The painting The Deaf and Dumb Baronet was that of Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn, a deaf baronet. The deaf artist Charles Webb Moore did this portrait in 1903 and the Hampshire Association for the Deaf later donated it to the BDHS Museum upon the closure of the Fairbairn Centre in Portsmouth. It was in a poor and fragile condition so the BDHS had the painting professionally restored at a cost of £300 in 2010.
Who was Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn?
Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn, who liked to call himself “The Only Deaf and Dumb Baronet”, lived from 1852 to 1915 and became the third Baronet in 1891 on the death of his father, Sir Thomas Fairbairn, who was the Chairman of the great Manchester Exhibition of 1856 and of the International Exhibition in London in 1862. Arthur and his sister Constance, who was also deaf, were born at Prestwich, Lancashire. He inherited the family wealth, which came from an invention of riveting machines which were in great use in dockyards and in the construction of bridges. His wealth enabled Sir Arthur to become an excellent philanthropist and with his sister Constance he gave unstinting support to Deaf charities throughout Britain, mainly in the South of England. He was a great traveller and had visited almost every country in Europe and also the United States. He was a most accomplished horseman, a capital hand with his rifle, and a most enthusiastic
He contributed financially to many organisations, especially the British Deaf and Dumb Association and the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb, giving considerable sums. One example of his generosity can be seen in the 1903 BDDA photograph of its Congress Banquet at the Royal Venetian Restaurant, Holborn, London. He paid the whole cost of the Banquet and also paid for the hire of many of the evening suits worn by the men attending the function. He was a firm believer in the use of sign language as a means of educating deaf children and had no sympathy with the oral system.
Who was Charles Webb Moore?
Charles Webb Moore (1848-1933) was an engraver and artist, described as “the doyen of deaf artists” in an article by A. J. Wilson (who like Moore was deaf and also an engraver) in The Silent
World in 1924. Moore was born on 7th April 1848 in Camden Town, London, the fifth and youngest child of Isaac Webb Moore, artist and lithographer (1808-1886), and Amelia Lyons (1806-1881). His parents and his four siblings were all deaf.
He was a pupil at the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in Old Kent Road, attending from February 1858 to December 1862. Showing a flair for engraving, Moore then trained as a wood engraver and subsequently worked for a number of periodicals including The Graphic and Illustrated London News as well as a number of deaf journals. He later turned to painting, mainly because of advances in the printing industry which rendered the wood engraving process redundant. Although he did numerous landscape and still life paintings, he is better known for his portraits – including the one of Sir Arthur Fairbairn that is now hanging in the Deaf Museum in Warrington.
Moore was closely associated with St. Saviour’s Church in Oxford Street, London, the first church in the U.K. to be built specifically for deaf people, and its social club. He also was a member of its Drama Society, acting in a number of its theatrical productions, and the Deaf and Dumb Debating Society. He and his circle of friends (who included the well-known deaf artist Thomas Davidson) formed the core of the community at St. Saviour’s. Moore was also a part of Frank Brangwyn’s artistic circle.
On 4th August 1878 Charles Webb Moore married a deaf lady, Emily Eliza Kamerick (1856-1947) at St. Mary’s Church, Paddington. The service was conducted by the Rev. Churchill and interpreted by sign language by the Rev. Samuel Smith, M.A., of St. Saviour’s Church. After marriage they settled in Paddington, later moving to Chiswick and then Willesden. They had six children, the eldest being deaf. Their deaf descendants include a great-granddaughter, Jennifer Depledge (née Moore).
Charles Webb Moore died aged 84 on 19th January 1933 and is buried in the Willesden New Cemetery, N.W. London.
Photograph of Charles W. Moore