Ancestry UK

Royal Cross School, Preston, Lancashire

What was originally known as the Cross School was founded by a £5,000 legacy from Miss Mary Cross to provide an educational facility for deaf and dumb children in North and East Lancashire. The School, erected on a site at Brockholes View, Preston, was formally opened by Lord Derby on 28 July 1894. The architects of the building were Messrs. Sames and Green, of Blackburn. The original design was intended to accommodate 100 children but owing to a lack of sufficient funds, a reduced version was constructed, with the hope that the full scheme could be instituted as a later date. A contemporary description of their design is reproduced below:

The site for the Institution is the left-hand side of the road leading from Blackburn to Preston, and the top of the hill on the Preston side of the Halfpenny Bridge. The main frontage faces south, and commands an extensive and beautiful view of the Ribble valley. In the centre of the building is the principal entrance, flanked on the left by the head master's residence, and on the right by the Boardroom, etc. On the second storey over this centre portion, and approached by the principal staircase, are the head master's bedrooms, bathroom, etc., and on this again, on the third storey, approached by a special staircase, are the sick wards, having accommodation for six patients and a nurse, whose room in the middle, having complete supervision of both sick wards, and is fitted with a gas cooking stove and all requisite arrangements.

The girls' wing is on the extreme left of the Institution, and consists on the ground floor of large and well-lighted day room, with lavatory, bath and cloak rooms adjoining, and dormitories, etc., the second and third floors, whilst the day room and dormitories are under the direct supervision of the female teachers, the former from the teachers' sitting-room and the latter from the teachers' bedrooms by means of small windows, the teachers themselves enjoying the strict privacy of their own rooms. The boys's wing is on the extreme right of the Institution, and is exactly similar to the girls' wing, with the addition of a large workroom in the basement, which will also serve as a gymnasium if required. The dining hall is centrally situated, having a direct approach from the entrance ball, for the convenience of the masters, and short corridors from the boys' and girls' wings. The dining hall is fitted with two hatches, one opening directly into the kitchen for serving the food, and the other opening into washing-up scullery, into which all the crockery used can be washed up without having to through the kitchen into the large scullery, thus saving a great amount of labour. The dining hall is one storey high, and is well lighted and ventilated both from the sides and roof. The kitchen, scullery, and cook's store rooms adjoin the dining hall, are fitted with every convenience, are well lighted and ventilated, and are one storey high. The whole of the administrative block is under one roof, and is conveniently situated for economical working and supervision. Adjoining the large scullery is the laundry block, consisting of washhouse, drying closet, and laundry, each fitted with all the requisite appliances. This block is also one storey high, and the rooms are large, well-lighted, and ventilated both from the sides and roof. At the rear of the whole of the buildings, and facing the road, is a detached schoolroom, with classrooms over. The main lighting windows face north, thus ensuring a good clear, steady light throughout the day. There are also windows on the south side, thus making all the rooms both light and cheerful. The schoolroom is approached from the main building by a covered way from each wing, and separate staircases for boys and girls to the classrooms are provided. There is small room, centrally situated, for use as a dispensary, and storerooms for the matron are also provided. The teachers have a separate dining-room of their own. The buildings will be heated throughout by hot water on the low pressure system. The ventilation has been very carefully attended to, and a system of cross ventilation, required by the Local Government Board and the Board of Education, has been adopted wherever practicable. Fresh air will be admitted from air grids, and will be warmed by passing over the hot water pipes; the foul air will be extracted by means of suitable extractors. The drainage has received careful consideration, and will be carried out on the most approved principle, and connected to the main sewer of the Preston Corporation. The buildings will be faced with the best patent bricks, and have Yorkshire stone dressings; the elevations are in the domestic style of the Georgian era, and the cost is estimated about £6,00O.

Original design of the Cross School for the Deaf and Dumb, Preston, Lancashire, c.1892.

In 1896, a local newspaper reported on their visit to the School, an abridged version of which is below:


The central portion the building is devoted the master and matron's house, and a very desirable residence. Here are the office, the servants' rooms, kitchen, and stores. The east wing, which extends from the central department, is occupied the girls. The day room, in which leisure moments are spent, and where indoor pastime is pursued with avidity when the tasks the class have been successfully surmounted: teachers' private rooms are conveniently arranged for overlooking, as it were, the children confided to their care; a lavatory, and two class rooms — these apartments are the ground floor. Above are the dormitories: spacious, lofty, well ventilated, with an abundance of light, which imparts a cheerfulness and airyness quite contemplate. On the west is a wing for the boys, in which precisely similar arrangements prevail, with this exception. There a large board room, which is massively and suitably furnished. It is here that the council fulminate their orders, but it serves another purpose too. On Sunday the office fixtures are removed and benches substituted, and with a reading desk in one corner it forms church, where a short service of the Church of England is performed. The “language” used these occasions is the black board and natural gestures, which are “easily understanded” by those for whose benefit these services have been ordained.

