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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4172
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1841-2005
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 8.4 linear meters
Name of creator(s): Royal Association for Deaf People x RAD | Royal Association for Deaf People
Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb x RADD | Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) (formerly known as the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb (RADD), was established in 1841. It is the earliest of the major charitable bodies concerned with the welfare of the deaf now operating in England, promoting the social, spiritual and general welfare of Deaf people in South Eastern England including Greater London, Essex, Kent and Surrey. Originally established in London from a desire by parents to promote the welfare of deaf children, the Association also has had a strong religious ethos which has been continued through an Anglican chaplaincy.

RAD began with a group of young Deaf activists, ex-pupils of the London Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor (later the Royal School for Deaf Children), who met socially in Aldersgate Street in the City of London. The group was reinforced by a number of London businessmen led by George Crouch, bookseller and bookbinder and father of five deaf children. In January 1841 the first recorded committee meeting was held at Crouch's premises at 5 Tudor Street near Blackfriars Bridge, and it was decided that a 'society' would be set up and entitled The Refuge for the Deaf and Dumb, whose purpose would be to tackle the lack of employment for Deaf men. The organisation was also known as the Institution of Employment, Relief and Religious Instruction for the Adult Deaf and Dumb. Religious services were initially held in Fetter Lane and Red Lion Square.

The early work of the society included establishing printing and shoe-making workshops for Deaf men (which rescued some individuals from workhouses), daily education classes for young people and special classes for those with no previous schooling, and mandatory religious instruction. In 1845 the society also began to offer places for women apprentices to learn dressmaking and needlework.

In 1854 the society was reorganised and the Objects were changed following the discontinuation of attempts in providing an Industrial School as a home for the Deaf. The main emphasis of the reorganised work was the employment of qualified agents or 'missionaries' to impart religious and moral instructions to the Deaf in their homes, and the establishment of religious services for Deaf people throughout the metropolis. The Associations first chaplain and minister, Reverend Samuel Smith was ordained in 1861. Welfare work continued through the distribution of gifts of clothing and money and the arrangement of hospital admissions. The society's missionaries found the task challenging and reported that 'hospitals won't take the sick due to communication difficulties.'

In 1863 the Objects were: '1 To provide extended religious and secular instruction among the Deaf and Dumb throughout the Metropolis after they quit school, 2 Visit under the direction of clergymen sick and other Deaf and Dumb persons, 3 To assist those Deaf and Dumb persons with good character in obtaining employment, 4 To relieve, either by gifts or loans of money, destitute and necessitous Deaf and Dumb, 5 To encourage the early training of Deaf and Dumb children in order to prepare them for admission into Educational Institutions'.

In December 1859 a committee of seven Deaf men presented a demand for 'a church of their own' where services would be conducted in Sign Language. Their cause was supported by Reverend Samuel Smith. He promoted the acceptance of Sign Language, against much opposition, arguing that it was a language entitled to respect and dignity in its own right. He also produced booklets and travelled throughout England seeking support for the establishment of local societies in aid of Deaf people. In July 1870 the foundation stone of Saint Saviour's Church, Oxford Street, London was laid by the Prince of Wales, and three years later the first service was held.

In 1873, Queen Victoria granted Royal patronage to the society named the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb (RADD). The building of Saint Saviour's became a milestone in promoting the cause of Deaf people's rights, for the right to worship stood for the rights to be educated, to have work, to participate and to socialise. Growing recognition of the organisation's work was underlined by the number of leading churchmen who became vice-presidents. They included the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishop and Dean of Lichfield, the Bishops of Carlisle, Ely, Lincoln, Oxford, and Winchester. The Bishop of London was succeeded as Patron by Queen Victoria in 1873 and he and his successors served as President until 1940. The Association also had a succession of leading figures including William Gladstone, Prime Minister (1880-1886) and (1892-1894) who served for 41 years and the Duke of Westminster who gave 55 years of service.

In 1880 the International Congress for Teachers of the Deaf, held in Milan, Italy, established oralism as the preferred method for teaching Deaf children: "The Congress, considering the incontestable superiority of speech over signs in restoring the deaf mute to society and in giving him a more perfect knowledge of language, declares that the oral method ought to be preferred to that of signs for the education and instruction of the deaf and dumb."

The Association expressed strong reservations about this resolution, pointing out that no Deaf or dumb people had been consulted and that, although the oral method may be suitable for some deaf children, it was not a suitable medium for the instruction of large classes. The effects of the oralist approach became evident as many school-leavers found themselves lacking fluency in any method of communication. While Sign Language has become a popular means of communication in the 21st century, RAD has continued to support the campaign for its recognition as Britain's fourth official language.

In the early 20th century, despite funding difficulties, the Association's services grew. RADD employed three or four chaplains and organised systematic visits to all aged, infirm and afflicted Deaf people in all the 29 workhouses, infirmaries and asylums in the East London district. In the 1920s RADD increased its scope of work to challenging the misdiagnosis of Deaf children as 'mentally subnormal'. As a direct result many Deaf children were removed from London's mental asylums and placed into special schools for Deaf children. In addition a maternity home for unmarried deaf mothers was opened at Dunbar Lodge, Clapham, visiting services aimed at Deaf people in mental handicap institutions began in 1923, and helpers were enrolled for the Deaf-blind.

