A brief history of the Ragged School Museum
Thomas Barnado set up the first free school in 1867 in response to the lack of educational opportunities for the poor. During that time there was also large scale overcrowding and disease. Ten years later the Copperfield Road School was opened. The school continued to serve the community for 31 years until the government began opening schools in the area. The Ragged School was known for accepting of all races which was considered to be opened for its time.
In the main gallery there was the ‘Ragged Children, Mended Lives’ exhibit which was done in conjunction with Queen Mary University. The exhibit explores stories of some of the children who found themselves in the care of Barnardo and his East End Juvenile Mission, there are also advertisements form the era, along with a display on The Bryant and May match factory. Most notable is the poster about the Match Girls’ strike in 1888. One thousand girls worked on due to terrible working conditions and fines for ‘misdemeanours’ such as having dirty feet and talking.
The Victorian school room took me back to my own school days, cane and all. Back in Trinidad the cane was made from the branch of a guava tree. It delivered a special kind of pain that made the eyes water involuntarily. However, new to me was the back straightener for slouchers, the finger stocks for fidgeters and the ‘dunce’ hat. It was clear that strict disciple was adhered to.
The Meet Up
The February half-term activities were dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (S.T.E.A.M). We met Nahdia and her sons in the area where the craft activities were taking place. The children had the opportunity to:
- Find out about Ada Lovelace and paint her portrait. She was a Mathematician and the daughter of poet Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke Byron. Ada was an associate of Charles Babbage and is thought to be the first computer programmer.
- Attempt building bridges like Burnel using paper cups, rubber bands and palette sticks (not that Burnel used those)
- Make tinsel float using a piece of wool, Styrofoam, aluminium pie tin and aluminium tinsel
- Dress up in Victorian ragged clothes
- Try Victorian penmanship in the ole class room.
Other Attractions Near the Museum
The Ragged School Museum certainly is worth a visit. Considering its history the museum is a delight attraction. Staff was warm and friendly. The museum is not that big. Visitors can theme their visit with a trip to Mile End park which is scenic with several play stations, as well as a café.
Canary Wharf is not far away for a spot retail therapy. If you are commuting, the 277 Bus will take you there. Brick Lane isn’t far either if you fancy a curry dinner. It’s well know for it’s curry houses. The District Line on the London Underground will take you to Aldgate East, then it’s a 11 mintues walk. Alternatively there’s the D6 bus that heads towards South Hackney which passes near Brick Lane.
(updated 12th May 2020)