If the Walls Could Talk
Today saw me back at the Bluestone building for Deaf Children Australia, though not really for photos. Today was more to find out about some of the plans for the restoration and the future. A really interesting meeting, though not something I am going to talk about today. I need to read some information and look into it more and I don’t have the time right now. Time is something that just keeps running out right now.
This is a room off the dormitory, and I thought it had been sectioned off at a later date, but down the other end where the girls dormitory is, there is a similar room in the corner where the matron slept and kept an eye on the girls, so I am going to assume that this room was where the man who looked after the boys slept.
It was an interesting day, I got another tour and learned a lot more about the history. I didn’t realise that the girls and boys were segregated so much, the boys had their own areas to play and the girls theirs. They were in class together, and had meals together, but that seems to be about all.
One of the most intriguing things about these places is how they started. I had heard this story before, but I have it here again and this time I am going to copy what was written in a book, so please bear with me.
“The origin of the Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution and its subsequent progress was on this wise.” On the 14th February, 1859, there a letter in the Melbourne Argus over the signature “G”, setting out the tragic position of the deaf and dumb in the colony of Victoria, stating that it was the writer’s belief there were more than 50 deaf and dumb children receiving no instruction. Two days later appeared a letter from Mrs. Sarah Lewis, under the nom de plume “Widow”, in which she appealed for help in the instruction of her little eight-year-old daughter. She concluded the letter thus: “If nothing can be done speedily in this colony, I shall be put to the peril and danger of a sea voyage to get her educated in Old England, but should such an institution arise here, I would enrol myself a life subscriber.”
At the time Mr. Rose was residing at Bendigo, carrying on the occupation of a builder. He immediately responded to the appeal. It seemed providential that an educated deaf man should at that time be working on the gold fields – a man fully qualified, having the skill and necessary missionary zeal to accept the challenge and responsibility, with little prospect of adequate material reward.
Mr. Rose wrote to the Argus on 24th of February, 1859, confessing his ignorance of the fact that there were so many deaf children in the colony and offering to establish an institution for their instruction for a fair remuneration if sufficient numbers were forthcoming.
After winding up some contracts on which he was engaged at the time, Mr. Rose inserted the following advertisement in the Argus on the 28th and 30th April and the 2nd May, 1859:- “Education of the Deaf and Dumb. It is in contemplation to establish an asylum to educate the Deaf and Dumb in this Colony should there be a sufficient number to warrant such. The parents and guardians of Deaf and Dumb children are requested to communicate with the undersigned stating the ages, sex and address of any wishing to become pupils. F.J. Rose, Haymarket Hotel, Bendigo.”
The first school was set up in Prahan in Peel Street, and was opened with four resident boarders. One of those was the daughter of Mrs. Sarah Lewis. Her daughter is the first person registered in the book of “inmates” ( I can’t believe that is the term that was used for them.)
Today I was lucky enough to be shown the book of “inmates” that had the first entry and there she is Lucy Lewis and all her information. Sorry about the photo, I had to take it with my phone and the lighting wasn’t great, but hopefully you get the idea.
I hope you can read what it says, when she went deaf and why. This next part is on the following page.
I hope you haven’t minded the history lesson, not so much photography, sorry, but I love the history and wanted to share it with you. I need to get back to the images from the Manchester Unity Building now, so much work to do on those and the time is running out.