Victorian London - Education - Education for the poor - Ragged Schools 

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Mr. Charles Dickens in an eloquent Letter addressed to the editors of the Daily News describes the places which bear the above name, as an effort "to introduce among the most miserable and neglected outcasts in London, some knowledge of the commonest principles of morality and religion; to commence their recognition as immortal human creatures, before the Gaol Chaplain becomes their only schoolmaster; to suggest to Society that its duty to this wretched throng, foredoomed to crime and punishment, rightfully begins at some distance from the Police-office; and that  the careless maintenance from year to year, in this capital city of the world, of a vast hopeless nursery of ignorance, misery and vice : a breeding place for the hulks and gaols : is horrible to contemplate.
    "This attempt is being made in certain of the most obscure and squalid parts of the Metropolis; where rooms are opened at night, for the gratuitous instruction of all comers, children or adults, under the title of 'RAGGED SCHOOLS.' The name implies the purpose. They who are too ragged, wretched, filthy, and forlorn, to enter any other place: who could gain admission into no charity-school, and who would be driven from any church-door: are invited to come in here, and find some people not depraved, willing to teach them something, and show them some sympathy, and stretch out a hand which is not the iron hand of the Law, for their correction."
    To these words of burning truth, we may add that this great work of reclaiming the Destitute Poor has now been in progress some three years and a half. The first systematic start was, however, made by a Society called "The Ragged School Union" formed in April 1844, at a meeting of the teachers of various Schools, held at the St. Giles's Ragged School, Streatham-street, in Bloomsbury. During the first year, two hundred of these Schools were opened, the rent and other expenses being paid, generally, by the teachers themselves; and, sometimes, by one or more benevolent individuals in the locality of the School. This was done by various denominations of Christians, without any concert or co-operation between the Schools; and the object of the Society is to create a Union between them, in order more fully and effectually to encourage such institutions; and, by small pecuniary assistance, extend their usefulness, and increase their number.
    At the head if this "generous band," is Lord Ashley, as Chairman of the General and Visiting Committee; and, according to the only Report yet printed, the twenty Ragged Schools then established showed an average attendance of nearly 2,000 children and 200 teachers : to one School, 5,783 had been admitted since its commencement; and there had been, during the winter, an average attendance of 250 children, of youths of both sexes, whose aged ranged from eight to sixteen years. In some cases, these Schools are only open on the Sabbath; but, mostly, one or two week-day evenings as well. At the date of the above Report, the operations of the Society had been much cramped for want of funds; yet, with so small a sum as £61 9s. 6d., they had contributed towards the formation of several schools.
    We have selected one of the Society's Schools for illustration, that in Jurston-street, Oakley-street, Lambeth; a locality where the work of reclamation and prevention is much needed. The School is opened on Sunday evenings at six o'clock; and the year's average attendance has been 250 children and 25 teachers. Several distinguished individuals have already visited the Schools in operation; amongst others Lord Ashley, Lord Robert Grosvenor, Lord Sandon, Hon. W.F.Cowper, Charles Dickens, Esq., Lady Troubridge, and Lady Alicia Lambert.
    Meanwhile the system is rapidly extending; for, where so much good can be effected at such trifling cost, the result must be successful. We gather from a lecture recently delivered at the Literary and Scientific Institute in Aldersgate-street, by the Rev. Mr. Ainslie, that the sum of £300 was raised, in one day, at Epping to establish there a school of this description. At Windsor, a school on "the Ragged" principle has been established by a poor chimney-sweep, "who," said Mr. Ainslie, "had himself been a bad and abandoned man, but who was reclaimed, and who now sat there, with his dirty face, teaching and doing more good than thousands of others of ten times his capacity." On Mr. Ainslie's visit to this School there were upwards of 100 young persons present, from the age of eight to ten, boys and girls, all behaving with the greatest decorum, and tolerably well clothed - "for educate the mind, and it immediately revolts at the body being clothed in rags."

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from The Illustrated London News, 1846

see also Mayhew Letter 43 to Morning Chronicle - click here

see also Mayhew Letter 44 to Morning Chronicle - click here

see also Mayhew Letter 45 to Morning Chronicle - click here

see also Mayhew Letter 49 to Morning Chronicle - click here



[We insert this paper, which was not written for publication, because we hope that the simple narrative will convince some who need to be instructed of the great work to be done before the education of the people is effected.-ED.]

OCT. 29th 1849.-0n the way to the school this morning in company with —, who has been appointed to act as my assistant, we were saluted by women and boys as we went along in a most singular manner. I cannot say that the exclamations and gestures of these people were significant of disapprobation, but rather the reverse; however, their coarse and brutal manners had a most disheartening influence on me. I looked in vain for some manifestation of feeling that would enable me to "thank God and take courage." . . .  It was a dismal scene . . .  no appearance of thrift or industry . . .  nothing but squalid wretchedness and dirt and idleness — the lanes leading to the school were full of men, women, and children: shouting, gossipping, swearing, and laughing, in a most discordant and unnatural manner. The whole population seemed to be on the eve of a great outbreak of some kind or another: ready for anything but work.  . . . .  These lanes are a moral hell. The place and the people beggar description. . . . .  We prepared the school by placing benches in situations for the division of the scholars into four classes, and as they came tumbling and bawling up the stairs, we directed them to seats. Shortly after ten o'clock I spoke to them kindly, and then asked them to join with me in prayer. They knelt and followed me in the Lord's Prayer, with some few exceptions, in a not very improper manner. The decent behaviour to be met with in almost any school could not be expected here. I proceeded to read a collect, but the noise obliged me to stop.

* * * * *

Most of the children can read very well indeed. Some of them can write, and almost all of the first class can say the multiplication table well; they all promise to be expert at figures. In mere schooling they are not behindhand; but in decency of behaviour or in respect for the teacher, or in discipline of any kind, they are totally unparalleled. No school can be possibly worse than this. It were an easy task to get attention from savages: a white man's appearance would ensure him some sort of regard: but here the very appearance of one's coat is to them the badge of class and respectability:- for although they may not know the meaning of the word, they know very well, or at least feel, that we are the representatives of beings with whom they have ever considered themselves at war. This is not theory, but fact.

* * * * *

We were almost stifled several times by half-a-dozen of the neighbours congregating on the stairs and puffing tobacco smoke in volumes into the school. How the lungs of such emaciated youths could work so effectively is to me a mystery. One miserable boy, with scarcely a hair on his head, was somewhat puzzled to get out the letter of the alphabet to which my companion pointed, so he knowingly pulled out his tobacco-box and helped himself to a quid in a grave and veteran-like manner.
    Their craving for stimulants is most saddening. Two of the biggest boys were complimented by me on the way in which they did a sum in compound addition. "Give us some coppers for a pint of beer," was the ready response.

* * * * *

In Scripture history I got a series of answers that are above the average in point of information of those which could be obtained in some national schools. But of what use that kind of knowledge can possibly be, unless it is brought to bear on the moral training and conduct of the possessor, I am at a loss to determine. It is a very easy thing to stuff these boys with Scripture history, or with anything indeed which is or can be made interesting; but it is a sad desecration of the subject and a sinful waste of time to give them mere facts. Be the result then what it may, I shall introduce the Church Catechism and teach them their duty from that. The system hitherto pursued has been worthless and criminal. If I do not succeed in teaching the catechism properly, I shall at least have the satisfaction that the boys know the words in which the ten commandments are given, and their duty towards God and their neighbour shall be so impressed on their memories that the day may come when these words, perhaps got off by mere rate, may bear good fruit. A school without a catechism is like a church without a creed.

* * * * *

I had occasion to punish a boy slightly this morning: he swore and blasphemed most horribly, and rushed from the school. I took little notice of this display, and sat down calmly to hear the class with which I was engaged read the Acts of the Apostles. I was suddenly startled by a large stone passing my ear. If it had struck me on the head, I must have been severely hurt. I got out of the reach of stones thrown through the window, and continued the lesson. Several followed-half-a-dozen at least. He was ready in the court with a brick in his hand, to have his revenge when I came out. With some difficulty I got out of the lane without being obliged to run.  . . . .  I walked some time in — —, and having thought over the matter, I considered it best to call at the police station, and ask for a convoy. This was readily granted; and followed at a short distance by the policeman, I returned to the school.
    Without one exception, these boys are precocious. They require more training than teaching. The great city has been their book, and they have read men as such boys alone can do.

