St Paul's Deaf and Dumb School, Preston, Lancashire
The St Paul's Deaf and Dumb School, in Preston, Lancashire, was founded in about 1839 by the vicar of the parish, the Rev. Joseph Rigg. It operated five nights a week and on Sundays at the St Paul's Infants' School, on Pole Street, Preston. Instruction for both adults and children was provided. After Rigg's death in 1847, his successor, the Rev. R.F. Page, continued to support the work.
As was common with such schools at that time, a public examination of some of the pupils took place each year. The 1841 proceedings were described in the following newspaper extract:
The deaf and dumb scholars were ushered into the room. There were about nine or ten of them, their ages varying from nine or ten to thirty or forty. Among them we noticed Michael Steward, the deaf and dumb lad who had been tried for felony, and acquitted the day previously at the Intermediate Sessions. Three large black boards were then produced, and the pupils were examined by questions being written upon the boards by their teacher, and by the Rev. Mr. Rigg, who conversed with them by means of his fingers and by signs, — he at the same time explaining to the company the meaning of what was said. Mr. Rigg stated that the pupils were naturally nervous upon making this somewhat public exhibition, and that therefore probably their performance might not be quite so good as otherwise might have been the case. He also slated that when first introduced into the school they were in a state of the most complete ignorance, being quite unconscious of right or wrong, a God, a Heaven, or a Hell. He also observed that they were in the habit of explaining their meaning by signs, illustrations of which were given, as of “Heaven,” “Earth,” “Angels,” “God,” “Saviour,” “Manger,” “Sleep,” “Death,” &c., &c. This examination was a highly interesting one; the questions both religious and moral, secular, general, and particular, being answered with great readiness and correctness. The Rev. Mr. Rigg observed in relation to these exercises that it might perhaps be thought that this was merely mechanical; but that was not so. He stated that he had recently had three deaf and dumb pupils who came to be confirmed, and who displayed almost more intelligence than any of the others. He said, as was evidenced, that considering they only came to be instructed before they began and after they had finished work, their proficiency might he considered as very great. One of the pupils then performed the whole of the Lord's Prayer by signs. The teacher himself also repeated a prayer in the same manner. His expression of countenance and his action were very remarkable and impressive. We were given to understand that the prayer itself was an extremely beautiful one, as we had conjectured from what we could define of the meaning of the signs and expression employed.
The Deaf and Dumb School appears to have ceased operation by about 1860. In 1894, the new Cross Deaf and Dumb School was opened at Brockholes Brow, Preston.
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.
- None identfied at present — any information welcome.
- 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.