St Saviour’s has a unique place in the history of the Deaf Church in London. It was built and managed by the Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) until its sale in 2015.
The sale of the church ends a unique history in the Deaf community of London who had their own church since the original building was built in 1875.
St Saviour’s was one of the the first Churches to be built for the Deaf Community in England. It opened in 1875, on a site on Oxford Street. This site was leased to RAD (then known as The Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb) for 60 years by the Duke of Westminster. Rev Samuel Smith was the first priest to serve there.
The Oxford Street lease was due to expire in 1931, but it was agreed to surrender this in 1922. The site in Oxford Street is now a sports shop opposite Selfridges on the corner of Lumley Street. A new site was found in Acton, and a Church, Club and Chaplain’s house was built. Important artwork by Deaf artists, created for the Oxford Street site, were moved to the new building. This included the picture “Ephphatha”, showing Jesus healing a Deaf man, painted by Thomas Davidson (since lost or stolen); the sculpture of “The Good Shepherd”, and busts of Prince of Wales and Rev Samuel Smith, by Joseph Gawen; The painting of “The Last Supper” by Frank Ross Maguire (1855-1934), painted in 1916, seems to have been transferred to Lewisham Deaf Church, where it hung until the church closed down. It was then moved to St Bede’s Deaf Church in Clapham until it closed in 2003. After transfer to St Saviour’s, it was damaged, but was restored beautifully, and now hangs in the Church at St Saviour’s.
St Saviour’s, Acton, was officially open in 1925 when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, laid the foundation stone.
RAD has changed a lot since 1925, and so has the Chaplaincy service. Most would agree that St Saviour’s has a very special and unique place in the Deaf Community. This will be preserved in photos and in the archives. The important historical works will be found new homes and kept for future generations to enjoy.
Click here to view pictures of the final service on 24th September 2014.
Sculpture of the Good Shepherd by Joseph Gawen
Painting of the Last Supper by Frank Maguire