Appeals: The Ragged School Museum Trust

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The Independent Online
Children from Dulverton Junior School, south-east London, attending a Victorian lesson at the Ragged School Museum, beside the Regent's Canal, in Bow. The museum trust was set up in 1983 with three aims: to house an East End history museum, to save three canalside warehouses from demolition, now the only mid-Victorian warehouses left on the six miles of canal and towpath in Tower Hamlets, and to provide education, activities and space for temporary exhibitions. The museum opened four years ago and has 12,000 visitors each year. It has started an appeal for pounds 650,000 for a three-part refurbishment programme: to convert further warehouses for display space and other facilities, to make a new kitchen and to do general repairs and redecoration.

The Copperfield Road Ragged Schools buildings were created by Dr Barnardo, who leased the merchant warehouses in 1876. The school was run on similar lines to the ragged school movement which began in the 1830s. It offered free education to about 270 of the poorest children in the area; some 1,500 children attended its Sunday school. Within three years the day-school numbers had swollen to 370 and the Sunday school's to 2,500.

Changes in statutory education rendered the Copperfield Road ragged school unsuitable for offering elementary education by 1908, when the London County Council closed down the school. The premises remained open for Sunday school until about 1916.

One of the museum's attractions is the Victorian school lesson where children have an hour's class, wearing Victorian-style clothes, sitting at wooden desks in the upstairs schoolroom. The museum has displays illustrating the local environment of the late Victorian era and also showing what the children's leisure activities might have been as well as their future prospects after leaving the ragged school. For further details, contact: The Ragged School Museum Trust, 46-48 Copperfield Road, Bow, London E3 4RR, telephone 081-980 6405.

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