 * * * * *

A child began to scream dreadfully. I said to his elder brother. "Pray take out the child." "Child," said he, "he aint no child; he's a man — look at him, for your own satisfaction, gentlemen," (bowing in a droll way to the class).
    Several clergymen called in the afternoon, and they had scarcely left when a most distressing scene occurred. Two girls of twelve or thirteen years of age quarrelled, as it would appear, about a remark which one of the clergymen had made concerning a new frock which one of them wore. The first notice I had of this was to see the pair boxing most viciously: before I could get at them, they had hold of each other's hair, and were yelling most fearfully: they fought like furies. — took hold of one, and myself the other: but before we could separate them, one had received a severe, and I fear a lasting injury in the eye, and her nose bled profusely. I sent her home, and went again to work: but I had not been quiet for ten minutes, when a fearful outbreak took place. Seven women rushed into the school: the stairs were full besides: and outside, at least fifty women had collected. These were the mothers and friends of the girls who had fought. Having abused me in no measured terms — and if I mistake not, they collared me — they proceeded to fight. — remonstrated with one woman, and I with the other; so we stopped their battle. Our boys cheered most tremendously. The women swore and shrieked. Those outside (several men amongst them) responded. Never, surely, was such a noise heard before. 1 did not believe that human beings resident in this most Christian metropolis, could so behave. . . . .  — held up his hands, and if he said anything I did not hear. We got our visitors out at last, and we could see they held an important meeting on the subject of their visit in the court below. But not being interested, we shut the windows to exclude the noise, and proceeded with our work. . . . .  To compose the children, if possible, I proposed that we should have a little music, and — sang very sweetly the first verse of the Evening Hymn. We then invited the children to follow us, and we got through the first line or two very well — but a blackguard youth thought proper to set up on his own account, and he led off a long in this strain:- "O, Susannah, don't cry for me, I'm off to Alabama, With a banjo on my knee!"   I need scarcely add that every boy followed this leader, ay, girl. and all, and I could not check them.

* * * * *

After some time I spoke to them very gently and sadly, and having gained attention to some degree, I ventured to close the school with a very short prayer. I did so. Fearful to relate, in the midst of the Lord's Prayer, several shrill cries of  "Cat's meat!" and "Mew, mew," added another fact to the history of this school.
    So by the help of God we must both work harder. It is a post of honour. It is a forlorn hope.

30th Oct. 1849. — If possible the scholars were more unruly to-day than they were yesterday, but no serious outbreak took place. Before I got  out of the locality I managed to empty my pockets, "Give, give," is the cry — I gave a lesson to-day on the duty of labour, and I pointed out the colonies as a good market. This was the first lesson which arrested their attention.

* * * * *

I had occasion to remark to a poor old woman who looks after the sewing, that I thought the girls were employed more at sampler work than was necessary. She tells me that they will not work cheerfully at anything else. They have no notions of thrift or of useful work. It is difficult to get them to make a shirt. I gave notice that in future I should expect to see more of them making and mending stocking. and shirts, and none of them who could not do such work well were to be allowed to waste their time in samplers. I mean to speak on this subject to some lady visitor should one appear, as I am not well-informed, perhaps, in the importance of. samplers. I think marking-ink would do the work better, and save time. At least, a shirt ought to be made before it is marked. May God help us! What a solemn charge is this!
    All our copy-books have been stolen, and proofs exist that the school is used at night as a sleeping-room. We must get a stronger door to it. I must also get a tub to stand by the pump in the court, and a piece of coarse towelling and soap. My duties must resolve themselves into —

First - To see the boys and girls well washed and scrubbed,
Secondly.-To try to get prayers said decently.
Thirdly.-To give them a lesson in their duties and privileges, for they have many, and know none.
Fourthly.- Some religious .instruction.

31st Oct. 1849.-Great noise, turbulence, and confusion, but no serious outbreak. The rev. the rector called and left without saying anything. A lady visited us this afternoon and waited for some time. I am at a loss to ascertain the motives which induce ladies to visit such a place, unless one is uncharitable enough to attribute them to mere curiosity, or to that morbid feeling, which makes such places as the Old Bailey, or the Chamber of Horrors, in Baker Street, attractive. We should get on much better without visitors. The children are so accustomed to be shown off, that they bristle up for the occasion, and fire their witticisms with more impudence than when no strangers are present. These boys and girls require to be sobered: all exciting influences should be avoided, and therefore I mean, if possible, to discountenance visitors. I gave a lesson this afternoon in geography in presence of some clergymen; I was attempting to get out the fact that we lived on an island called Great Britain. We spoke of England and Scotland and Wales as being countries close to each other. I got out that an island was a portion of land surrounded by water. Then I asked, "What do we live on?" — " On food, when we gets it," was the ready answer.
    I bought some calico and asked the girls to make boys' shirts, which may be given away if they are ever finished. The material for three cost 2s. 6d., just tenpence a piece! The fact is being constantly forced on my notice, that these children are not so deficient in mere religious wordiness, if that is the word, as might be supposed. They have had a great deal of good schooling in a certain sense, or rather much labour has been expended in teaching them to read, write and cipher well. But I cannot believe that any attention has been bestowed in making this knowledge useful. They are utterly destitute of feeling or propriety; and their technical education, such as it has been, has not made them more civilized or better children. After all, the school must be looked upon as secondary to home teaching. It is apparently worse than useless to expect a man to be made better by merely learning to read and write. Those of our scholars who can do so best are decidedly the most depraved. One boy, who is quite as well schooled as the average number of boys at his age are schooled — (say twelve years of age) —  said to me to-day,  "Please sir, I'll go down on my knees and say The Lord Jesus Christ and the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost, for a halfpenny." Another, as we went along the lanes from school, called after us, "Glory be to the Father," &c. All this is very monstrous, and I am puzzled to find the cause for such impiety  — there must be a cause —  and until I can come to some conclusion on the subject I am at a loss to apply a remedy. I have prohibited the use of the words, "Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!" which they were very fond of shouting, and I have resolved to make their religious lessons as impressive as I can. I use the Lord's Prayer only in opening or closing school; and in the lessons generally I have attempted to introduce a sober solemn tone for that flippant, irreverent, thoughtless, gabbling manner to which they are very prone.
    We almost shed tears to-day when we pondered over our work. — Sursum corda!

1st Nov. 1849.-Wrote to the curate, asking him to get us a tub to be placed near the pump and about the door of the school, &c. Being All Saints Day, we were bothered by many boys from the Romish school in the neighbourhood, as they had a holiday.

2nd Nov. 1849.-More confusion and excitement. Two lady visitors, who sat nearly the whole afternoon, without helping in the least but apparently enjoying the sad spectacle which our debased scholars presented. I am sorry for these ladies, as I cannot allow ourselves to be sport for them at such a sacrifice to the children under our charge. This making of our school a kind of public exhibition is most detrimental to its discipline and progress. It must be stopped. Are these ladies writing a novel? Surely they are not preparing themselves to be present at a public execution!
 A boy, D—, called another boy a thief, on which the latter replied by a few cuffs; I separated them, and let the business of the school proceed. The mother of D— came into the school, to retaliate on the boy who had punished her son. I objected to this, and insisted that I would not have interference from without. The woman raged very much, and called me a blackguard. She declared that my bread was at an end; the authorities would turn me out, &c. N.B. —Avoid violent scenes in the school.

5th Nov. 1849.-Scarcely a boy to be found in the lanes, or near the school. They are off picking up pence by the exhibition of effigies, or Guys. Many of these have had a Roman Catholic training. Their fear of the priest seems very trifling. Kept the school open all the morning, and mustered about twenty; might have doubled that number had we admitted all that came, but I declined the honour of the National schoolboys' visits, and politely requested them to enjoy their holiday. Called on Mrs. P— as the name is pronounced — to ask kindly after her girl, who received the box in the eye last week. Mrs. P— is a highly respectable, judicious, and God-fearing woman-at least, she says so herself. She says that she is well known to the aristocracy, and despises the acquaintance of anyone who is not a lady. She gave the names of several persons of distinction with whom she is intimate. Mrs. P— is determined to keep her position, and preserve the fine feelings of her daughter, which have been carefully developed by a course of maternal training. Certainly, her daughter can box very well indeed; and the manner in which she tore her antagonist's hair the other day gives proof that she will keep her place amongst her compeers. Mrs. P— is not only disposed to be reserved towards her neighbours, and to move in a select circle: she is also very much inclined to be exacting. Kitty B— is no companion for her daughter, nor is widow —'s family fit to associate, or even to sit in the same school, with her child. Oh no ! Before Miss P— can return to my seminary, all the children of the families who are obnoxious to Mrs. P— must be expelled. "Don't the rector know Miss P—? in course he does; didn't he examine her eye? Don't the clargy respect Mrs. P— and her family; and Mr. P—, who never drinks his beer at the public-house, but has it brought home in his own jug, and drinks of a Sunday like a jintilman? Mrs. P— is not bigoted, nor is Mr. P—. God forbid. Don't he read the Bible, ay, does he; not like the tight-laced people upstairs, who hate the Bible as the Devil does holy wather." Here Mrs. P— produced a pocket Bible out of a drawer, in proof of her assertion. According to Mrs. P—, the widow D— who gave me the scolding on Friday, is a very bad character, and it also appears that the widow was very drunk on Saturday, and got put IN for six hours. What this means I cannot say, unless it be that she was taken to the police station for being disorderly. From another authority —  our female assistant — I learn that  — gave Mrs. D— fiye shillings on Friday. . . . The rector and his curates are sadly deceived by these people. I have no pretensions on the score of reading character, but I defy anyone who takes the least trouble to observe and compare what he hears from Mrs. P—'s own mouth to remain ignorant of the fact that her family make a very good business out of their respectability. The fight before alluded to was occasioned by some remarks respecting a frock which Miss P— wore. I was not quite unprepared for this development of Mrs. P—'s character; for, the last time my predecessor visited the school, he said to me when leaving, "I am going to visit Mrs. P—," "Then," answered loudly one of my hopeful children, "he is going to visit a sneak."