It should be mentioned that there is a library of interesting books, consisting of between sixty and seventy volumes, and they are largely used by the scholars who, thanks to their training, are able to enjoy the perusal of their contents. There are also a number text books and works of reference for the teachers. The north side of the building is approached from both wings, and here is situated the dining-room, the largest apartment in the budding, which is served from the kitchen below by lifts, One hundred children can be comfortably seated at the tables. The school is certified for 66 scholars, and it baa been full for the past twelve months, but there are still applications for admission, which have unwillingly to be refused. A new building has keen erected in close proximity to the school, and it is scarcely yet free from the hands of the builders. The ground floor forms a fine laundry, with all the necessary appliances, while above are technical class rooms, in which the lads are taught to use the tools of the carpenter and the joiner, and are also instructed in the art and mystery of letterpress printing. The girls are taught sewing, etc., and they are, moreover, instructed in cooking and other domestic duties which are, as we all know, so essential in the home life. The kindergarten method leading up to cardboard modelling for the mixed juniors is also in full working order and good results are obtained.

The education of deaf children is a question for specialists, and there is even yet much divergence of opinion among them on matters of detail, though under the beneficent operations or the Blind and Deaf Children Act 1893, all sections are working fairly well together in this country. The system carried on in the Cross School in in accordance with the vast preponderance of opinion of experts throughout the English-speaking world. There are seven classes with seven teachers, all under the personal direction and supervision of the head master, and special school books, which it is generally necessary to provide for oneself, are, in this case, both written and printed on the premises, printing having been introduced a subject of technical instruction. The average number of pupils in a class is between nine and ten. The school is well staffed in comparison with most others, but it must be borne in mind that the instruction required by the deaf is individual instruction, and that the ideal class is one teacher to one pupil, unlimited time and means, and other conditions which none but wealthy parents can secure for their children. In five of the classes the pupils are taught speech and lip-reading, together with written language, which is the basis all instruction in the school. The two others are silent classes, in which written language is supplemented by finger-spelling.

In the lowest class, which is conducted by Miss Stewart, We found that the little boys and girls could speak the names of objects, and following with earnest eyes the lips of the teacher could understand and reply to the questions she put to them. They can perform actions at spoken command, and describe in writing — good, legible, well formed letters and words — the actions which form the staple of their curriculum. In another room Mr. Phipp's class is doing third year work. The average school term is two years and nine months, and the scholars have got beyond the simple objects and actions which are the basis of the teaching, and in a limited degree can converse, not with the fingers, but with the voice and lips, topics of their everyday life. Our representative had an experience in the room which will, perhaps, give a better idea than anything else of the proficiency attained in this direction. The children were asked to describe their impressions of his personal appearance, and the ordeal excited unaccustomed blushes. “He—has—little—covering—on—his—head,” came smartly from a smiling girl of ten or twelve, a fact which has been a tonsorial observation these many years past. A rosy faced boy, with a merry twinkle his eye, ventured, “He—has—an—eyeglass—in—his—eye,” and there was a titter, while a demure young lady of eight suggested, “his—hair—is—red,” and, as the writer was fearful that the assertion that his nose was ditto to match, he accelerated his departure from the department. The highest class is taught by Miss Elliott, a daughter Dr. Elliott, who rules and governs one of the largest institutions this kind the world. Here the teacher and the head boys and girls can talk — do not mistake the term: we mean talk in the common acceptation of the term, on any subject.

In conclusion we would draw the attention of our readers to the fact that £3,000 is necessary to wipe off the debt on the new buildings, and who will not help in assisting to develop the modern miracle of science, if we may so express ourselves, in which “the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

In 1897, Queen Victorian granted the School the privilege of adding the prefix 'Royal' to its name.

On 26 May 1898, the foundation stone was laid for an extension to the buildings known as the Rawsthorne Hall, which was funded by the Venerable Archdeacon Rawsthorne, the chairman of the school's Board of Management. The new premises consisted of a central hall surrounded by eight classrooms, and connected with the main building by a wing on the boys' side of the house. Plans to erect as matching extension on the girls' side never materialised.

The School site is shown on the 1910 map below.

Royal Cross School site, Preston, c.1910.

Royal Cross School, Preston, Lancashire, early 1900s.

A separate branch for junior pupils was established in 1948 at Ribby Hall, Kirkham, and in 1951 for infants at Wilmar Lodge, Blackburn. In July 1953, the total number of pupils on the school roll was 148. In the mid-1960s, all the children were brought back under the same roof at the Brockholes View site.

In 1989, the Mary Cross Trust joined forced with the North East Lancashire Welfare Association for the deaf to form a new charity that was renamed Deafway in 2003. It began to provide services for deaf adults at the old school site. At the same time, the Royal Cross School became a daytime primary school on a new site at Elswick Road, Ashton, Preston.


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