MD Series: The Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind, York, UK

So, I realise somewhat belatedly that I haven’t fully introduced you all to the subject of my soundscape (though it was mentioned briefly in the first post of the series). Without further ado, I’ll give you a brief history of the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind.

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Photographs showing sections of the front part of King’s Manor

The Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind was established in 1833 in the King’s Manor building in York, UK. The school initially only used the front rooms of the King’s Manor building (seen in the photograph) as the back half of the manor in the 1850s was still being used by the Manor School.

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William Wilberforce

It was set up in memory of William Wilberforce an MP who fought for the abolition of slavery in Parliament for 18 years before finally getting a law passed in 1807.

It was thought as William Wilberforce was so compassionate in life, that it would only be fitting that his charitable acts should continue after passing by sponsoring the Blind School.

The school was revolutionary not only educating pupils in vocational skills such as basket weaving but also giving a classical education with subjects such as English and Maths.

By far, the biggest emphasis the school had was on music (a reason why I feel a soundscape is the most appropriate way of sharing the information on the school). A lot of pupils who gained success after attending the school did so in the field of music. A fair few became organists in the local churches and some performers in the music halls.

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  Plaque located in King’s Manor, York

The school eventually closed in 1956 according to the literature (though it claims to be 1968 on the memorial plaque in the King’s Manor building). The building today is occupied by the University of York and, until very recently, was where I studied the majority of both my undergraduate and postgraduate degree.

There’s still evidence of the school there today if you know where to look. Go into the first courtyard of King’s Manor and look up to the rooftop on your right (the same side as the calf statue). Up there, you can still see the original school-bell in situ.

One thing that has become abundantly clear when studying the school, however, is how much they genuinely cared about their pupils. That is why I’m so passionate about making sure that their legacy lives on.

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