In 1818 John Pounds, a shoemaker from Portsmouth, started to teach children without charging fees. His idea was promoted by Thomas Guthrie, who started a ragged school in Edinburgh. Lord Ashby (later Lord Shaftesbury) formed the Ragged School Union in 1844, and by 1853 more than 200 free schools for children were established in the UK. By the time of the 1870 Education Act, there were 350 ragged schools which were gradually absorbed into the school system the act created.
Chatham's Ragged School is at the top of King Street, next to the Burial Ground (Town Hall Gardens). It is at the top of a steep set of steps, if you use the King Street entrance. Alternatively it is possible to get to it by going eastwards along the High Street to Upbury Way, turning left at the top into Cross Street, right into Eldon Street, and then following on along Lines Terrace. The entrance to the ragged school is at the end of the road.
The school was built in 1858. The date is built into the south wall using different coloured bricks, as shown here.
The school building is now the office of a company of solicitors and a childrenswear company.
If you want to find out more about the ragged schools movement, I recommend you try some of the site in the external links section. Please note that the contents of these sites are not under my control.
The encyclopaedia of informal education's page on Lord Shaftesbury.
The encyclopaedia of informal education's page on Dr Barnardo.
Peter Higginbotham's education history site.
Educational site about ragged schools.
All photographs copyright 2004 Jason Ross