Copies of the application form for admission to the School during the 19th century still survive, and the nature of the questions for those seeking admittance – and the rules imposed once a member of the school, give a clear sense of the power dynamic.
Each pupil to be distinguished by a particular number.
Participation at the school hugely expanded the life chances of blind people with no money – but residents gave up many freedoms normal for the majority of the population.
‘Application queries to be answered by a medical gentleman’
- What is the nature and supposed cause of the applicant’s blindness?
- Is it total?
- Is it deemed incurable?
‘Application queries to be answered by a clergyman’
- Has the blind person been a common beggar, wandering minstrel, or played upon any instrument at ale-houses within two years before application for admission: such persons being entirely excluded?
- Does the party bear a character of regularity, decency and sobriety?
Rules for the conduct and management of pupils
- No pupils to be admitted into the school under the age of eight years, nor over the age of forty-five years, unless under very exceptional circumstances.
- Each pupil to be distinguished by a particular number.
- No noisy conversation to be permitted in the bedrooms.
- No noise to be permitted during the time of meals.
- The religious persuasion of each pupil to be stated on entering the School.
- Annual holiday is one month.
The rules also state that if a resident at the School needed surgery, it could only be carried out with permission of friends or family – the pupil themselves had no say.
Caroline Francis’ application to join the School
Caroline Francis was born in 1905, and applied to join the School for Children at Wavertree in 1918. The questions still include ‘has the applicant ever begged, or been used for the purposes of begging?’
Thanks to Amy Evans and Pat Hayes who wrote the audio description, and whose research and words underpin this blog.