Ragged School Museum
46-50 Copperfield Road, London, United Kingdom
www.raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk - 020 8980 6405
Ragged School Museum London Reviews
An East End education for all the family Feb 19, 2015
Whether it’s because of Eastenders, or the tradition that to be a true ‘Cockney’ you need to be born within earshot of East London’s St Mary Le-Bow church, East London has cultivated a reputation as being the working class heart of the capital. This hidden-gem of a museum – it’s tucked away on a street corner off Regent canal, definitely easy to miss – is situated on the site of a school that was set up in Victorian times to provide children with an education who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Today, it covers both the past and present of an area of London not particularly well-known to most.
The Ragged Schools, so-called because of the ‘ragged’ clothing of the children who attended them, were founded by Thomas Bernardo to address the fact that – amid socio-economic conditions that meant infant mortality was high, cholera was rampant, and living conditions appalling – the young people of East London were lacking even the most basic education. Whilst the schools were eventually superseded by the compulsory state education system still in place to this day, their legacy is assured, as is that of Thomas Bernardo himself: the charity named after him remains one of the biggest in the UK.
The middle floor of the museum is where the star attraction is situated – an original classroom, fully restored, complete with writing slates, inkwells and dunce hats. On the first Sunday of every month, a lesson with a purportedly ‘terrifying’ Victorian teacher takes place for those who want a flavour of Victorian education! Above this is a reconstruction of a typical East End kitchen, and on the ground floor underneath is a small museum in its own right on the history of the local area, with exhibits ranging from World War II memorabilia to old theatre hall posters and programs.
The knowledgeable staff are friendly, and as you might expect, there is plenty for children to get involved with, ranging from taking part in the aforementioned lesson to dressing up in Victorian clothes (‘dirty faces essential’). As a volunteer-run place, the opening hours are somewhat limited, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in East London at the right time.
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