On becoming (Paid) Deaf Missionaries in 1870s London: The Life and Times of Samuel W. North and John P. Gloyn

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Following the opening of the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in 1792, a network of educated deaf people spread across the city. By 1840, philanthropically-minded people, deaf and hearing, had realised that communicating with signs and written English was no guarantee of gaining successful employment in hearing society. Their response—training in an industrial school—failed, but religious services delivered on their behalf by Matthew Burns, a deaf man, successfully gathered deaf people together.

Though he soon left their employ, running religious services on a shoestring before retiring in the 1860s, his methods provided the key to a new charity, ‘The Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb’, founded in 1854. The Association took advantage of a question about deafness in the 1851 Census, employing hearing missionaries fluent in sign language to uncover London’s deaf network, to visit deaf people in their homes, to help deaf adults into work and to keep it, and to deliver Anglican services in sign language.

The Association’s emphasis on ‘employer negotiations’ and its success in providing a way for philanthropists to securely deliver financial support to deaf people meant that its hearing missionaries dominated deaf provision within London. Nevertheless, two deaf missionaries, Samuel North and John Gloyn, were appointed by the charity, the former in 1869 and the latter in 1878. This paper will examine the circumstances that led to their appointments against hearing protests and to the deaf-spaces which subsequently sprang up around their work in West and North London.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
EventSocial History Society Conference - University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jun 201913 Jun 2019


ConferenceSocial History Society Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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