The Deaf Academy’s Heritage
Over the course of 2021-22 PaddleBoat Theatre Company and the Deaf Academy have been researching the rich heritage of the school, alongside the wider history of deaf education. Uncovering archives, testimony and historical artifacts, we have pieced together the history of this unique school.
As part of the project, we have created a film and a book that share the heritage of the school and its students. The Deaf Academy opened its doors in 1826 in Exeter, under the name of ‘The West of England Institution for the Deaf and Dumb’. Founded by Charlotte Hippesley Tuckfield, the school has undergone many changes since then.
Timeline of the Deaf Academy
British Sign Language (BSL) is finally given protection by UK law
Coronavirus hits and schools are shut
The Deaf Academy stays open for many students during lockdown.
Move to Exmouth
The Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education moves to Exmouth in September 2020 and is renamed ‘the Deaf Academy’.
International congress of the Deaf apologises
for banning sign language, announcing it is a ‘Discrimination and violation of human and constitutional rights’.
School changes its name
to ‘Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education’.
British Sign Language is recognised as an official language on 18 March
4,000 people march from Trafalgar Square
to petition Downing Street to recognise British Sign Language.
A completely new building is completed on the existing site in Exeter
Mr Olding becomes headteacher until 1985
and is used in classrooms to try and help communication
1939 – 1945
World War II
Exeter is heavily bombed in 1942 Baedecker Raids.
The school swimming pool becomes a static water tank in the war effort.
The school is damaged from a 1.30 am bombing on 4 May 1942. A bomb falls across the road and damages all the classrooms. Students are sent home for three months.
to ‘Royal West of England Residential School for the Deaf’ in 1939.
1914 – 1918
World War I
Male teachers at the school leave for war, leaving only female staff.
King Edward VII grants ‘Royal’ to the school’s name
The school starts collaborating
with other colleges and girls are sent to Bicton to learn cookery.
The second International Congress of the Deaf in Milan bans sign language
with emphasis on oralism as an learning method. Out of 164 delegates at the conference only one was deaf.
Abraham Lincoln approves the first higher education Institution for deaf students in the world
Gallaudet University is founded in Washington DC.
Exeter St Davids Railway Station opens
Allowing students to return home in the holidays, rather than stay at school for up to six months at a time.
Cholera outbreak kills three students
The school grows with 50 students enroled
Topsham Road building
is finished with capacity for 70 students.
In February a building on Alphington Road is leased to allow the school to open
It is officially titled ‘The West of England Institution for the Deaf and Dumb’.
Mr Bingham is headteacher at the school with just six pupils.
Charlotte Hippesley Tuckfield hosts a meeting at Exeter’s Royal Clarence Hotel.
She successfully persuades funders to help her set up a deaf school.
Samuel Heinicke sets up the first deaf school in Germany
His methods focus on oralism – lip reading and speaking rather than using sign language. He’s considered the ‘father of oralism’.
The first school for the deaf opens in the UK
by Thomas Braidwood in Edinburgh with just one pupil.