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. It opened in two lodging houses on Commutation Row.

Painting shows man with black band tied over one eye.

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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.


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1798

1800X

School moves to nearby London Road into a purpose built school building.

Line drawing of the School for the Blind dedicated to the Earlof Wilton
1800

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

1812X

This drawing by T Troughton shows a further extension of the School built in 1812.

Drawing of the extension of the school for the blind surrounded by railings. The building forms a long L shape with around thirty windows.

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1812

1851X

School displaced as a result of extension of Lime Street Station and is provided with railway owned land on Hardman Street.  London Road school building is demolished but the chapel is moved piece by piece to the Hardman Street site.

Painting shows the Hardman Street site including the chapel with Doric columns and a carriage passing along the street in front of the building.
1851

1898X

A children’s school building is constructed in Wavertree (where the school resides today).

Image shows slightly overexposed black and white photograph of a large Victorian building, with a sweeping drive surrounded by flowerbeds.
1898

1918X

Caroline France, shown here in later life, applies to join the School for the Blind. You can read more about her life on the Museum of Liverpool’s blog here.

1918

1932X

Chapel demolished and replaced by an extension to school which housed the school shop. This relief, showing hands reading Braille, was added the extension. Others show the brushes and woven baskets produced by residents.  Photo by Anna Fairley Nielsson.

1932

1939X

Both Wavertree and Hardman Street schools are evacuated to Rhyl just prior to the Blitz in Liverpool.

Writing in a lined notebook in blue ink

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1939

1958X

Hardman Street building sold to Liverpool Corporation and became Police Headquarters and later the Merseyside Trade Union Community and Unemployed Resource Centre.

photography of the School
1958

2016X

Today, after a period when it was semi-derelict, the Hardman Street building is a gastropub, decorated to reflect its past as the Blind School.

Image shows a long room with tables for restaurant meals, four round mirrors high on the wall, and paintings of dogs in 19th century upper class dress.

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2016

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 Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind 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.

1800

Line drawing of the School for the Blind dedicated to the Earlof Wilton

School moves to nearby London Road into a purpose built school building.

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.

1851

Painting shows the Hardman Street site including the chapel with Doric columns and a carriage passing along the street in front of the building.

School displaced as a result of extension of Lime Street Station and is provided with railway owned land on Hardman Street.  London Road school building is demolished but the chapel is moved piece by piece to the Hardman Street site.

1898

Image shows slightly overexposed black and white photograph of a large Victorian building, with a sweeping drive surrounded by flowerbeds.

A children’s school building is constructed in Wavertree (where the school resides today).

1932

Chapel demolished and replaced by an extension to school which housed the school shop. This relief, showing hands reading Braille, was added the extension. Others show the brushes and woven baskets produced by residents.  Photo by Anna Fairley Nielsson.

1939

Writing in a lined notebook in blue ink

Both Wavertree and Hardman Street schools are evacuated to Rhyl just prior to the Blitz in Liverpool.

1958

photography of the School

Hardman Street building sold to Liverpool Corporation and became Police Headquarters and later the Merseyside Trade Union Community and Unemployed Resource Centre.