Ragged School Museum – London, England - Atlas Obscura

Ragged School Museum

A Victorian school for poverty stricken waifs has been preserved as a museum to their donated education. 


The Ragged School Museum is a preserved Victorian schoolhouse that was originally established to educate the many poverty and disease stricken children of the day.

Opened in 1877, the three warehouse’s of the so-called “Ragged School” were joined together to create a space where the underprivileged kids of London’s notorious Mile End could receive the basic education that would help them function in the job force. The school was founded by a former doctor from Ireland, Thomas Barnardo. Barnardo gave up his physician’s practice after witnessing a cholera outbreak tear through a group of London’s less fortunate. Barnardo’s ragged school welcomed children from all backgrounds and provided each one the opportunity of an education, free of charge. Tens of thousands of kids passed through the halls of the ragged school over its 31 years of service.

As the public school system became more robust and began to catch the poorer children who were previously slipping through the cracks, the need for the ragged school waned and the facility was eventually closed in 1908. After the closing, the buildings went right back to their industrial storage uses and were actually scheduled for demolition until a group of locals spoke out and managed to save the structures to preserve their educational heritage.

As of 1990 the Ragged School Museum has preserved its replica Victorian school room and even a model version of a kitchen of the time. Visitors can experience the altruistic school as it would have appeared near its founding, just don’t get too greedy or you won’t get seconds on your porridge. 

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May 2, 2014

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