* * * * *

We could not make a school this afternoon: at three o'clock four boys and six girls of the first division alone were present. The attractions outside were overpowering. In addition to the lucrative employment afforded by the carrying about of effigies, or Guys, there were three funerals from the court, which were accompanied by the inhabitants. The deaths were occasioned by black fever, scarlatina, and measles. From what I hear, the locality is very sickly at present — no drainage-no water. Perhaps I should have given a holiday to-day,. but I wished to respect the feelings of the Romish population-a wish which they evidently did not understand. In short, they seem to have no feelings: they have fallen so low, that they derive a kind of happiness and independence from their very degradation. "Fears and sorrows," says Campbell, " fan the fire of joy," and this is true in a sense of which he did not dream. It seems as if the excitement caused by an excess of fear and sorrow produced happiness! More of this when I have time. I shall think over the assertion, and I cannot see why it should not be so. "An excess of modesty;" said the elder D'Israeli, "is an excess of pride." That paradox will do for a text. Any careful observer would come to another conclusion; and that is, that these people do not require the schoolmaster so much as they need some municipal act for the regulation of lodging-houses and dwelling-houses generally. The Society for Improving the Dwellings of the Lower Classes is one which, if properly supported and carried out, would work wonders. Preaching and teaching can never fructify in the heart or mind of a man who is never alone. It is almost cruelty to talk of virtue or decency to a being who is doomed to sleep and do everything else in a crowd.
    Let anyone visit a lodging-house in this neighbourbood and he will never forget it. The woman who live in the room under our school (which has no strong door), tells me that she hears people moving about at night — houseless wanderers, who come there to sleep. They have not as yet stolen anything! It is thus they pay for their lodgings. We did lose some copy-books a short time ago; but I have a notion that they were not stolen, they were taken. I have a notion why.

* * * * *

Got on very well to-day, but I cannot say that the school improves. The scholars are always out of their element when no strangers are present; and I am glad we had none to-day. Had a conversation with Mr—, the district visitor, and having explained, or rather described to him the difficulty we encountered every morning and afternoon in getting the scholars together, and the very great trouble we had to get them OUT again, we determined to keep the school open all day, (that is, without having any recess at dinnertime). These people have no regular hours for meals, and our school resembles a club for poor children more than anything else. To-morrow, then, we shall assemble at ten, and keep school till three. The Romish school adopts this plan, and I have no doubt it will be found better than our present mode of breaking up the school from twelve till two.

* * * * *

The children have been sadly neglected. How could it be otherwise? From the system pursued, only two hours a day have been given, practically speaking, to teaching. It takes an hour to get the school together. Then a grand effort was made to swell the numbers present every afternoon between three and four, because the school was usually visited at that hour by the clergy and the curious. It was easy to do this with smart children too, for the Romish school having closed at three, many flocked in to witness, or be parties in the daily exhibition, and to get probably a present of money — a most injurious system this. By keeping the school open between twelve and two, and by closing at three, we may manage to do some good, and only one inconvenience will result from it; not an inconvenience to the teachers or the scholar., but to the ladies who drop in of an afternoon to get (I am grieved to say so) a little amusement after luncheon. Better far that these people should stop at home, or amuse themselves elsewhere.

• • • • •

It is a pity that our slates have no frames; as, apart from the slate when protected by a frame being kept from scratches, frames are useful in other respects. If one happened to be thrown at a person's head — as is sometimes threatened — a framed slate would not be so dangerous. I was threatened with some such thing to-day, and I slightly punished the offender; he contented himself by reserving his revenge for the present, at least he said so, but he dashed his slate on the floor and broke it to pieces, and having indulged in some foul invective — calling me, amongst other things, "a gallows Frenchman," he went again sullenly to work. Another told me to-day that the Catholic religion was a b—y sight better than mine. I expended five shillings to-day of my own money in having some black board put up. This will give us much ease, as the black boards speak well and effectively.

Had fires to-daym which was a source of great attraction. It is cruelty to turn these poor lads out in the middle of the day to shiver in some corner, for their parents are seldom at home until the afternoon. Few of them have a meal in the middle of the day, and that can easily be despatched in five minutes. Henceforward the — — school ought to be styled the — — Club House; and why should we not try to civilize them by a sort of club?
    An old lady called to ask me to visit her along with my boys, that we might sing over the corpse of her child. She says that she prefers singing very much to "dthrinking," — and one or the other ceremony she considers as absolutely necessary. I declined — not because I disapproved of her request, for some benefit might have accrued by acceding to it, — but for the very good and unanswerable reason that my pupils were not skilled in singing. I could not ask — to leave the school  class to perform this odd duty. . . . .  I spoke kindly and tenderly to the poor woman, and she left quite pleased with her reception. . . . . All our coals were stolen last night. The plan of keeping the school open all day answers remarkably well. When I told the children that it was twelve o'clock, and that those who had their dinner at twelve might go, several moved, but the majority returned in a few minutes: thirty-five of the scholars did not stir: this fact speaks volumes. The Romish clergy understand the natural history of these people better than we do. It is this management that will save our school. They must be allowed to go out and come in when they like. At prayers this afternoon we had better behaviour than usual. I closed the school without any uneasiness, and the boys left in a decent manner. Things are improving. It is the peep of day. We masters had the best of it to-day. I tried to teach the first division of my first class the use of arithmetical signs, and we wrought several questions from the black board in a very methodical and proper manner.
    It is a sad thing to turn anyone out, but I have reluctantly determined to get rid for the present of three or four of the most unruly boys. . . . .  I used the cane for the first time to-day, with effect. These children cannot be managed well without some use of it. They do not form attachments readily, and their mode of' thinking is the reverse of amiable. What then is to be done? Am I to wait for order until they are capable of appreciating kindness? If so, I must wait a very long time. One other source of influence we have, but I have no heart to use it, although it has been resorted to by my predecessors; that is, to stop the allowance of bread which the rector's bounty awards. This begets a mean, selfish, and beggarly spirit, the very spirit which it is my mission to eradicate. I will not stop their bread. After all that may be said, Solomon was right — a little touch of the cane is the least injurious mode of punishment that can be adopted. It is over at once, and boy and master are not the worse friends for it. Were this a regular, well-appointed school, then my punishments, if needed, would be rare, but severe. Here no system can be adopted. Were I to punish some boy as he deserved, for the advantage of the rest, then my life would not be safe. Every boy, therefore, must stand alone. It is not a school, but a collection of poor ignorant outcasts, and they must be treated accordingly. When I speak of punishments, I would not be considered as using that term in the sense which it bears in a good public school, for anything so severe could not be attempted here. They would rebel at once, and we could not get over the storm. The first man who does his duty in this respect must resign in consequence. They will not be managed by sheer force nor by kindness — a mixture of all kinds of legitimate expedients must be used. A Miss — called this morning, and seemed to think that we had but a poor school.  . . . . .  No clergyman has visited us for the three last days.
     The school at — — has assumed a somewhat different character. I was obliged to expel two of the — (a family of gipsy extraction), Master —,and a most troublesome scrofulous boy (for the present), and being rid of them I insisted on order and decency of behaviour  —  the attempt has been successful. I make this remark without qualification; thank God, a great improvement has taken place. A better proof of this could not be adduced than the fact that the whole school can be kept quiet and attentive at a Bible lesson. Mr. — gave a lesson this afternoon, which lasted nearly an  hour, and the children remained still and orderly throughout. A person of less tact or ability might not be able to do this, but the circumstance is worthy of record. In opening and closing the school, a wonderful change for the better has taken place. The children can now sing the doxology very nicely, and with much propriety of demeanour. They also get through their drill in a creditable manner, and I get perfect order, when necessary. at a given signal. How has all this been accomplished? I cannot boast of the means adopted —they have been frightened into subjection.
    Our school now numbers fifty scholars, who attend regularly. I begin to understand something of the natural history of them and their families, and what with the influence acquired over them by somewhat severe discipline I have those fifty under perfect subjection. More than this I cannot say.

The English Journal of Education, Vol.IV, 1850.

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ON Wednesday, a handsome building in Lambeth Walk (close upon the South-Western Railway), which has been erected by Mr. Beaufoy of South Lambeth, for the education of the many poor and destitute children in that neighbourhood, was inaugurated at a public meeting of the friends of Ragged Schools in Lambeth; Lord Ashley in the chair.
    The origin of the school was related to the meeting by Mr. F. Doulton the honorary secretary to the committee, who stated:- In 1845, a few of the destitute and degraded children of Lambeth were accustomed to assemble for instruction, on Sabbath evenings, in a school-room in Palace-yard, near the Palace. In the following year, a few gentlemen in the neighbourhood, at the instance of Lord Ashley, formed themselves into a committee, and afforded the poor children instruction during the week. Soon after, the school was removed to one of the arches of the South-Western Railway Company, kindly granted for that purpose. About this time, the schools excited the sympathy, and attracted the support, of the late Mrs. Beaufoy; and, on her death, her husband intimated his intention of perpetuating her memory and fulfilling her benevolent wishes, by founding the Schools which were opened on Wednesday. The building has cost the sum of £10,000; but the munificent donor has further set apart £4000 for the permanent maintenance of the building. The expenses of tuition will be £250 annually, which is to be raised by subscription. There is accommodation provided in separate apartments for boys and girls, who are to meet for instruction during five week nights, exclusive of Sunday evenings, when religious instruction will be communicated. There is also accommodation for a daily infant school. The Schools are calculated to accommodate about 800 children. There are two large classrooms - one for boys and one for girls; there are also two reception rooms for the training of the children on their first admission, and there are four smaller class-rooms where young persons who show more than usual diligence are taught in the higher branches of education. In the larger class-rooms the committee have erected marble tablets, each bearing the following inscription:-

    This Tablet is erected by the Committee of the Lambeth Ragged Schools, as a grateful record of the munificence of HENRY BENJAMIN HANBURY BEAUFOY, Esq., of Caron-place, South Lambeth, by whom these Schools have been built and endowed; and also in grateful remembrance of ELIZA his wife, whose unspeakable private worth has here a fit memorial, and whose benevolence and special kindness to poor children will live in the gratitude of generations who shall enjoy the benefit of these Schools.
    "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her band to the needy."
    "Children arise up, and call her blessed." -Prov. xxxi., ver. 20 and 28.

