Here at the Museum of Liverpool we have recently put on display this rather unusual piece of furniture: a chair that was designed to act as a hearing aid. As part of the display process we asked members of Liverpool’s D/deaf community for their memories and thoughts about the chair. In this blog you can read what they told us as well as find out more information about this special chair.
I laughed when I first saw it. Fancy having to get people to kneel down and shout into the armrest. But not while the football is on the telly!” – Barry Avison, DaDaFest, disability arts organisation
This special chair is a recreation of an acoustic chair made by London-based company FC Rein in 1819 for King John VI of Portugal and Brazil. Visitors who wanted to speak to the King, who was hard of hearing, knelt down and talked into the lions’ mouths. The amplified sound was then directed to the King’s ear piece which was fixed to the end of a tube similar to the one you can see on the back of this chair. The King apparently even took the chair to Brazil with him when he fled Lisbon in 1807 in order to escape advancing French troops. The King’s original chair was put up for auction in 2006 with an estimate of £20,000-30,000.
I’m trying to remember the first time I saw that chair. I guess I was feeling glad that I had my hearing aids and thought it was so ugly. It would be most restrictive if that chair was my hearing equipment!” Kathie Hare-Cockburn, Liverpool Deaf Community group
The exact reason for recreating King John’s chair remains a mystery! We do know that this chair sat proudly in the window of the Liverpool Hearing Centre on Bold Street for over 60 years and is fondly remembered by many Liverpudlians. When the shop moved premises in 2017 the owners, Amplifon, generously donated the chair to the Museum of Liverpool.