Credit - Text plaque from the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool. Courtesy of Anna Fairley Nielsson

Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind

Liverpool

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1756X

Edward Rushton was born in 1756 in Liverpool and was apprenticed as a seaman to a firm of West India merchants aged eleven.


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1756

1784X

By age eighteen Rushton was aboard his first, and last, ship transporting slaves from Africa.  Aboard the ship Rushton opposed the poor treatment and conditions of the people held in slavery and was accused by his Captain of a mutiny. Rushton also became blind from ophthalmia.


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1784

1791X

Back in Liverpool, Rushton was appalled by the treatment of poor blind people and founded the School for the Indigent Blind, so that blind people could learn skills and live with dignity.


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1791

1798X

In the three years from 1798 ‘Egyptian opthalamia’ hospitalised whole regiments of British and French soldiers during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. It was the beginning of opthalmology becoming a far more respected profession. Those affected by blindness while fighting overseas were eligible for financial support from the State.

1798

1803X

We found 1803 regulations in the archives, which give an idea of what life was like.  It explains pupils were expected to rise at 6.30am (with the exception of Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday) and be in bed by 9.30pm.  All pupils followed the schedule which set out times for various meals, work and prayers.


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1803

The Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind was founded in 1791 by Edward Rushton and continues to run today as the Royal School for the Blind. It was the first such school in Britian and the second to be founded in the world.

Rushton was a remarkable rights campaigner: apprenticed to a slave ship aged 18, he opposed the brutal treatment of the captured Africans and was accused of mutiny. He contracted the ophthalmia which blinded him from the infected captives. Realising the poor treatment and life chances of many less wealthy blind people, he founded the School to offer training and skills.

From 1851, the school occupied a neo classical building on Hardman Street, which was later extended.

photography of the School

Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool (Stewart Bale collection, 9747-1, Merseyside Maritime Museum)

The timeline

1756

Edward Rushton was born in 1756 in Liverpool and was apprenticed as a seaman to a firm of West India merchants aged eleven.

1784

By age eighteen Rushton was aboard his first, and last, ship transporting slaves from Africa.  Aboard the ship Rushton opposed the poor treatment and conditions of the people held in slavery and was accused by his Captain of a mutiny. Rushton also became blind from ophthalmia.

1798

In the three years from 1798 ‘Egyptian opthalamia’ hospitalised whole regiments of British and French soldiers during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. It was the beginning of opthalmology becoming a far more respected profession. Those affected by blindness while fighting overseas were eligible for financial support from the State.

1803

We found 1803 regulations in the archives, which give an idea of what life was like.  It explains pupils were expected to rise at 6.30am (with the exception of Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday) and be in bed by 9.30pm.  All pupils followed the schedule which set out times for various meals, work and prayers.