    The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Wix; when Lord Ashley rose and addressed the assembly, eloquently advocating the benefits already derived from the Ragged School system, through which many hundreds had been taken from a state of filth and misery, and raised to one of honourable independence. "There was no reason whatever why Lambeth should not rescue itself from the present disgraceful opprobrium which attached to it. If they exerted themselves in the way he had mentioned, he saw no reason why this district should not vie with any other district in the metropolis, or even with the most favoured parts of the earth. His Lordship concluded by observing that he had no objection to the introduction of any amount of secular knowledge, but it must always be subordinate to moral training. "Let the great basis of all Ragged School teaching be true sound evangelical Protestantism. (Great applause.) Let them ever keep before the minds of the children the saying of the great Chillingworth, 'The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.'" (Hear, hear.)
    The meeting had now so greatly increased that Mr. Williams, M.P, for Lambeth, accompanied by other gentlemen, adjourned to the girls' class-room.
    The Rev. Mr. Christmas moved the first resolution of thanks to Mr. Beaufoy, for his munificent donation-The Rev. Dr. Mortimer, of the City of London School, seconded the resolution, and mentioned, as another instance of Mr. Beaufoy's liberality, that he had given as much as £10,000 to the institution over which he (Dr. Mortimer) presided and to found exhibitions at Cambridge.

Illustrated London News, Jan.-June, 1851

see also Garwood's The Million-Peopled City - click here

    Mr William Locke, Hon. Sec. of the London Ragged School Union since its establishment in 1844, giving evidence:— Ragged Schools originated a very long time ago; some think they were first begun when Mr. Raikes got ragged children out of the street into his Sunday Schools [in Gloucester, about 1780]; or when honest John Pound gathered a class of ragged children round him in his little shop at Portsmouth [for about 20 years until his death in 1839]. However, the Ragged School Union was established in 1844, when some friends and I, engaged in Sunday School teaching, found so many children excluded from the Sunday Schools in consequence of their filthy, dirty, and ragged condition, that we were very anxious indeed to have another class of schools in London at that time, and we thought it an excellent plan to have a Union so that we might arrange plans, and assist each other in carrying out so desirable an object as that of gathering in the outcast and destitute who were idling or doing mischief in the streets.
    Since that time the Schools in London have increased from 16 to 110; the voluntary teachers have increased from
200 to 1600; there were no paid teachers at first, and we have now 200; the children at first were only about 2000 in number; we have now in our day and evening schools about 13,000, which does not include the Sabbath School children, who amount to about half that number. We take the children at any age, but usually from 4 to 16, and even above that; we have adult classes for some as old as 20, and even 30. About half the children are under ten years.
When they are first taken into the Schools, most of them are in a very ignorant, destitute, neglected condition... Many of them are quite homeless; many of them are entirely neglected by their parents; many are orphans, outcasts, street beggars, crossing-sweepers, and little hawkers of things about the streets; they are generally very ignorant, although in some points very quick and cunning ... We have children of convicts who have been transported; children of convicts in our prisons at home; children of thieves not in custody; children of the lowest mendicants and tramps; children of worthless drunken parents, a large class; children of stepfathers or stepmothers, often drive by neglect or cruelty to shift for themselves; children of those who, although suitable objects for a workhouse, prefer leading a vagrant life, pilfering when they can, sometimes in employment but oftener engaged in practices of a doubtful or criminal nature; children of parents who, though honest, are too poor to pay even one penny a week for a school, and who cannot clothe their children so as to obtain admission to better schools; children who have lost parents, or are deserted by them, or have run away from home, and live by begging and stealing; youths who, disliking the workhouse, have left it, and lead a vagrant life; youths who are at work during the day as ostler boys, labourers’ assistants, and in other ways, or who go about selling articles in the streets, such as fish, fruit, and vegetables, and who cannot therefore attend a day school, even if free admission be offered; girls who are driven into the street by cruel and worthless parents, and live by begging and selling water-cresses, oranges, and lucifer matches; children of Roman-catholics who come in large numbers to the Ragged Schools, and do not object to reading the Bible.
The condition of admission ?—Destitution. In many cases, the children are admitted by personal application; in many other cases by the teachers going round and seeking for them, and by the assistance of the City missionaries [of the London City Mission], who have been exceedingly useful to us from the first, not only in finding scholars, but in getting the good-will of parents towards us and our operations
The daily routine varies according to the kind of school. Some of our schools, which are day schools, are very similar to British or National schools, assembling at 9 to 12, and then to 2 to 4, dismissing the children then for the evening. In the same building where the day school is held we have generally an evening school for boys, and also girls, who cannot attend during the day, having to work or beg in order to get food to eat.
In the day schools we have reading the Scriptures, singing, reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in some schools industrial classes; in the evening schools we have similar instruction; in many of the schools we now have industrial classes, both day and evening, for teaching the boys tailoring, shoe-making, carpentering, mat-making, brush-making, pocket-book making, and other handicrafts, and for teaching the girls to sew, knit, etc. In Liverpool and Manchester they make bags for grocers, and print reports for societies and bills for tradesmen; they have got a printing-press in the Manchester school, and in the Liverpool schools. In the latter they make clogs and also shoes, and have some garden-ground to work in...
In many cases, because the children are so destitute that they cannot be taught, we give food—generally soup, occasionally meat, and good wholesome bread, sometimes coffee or cocoa, and bread and cheese. In one school they feed about two hundred twice or thrice a week... The children who come to the schools pay nothing; all the Ragged Schools are quite free, being intended only for the destitute...
With regard to the results. . . We have had very many children, who were formerly very bad characters, reformed; we have many out in situations, and doing well, who were formerly quite a pest to the community... we have emigrated about three hundred, and from the letters which we have received from them from abroad they are all doing well—those children who, while they were here, were earning nothing; many were vagrants or pick-pockets, doing a deal of mischief, and cost the community a great deal of money by rtbbing tradesmen, and so on; they are now earning an honest livelihood in the colonies, and, on the average, they receive from l0s. to 20s. a week, as well as their food...
Would [we] consider it an objection to take a boy if he had been convicted of offences—say, four or five times? No, we have rather from the first studied to take the worst. Boys of this description have often been of a very disorderly character; the teachers have been insulted and driven from the schools sometimes; I have myself frequently been driven out of the school, and obliged to run for the police to protect us against them; but it appears to me that nothing can withstand the influence of affection and kindness even in that very debased class, and in time we have managed to get nearly all into subjection... Kindness, Christian love to the children, and teaching them their duty to their neighbours and to their God, and making the Bible the theme of all our instruction ...

William Locke, Report of the Standing Committee on Criminal and Destitute Juveniles, 1852

Thomas Archer on King Edward Ragged School and Girls' Refuge - click here

Thomas Archer on Ragged School movement - click here

RAGGED SCHOOL UNION,-office, 1 Exeter Hall,- was established in 1844, with the view of bringing a "plain" but sound education within the reach of even the very humblest classes, of providing them with gratuitous shelter from the inclemency of the weather, and stimulating them to industrial and prudent habits. These objects are provided for, as far as the resources of the society will allow, by ragged schools situated in the worst neighbourhoods of London, which already extend their humanising influence to 27,000 children; by penny banks connected with these schools, in which about 28,000 depositors annually place 4,500l.; and by eight Shoe-Black brigades (distinguished each by a cheap coloured uniform), comprising some 350 boys, who earned, last year, 4,647l., by cleaning 1,115,280 pairs of boots and shoes, and whose eager cry of, "Have your boots blacked, sir?-only one penny!" salutes the passer by in every busy metropolitan thoroughfare. In certain localities Refuges have been established, which afford to destitute lads and girls a night's shelter and a good supper and break fast. The society also interests itself in procuring employment for deserving industry, and in promoting the emigration of suitable persons. In a word, with a limited income (6,000l. yearly), this well-managed institution effects a vast amount of good, and its labours are not the less arduous because never puffed into an unwholesome notoriety.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

