Tag Archives: school

Royal School for Deaf Children

BA&H: l-46.02_2

Birmingham’s Royal School for Deaf Children was established as a result of a lecture given to the Birmingham Philosophical Society in 1812 by Dr Jean Gabriel Marie De Lys, a physician who practised at the Birmingham General Hospital. The General Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb began as a day school with 15 pupils in Birmingham in 1814. A residential school opened in 1815 on Church Road, Edgbaston, part of the Calthorpe Estate. It was renamed the Royal Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in 1887 and in 1929 as the Royal Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf. It became known as the Royal School for Deaf Children in 1935. A nursery and infants department opened at Laughern House, Martley near Worcester in 1942. The school closed in 1984.

BA&H: MS 1060-47_2

In 1880 the Milan First World Congress to Improve the Welfare of the Deaf and Blind voted to implement lip-reading as the sole method of teaching. This resulted in the rejection of sign language as a method of teaching and communication for deaf pupils. Photos from around 1900 held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage show the use of both methods but it seems that there was a gradual decline in the use of sign language after the Congress.

A quote from a pupil who attended the school in the 1920s confirms that sign language was actively prevented:

we were never allowed to sign in class at school . . . one day my teacher caught me signing to my friend under the desk. She was angry and said that I shouldn’t use sign. She said that I looked like a little monkey. That’s what they used to call us when they caught us signing, little monkeys.

Out of Sight: The Experience of Disability 1900-1950, Steve Humphries & Pamela Gordon, p. 84

As a result, campaigns were launched to reintroduce sign language and by the mid-1970s the Deaf Rights movement was established. In 2003 British Sign Language was officially recognised as a language in its own right by the British Government. The decision made by the Milan Congress was formally denounced in 2010 at the 21st International Congress for Deaf Education in Vancouver.

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Royal School for Deaf Children, MS 1060. Appointments to view material can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.


Benjamin Stone

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds a vast collection of photographs by Sir Benjamin Stone, many of which feature children. Stone was born in Aston in 1838 and attended King Edward’s School, New Street. He became director of his father’s glass manufacturing business and then a town councillor representing Duddeston Ward from 1869 until 1878. He was Sutton Coldfield’s first mayor from 1886-1890 and was elected Member of Parliament for East Birmingham in 1895, holding the seat until his retirement in 1910. Stone died in 1914.

The following extract comes from www.birmingham.gov.uk/benjaminstone

Stone’s considerable income enabled him to travel extensively in Britain and abroad, at a time when foreign travel was still very much the prerogative of the rich. He was in great demand as a lecturer, and began to collect photographs in order to illustrate his lectures and travel books. Dissatisfied with the quality of many of the commercial prints he purchased, Stone decided to master the art of photography himself, employing two men full-time at his house in Erdington, The Grange, to develop and print his plates. Benjamin Stone was one of the first photographers to switch from wet to dry plates, obviating the need to develop the plates on the spot as soon as they had been exposed.

Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

Selly Oak Nursery School

Archival material from the Selly Oak Nursery School in Tiverton Road was recently deposited with Birmingham Archives & Heritage (Acc. No. 2011/036).

The Nursery was formed in 1904 as the Free People’s Kindergarten by Julia Lloyd, a member of the Lloyd banking family. Lloyd’s involvement with nursery schools began in 1888 when she began studying under Miss Bishop of 316 Hagley Road. Bishop had been trained by Miss Schepel at the Pestalozzi-Froebel Haus in Berlin. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) was a Swiss education reformer. Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) studied under Pestalozzi and laid the foundations for modern education based on the recognition that children have unique needs and capabilities.

In 1895 Lloyd spent the year in Berlin at the Pestalozzi-Froebel Haus; she wrote that after her experience there she ‘felt a call or “a concern” in Quaker language, to return to England and open People’s Kindergartens’ (The Beginnings of the Nursery School Movement in Birmingham, Julia Lloyd, p. 11). On her return, Lloyd began working with Miss Bishop at The Froebel College,16 Harborne Road.

