The Deaf association at 28 Northgate Street is a well established Centre in Bury St Edmunds since 1897. The National Association for the Deaf and Dumb had only been started in 1886 therefore Bury St Edmunds was hot on the heels of progress at that time. By 1913 a new Diocese was created of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich that worked with Norwich. By 1938 the diocese formally separated and the work of the Suffolk Mission for the Deaf and Dumb was responsible for the whole of Suffolk. Welfare work at that time included assistance in helping Deaf people obtain employment.
In 1924 it was recorded that 60 Deaf people were listed as working in the Workhouses and when Bury St Edmunds held its first independent meeting in 1936, lip reading classes were mentioned for the first time. By the 1940s the County Council took over the social work for the diocese and the missioners became known as Welfare Officers but they continued their religious roles. In 1946 the Welfare Committee for the Deaf and Dumb in Bury St Edmunds and District arranged to hire the Ragged School in Peckham Street from the Gas company.
In 1964 Capt. Hardy offered to sell his house to the Mission for “Branch Mission and Club premises” that was valued at £3,750 but he offered it for £1,700. The Mayor of Bury St Edmunds agreed to be patron of an appeal to raise £5,000 to cover the cost of purchase, conversion, decoration and equipment. By 1965 the house was purchased and for the first time Deaf people in the Bury area had a base of their own to meet. The Missioner lived in the flat upstairs which meant there was less need to travel to meet the Deaf Community, he helped with interpreting, form filling and other welfare problems. In 1980 money was raised for improvements, this time for an extension to be used as a snooker room and by the 1990s a new kitchen was made possible.
The last Missioner retired and the flat was let on a commercial basis which it is today. The rooms at 28 Northgate Street are let to a variety of organisations and a Committee of Trustees manage the changes/updates and future of the Bury St Edmunds District Deaf and Hard of Hearing Association. We have an amazing group of volunteers and one part-time Administrator together with a Treasurer who look after the day-to-day running of the organisation. It was in the mid 1990s that the Hard of Hearing Club was inaugurated. In 1971 the British Deaf and Dumb Association had the word ‘Dumb’ removed from its title and Clubs and Associations in the country soon followed.