City of London Ragged Schools
Whitecross Place, Wilson Street
On Monday April 3rd 1865,
Of the above Schools, will be held in
The Chair will be taken by Saml. GURNEY Esq. MP
Rev W. ROGERS, M.A., Rector of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate
Rev A. McAUSLANE of Finsbury Chapel, Rev. RICHARD ROGERS
of City Road Chapel, JOSEPH PAYNE Esq., Deputy Judge John
and JOHN GLOVER, ESQ. have kindly promised to be present.
TEA at 6 o'Clock Tickets 9d
And receive their Prizes awarded by the Ragged School Union

fly-sheet advertisement for meeting

    RAGGED SCHOOLS have been so long before the public, that they have lost the prestige of novelty. Whether John Pounds, the humble cobbler of Portsmouth, was the originator of the system in England, or whether, under a sense of individual responsibility, it sprung up in various districts at the same time, cannot easily be determined. Suffice it to say that, as the very best meaus of meeting the claims of the destitute and depraved classes, they have so multiplied that, not to refer to the provinces, there are now about 160 Ragged Schools in the Modern Babylon, wherein, by day and by night, 20,000 scholars are taught how to make the best of both worlds. Yet, though much has been done, more remains to be effected, before the social and spiritual needs of the parishes of London will be fully reached. For drunkenness and profligacy abound. " Gaffs " (unlicensed penny theatres) are permitted to give nightly lessons to youth how to perpetrate crime successfully; licentious periodicals, whose sale may be counted by hundreds of thousands, corrupt our youthful population; whilst in the low districts of London, too, the hovel of poverty and the felon's den are associated, and the offspring of honest penury and of the coiner, playing together in the same gutter, receive the same street education. Hence, could the "stones cry out of the wall, and the beam of the timber answer it," almost every rookery would bear witness to the fearful iniquity of its occupants.
    These facts were recently brought tangibly to our notice as we passed down Victoria Street, Holborn Hill—the new street which has cut right through the very heart of the dens of Field Lane. A crowd of persons, of all ages and of both sexes, were standing round a quaint-looking building, with two tiers of windows and an elongated lantern light. Their general aspect was outré in the extreme. The majority were shoeless, and their raiment so threadbare and ventilated by holes, that even that notorious mart of faded apparel, Rag Fair, would have scorned to purchase their whole stock of clothing. The faces, too, of many were dingy from dirt and long exposure to the weather; whilst the hair, unkempt and shaggy, was obviously allowed to grow at "its own sweet will." He must have been but a crude disciple of Lavater or Spurzheim, who could not have read in most faces the lines of care, or the impress of long-indulged vice. If ever picture of concentrated misery was visible in the streets of tins mighty city, it was presented in this strange group. Pen could never fully describe it; and from its mingled grutesqueness and settled gloom, none but a Cruikshank or a Rembrandt could have depicted it.
    After wondering what had attracted these miserable creatures, and that too whilst the rain poured in torrents, we glanced at the building near to which they were lounging, in attitudes more easy than graceful, when the secret was revealed. For, over the first tier of windows, we read this inscription: "Field Lane Ragged School." Thus, then, it appeared that we were gazing at oue of those admirable institutions which are at once the glory and the shame of Great Britain—of her shame, that a pariah class has been allowed to grow up unchecked amid a city of palaces; of her glory, that, what the State refused to do, men with love in their hearts and the Bible in their hands have essayed to do, and accomplished.
    On entering the school-room, we were struck by its cheerful aspect. It is 55 feet long by 35 wide, and, by means of the women's gallery, at the north end, can accommodate nearly 500 persons. Adequate provision was made to send a current of fresh air through the room, whenever required ; and, well cleansed and lighted, it formed a perfect contrast to those miserable dens from which so many of the attendants had strayed. After a hymn had been well sung, in which all joined, a chapter from the oldest and best of books was read, which was followed by a brief but fervent prayer. During the devotional exercises, the congregation was subdued into a stillness like that of the desert. Classes were then formed, which were divided from each other by moveable partitions, about three feet high. Composed, as these classes were, of some of the most unruly and debased of London—several, indeed, were pointed out who had been in prison nine or ten times—all were attentive, and not a few drank in the gospel lesson, as if the very soul were famishing.
    Quiet as was the school, we found that in 1841, when it was first opened, and before the full effects of discipline were felt, it might have been cited as au example of "confusion worse confounded." Old and young used to troop in with whoops and yells like Red Indians—the very idea of their being invited to attend school being regarded as a first-rate joke. On one occasion, they came in all-fours, baa-ing like lambs. Teachers, too, were often thrown down—accidentally, of course ; and not unfreqnently they were relieved of their purses by these modern conjurors. As many parents also had trained their offspring as thieves, that they might spend in gin what had been earned by crime, they regarded the moral and religious culture of their children as the loss of a part of their regular income. Hence, they attempted to eject these intruders by breaking the windows, or by throwing oyster-shells and stale vegetables at the teachers. But as the work did not spring from that sickly sentimentality which, contented with crying over wrong, never attempts to remedy it, the teachers did not slacken in their labours, until love had conquered where the strong arm of the law had failed.
    In reply to our inquiries, we found that the operations of this institution were so diverse, and yet so based on the great truth that the soul requires feeding as much as the body, that it may be regarded more as a "Preaching Station for Outcasts" than as a mere school. Day and night schools are conducted here, which are attended by 500 scholars. Due provision would also seem to be made to practically enforce this proverb of Solomon : " In all labour there is profit." For in the tailor's and shoemaker's classes we found about eighty young men mending their old clothes, and furbishing up their well-worn boots. In the young women's class, about ninety were busily plying the needle, whilst they lightened the labour with holy song. And at the mother's class, fifty women, some decrepit with extreme age, and others in the first bloom of womanhood, nursing their babes, were cutting out or repairing garments, and listening to such advice as, if followed, would keep many a poor industrious man out of the gin palace. In addition to 400 scholars, taught by sixty voluntary teachers, divine worship is conducted every Lord's day. At a visit to this "Ragged Church," we found about 200 persons assembled, mostly adults. They were chiefly costermongers, cadgers, thieves, (whose cropped hair told that they had only recently left jail), and females, many of whom had gone astray before they properly knew the distinction betwixt vice and virtue. There was no difference, save in brevity, between this and an ordinary service; and yet no congregation could have displayed more external attention and reverence. One, indeed, of this strange flock came up to the preacher at the close of the service, and said, "Thank you, sir, for your sermon, I enjoyed it very much."
    Nor does the work end here. Mere preaching would be of little benefit to those whose haggard looks aud sunken eyes toll that they are enduring the horrors of semi-starvation. On the contrary, a dormitory is provided on the ground-floor for houseless males. In this humble refuge, about sixty men and lads sleep every night throughout the year; and the inmates received last year 53,765 six-ounce loaves. We thought, as we inspected this item, how Christ-like was the gift. Knowing that men have bodies as well as souls, whilst He preached he fed; for, said he, in his inimitable tenderness, " If I send them away fasting, they will faint by the way."
