Liverpool Journal 1st June 1850

A walk round the Ragged School

There are upwards of 20 ragged schools distributed throughout the poorer districts of the town, in which almost 3,000 children of the most destitute classes are receiving gratuitous instruction. By far the most interesting is the Industrial Ragged School in Soho St. The conditions which children are rejected in other schools render them eligible for this, bad character, filthiness, ignorance and crime, these are the best possible passports for admission.

The number of pupils are 96, with an average attendance of 85, the school opened in March last year and is aided by donations from the Ragged School Union, its maintenance £500 a year. At the moment only boys are admitted, but money is being raised to open a like accommodation for girls.

Since the opening, on the first anniversary two months ago, 228 children have passed through. Of these, 108 were born in Liverpool, 79 in Ireland, 41 other places. 54 were orphans, 73 had only mothers, 15 had been deserted, 112 beggars and 4 known thieves.

With the exception of two schools in Toxteth Park, supplied by a benevolent Lady [a resident of the Dingle] of food twice a week, the Soho St School is the only establishment providing food and education. The pupils are provided with three meals a day, at a cost of a half-penny a meal or 1s-1d a week per head.

Breakfast, oatmeal porridge and treacle.

Dinner, three days, pea soup, three days rice. [which we are told the boys find insipid]

Supper, a slice of dry bead sprinkled with salt [to give it relish]

New scholars unaccustomed to regular meals, cannot eat all the food at first, but their appetite gradually grows.

This is the only school were industrial operations are carried out. The boys are not taught trades, “we studiously avoid that,” said the Superintendent cordially – we could only stare at his comment in disbelief. All that is desired is to impress them with the value and importance of labour, and impart the habits of industry.

The mornings are devoted to study, the afternoons to recreation and work. The chief industrial occupations are, tailoring, clogging, knitting and netting, there is also considerable manufacture of paper bags.

A Tailor on a moderate salary is employed, under his tuition the boys have mastered the mysteries of lapboard and scissors, they are able to repair their own garments with neatness and skill. Then under the instructions of a competent craftsman, the scholars repair old shoes into decent looking clogs, and every pupil is furnished with a pair. They were busy on our visit with 100 pairs, ordered by an anonymous benevolent, intended as a gift to other schools.

An old lady who fills the office as cook, and has scholars as assistants, volunteered to teach the younger boys knitting. A good many nets were made first and boar bristles are sorted by the younger boys into black and white.

There is a printing press lent by Mr MC CORG?DALE, the persons ordering the paper bags can have their names printed on them if they wish.

There is a spacious playground attached to the premises and owing to the enforced cleanliness and recreation permitted, the children are kept in excellent health. Although they sleep at home, such, “homes” as they may have are situated of necessity in the worst districts of the town, the institution has not lost any inmates to the Cholera, and since opening only one death has occurred of measles.

Lavation is not neglected, 15 lbs of soap are consumed weekly. There are baths to which newcomers on admission are immediately introduced. Their linen is duly washed, for very few of the poor wretches can boast of a change of clothing, the most destitute are provided with clothing in a very coarse fabric.

Those who attend school on Sundays, [two thirds do] are rewarded by being allowed to don, a sort of blue smock like frock.

The walls of the store room are adorned with smart articles of clothing from benevolent donations.

The school was once made an instrument of swindling, a Lady appeared showing a warm interest in the institution and her sympathy took a practical shape, she took it on herself to call at the houses of the Gentry, pleading for donations of all kinds to benefit the school, she was very successful, and sent some of the gifts, the committee were overjoyed.

It at length transpired that the Lady had embezzled and appropriated to her own use, all the donations of great value, Mr RUSHTON, intervened and terminated the fraud.

A dozen of the boys besides being boarded and educated, are also lodged at the house provided for the Industrial Master in the neighbourhood of St Michaels Church.

The little fellows were found a night at the Night Asylum by two benevolent gentlemen connected to the institution. Dreading the influences of the hard felon, recounting his feats of imposture and fraud, they resolved that whatever the cost, to snatch the poor homeless children from the possibility of vagrancy and crime.

The boys are apt scholars and the most grateful and orderly boys.

The education at the school consists of the usual plain elements. There is a library, formed exclusively of some 50 volumes of religious tracts.

Among the pupils we found entered in the books, we found a, James HUGHES, aged 14, a native of Manchester, for some time he has resided at Crosbie St in this town. A short time prior to our visit he was bound apprentice, and had gone to sea. He was one of the first pupils in the school and had displayed great skill in manufacture. He was a great favourite with the boys, and when he left the parting was romantically affecting. One scholar gave him a souvenir in the shape of a button, another a rusty knife.

The establishment is under the superintendence of Mr J. B. ORRISS, eminently qualified for the delicate and arduous task, the boys treat him with readiness and respect.

Every department of the school is governed by love and the happy results are everywhere visible.

Third annual report of the Ragged School, Soho St, 1852

copyright 2002 / To date