Ragged School Museum reopens following major refurbishment

The Ragged School Museum, set in warehouses along the Regents Canal, which were converted into one of the largest Ragged Schools in Victorian England, will kick-start a busy summer of major visitor attractions reopening, as its doors open today to the public.

The historic school provided a place of safety, free education and activities for thousands of the poorest children in London and was saved with £4.8m funding in 2020 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Restoration and refurbishment of the 19th century building is complete, and this popular museum is set to welcome people of all ages to discover and experience Victorian life in the East End as it was felt over a century ago.

The Ragged School Museum with its authentic Victorian classrooms, is one of a summer programme of heritage attractions across the UK reopening to visitors, after major transformations, as a result of long-term investment of over £55m grant funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Erica Davies, Museum Director, said: “The Ragged School Museum is witness to the movement for universal free education, and a tribute to the men and women who struggled to achieve it.

“We urgently needed to repair and restore this important building and preserve the stories of the children that are part of its history and the community that surround it.

“It has been a huge challenge, particularly as we were hit with the first national lockdown, three days into the project in 2020. We’ve overcome challenges to expand under-developed areas, improved access and make it a desirable venue.

“With thanks to National Lottery players, we are delighted to be able to share the newly renovated buildings with everyone, we will be combining a strong education programme, with hireable-spaces and a new canalside café. We cannot wait for people to see inside in time for summer.”

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“It has been fantastic to watch the progress of the Ragged School Museum, seeing this project transform from the earliest stages of planning for funding, to developing ideas, facing and overcoming challenges, and emerging with heritage not just saved and intact, but invigorated and with a fresh perspective.

“Thanks to players of the National Lottery, the Heritage Fund can continue to protect and preserve the UK’s heritage, ensuring that it can inspire generations to come. By investing in heritage, we can build pride in places, and connect communities to the past, present and future.”

The refurbishment includes extended exhibition space highlighting the story of the buildings, ragged school movement, social history of Victorian London and the work of Thomas John Bamardo and Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury – one of Britain’s greatest social reformers.

Exclusive exhibits include Dr Barnardo’s Wooton Patent Cabinet Office Secretary Desk complete with his handwritten labels still in place. Designed to meet the requirements of someone who wanted ‘everything in its place’ it was patented by an American inventor – other famous owners included Queen Victoria and President Ulysses S.Grant.