The Ragged School Museum is housed in a group of three canalside buildings which once formed the largest “ragged” or free school in London.
When Thomas Barnardo came to London from his home city of Dublin in 1866, intending to train as a doctor and then become a missionary in China, he was confronted by a city where disease was rife, poverty and overcrowding endemic and educational opportunities for the poor were non-existent. He watched helplessly as a cholera epidemic swept through the East End, leaving over 3,000 Londoners dead and many destitute.
He gave up his medical training to pursue his local missionary works and in 1867 opened his first “ragged school” where children could gain a free basic education.
Ten years later, Barnardo’s Copperfield Road Free School opened its doors to children and for the next thirty-one years educated tens of thousands of children. It closed in 1908 by which time enough government schools had opened in the area to serve the needs of local families.
The buildings, originally warehouses for goods transported along the Regent’s Canal, then went through a variety of industrial uses until, in the early 1980s, they were threatened with demolition.
It was then that a group of local people joined together to save them and reclaim their unique heritage. The Ragged School Museum Trust was set up and the museum opened in 1990.
The museum was founded to make the history of the Ragged Schools and the broader social history of the Victorian East End accessible to all.
At the heart of the Ragged School Museum is the unique classroom, where each year some 16,000 children come to experience a glimpse of Victorian life. The room has been recreated in one of Dr Barnardo’s original classrooms, restored as it was in the 1870s when the great social reformer, newly arrived from Dublin, set up his free school for poor children in the East End of London.
The classroom is equipped with authentic and well-used school desks, slate writing boards and chalks, blackboards and easels and even dunce hats.
The museum is open between 10am and 5pm every Wednesday and Thursday, and between 2pm and 5pm on the first Sunday of each month.
**Please be aware that there may be limited access to the Schoolroom and Victorian Kitchen at certain times, due to visiting school groups. Please call us on 0208 980 6405 if you wish to discuss the best time to visit.**
General admission to the museum is free;
Ragged School Museum
46-50 Copperfield Road
From £11 per person
Typical charges from Airport to London or London to the Airport
From £11 per person
From £9 per person
From £25 per person
All prices are based on 6 people sharing a taxi