The Welfare State legislation of the 1940s and a series of later post-war reforms created a changing role for RADD, with more emphasis on its pioneering 'social work' with Deaf people and in 1964 the Association began psychiatric work.

Following the appointment in 1968 of a new Director General, Reverend Ivor Scott-Oldfield it was decided that staff should be selected because they were considered the best qualified for work with Deaf people, irrespective of their religious beliefs. A golden rule impressed on all the Association's workers was 'Never do anything for deaf people that they could and should do for themselves. Teach them how, but never do it yourself instead'.

In 1986 the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb changed its name to the Royal Association in aid of Deaf People and in 1998 a centralised Sign Language Interpreting Agency was launched.

Deaf people have continued to be involved with the management and direction of RAD, both as members of staff and as trustees and the Deaf community will continue to define the future role for RAD. The Association has had several deaf clergymen, notably Reverend Frank Goodridge, Reverend Benny Morgan, Reverend Leonard Kent, Reverend Ron Cade and later Reverend Vera Hunt, the first woman priest ordained in 1992.

In 2003 the Royal Association provided: 10 Centres for Deaf people in Essex, London and the South East, social clubs and self-help groups; Support for Deaf people with additional needs; Language and communication support through the RAD Sign Language Interpreting Service; Religious and cultural activities and pastoral care conducted in Sign Language; and Training and education in British Sign language and Deaf Awareness.

Main Churches: 1873 (opened) Saviours Oxford Street (given up 1922); 1923 (purchased) All Saints, Paddington (purchased) (sold 1961); 1925 (opened) Saint Saviours, Old Oak Road, Acton.

Head Offices: 1850 26 Red Lion Square; 1856 15 Bedford Row, Holborn; 1863 309 Regents Street; 1872 272 Oxford Street; 1913 419 Oxford Street; 1939 55 Norfolk Square, Paddington (moved in 1920s); 1967 7-11 Armstrong Road, Acton (moved 1961). The Head Office in Old Oak Road, Acton, London was moved to Colchester, Essex after 1998.

Patron (2003): Queen Elizabeth II.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Royal Association for Deaf People. The collection contains a wealth of information relating to the development of work with Deaf people over the 19th and 20th centuries in London and south-east England, including relief of the necessitous poor in the 19th century, the establishment of Deaf church communities from the 1880s and the early promotion of Sign Language as a recognised form of communication in the 1850s by Reverend Samuel Smith.

The records include:

Corporate records (LMA/4172/A) in relation to the Association's Trustee Committee, Standing Subcommittee, Executive Committee, Building Committee, Spiritual Subcommittee, Personnel Committee, Property and Personnel Sub-Committee, Finance and Fund Raising Committee, Public Relations Subcommittee, secretary's correspondence, annual reports, agreements, permanent year end papers, annual general meetings, Board of Trustees papers, and Essex Deaf Council.

Financial and Staff records (LMA/4172/B) consisting of accounts, legacies, salaries and expenses, and Staff meetings Minutes, and administration.

Records of Saint Faith's Home (LMA/4172/C) consisting of minutes of the Management Committee, accounts, and registration.

Branch and Mission Church records (LMA/4172/D) in relation to Croydon Branch, Saint Barnabus Church in Lerwisham, Saint Matthews Mission and Saint Paul's Hall in Walworth, Woolwich Deaf and Dumb Mission in Beresford Square, Saint Bedes in Lambeth, All Saints in Croydon, Saint Saviours Chapel on Oxford Street, Saint John of Beverely on Green Lane, All Saints in West Ham, and Saint Cedd in Romford.

Printed Material and photographs (LMA/4172/E) consisting of press cuttings, magazines and newsletters, events material and talks, photographs, posters/leaflets and advertising material, staff resources, and historical notes.

Audio-visual records (LMA/4172/F) consisting of videos and audio cassettes.

Electronic records (LMA/4172/G) consisting of documents saved on a CD.

Property records (LMA/4172/H) in relation to 120 Selhurst Road in Croydon, 26 Harold Road in Essex, and 4 The Drive in Middlesex.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged as follows:
Corporate Records LMA/4172/A;
Financial and Staff records LMA/4172/B;
Saint Faith's Home LMA/4172/C;
Branch and Mission Church Records LMA/4172/D;
Printed Material and Photographs LMA/4172/E;
Audio-Visual LMA/4172/F;
Electronic Records LMA/4172/G;
Property Records LMA/4172/H.

Conditions governing access:

Some items in this collection are unavailable for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Royal Association for Deaf People.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in several accessions between 2002 and 2011.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information (Full Circle: the History of RAD edited by Linda Isaac, and A Brief History of RAD, by Arthur Dimmock) see the Association's website at .

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June to August 2010.

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