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At The Ragged School Museum

February 6, 2018
by the gentle author

The Ragged School Museum in Bow is a long tall building occupying the narrowest triangular site between the canal and the road –  as thin as a meagre slice of cake. In 1876, Dr Thomas Barnardo purchased these premises, originally constructed for warehouses, from a Scottish provisions company and opened a ragged school as one of forty establishments under his supervision in the East End. Within a couple of years, there were three hundred and seventy pupils daily and two thousand five hundred for Sunday school each week.

As well as providing education, children were given food and offered care and support to ameliorate the deprivation they suffered. Reverting to light industrial use after the death of Dr Barnardo at the beginning of the last century, the complex was blighted by a demolition order until the formation of the Ragged School Trust who purchased the building in 1986. An atmospheric structure where the melancholy presence of history still lingers, it is now a museum where school children come to experience Victorian education and learn of the realities of life for the poor in nineteenth century London.

Dr Barnardo’s Ragged School, 1879

Copperfield Rd today

“a long building occupying the narrowest triangular site between the canal and the road – as thin as a meagre slice of cake”

Stairs up to the classrooms

The Boys’ staircase

Behind these screens was the Headmaster’s Office

Bridge over Regent’s Canal

Stairs down to the Regent’s Canal towpath

Ragged School Museum, 46-50 Copperfield Rd, London, E3 4RR

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Desks ( in infant/junior schools ) very similar to those shown were certainly still in regular use as late as 1952-5 (!)

  2. Helen Breen permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, great glimpse into the past. I really enjoy the smaller museums in London and must put this one on my list.


  3. David Hucker permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Well worth a visit. Also the manufacturing base for famed motorcycle jacket company Lewis Leathers.

  4. Stephen Barker permalink
    February 6, 2018

    I can remember sitting at desks like that in the 1960’s in a comprehensive school. This makes me feel so old !

  5. David Bishop permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Thank you for highlighting this local museum (and powerful reminder of the past), so easily missed.

  6. Peter Holford permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Greg says those desks were in use until 1952-5. Can I correct him? I certainly sat in one of those as late as 1965 and when I had my first teaching post in Oldham, the old primary school that served as the lower school for a large comprehensive still had them – the date was 1974. Obviously made to last! I think they were disposed of when that building was closed and demolished around 1980.

  7. Gary Arber permalink
    February 6, 2018

    When the trust saved the school it also saved the rest of the block which used to be the Mentmore Fountain Pen Company and has now been converted into artist’s studios.

  8. Hilary permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Yes I sat at a desk like that at my northern grammar school in the 1960’s !

    Very interesting museum conversion.

  9. Ron Bunting permalink
    February 7, 2018

    A cane… the last time i saw one of those it was on a trajectory towards my buttocks for some minor infraction in class… ahem.

  10. February 8, 2018

    Those were the days, my friends …

    Love & Peace

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