive children between the ages of three and seven years, it was said to be the only establishment of its type in the world. The new building was designed by James Redford and comprised sheltered playgrounds in the lower storey, over which were a schoolroom, dining hall, boys' and girls' dormitories,lavatories, committee rooms, nurses' rooms, and apartments for the housekeeper and domestic servants.
On 5 June 1886, the establishment was authorised to operate as a Certified School, allowing it to receive pauper children placed by the Boards of Guardians. It maintained this status until 31 August 1907.
In 1890, the admission procedure for the school was specified as:
n 1897 Queen Victoria conferred the title of Royal upon the Schools and the Institution became known as the Royal Residential Schools for the Deaf, Manchester.
A number of branch schools opened in the later part of the nineteenth century. The original building remained as the high school, a general branch was opened at Bolton and a branch for infants at Clyne House, about half a mile west of the main site, along Chester Road. In Old Trafford there were two branches, the Sir James E. Jones Branch for Industrial Training at 39 Talbot Road, and and the Henry Worrall Branch for Elder Deaf Girls at 683 Chester Road.
At the onset of the Second World War, the Infant School was evacuated to The Manor in Middlewich. After the war, with Old Trafford having become increasingly industrialized, it was decided to relocate the Schools to the suburbs. In 1956, new premises were opened at an 80-acre site on Stanley Road, Cheadle Hulme.
By 1979, the School decided to specialise in pupils with additional and complex needs. A specialist Deaf-blind or Multi-Sensory Unit was opened in 1990. In order to reflect the changing nature of its intake, the charity began to use the name 'Royal School for the Deaf and Communication Disorders' and focused on developing communication skills for people with a variety of sensory impairments and learning disabilities. Its provision for young adults — initially contained within the school's Post-16 department — grew until it was decided to operate Royal College Manchester as an independent FE college, separate from the school.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001 led to the rapid growth in the number of students being referred to the college on campus. By 2005 such were the numbers being referred to the college that a total refurbishment of the building was undertaken. This was completed in 2007, followed a year later, by the addition of further facilities.
In 2008, the charity was renamed the Seashell Trust. Today, young people with a hearing impairment still represent a significant proportion of the student body but all have additional complex needs such as CHARGE syndrome, autism and severe or profound learning disabilities. Many of the student have no diagnosed hearing loss.
The Old Trafford building no longer survives and the site was later home to the Greater Manchester Police. Following the force's relocation in 2012, the site was utilised as a public car park.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Greater Manchester County Record Office (with Manchester Archives), Archives+, Manchester Central Library, St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD.
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Pritchard, D.G., Education and the Handicapped 1760-1960 (1963, Routledge & Kegan Paul)
- Watson, J, Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (1809)
- Watson, Thomas J., A History of Deaf Education in Scotland 1760-1939 (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1949)
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.