    At the close of school-hours, sixty-five persons trooped down to the dormitory below. It was formerly used as a smithy, but is now fitted up with baths aud lavatories, and is calculated to accommodate above 100 persons. It was first opened in May, 1851, principally at the cost of an "elect lady." When opened, many lads were admitted who had not slept in a bed for several months—one, indeed, had found his nightly shelter, during the inclement winter, in the large garden roller of Regent's Park. Regulations for the preservation of order were suspended in the large school-room; and, as no one is admitted without prior inquiry, all possible means are employed to restrict it to homeless but deserving wanderers. The berth provided would not offer many temptations to a sybarite, seeing that it is simply a wooden compartment—of a length suitable to boys or men—which, for the sake of the daily cleansing, slopes down to the stone footways. After washing, they received a small loaf of bread, which many devoured ravenously, as it was the first meal they had tasted that day. In family worship, conducted with the brevity which befits the class, they were commended to the care of Him who is the guardian of the poor as well as of the rich, and slept more soundly than if they reclined on beds of down. Since this dormitory was opened, above 10,000 men and boys have availed themselves of the shelter provided; of whom 1326 are known to have obtained permanent employment. During the past year alone, no less than 3959 persons were admitted into the dormitory, of whom 342 either obtained work, or were restored to relatives who had mourned over them as lost or dead prodigals.
    The success of this movement induced the managers of the school, in March last, to open a female dormitory. A rigid inquiry into the history of the females who attended the ragged church, proved the correctness of the saying of the poet, that "truth is stranger than fiction." The causes of their destitution were varied. For example, eight had become poor through the death of, and three more through desertion by, their husbands. Two girls had been forsaken by their mothers; and three had been turned out of doors by parents, who showed less affection for their offspring than the beasts that perish. Nineteen more had lost their employment, and sought for work in vain; thirteen were widows; nine were married, and were accompanied by their children ; the remainder were single women.
    Many of these poor victims of neglect had slept in the casual wards of the London workhouses. In some of these they were treated with less kindness than horses or dogs. No light illumines the "darkness that may be felt." As the very air breathes of pestilence, the unhappy inmates awake from a restless sleep, either physically exhausted or fever-stricken. Straw, rotten from age, and reeking with filth, too often forms their only bed; damp exhalations float all around, and clothe the very walls with strange fungi. Hence the seeds of asthma and consumption are thickly sown in these miserable abodes. The moral evils of the casual wards are fitly symbolised by these physical horrors. No attempt at classification being made, unmitigated disorder reigns. Modest girls and dissolute women ; pallid and thinly-clad women weakened by disease or penury, and girls discarded by their families for their profligate habits; servants out of work, and girls who never mean to work—all herd together, more like swine than human beings. What is still worse—as exhibiting the saddest of spectacles, women in utter debasement—too many pass the night in foul jesting and filthier song.
    These painful facts were confirmed by a visitation of some casual wards of London by a late lord mayor. Of the appropriate remedy who could doubt? Seeing the success of the male dormitory, the propriety of forming a female one, to supplement the other, was at once perceived. A stable having been obtained, it was fitted up for the accommodation of fifty females, at the cost of about £200, the larger part of which was contributed by the same Christian lady who had defrayed the expense of the male dormitory.
    After threading a maze of alleys and of ruinous houses, which, before their westward emigration, had formed the homes of England's nobility, we found this Refuge in Hatton Court, Hatton Garden. It was well lighted and ventilated; and the recent lime-washing diffused a healthy savour throughout the premises. From the extreme, and if possible prudish, cleanliness of the dormitory, it was clearly not a spot wherein a spider could safely spin his web. The inmates, many of whom had the impress of age in extreme youth, were clean and neat. Very pleasant was it to listen to their song of praise before retiring to rest. As we left this Refuge, amid a squall of rain and wind, we felt grateful to think that these poor daughters of woe, who otherwise must have roamed the streets the live-long night, were sheltered from the storm.
    A question recurred to us after our visit: "Has any benefit accrued from these self-denying labours ? or does its history present but another example of money and toil wasted on a barren soil ?" It would seem that in this, as in all cases, " the hand of the diligent maketh rich." If wc inspect the statistics of the past year alone, we find that 105 children attending the day school obtained employment ; 32 of the little needlewomen at the industrial school entered into service ; and 342 inmates of the male Refuge were provided for. What is most pleasing, as showing that the friendless and hall-starved children are permanently reclaimed, we were informed that, of the 402 scholars who last March received the prizes of that admirable institution," the Ragged -School Union," for retaining their situations for twelve months and upwards, no less than seventy-six belonged to this school. One sketch of a former scholar may be fitly given, especially as it may be regarded as a representative biography of many other inmates.
     —, aged 26. His father died when he was six years old. He was apprenticed to a respectable firm in Hull, but his mother indulged him with an excess of pocket-money, which induced extravagant habits and negligence of his employers' interests, till his indentures were cancelled. He then became landing-waiter at the customs of Hull, but was discharged for being drunk on duty. He once more obtained a situation and remained in it two years, when drink brought him to want. He then went into the country, hawking small wares, where he forged an order for sixpence, which is allowed to every Odd Fellow while travelling; for which offence he was imprisoned twelve months. After leaving prison he came to London, and found his way to Field Lane Refuge, from whence, his conduct proving satisfactory, he was recommended to a permanent Refuge, where he became a communicant, and is now a clerk to a land surveyor in America. Before sailing he sent the following letter to the Refuge master:—" Ere leaving the shores of Old England for a strange and distant country, I think a few lines from me will be as pleasant for you to receive as it is for me to send them. Many times I have said to myself this morning, 'What should I be now, but for yon, and the kind teachers of Field Lane School ? I should still be walking the streets or in some prison ; and I do feel happy and thankful that Providence ever brought me there, otherwise I am afraid I should never have known the value of a living: God. Now I can look up to him with confidence.' May God bless you all, and the school, for it has proved a blessing to my soul and body."
    Whilst cogitating over the strange sights wc had seen, and the romantic recital of individual histories to which we had listened, we found ourselves exclaiming aloud : "With evidence like this, that none are beyond the reach of practical Christianity, why should such institutions be in debt ? and are the wealthy doing their part towards elevating, morally and socially, their poorer brethren? * [Few objects are more worthy of the generous support of the benevolent than such schools and refuges; and aid to which, in seasons of distress like the present, is sure to be especially acceptable. Those who have not the opportunity of visiting Field Lane Ragged Schools may have (post free) a lengthened and very interesting report of their various details, by forwarding six postage stamps to Mr. Mountstephen, 72 West Smithfield, London.] It is not difficult to admire the parable of the Good Samaritan; but of the multitude who praise, how many ever entered the rookeries and byeways of London to search for and reclaim those who, from their very birth, have "fallen among thieves?" Many a morally wounded youth lies at our very door, and unless we prefer the gloom of a prison, nothing but the unbought love of the Ragged School teacher can meet his case. Even, if regarded only in a social point of view, this and all kindred institutious deserve the warm support of the public. It is affirmed on good authority that, before his career is stopped, every criminal costs the nation at least £300. Now it would seem that 342 adults, of the very same class, and destined to disseminate the same moral malaria, were reclaimed by this one school, at an expense of little more than £1 per head. Viewed, then, economically—and when did John Bull, in testing a theory, ever forget his banker's account ?—the curative process is better than the old plan of social excision. The history of the Field Lane School, as do the records of every other ragged school, fully shows that, what legal force can never effect is not beyond the power of love. For criminals have been reformed who regarded a jail merely as another home; outcasts have not only received shelter, but been taught the great duty of work; the profligate or spendthrift has been shown that true pleasure cannot be divorced from duty; and not a few of our home heathen have been pointed to the eternal Refuge far away. Thus is it shown, by illustrations not to be misinterpreted, that the Christianity which saves, also civilizes; and that before men can properly perforin their duty to society, they must learn their duty to their Maker.

