Ragged school


Ragged school

Ragged schools is a name commonly given after about 1840 to the many independently established 19th century charity schools in the United Kingdom which provided entirely free education and, in most cases, food, clothing, lodging and other home missionary services for those too poor to pay. Often they were established in poor working class districts of the rapidly expanding industrial towns.

Origins

Several different schools claim to have been the first truly free school for poor or 'ragged' people. John Pounds (1766-1839), a Portsmouth shoemaker provides one of the earliest well documented example of the movement. The 'crippled cobbler' as he was sometimes called, began teaching poor children without charging fees, in 1818. Rev Dr Thomas Guthrie (1780-1873) of Edinburgh was also an early promoter of free schooling for working class children; he started what appears to have been the first Scottish free school for the poor. Sheriff Watson established another in Scotland in 1841, in Aberdeen - initially for boys only, until its sister school opened 1843 for girls, and a mixed school in 1845. From here the movement spread to Dundee and other parts of Scotland, mostly due to the work of the Rev. Dr Thomas Guthrie.

Close to London, the tailor Thomas Cranfield also offered free schooling to the poor at an early date. Having gained educational experience at a Sunday school on Kingsland Road, Hackney, near London, in 1798 he established a day school on Kent Street near London Bridge and at some point thereafter began to admit significant numbers of poor children without any payment. By the time of his death in 1838, he had "built up an organization of nineteen Sunday, night and infants’ schools situated in the foulest parts of London" that offered their services free to many children of poor families, and destitute children [Eager (1953), p.121] .

Adoption of the name 'Ragged School'

The term "Ragged School" appears to have been first introduced by the London City Mission. Beginning in 1835, it appointed paid missionaries and lay agents to assist the poor with a wide range of free charitable help from clothing to basic education (including Penny Banks, Clothing Clubs, Bands of Hope, and Soup Kitchens). In 1840 the London City Mission used the term 'ragged' in its Annual Report to describe its establishment that year of five schools for 570 children. These had, it reported, been ‘'formed exclusively for children raggedly clothed'’ [Montague (1904), p.34] .

Capturing the Victorian Imagination

Charles Dickens' visit to the Field Lane Ragged School [ [http://www.fieldlane.org.uk/about-history.asp Field Lane - History] accessed 1 Feb 2008] in 1843 inspired him to write "A Christmas Carol". Appalled by what he saw at Field Lane (now Farringdon Road), he initially intended to write a pamphlet on the plight of poor children, but realised a story would have more impact.

By 1844 there were at least twenty free schools for the poor in London maintained by the London City Mission, by the work of chapels, and philanthropists. An association was suggested to share experience and promote their common cause. To this end four people (Locke, Moutlon, Morrison and Starey) connected to the existing free schools formed a steering group. On April 11th at 17 Ampton Street off the Grays Inn Road, they met to organise a public meeting and establish a committee or association. The "Ragged Schools Union" was duly established; it later became the "Shaftesbury Society" (since 2007 part of "Liveability").

The "Ragged School Union" begun with about 200 teachers in 1844. This grew to about 1600 teachers by 1851. By 1867, some 226 Sunday Ragged Schools, 204 Day Schools and 207 Evening Schools provided a free education for about 26,000 pupils. The chairman for the first 39 years was The seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, and in this time an estimated 300,000 destitute children received a free education. Under his chairmanship, the free school movement became respectable, even fashionable, attracting the attention of many wealthy philanthropists. As Eager (1953) explains, "He gave what had been a Nonconformist undertaking the cachet of his Tory churchmanship – an important factor at a time when even broad-minded (Anglican) churchmen thought that Nonconformists should be fairly credited with good intentions, but that co-operation (with them) was undesirable" [Eager (1953), p.123] .

Legacy

The success of the Ragged Schools demonstrated vividly that there was a demand for education amongst the poor. After 1870 public funding began to be provided for free elementary education amongst working people. As the board schools were built and funded under the Elementary Education Act 1870, the demand for Ragged Schools declined: the Board Schools became their legacy. However some respite was provided by the passing of an Act in 1869 to exempt Ragged and Sunday schools from rating.

Today, a "Ragged School Museum" is open (founded 1990), at Copperfield Road, Tower Hamlets. It occupies buildings were previously used by Dr Barnardo to house what is said to have been the largest Ragged School in London.

ee also

*Ragged School Museum

Books

* Montague, C. J. (1904; reprint 1969) "Sixty Years in Waifdom. Or, the Ragged School Movement in English history". London: Woburn press reprint
* Eagar, W. McG. (1953) "Making Men: the history of the Boys’ Clubs and related movements in Great Britain". London: University of London Press

References

Citations

*wikicite|id=idMontague1904|reference=Montague, C.J. (1904) "Sixty Years in Waifdom. Or, the Ragged School Movement in English history", London:Charles Murray
*wikicite|id=idEager1953|reference=Eager, W. McG. (1953) "Making Men: the history of the Boys’ Clubs and related movements in Great Britain", London:University of London Press

External links

* [http://www.infed.org/youthwork/ragged_schools.htm Ragged Schools, Encyclopedia of Informal Education]
* [http://www.bmagic.org.uk/objects/1892P46 "The First Ragged School, Westminster" (oil painting) Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery]
* [http://www.infed.org/youthwork/ragged_schools.htm A brief history of Ragged Schools]
* [http://www.livability.org.uk/page.asp?id=665 Liveability -Our History]


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  • Ragged school — Ragged Rag ged (r[a^]g g[e^]d), a. [From {Rag}, n.] 1. Rent or worn into tatters, or till the texture is broken; as, a ragged coat; a ragged sail. [1913 Webster] 2. Broken with rough edges; having jags; uneven; rough; jagged; as, ragged rocks.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ragged school — noun : a free school for destitute English children * * * ragged school noun (historical) A voluntary school for destitute children in the 19c • • • Main Entry: ↑rag …   Useful english dictionary

  • ragged school — ▪ education       any of the 19th century English and Scottish institutions maintained through charity and fostering various educational and other services for poor children, such as elementary schooling, industrial training, religious… …   Universalium

  • ragged school — /ˈrægəd skul/ (say raguhd skoohl) noun British History a charity school for poor children …   Australian English dictionary

  • Ragged School Museum — The Ragged School Museum is a museum in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The museum was opened in 1990, in the premises of the former Dr Barnardo s Copperfield Road Ragged School. The school opened in 1877 to serve the children of Mile End… …   Wikipedia

  • Ragged — Rag ged (r[a^]g g[e^]d), a. [From {Rag}, n.] 1. Rent or worn into tatters, or till the texture is broken; as, a ragged coat; a ragged sail. [1913 Webster] 2. Broken with rough edges; having jags; uneven; rough; jagged; as, ragged rocks. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Ragged sailor — Ragged Rag ged (r[a^]g g[e^]d), a. [From {Rag}, n.] 1. Rent or worn into tatters, or till the texture is broken; as, a ragged coat; a ragged sail. [1913 Webster] 2. Broken with rough edges; having jags; uneven; rough; jagged; as, ragged rocks.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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