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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Jews’ Deaf and Dumb Home

Also known as Deaf and Dumb Home/Nightingale Lane Residential School for Deaf Children/Residential School for Deaf Children


It was founded in 1863 by Baroness Mayer de Rothschild as a school where resident Jewish children could learn to speak (The Times, 17 March 1877)

Its Chairman for the first few years was Henry Behrend, and its Director was the Dutchman (later naturalised) William Van Praagh (British Medical Journal, 18 November 1871), grandfather of the chemist Gordon Van Praagh (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Its success led to the formation of the Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, and Training College for Teachers, in 1872, also with William Van Praagh as Director (British Medical Journal, 11 December 1875; Jan Branson and Don Miller, Damned for their Difference: The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled, 2002); this was at 11 Fitzroy Square, just west of Bloomsbury, and later became the Fitzroy Square College

Van Praagh, who was Jewish, had been invited to England to help convert the School from the manual to the oral method of teaching speech (Marjoke Rietveld-van Wingerden and Wim Westerman, ‘ “Hear, Israel”: The Involvement of Jews in Education of the Deaf (1850–1880),’ Jewish History, vol. 23 (2009)

Van Praagh was also Director of the Jews’ Deaf and Dumb School at 164 Euston Road

The Home closed in 1965

Its building was demolished to make way for the new building of the school next door, the still-thriving Oak Lodge School for the Deaf

What was reforming about it?

It was one of the few institutions to offer speech teaching to the deaf at the time; Van Praagh was one of the key men responsible for reviving speech teaching to the deaf in the UK (Jan Branson and Don Miller, Damned for their Difference: The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled, 2002)

Where in Bloomsbury

The Home was founded in Whitechapel in 1863, and housed only three children at first; it soon moved to 41 Burton Crescent (The Jewish Year Book 1907–1908, 1907)

It remained there until 1875, when it moved to Walmer Road, Notting Hill (British Medical Journal, 11 December 1875), apparently under a new Director; van Praagh was still at 44 Burton Crescent and 39 Hunter Street in 1879, according to his letter to the Lancet (Lancet, 16 April 1879)

Dickens lists it at Harrow Road in 1879 (Charles Dickens jr, Dickens’ Dictionary of 1879: An Unconventional Handbook, 1879), but this may be an error, and later editions only mention Walmer Road

The Home moved again in 1899, to Nightingale Lane, Wandsworth, where in 1905 it was joined in 1905 by another school for the deaf next door (but separated by a high wall), the LCC-founded School for the Deaf (a school for girls only)

Website of current institution

It no longer exists

Books about it

The Former Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children, Nightingale Lane, Balham, 1865–1965 (c. 1970s)

Joan Weinberg and others, The History of the Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children (1992)

Peter W. Jackson, Nightingale Lane: The Story of Three London Deaf Schools (2010)


Some of its records, from the twentieth century only, are held in the National Archive, refs ED/32/1644, ED/32/1736–1737, ED/38/39–40, and ED/195/129; further details are available from The National Archive online (opens in new window)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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