Cardiff Blind School

This is a reprint of an ‘occasional paper’ first researched and published by the Roath Local History Society in 2011 supplemented with pictures and newspaper extracts.

In 1894, the Cardiff Education Committee accepted the recommendation of its Special Schools Committee to cease renting a schoolroom in the Blind Institute and to appoint a teacher to work with blind children. The teacher would attend Radnor Road School, Canton in the mornings and Stacey Rd School, Roath in the afternoons.

The teacher appointed gives his name as Frank Lattey.  There are no Latteys listed in Cardiff or anywhere else in the 1881 Census but he appears in the 1901 Census where Frank turns out to be his middle name; in the Census he is Werner F Lattey; age 41(so born about 1860); born in London, living as a boarder at 150 Richmond Rd, Cardiff; occupation Schoolmaster (which clinches it). Reading about him working mornings in Canton and afternoons in Roath, I imagined him cycling between the two, but the final column of the Census form tells us he was partially sighted from birth so perhaps the trams were already running between Victoria Park and the Royal Oak).

The logbooks of Cardiff Blind School are held in Glamorgan Archives. The first entry is dated 3 Sept 1895 but when school resumes after the Christmas holiday, the dates are still headed 1895 and all subsequent entries follow from this, so the first entry was probably made 3 Sept 1894. The following selection of entries from the logbooks provide a picture of conditions at the time:

Opened September 3 1895.  Frank Lattey teacher.

Morning attendance at Radnor Rd Girls’ School.

Afternoon attendance at Stacey Rd.

Sep 3. Admitted 1 girl and 1 boy at Radnor Rd.

Admitted 2 girls and 2 boys at Stacey Rd.

Sep 7. Admitted 1 girl Radnor Rd.

Oct 31.  ½ day holiday.

Nov 7.  Stacey Rd closed due to rough weather.

Nov 30. Ethel is progressing favourably with Braille.

Dec 21. Schools closed for Christmas vacation.

Jan 7. 1895 Resumed school work.

Jan 11. Charles is rarely in school. He is subject to fits.

Jan 25. Archibald away for last 3 weeks for lack of boots.

Feb 1. Gabrielle is making progress in Braille and arithmetic.

Mar 15. Rachel is a troublesome fidgety child and does not improve in reading and writing.

(There are later Entries concerning Rachel):

Sep 11 1896. Rachel is still absent and the attendance officer reports that the family is likely to go into the workhouse.

Sep 18. Rachel is again attending school.

And, to finish these entries on a positive note:

May 14 1897. I am informed that Clarissa of this school has won a scholarship at the Royal Normal College and Academy of Music for the Blind, Upper Norwood, London.

The Royal Normal College, Upper Norwood
(image courtesy of The Norwood Society)

Reports of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) are copied in full into the logbooks.  The reports are short and (almost!) invariably favourable.

Report of HMI Rev T Sharpe year ended 30 April 1895

Stacey Road: The children are taught with kindness and patience. Consequently provision should be made at [? illegible] for a school. Grant £8.8.0.

Radnor Road: The children are carefully taught and very gently handled. They should be transferred to more suitable premises. Grant £6.0.9.

June 16 1897 Report of HMI for Stacey Rd Dept: The children are still taught in a classroom with sighted children but with a special instructor to work with them half the day.  A new central room for the instruction of the two groups of blind children in Cardiff is approaching completion.  The work of the special instructor deserves praise.

June 18 Closed for Jubilee Week. [Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee]

July 1 Report of HMI for Radnor Rd: The children are taught in a corridor by a special teacher during half the day and during the rest of the time receive instruction with the sighted children. A new central room… [continues as Stacey Rd report]

The school transferred to the central room in Adamsdown in September 1897. The logbook records that they exhibited a hearthrug at the Cardiff Horticultural Show during the August Holiday and a boy named Sydney won 1st prize in the general competition.  Numbers of children attending increased and HMIs’ Reports continue:

South Wales Echo, 12 Oct 1898

18 July 1900 Report of HMI: The school provides for the education of 35 blind children of both sexes.  The school is in a thoroughly satisfactory state and the Master deserves praise for the capable instruction that is given here.  It is desirable that inexpensive books in Braille type should be purchased in order that the children may be encouraged to read at home.

