On this day … 7 February 1891

The Royal Cross School for Deaf Children. Brockholes Brow, Preston
The Royal Cross School for Deaf Children. Brockholes Brow, Preston. Seen here c.1902. Source: Preston Digital Archive

The Preston Chronicle reported that the Deaf and Dumb Association had acquired a site on Brockholes Brow funded by Mary Cross of Myerscough, who had donated £5,000. It was to be known as the Cross Deaf and Dumb School for North and East Lancashire.

It was originally intended to provide a home and education for a hundred deaf children and a spacious boardroom to accommodate the twenty-one committee members and their officers, but lack of funds meant that the number of pupils had to be scaled back to fifty. The committee was reduced to fifteen members.

The committee soon got busy planning, and one of the first things members had to decide was what form of religious education to provide, with some members feeling that:

… it would be desirable for the management to indicate that while children of all denominations were admissible, they could not undertake to afford religious instruction for Catholic children. Deaf and dumb children particularly were liable to be influenced by their surroundings, and as this institution was to be on a Protestant basis generally, it would … be highly desirable that the committee should make their position thoroughly tenable. Another gentleman advised the committee not to hamper themselves with Roman Catholic children at all …

The foundation stone was laid in 1892 and the school was opened in 1894 by the earl of Derby. In 1897 it became the Royal Cross School after it found favour with Queen Victoria. At that time its headmaster was J.G. Shaw, editor of the Blackburn Times, who had learned finger spelling and sign language, before becoming a voluntary worker with the local deaf community.

The first deaf scout troop in Britain was formed at the school in September 1910.

In 1990, the school closed and the secondary school children transferred to Ashton High School and younger children to the newly opened Royal Cross Primary School. The old school building was demolished in 2011..

This was not the first school for deaf children in Preston. In 1827 the vicar of St Paul’s had started a School for the Deaf with 18 pupils in Carlisle Street which continued until 1847.

“Deaf and dumb” was not considered an offensive expression when the school was named.

Anyone with a Lancashire Library card can access the Preston Chronicle and many more newspapers on line: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/…/newspapers-old-and-new/

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