Watch: The BSL Zone’s video profiles of famous deaf people from history!

Posted on January 8, 2014



The BSL Zone website hosts all kinds of programmes made in British Sign Language (BSL) including Deaf dramas, magazine series and children’s programmes.

As part of the BSL Zone’s Wicked series, a series of short documentaries were made, featuring profiles of famous deaf people from history, and they’ve now been added to their site as stand-alone clips.

So if you want to find out about the achievements of Deaf people from the past, ranging from a toy maker to a boxer, check out the clips below!

Florence Attwood

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Florence Atwood was a toy designer and maker who was Deaf.

To chart her life, reporter Sharon Hirshman goes to the oldest toy factory in the UK, Merrythought in Shropshire, where over 15,000 teddy bears are made using traditional methods each year.

There, she sees some toys worth hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Hirshman explains how Florence Attwood, who was born in 1907, went on to become their Chief Designer.

In her short life, she left a lasting legacy.

To watch this profile, click here.

James Burke

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Reporter Sebastian Cunliffe presents this profile of the most famous Deaf sportsman who has lived – boxer James Burke.

Born in 1809 to a poor family, Burke’s parents died when he was young and he was forced to roam for food, before a chance meeting with a pub landlord changed his life.

By 1833, he was an acclaimed bare knuckle fighter, but a tragic fight against Simon Byrne led him to flee to America.

Again falling on troubled times, he returned to fight in England under new rules. But would he end his life a wealthy man, or as poor as he started? Watch this and find out.

To watch this profile, click here.

James Herriot

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Reporter Vicky Sowden tells us all about James Herriot, a Deaf tailor who lived in the 1800s.

Born in 1815, Herriot worked his way up the career ladder to eventually own his own tailors firm in the centre of Manchester. There he employed 12 apprentices, 6 of whom were Deaf!

Herriot was an active member of the Deaf community, attending the annual Deaf and Dumb congress.

Inspired, he went on to set up the Manchester and Salford Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Association, which was also run by Deaf people.

To watch this profile, click here.

John Dyott

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John Dyott was born in 1606 and being deaf, was unable to follow the family tradition of serving in the army.

Reporter Sebastian Cunliffe tells us all about how, after being nicknamed ‘Dumb Dyott,’ he decided to take matters – and his gun – into his own hands when the English Civil War broke out.

As the Royalists and the Roundheads fought, Dyott concealed himself in Lichfield Cathedral and on gaining clear sight of Lord Brooke, shot and killed him instantly.

Did he get the credit he deserved? Watch it and find out!

To watch this profile, click here.

John Goodricke

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John Goodricke changed how we view the skies in his short life.

Having been born in Holland, Goodricke moved to the UK for his education, and settled in York. There he made a close friendship with Edward Pigott, a talented astronomer.

He soon made a scientific breakthrough which won him the prestigious Copley medal, and despite dying young, his methods are still used 200 years later.

To watch this profile, click here.

Joseph Gawen

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Deaf sculptor Joseph Gawen is the subject of this episode, presented by Sebastian Cunliffe.

Born in Brighton in 1845, Gawen lived at a time when most deaf people were forced to work with their hands.

His boss, Hodges Bailey, would design his sculptures and Gawen would sculpt them, often making busts of famous people, including the Royal family.

Cunliffe explains how it is rumoured that he may have been responsible for London’s world famous Nelson’s column!

To watch this profile, click here.

Joshua Reynolds

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In this episode, reporter Sharon Hirshman tells us about the life of the Deaf painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, played here by Deaf actor John Wilson.

Influenced by a European style, Reynolds changed the direction of English art. At the age of 17, he became an apprentice to the portrait artist Thomas Hudson.

When he became deaf, he first used an ear trumpet then later had to rely on his family to relay information for him. In the most famous painting of him, he is cupping his ear, showing his deaf identity.

Hirshman explains how Reynolds later believed his deafness improved his work.

To watch this profile, click here.

Queen Alexandra

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Reporter Camilla Arnold tells us about the life of Queen Alexandra, who was born in Denmark in 1844.

The monarchy has been endlessly recorded in history, but not many people know that at the beginning of the 20th Century, Britain had a Deaf queen.

When she was 16, she was chosen to be the wife of Albert, Prince of Wales and became the daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria.

It is believed that Alexandra taught the Queen to fingerspell, and she made a point of supporting Deaf arts, buying work from Deaf artists and sculptors.

To watch this profile, click here.

Richard Crosse

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This episode is about Richard Crosse, a deaf miniature portrait painter from hundreds of years ago.

Reporter Sebastian Cunliffe visits London’s Victoria and Albert museum to look at miniatures dating back to the 16th Century, when photographs did not exist, and these portraits were the only way of preserving the image of loved ones.

There, he tells us about Crosse, a deaf man born into the upper classes in Devon, who began painting as a hobby in his teens.

When his talent was recognised, he moved to London to begin learning his trade.

To watch this profile, click here.

To read the original article about famous deaf people from history, click here.

To find out more about the BSL Zone, and explore programmes made by Deaf people for Deaf people, go to: www.bslzone.co.uk

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