Celebrating 95 years of St Joseph’s Mission to Deaf People

Date Published: 08 May 2024
Black and white photograph of a large group of people sitting smiling at camera

This year, St Joseph’s Mission to Deaf People is celebrating its 95th anniversary.

It’s a huge achievement and it’s a service that has made a massive difference to the lives of many people in our area over the years.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing more about the service, its history and the people who access it today too – starting with this look at just some of the key moments from the last 95 years…

29 March 1929

On Good Friday in 1929, St Joseph’s Mission to Deaf People was founded at St Joseph’s Convent, St Vincent Street, Ancoats.

Father William Hayward and Father Francis Buckley went to the home of the president of St Anne’s, Ancoats, SVP conference and at the information meeting the SVP agreed to the founding of the Mission. The Sisters of the Charity made available part of their building at St Joseph’s Convent to be used as the Mission base.

In its initial aims and objectives, it was outlined that the Mission was formed to support deaf people locally and ‘to give greater facilities for religious instruction and the reception of the Sacraments’. It also said that ‘there is a social club where lectures are given and games provided’. The Mission also aimed to safeguard deaf and dumb children in the area.

Black and white photograph of Fr Hayward with a cine projector reel

Thursday nights were very popular at the Mission because it was ‘pictures night’. Father Hayward, a proficient photographer showed films of himself giving sermons in sign language, followed by a silent movie screening such as films featuring Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chase or Harold Lloyd. The group also organised outings and other activities.


The Mission grew in popularity and moved to Chester Road in Old Trafford.

On 29 June that year, the first Mass in sign language took place.

Black and white photograph of Fr Hayward celebrating Mass


The site at Chester Road was bombed during the war and two weeks after being significantly damaged, the Mission moved to a new address further up the same road in Old Trafford.

Gerard McDonough, father of Peter McDonough who currently leads the St Joseph’s Mission to Deaf People service for Caritas, remembers the night of the bombing well. He said: “It was December, before Christmas in 1940 when it happened…”

He remembered travelling to the Deaf Club with his friend James Thresh on his motorbike: “When we reached Chester Road and were nearly there, we saw a policeman on the road who put his hands up to stop us. I stopped the bike and he said something to us. We didn’t know what he was saying, so we pointed to our ears and said ‘Deaf’. The policeman realised and pointed to the light of my motorbike and said ‘Light out please’. It was now dark and the policeman pointed to the sky – I had forgotten about the blackout. I looked up and could see a few aeroplanes in the distance…”

At the club, Gerard and James joined Canon Hayward, Frank Nevin and James Daley. Outside the aeroplanes were beginning to bomb Manchester and it went on all evening. He said: “It became worse and worse and we were getting a bit worried. We stayed together and then suddenly, very late in the evening, or perhaps early in the morning, the window shattered. A bomb exploded outside in the street and was so strong that it blew the window frame out of the wall and into the room. James Daley’s neck was hurt from broken glass.

“The Canon decided that we should go into the cellar so we went down. The Canon got the lead and held his dog because he was frightened of the noise outside. We took turns holding the lead to look after the dog. We were in the cellar a long time when suddenly we felt a big bang and the whole house shook. We could feel strong vibrations and looked at each other. We were numb with fear and couldn’t say or sign anything. Then all the lights went out. In fact what we didn’t know was that we probably saved our lives going down to the cellar.”

The bomb had landed on a house across the road and Gerard recalls everything being covered in black soot and dust, with a little orange light shining into the Deaf Club from the fires outside.

It was a terrible evening and many people were killed. The group realised that moving into the cellar when they did had probably saved their lives.

Black and white photograph of men around a table all wearing suits and playing cards


The work of Fr Hayward was becoming well known and from time to time he would travel to other parts of the country to advise and assist with other clubs for deaf people.

When Rosina Henesy, who was deaf, died in 1964, her sister wished to leave a lasting memorial to her and enabled the purchase and establishment of a residential home for deaf people in Sale.


St Joseph’s Mission moved again, this time to Eltoft Street, which is behind Deansgate in the city centre.


The Mission and Henesey House both moved to Denmark Road in Hulme.

The premises at Denmark Road had a large hall for church services and other functions too, and was home to many activities, lectures, and supportive sessions.


St Joseph’s Mission moved to Sudell Street in Collyhurst (a street which was later renamed to Nobby Stiles Drive). This remains the current location of the service.

Present day

The service continues to work with members of the local deaf community, including individuals and families too. People of all faiths and none are welcome to join a wide range of activities.

The Caritas team also supports people facing discrimination or exclusion and aims to break down barriers to access and raise awareness of the need for equity for all – reducing isolation and continuing to build a friendly, warm and supportive community for local people.

Find out more about the service or get support from the team now.

Man in red Caritas branded tshirt

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