The Leisure Hour, 1858

This article gratefully copied from

The Informal Education Archives

    During those eighteen months of apprenticeship, one would have thought the few hours of freedom from “The Den” would have been too precious to spend in aught but outdoor amusement. But the “poor little beggars” who crossed his path in his walks about the great city haunted him, and his heart cried out in overwhelming pity for them; also the sense of obligation to that “God for whom one has done so little” was urging him on to do what he could to bring others to the know­ledge of Him whose name is Love. “What do you know about God?” he asked two little urchins playing in Trafalgar Square whilst the church bells were ringing. “Why, that’s the chap wot sends us to ‘ell,” came the prompt reply. This and many similar incidents made a deep impression on his mind, and he had not been long in London before he went to Mr. Killick, whose parish embraced all the terrible slums where the Law Courts now stand, which were crowded with destitute poor, and said, “I want to work. I can’t do much, for I don’t know much, but can’t you find something for me to do? Please tell me how to begin; what can I do?” Mr. Killick, who was just about to leave the parish, suggested work amongst youths; but during his Eton days, Mr. (now Sir Mark) Stewart had taken him to a ragged school in Fox Court, on which occasion his class and the one adjoining it had caught up their forms and indulged in a pitched battle, the teachers finding themselves quite unable to restore order. The young Etonian had vowed then and there that he would never have anything to do with boys, as he couldn’t manage them! A vow which fortunately, not only for his own generation, but for all future generations of Englishmen, proved to be of a very mutable nature! For with the misery of the lives of those boys being borne in on him daily: the utter absence of any possible means of innocent recreation, of education, of anything that could turn them into God-fearing, respectable citizens, being revealed to his tentative inquiries, “I felt,” he said, “as though I should go mad unless I did something to try and help some of the wretched little chaps I used to see running about the streets!” There follows his own account of his earliest endeavours:
    “My first effort was to get a couple of crossing-sweepers whom I picked up near Trafalgar Square, and offered to teach how to read. In those days the Thames Embankment did not exist, and the Adelphi Arches were open both to the tide and the street. With an empty beer bottle for a candlestick and a tallow candle for illumina­tion, two crossing-sweepers as pupils, your humble servant as teacher, and a couple of Bibles as reading books, what grew into the Poly­technic was practically started. We had not been engaged in our reading very long when at the far end of the arch I noticed a twink­ling light. ‘Kool ecilop,’ shouted one of the boys, at the same moment ‘doucing the glim’ and bolting with his companion, leaving me in the dark with my upset beer bottle and my douced candle, forming a spectacle which seemed to arouse suspicion on the part of our friend the policeman, whose light it was that had appeared in the distance. However, after scrutinizing me for some time by the light of his bull’s-eye, he moved on, leaving me in a state of mental perturbation as to what the mystic words I had heard hollared out meant, and to ask myself what I, who a year before had been at Eton, was doing at that time of night under an Adelphi Arch? Afterwards, when I became proficient in ‘back slang,’ I knew that ‘kool ecilop’ was ‘look out for the police, spelt back­wards, the last word being evidently the original of the contraction ‘slop,’ a familiar nickname for the police of London to-day. Alto­gether I did not think my first essay a very successful one, and I cast about in my mind how I could learn the language of those boys, and ascertain their real wants and their ways of life.”
    His cogitations resulted in the purchase of a second-hand suit of shoeblack clothes and outfit. He baked the former in the oven after the servants had gone to bed, as a precautionary measure. (His father, who was somewhat of an epicure, and very particular about his cuisine, was happily in ignorance of this episode.) Office hours over, he would sally forth to earn a few pence by holding horses, blacking boots, or performing any odd jobs that came his way. There is a pleasing legend that he once blacked his father’s boots which I should be loth to dispel, and at least it wears the garb of possibility, which is more than can be said for some legends! He used to get home in time for breakfast, and for some time Sir James knew nothing of the two or three nights a week when his son supped on “pig’s trotters” or “tripe and onions” off a barrow, and spent the night curled up in a barrel, under a tarpaulin or on a ledge in the Adelphi Arches, learning to know the boys he meant to rescue, making their life his life, their language his language, in the hope of changing their thoughts and lives. After a few months of this work, he and Arthur Kinnaird a room in “Of Alley”  (now York Place, Charing Cross) for which they paid the sum of £12 a year, and started the ragged school from which the Polytechnic was to spring. Mr. Killick, Lord Rad­stock, Tom Pelham and other friends were invited to the opening of the little room, furnished only with a rough table and a few chairs, and lighted with candles stuck in empty bottles. After the boys had departed the little band of workers joined in an “all-night prayer meeting, and the place seemed shaken with power, so overwhelming was the sense of God’s Presence and Blessing.” 
    The boys, though his chief, were not his only care; he used to visit in the district, seeing everywhere poverty and misery that urged him to more and more strenuous effort on behalf of the wretched inhabitants. In one place off Bedfordbury known as Pipemaker’s Alley, he found in all the houses but two bedsteads; the rest of the people, chiefly Irish immigrants, slept on bundles of rags, old brandy cases serving them for tables and chairs. He started meetings for the rough Covent Carden porters on Wednesday evenings, frequently held open-air meetings, was connected with a medical mission in Endell Street, had a mission hall in Hart Street and a class for flower girls. Concerning one of these, he told the following story— “Years ago when I had a class among the flower girls at Charing Cross, I succeeded in persuading one of them to promise to lead a new and better life, but she wished to postpone her amendment; she promised to give it all up six weeks later, but not just then. In vain I tried to persuade her, thinking it was but a subterfuge and an excuse to avoid making any immediate decision; but the girl stood as firm as a rock—she would do what I wished in six weeks’ time. Seeing I could prevail nothing, I desisted, very discouraged, and feeling almost sure that her excuse was only offered in order to be quit of my importunity. Imagine my feelings when at the promised time the girl came, neatly dressed and ready to carry out her promise. And then it leaked out, bit by bit, that at the time when I spoke to her, the friend with whom she lived was on the verge of being confined. It fell to her lot to support her friend in the hour of her weakness, and repugnant as her life had become to her, she actually carried it on for six weeks, till her friend was up and about again, sacrificing herself and imperilling her chance of a new life, out of loyalty to her friend. You can imagine, but I cannot adequately describe, how humbled I felt when this story came out. I had been judging her as one who was giving excuses, but in very truth she had been making a sacrifice of self, which might well bring into my cheek the blush of inferiority and shame. Verily she loved much; to her the Master could say, ‘Go in peace.’”
    Another of these girls tells how she was asked by her companions to go with them to Of Alley. She used to leave her basket in a restaurant and attend the night school. After she had been coming for some time, her father was taken ill and removed to the infirmary; while he was there her mother died suddenly, and Emma, a child of twelve, was left alone. She went straight to the Home and told her tale. She was put into a servants’ training home, and from there she went into service, and made herself so useful to her employers that when a young man wished to marry her, her mistress wrote to the Home imploring the authorities there to interfere, as they did not wish to lose the girl!
    The open-air services were frequently subjected to by no means friendly interruptions on the part of the inhabitants of the surroundings houses. One man appeared so enraged by the singing of a hymn that Mr. Hogg thought he was going to attack him. Suddenly some one in the crowd called out that it was “the cove as looks after the kids in Bedfordbury.” Instantly the man’s manner changed. “Beg yer pardon, guv’nor,” he said quite apologetically, “I never knew as ‘ow you were the bloke what gave my little Joey ‘is truss.” And in a rough but sincere attempt to make reparation he joined in the singing with such robust vocal whole-heartedness as to completely annihilate the voices of the rest of the congregation.
    One of the families he visited at this time prided itself on having gained the reputation of being “the wickedest family in the court!” a preeminence by no means easily attained in those terrible slums, veritable cesspools of iniquity and vice. With infinite patience and perseverance he strove to influence them; one of them is now a Christian worker in St. Giles, another a City missionary, another a nurse, and a fourth the matron of a hospital in New South Wales.
    But the young philanthropist whilst winning the name of “friend” amongst these unfortunates, won also for himself the reputation of being a determined enemy of crime, a persecutor of thieves and the like, and his work in consequence was not unattended by danger. He describes one of his adventures in a letter to a sister:- 
    “I nearly got potted the other night. I was humbugged into a room to buy photos, and they did their best to shoot and stab me. I only succeeded in getting off by a most determined resistance and the bursting of a shutter, the bar of which fortunately came down, shutter and all, when I wrenched at it in desperation.”
    Another time the bait was a sick woman, but his suspicions were aroused by the innumerable tortuous passages and back alleys he was conducted through, and confirmed when he was eventually taken into a room occupied by a couple of ruffians, and invited to enter the cupboard leading out of it, in which the invalid was said to be. Instead, he made a sudden dash at the window, swept away the furniture with which it was partially barricaded, and smashing the glass, yelled “Police! Help!” with all the power of a sturdy young pair of lungs. Luckily for him, a couple of policemen heard him and, guided by his voice, effected an entrance through the window, and after a short struggle succeeded in rescuing him. Discretion being the better part of valour for the respectable in that neighbourhood, they took to their heels and ran until they found themselves in a familiar street. Next day a party of police, headed by an inspector, went to try and clear out the hole; but search as they might, the labyrinth of small rooms, nameless streets, and dark cross-passages baffled them, and the quest was given up in despair. But if those two policemen had not happened to be within hearing, the cupboard might have held another gruesome secret, probably by no means the first of that kind, as the inspector significantly hinted.
    The room in Of Alley was at first used only in the daytime, a female teacher being in charge, an earnest woman whose ambitions somewhat outstripped her capabilities. She begged Mr. Hogg to open it in the evenings for the benefit of the older lads, but with the vision of his only attempt at that kind of work before him, he refused to take any active part, though he sanctioned the use of the room and gas, provided she would undertake to keep order. Nothing daunted, the good woman eagerly accepted the offer and made immediate preparations for the commencement of her plan. It so happened that the evening the experiment was first tried, Quintin Hogg was in bed with a very bad feverish cold.
    “Suddenly” (in his own words) “about eight o’clock in the evening one of the elder boys living in Bedfordbury came racing up to my father’s house in Carlton Gardens (the house now occupied by Mr. Balfour), to beg me to come at once, as there was a row in the school with the boys, who were fighting the police and pelting them with slates. In about three minutes I had huddled on just sufficient clothes to suffice me, and slipping on an overcoat as I ran through the hall, I made for the ragged school as hard as my legs could carry me. On arriving there, I found the whole school in an uproar, the gas fittings had been wrenched off and were being used as batons by the boys for striking the police, while the rest of them were pelting them with slates, and a considerable concourse of people was standing round in a more or less threatening way, either to see the fun or to help in going against the police. I felt rather alarmed for the safety of the teacher, and rushing into the darkened room, called out for the boys to instantly stop and be quiet. To my amazement the riot was stopped immediately, in two minutes the police were able to go quietly away, and for the first time in my life I learned that I had some kind of instinct or capacity for the management of elder boys. From that day to 1868, when I had to go abroad for the first time, I scarcely missed the ragged school for a single night.”