15 March 1906 Received report of HM Inspector: The opportunities for educating children are very unsatisfactory.  The children are too few to admit of suitable classification and do not make adequate progress.  Accordingly the Committee are advised to close the school and transfer the children to residential institutions. In this way the expenditure on the children may be expected to be effective. At present this is certainly not the case.

Mr Lattey replied in a typed letter, the carbon copy of which is in Glamorgan Archives. (The carbon would now be too faint to read if he had not hit the keys with such force that they have left impressions in the paper!)

2 April 1906

To the Chairman and Members of the Special Schools Committee

Mesdames and Dear Sirs,

I have received and read with surprise the report of Dr Eichol on this school and in connection therewith I beg to submit the following statement.

The visit on which the report is based lasted less than thirty minutes and so far from the general progress of the school being inquired into, only a few questions were asked of the pupils and these were confined to four of the eleven subjects taught in the school.

I do not gather from the report that there is any complaint upon my methods or my work, and before your Committee decide to act in the matter, I respectfully ask your consideration of previous reports upon the work of the school.

The number of pupils is at present small, but as ten is the maximum for a class in a residential institution, the smallness of the number seems hardly a sound reason for closing the school.  I would also remind you that the number has been as high as seventeen and Cardiff cannot reasonably expect that the number of its blind children will remain much longer at the present low figure.

As evidence that the school has done and is capable of doing good work, I mention that no less than five children have been brought to me at a time when their sight was in a critical condition; they continued their education without injury to their sight and having eventually recovered are now in the upper standards of ordinary schools. It is doubtful if such cases would have been sent to an institution.

It is also well known that pupils from the school have proceeded to Norwood where they have been awarded £40 scholarships.  It is doubtful whether some of the present pupils would be accepted by a residential Institution.  I would point out that the practice in London, where there are both Residential Institutions and Day Centres, is that the children attend the Day Centre for seven years before going into the Residential Institution.

In conclusion I would respectfully submit that the question of a Residential Institution in Cardiff is receiving the earnest attention of some members of the Institute Committee and the summary closing of the school would probably delay its establishment.

I am, Your obedient servant, FRANK LATTEY

Western Mail, 3rd Apr 1906

And that is the last we hear of that report! Presumably, the letter was dealt with by the Special Schools Committee but from then on, after each HMIs’ visit, the logbook carefully records how long the visit lasted and whether or not the Inspectors spoke to any of the children.

A book by the Director of the Cardiff Institute for the Blind refers to efforts in 1897 to make the transition of children from school life to their apprenticeships at the Institute as easy as possible. Later, during the First World War, he notes “The blind children of Cardiff are under the care of Cardiff Education Committee and part of one of the largest and best situated schools in Cardiff has been specially allocated to them  … After the age of sixteen they are drafted into the workshops.”

Western Mail. 27 Feb 1914 – Esperanto Class for the Blind

Glamorgan Archives have decided that because the logbooks contain personal information on individual pupils, they should be closed for 100 years (for the same reason, I have used only the pupils’ first names). Their Index shows that the Blind School moved to Marlborough Road School in 1912 and again to Cathedral Road in 1926.

The original Marlborough Road Board School opened in 1900, on the corner of Blenheim Road and Marlborough Road.

A letter from the Director of Education to the Head of the Blind School dated

27 August 1926 reads:

Dear Madam

Cathedral Road Blind School

The following is a copy of a letter dated 20 inst which I have received from the Board of Education.

1. With reference to Mr Jackson’s letter of 23 inst I am directed to thank the Authority for the information contained therein and to say that the school will in future be known as the Cathedral Road Blind School.

I am to add that the new premises provide sufficient accommodation for an average attendance of 60 children.

Yours faithfully, J.J. JACKSON Director of Education.

The Index shows the final entry in the Cathedral Road logbook is in September 1939.

I have failed to find an image of Cathedral Road Blind School but would welcome sharing one if anyone has one.

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