Bust of Edward Rushton
ID: A large bronze bust of Edward Rushton's head and shoulders. He has his eyes closed, and is wearing a suit jacket and a cravat. This cold cast bronze bust of Edward Rushton was made by local artist and sculptor Philip Garrett in 2014. Rushton was one of the founders of the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool in 1791, the first of its kind in the UK. Rushton lost his vision as a young man whilst working as a sailor aboard a ship transporting enslaved people. His experiences later led him to become an outspoken abolitionist and philanthropist. Rushton and his peers founded the school to provide opportunities for other blind and visually impaired people. In its earlier years the school focused on handicraft skills like basket weaving and rope making. Its founders believed that learning a trade would help students become independent and self-supporting. In 1898, a junior school was founded in Wavertree, South Liverpool where children would eventually move on to the school's main site at Hardman Street in the city centre to learn a trade. By the time the Hardman Street school closed in 1958, its annual intake of students had been falling for years; its offering of trades now perceived as limiting. Today, thanks to advancements in technology, changing attitudes and awareness, the Royal School for the Blind at Wavertree supports children with visual impairments, as well as sensory and other additional needs, helping them to thrive. However, whilst celebrating the school’s successes, it is also important to acknowledge its past. Many former pupils at the Wavertree school in the 1950s recollect disturbing experiences of corporal punishment in oral history interviews within the Museum’s Liverpool Voices Archive. Steve Binns, city historian, remembers the cruelty of the headmistress: “she’d pick on any person with any different disability, someone who couldn’t walk very well.” He further describes her ‘systematic’ abuse where students were made to lie face down and be beaten “from one end of the dorm to the other.” Other students recall being beaten and caned, and having toys taken away as punishment.