Historic deaf centre closes

The committe of Dewsbury, Batley and Spenborough Centre for the Deaf and its members in 2004.
The committe of Dewsbury, Batley and Spenborough Centre for the Deaf and its members in 2004.

A SUPPORT group for deaf people in North Kirklees has closed after 120 years.

Dewsbury, Batley and Spenborough Centre for the Deaf has existed since 1891, when the group set up shop in St Hilda’s Church in Batley.

It later moved to Dewsbury, and for the last 40 years the centre has been based in Oxford Road.

However, numbers have fallen in recent years, so that now the group only has around 20 members.

Chairman John Parker said numbers were too low to justify keeping such a large building for the group, so the premises were sold in May.

He said that the dwindling membership was a sign of how far provision for deaf people has come since the centre was founded.

Mr Parker said: “It’s a lot to do with modern technology that didn’t exist 120 years ago.

“When you were profoundly deaf you were really cut off from society, but society has moved on and is more accepting now.

“In a way the centre closing shows that we have moved on.”

The Deaf Centre traditionally provided welfare support to its members, as well as signed church services and parties and games for deaf children.

Deaf people could join in a variety of activities, including the world’s first ever deaf choir, established in 1935.

The choir involved a centre worker pointing at words in time, as they were signed out by another volunteer.

Mr Parker said: “When deaf people came inside, their disability was left at the door.”

Though the centre itself has closed and its premises have been sold, its members still meet on a regular basis.

A service will be held at Dewsbury Minster on Sunday at 2.30pm to celebrate the centre’s history.

Mr Parker said: “We would like to see anyone who has been associated with the centre in its 120 years to come along.”