A meeting was held in 1903 at the residence of Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), principal of the newly-formed University of Birmingham, to establish the Birmingham People’s Kindergarten Association, later renamed the Birmingham Nursery Schools Association. In a speech given at the 1909 Annual Meeting, Lodge asked

how could we be content to let children grow up in slums, degenerating into vice and feebleness of every description?

For Lodge, the waste of child life was unspeakable, but the waste of child character was still sadder. He further remarked that

these kindergartens were a protest against the idea of the comparative unimportance of childhood’.

The Nursery opened in 1904 in a room donated by Mrs Barrow Cadbury at the back of the Friends’ Institute at 251 Warwick Road, Greet. “Home life” was the basis of activities and the aims of the kindergarten were:

To give natural healthy conditions for children under school age

To lay a foundation for life in the acquisition of habits of order and cleanliness – to build up character by opportunities for mutual helpfulness and through the fostering of life in plant and animal

To train hand-power and develop the muscles at an age when the instinct for action is strong

To give a basis for school instruction by experiences gained in connection with garden and domestic work and the care of pets

To re-act on home life through the training of children to habits of helpfulness and the appreciation of order and beauty

To give girls opportunity to learn practically and theoretically how to provide for the necessities of child nature

A second kindergarten was opened at the Women’s Settlement, 318 Summer Lane in 1907 and in 1918 a third nursery school was opened at Memorial Hall, Farm Road, Sparkbrook (although this closed the following year).

1919 saw the end of the Birmingham Nursery Schools Association. Clause 19 of the 1918 Education Act moved provision of ancillary services like nursery schools to the local education authority (LEA). The Settlement Nursery was closed but re-opened shortly afterwards under control of the LEA. The LEA also gave a grant to the Greet Nursery to allow it to stay open and in 1921 it moved to its present location at 26 Tiverton Road, Selly Oak.

 Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

Young People’s Archive

BA&H: wk-b11-5150

Children’s Lives will include a section on contemporary childhood in the 21st century curated by young people from two local schools. This part of the project aims to work directly with young people to enable them to record, research, document, and communicate the histories and experiences of children and young people by:

  • Providing access to rich and diverse archive collections
  • Providing training for pupils and young people to record the oral histories of their fellow school pupils, younger members of family, and the wider community of young people and children
  • Providing support and training to enable young people to develop and establish a ‘Children’s Lives’ archive at Birmingham Libraries & Archives
  • Providing support and training to enable young people to research, interpret and curate their own exhibition as part of the Children’s Lives exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
  • Supporting young people to deliver a young people’s exhibition launch event
  • Establishing an online presence by creating a contemporary digital archive
  • Promoting and communicating this heritage as widely as possible through the exhibition, online presence and related events
  • Developing young people through the transfer of skills, knowledge and confidence in a number of heritage and broader cultural and educational spheres of activity; enabling young people to make a significant contribution to present-day and future learning and research.

There will be a blog, Young People’s Archive, written by the Learning & Outreach team and the schoolchildren working on the project. Keep checking for updates!

Children’s Lives

BA&H: wk-b3-82

Children’s Lives, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund,will be the first major project in Birmingham and the West Midlands to consider children’s lived experiences from the 18th century to the present day. The project will draw on the designated and nationally acclaimed collections of archives, artefacts, oral histories and film material relating to the lives of children in the past held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Media Archive of Central England.

The project will consist of a series of interrelated activities. These will include an exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery opening in February 2012. The exhibition will explore the different ways people have thought about childhood as a stage of life, the relationships of children with their families and peers, the experiences of children in school, at work, and at the hands of various welfare institutions, and the ways that children have imagined the world. The exhibition will present the diversity of the city in all its forms, for example, ethnicity, gender, class, disability etc. Children’s Lives will draw extensively on Birmingham’s collections to bring the voice of the child out of the archive and museum and in so doing will draw the past and the present into sharper focus.