    The boys used to come into the house in an undescribable condition, so that it was absolutely necessary to shave their heads and literally scrub them from head to foot before they were fit to associate with any human being; all of which unpleasant operations Mr. Hogg used to perform with his own hands.
    “The class prospered amazingly; our little room, which was only 30 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, got so crammed that I used to divide the school into two sections of sixty each, the first lot coming from 7 to 8.30, and the second lot from 8.30 to 10. There I used to sit between two classes, perched on the back of a form, dining on my ‘pint of thick and two doorsteps,’ as the boys used to call coffee and bread and treacle, taking one class in reading and the other at writing or arithmetic. Each section closed with a ten minutes’ service and prayer.”
    The classes over, he would walk home to Carlton Gardens with Tom Pelham or Arthur Kinnaird, and invite them to share a glass of port wine, and then to assist him in exterminating the black beetles to be found in the kitchen, by pouring boiling water over them!
    In 1865 a second room had to be added, and next year the house next door was rented for £30 and turned into a “2d. doss house.”
    “The intention was that the boys who had been picked up in the streets and started at the school, and who had no homes, should be kept from bad surroundings, such as thieves’ kitchens or low lodging-houses, and housed under respectable and improving influences. The house was in a state of utter dilapidation when we took it over, but the boys and myself set to work as amateur painters, carpenters, and whitewashers, and we were very well pleased with the result, though even to this day I cannot think of the job we made of the doors and, indeed, of our carpentering altogether, without laughing. I had a little room in the attic which had been inhabited by a man who used it for the double purpose of a habitation and a place to dry fish in. The smell of the latter clung about the walls in spite of all we could do, and the boys declared that to come into my room made them hungry for supper!”
    But the necessity for extra accommodation was not the only encouragement, nor the only sign of progress. When the school first opened, five of the boys came absolutely naked except for their mothers’ shawls pinned round them, nor was this as great a hardship as the uninitiated might imagine, for one boy en­tirely refused to adopt any other costume, and for a long time remained obdurate to remonstrances and persuasions! Five separate gangs of thieves attended, all of whom were earning their living respectably (“more or less “) within six months. Pos­sibly the “more or less” is somewhat significant! Still the results obtained far outstripped the boldest hopes of the little band of workers, for the enthusiasm of the boy of twenty-two was so contagious that old Eton friends and present office com­panions found themselves caught by it and drawn into the work too. In 1864 the boys were ragged, unkempt, ignorant, without even the desire to rise; in four years’ time those same boys had become orderly, decent in dress and behaviour—had, in fact, climbed several rungs up the ladder of civilization and were anxious to continue climbing.
    During these years Quintin Hogg had also been a constant attendant at the Shoeblack Brigade. As his boys improved, he started many of them as shoeblacks, organizing a brigade which took up disused stations near the Strand, Piccadilly, Leices­ter Square, Westminster, and towards Waterloo. In 1868 he notes in the Shoeblack brigade diary that “thirty York Place boys came in for the first time.” This brigade grew to about seventy members, and after a few years was merged in the “Old City Reds” at Fetter Lane. His entries concerning the boys under his charge are very detailed; nothing, good or bad, is too insignificant to be noted, no trouble too great to ensure their welfare. Of one boy he records that a “gentleman writes to say that be gave S— 2s. 6d. instead of a penny. S— returned it honestly. He has done this before, and so has M—.” Two others had a row, and finding their fists unsatis­factory weapons, blacked each other’s faces and jerseys with the implements of trade! Yet another had to be punished for his excessive zeal, which led him to drag unwilling fares on to his stand by the leg! At one time, small-pox being prevalent, the doctor was summoned and “arrived with four or five babies and vaccinated all the boys.” (No conscientious objections permitted!)
    One summer there was a serious outbreak of cholera. Mr. Hogg describes how he gave up his holiday to Guisachan, and took up the duties of a city missionary, who had fallen ill.
    “There came at the moment an unbidden thought, though I chased it away as unworthy, that I was giving up some­thing very pleasant in surrendering this holiday. But almost the first day in the district assigned to me made me forget any feeling of regret I might have had. I found a little boy lying helpless, almost unconscious, sickening for illness. Taking an orange from my pocket, I squeezed some of the juice into his mouth, and tried to nurse him as best I knew how, though, poor little fellow, his condition was such as to make him anything but attractive.  Foul as to his linen, foul as to his body, foul as to his head, there was little beautiful about him except the childlike gratitude he had for, perhaps, the only kindly treatment he had known for many a long day. When I was going away, he put his arms up and said, ‘Do kiss me, sir. No one has ever kissed me since my mother died,’ and one forgot the dirt and uncleanliness of the surroundings in pity for the child.”
    The existing agencies were hopelessly overtaxed by the epidemic, and he was soon put in charge of a district of slums with two men under him. Here he spent his entire holiday, his family being for a long time unconscious of the risks he was running, believing him to be safely at Guisachan. On one occasion he was called to a man so stricken with confluent small-pox that he could not be touched, and had to be carried through the streets to the nearest hospital in the sheets on which they found him lying, Mr. Hogg taking one end and his helpers the other! He would be summoned at all hours of the day and night to patients, and would give them doses of Rubini’s camphor, put hot bricks to their feet and administer all the simple remedies he had been taught until the overworked doctor arrived or the patient could be removed to the hospital.
    Once a year the shoeblacks whose records were sufficiently unbesmirched, were taken for a day in the country. This is “Q. H.’s” account of one of these festivals:—
    “Started for station at 7 a.m. in deluge of rain; present Messrs. Kinnaird and Quintin Hogg. Mr. Stewart met us at the station, and we went away at 7.40 with everything damped except our spirits. Arrived at Southend, the rain cleared off, as also did Mr. Stewart, while the boys made a most effectual clearance of the very excellent dinner and tea provided. Returned by the 7.45 train, having enjoyed a nice bathe, varied by football, cricket, rounders and donkeys.”
    By now his entire family knew of his work; it was inevitable that they should do so, as it grew and absorbed more and more of his time and money. Occasionally his mother would come and climb up the dark, steep stairs to speak to her boy’s pro­tégés, her stateliness and refinement aweing them to respectful silence. Even Sir James, though he would laugh and grumble at “Quintin’s eccentricities,” saying that the proper course of action was to pay other people to do these things, was secretly very proud of him, and often when the “beggar boys” were proving a trial to him, his sense of humour would come to the rescue and dispel his wrath. He always had his own brougham, about the use of which he was very particular, and it was a severe trial to him to hear that his youngest son, to whom he had lent this carriage, had filled it with street urchins and driven them round Hyde Park at a most fashionable hour when the season was at its height.
    More trying still, perhaps, was it when he himself went out with his tormentor, who promptly invited one of the “home boys” they passed in the street to “jump in!” “God bless my soul, Quintin,” exclaimed poor Sir James, “I will not have it, I will not have it.” “Oh, all right, papa! Get on the box, then Charlie!” “No, no, Quintin, if I must have him, I’ll have him inside!” One’s sympathies are with Sir James! Another time Mr. Hogg and a boy were carrying some ladders and planks across from one home to another when the former saw his father crossing the road in his stately, leisurely manner. Mr. Hogg was at the fur­ther end of the load and, waiting till they were just behind Sir James, he forced the boy in front suddenly forward so that the planks caught the old gentleman in the back. Round jumped the victim, thundering out wrath at the unfortunate boy, who stood abjectly apologising, though fully conscious that it really wasn’t his fault at all! At last Sir James caught sight of the laughing face of his undutiful son at the other end of the obstacle. He made an effort to rebuke the real offender, but, as usual, the humorous aspect of the incident was too much for him, and his indignation trailed off into appreciative chuckles at his own expense.
    Annie, the sister who had first taught Bible stories to the fidgety little boy in Grosvenor Street, and who had always given him the keenest sympathy and encouragement in all his efforts, had taken over the sisters and mothers of these same ragged boys, and, assisted by a woman missionary, held classes for them in the upper part of the house. If it was rough work for the man who had served an apprenticeship as a shoeblack in some of the lowest slums in London, what must it have been for a girl straight from a luxurious home redolent of ease and refinement, to under­take?
    The girls were almost as entire little savages as the boys; they usually came in turning catherine wheels, whilst one arrived with a policeman in hot pursuit, and led him an exciting chase over the forms and desks. People were rather ready to shake their heads over the dangerous experiment of thirty or forty rough lads downstairs, and an equal number of equally rough girls upstairs! But the boy, who could be tender as a woman to any in pain or trouble, who would sleep night after night among the lads he wanted to rescue, sharing their food and lives, could also show an iron firmness when necessary, and administer correction as mercilessly as the most hard-hearted of disciplinarians. Never to overlook the smallest breach of authority, never to condone a fault, that was the only way to keep his ragamuffins in hand, and he knew it. “I would rather,” he said, “have ten boys behaving themselves than a hundred making a row.” A policeman was stationed at the door, emblem of the order re­quired to be maintained within; but it was not the arm of the law that prevented disaster in that hive of unruly boys and girls. It was the personality of the boy who ruled it. A look from him would often quell a rebellious spirit, if it did not, if in fact the power of the human eye failed, then the power of the human arm asserted itself. The smallest hint of impropriety of any kind was visited with a severe thrashing, and no misconduct went un­punished. “Always punish some one—of course the right some­one if possible,” he laughed to Lord Kinnaird once when dis­cussing the discipline of the home.
    One winter his manager got ill, and then every night after his City work was done, Quintin Hogg went to Of Alley (then be­ginning to be known as York Place), and slept there in a hammock, a precautionary measure against the vermin! Often he had con­siderable trouble with the boys whom he had taught to read  about their choice of literature. “I used to find penny horribles or ‘Bits of Blood’ secreted between the mattresses and lovingly tucked beneath the pillows. One boy I remember was ever­lastingly buying every bit of rubbish that came out, and appar­ently thought nothing worth reading that did not begin with murder and wind up with suicide. Do what I would, I could not persuade him to read anything sensible. Oliver Twist could not attract him, and ‘Sam Weller’ joked in vain. At last I got him to promise with a very doleful face that he would read one book that I should choose right through, on condition it was not a religious book. I picked out Kingsley’s ‘Westward Ho!’ and as be read of Sir Amyas Leigh and the men of Devon, his mind began to perceive beauties in Kingsley’s work which he had never dreamed were there. By the time he was through with West­ward Ho! it needed no persuasion to get him to read Dickens, Scott, and other healthy writers; nor had I again to confiscate from between his mattress ‘Young Men of Great Britain,’ or ‘Bits of Blood.’”
    He would rise at 5.30 or 6 to start the boys off to their work in good time, then he would rush back to Carlton Gardens and appear at breakfast, swallow down his meal, whilst his mother, full of anxiety for his physical welfare, hurriedly crammed into his pocket some hastily prepared delicacy for his lunch, which of course disappeared down the maw of the first hungry urchin he met. At times it was not only his own food that went. Dark stories are told of the family coming down to find the break­fast table cleared of all portable eatables. And that was the life he led for nearly five years after leaving Eton.

Ethel M. Hogg, Quintin Hogg. A biography, 1904