The History of Ragged Schools in Angel Meadows
The Ragged School Movement began in Aberdeen under Sheriff Watson in 1844, but Portsmouth cobbler John Pounds is often cited as their inspiration.
The Ragged School Movement adopted the name Shaftesbury Society & Ragged School Union in 1914- after significant benefactor and champion Lord Shaftesbury.
The Eros fountain in Piccadilly is a monument to his work.
Today the Ragged School Charity is known as Liveability.
Ragged Schools provided Sunday school teaching, basic education, food and
clothing to children who were too "ragged" to go to normal Sunday schools and
church services. Children attended from the age of 5 until they were 13.
Ragged schools were mainly run on non-denominational lines by evangelical groups. Charles Dickens commented that these schools were "not sufficiently secular, presenting too many religious mysteries and difficulties, to minds not sufficiently prepared for their reception"
Further reading on the Ragged School Movement can be found here.
Due to the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in Britain, and in particular Manchester, there was a need for the support structure given by Ragged Schools.
The Charter Street Ragged School and the Sharp Street Ragged School are both situated in Angel Meadow, on the outskirts of the city centre. They provided invaluable support to the poor, some of whom were escaping the potato famine in Ireland.
Adults were also helped with literacy classes and free meals. They were encouraged to stay out of the pubs and beer houses, which were numerous in the area of Angel Meadow, by signing the pledge and being members of the Band of Hope.
Charter Street Ragged School
The Charter Street School opened in 1861. It was set up on the site of the first Juvenile & Industrial School in Manchester which had opened 1 January 1847.
former Industrial School had become a dancing saloon "of the lowest class"
and "a meeting house for thieves and prostitutes" with gaudy
decorations. In 1862, the Chartered Street School felt compelled to buy the
building so as not to have to compete with the saloon.
The School initially worked with the Cotton Famine Relief Committee to help people who were affected by over production of textiles, and the disruption of imported baled cotton because of the American Civil War.
The existing building was started in 1866 and extended in 1891 and 1900. It was renamed Charter Street Ragged School and Working Girls Home in 1892 by Lord Shaftesbury. The building also offered poor relief including "food, clogs & clothing for children, and a Sunday breakfast for destitute men and women; medical services were also provided."
The school rewarded good behaviour and attendance with annual trips to Lytham with as many as 1000 children making the journey from nearby Victoria Station. Whit Walks to outlying town and suburbs were also popular.
Charter Street tried to help a wider range of people in the community via the Working Girls Home, which provided safe accommodation (with bathrooms) for young girls who would be vulnerable to groomers.
The School also helped elderly people, who either had trouble receiving parish assistance or problems in qualifying for the old age pension when it was introduced in 1908.
Timeline of Charter St
Meadow Ragged School founded on site of the Juvenile Refuge &
School for Industry, shared with dancing saloon for "lowest class"
1862 School became established and building purchased for £200
1863 Problems identified with secular lessons
1867 Renamed to Charter Street Ragged School
1868 Infant Day School had 130 pupils with just two female teachers
1870 Total Alcohol Abstention founded Band of Hope
classes stopped under 1870 Education Act. Men's club and gymnasium started
1891 Area affected by lodging houses
for around 3723 persons
1892 New extension opened by Lord Shaftesbury including the Working Girls Home on 28th April
of Sutherland- Lady Millicent Fanny St. Clair-Erskine (1867-1955) opened an extension to the Working Girls' Home,
next to the Charter St Ragged School on 26th July 1900
1906 Sir Winston Churchill visited Charter St as part of his election campaign on 7th Jan 1906. He donated 5 pounds and chose the hymn 'Mine eyes have seen the glory' which was played at his funeral
1914 No mention of impending war
1915 Sixty-three staff & pupils serving in armed forces. Football club suspended
1916 Five school members killed in the war
1918 One hundred & twelve staff and pupils had served in the WW1
1919 Post-war economic downturn with munitions factories closing and unemployment on the rise in Manchester
1921 Roll of honour put up for seven staff and pupils killed in the war
1922 Football club reinstated. Ex-servicemen given assistance by the mission
1944 On Christmas Day 120 children attended and given food, clothing and toys
1945 Building was very cold due to coal shortages
1945 VE day party on 13th June given for sixty children and twenty adults
1947 The School Choir won the National Shaftsbury Society Choral Competition
Following post-war decline of the area and the demolition of slum-housing the building gradually became less used.
However, today the building still accommodates an evangelical Primary School, a Community Dance School and provides food & clothing to the needy through the Charity Lifeshare.
Sharp Street Ragged School
This School was established 1853 by philanthropist and evangelical Christian Christopher Sharp. It is believed that he was descended from John Sharp who had set up the extant St. George's Road (now Rochdale Road) Methodist Church and after who the street was already named.
According to Banks' map of 1844 a previous Sunday school had operated on the site.
The current building dates from 1869. The ground floor was for the reception class where "wild and subdued children" were separated. The curriculum was of a very basic nature - the teaching of simple arithmetic, writing and reading, along with Bible-based religious and moral instruction.
In 1940, the Sharp Street school was bombed - although the stoic people who ran it still went ahead with the Christmas Treat for the children.
In the post war years Sharp Street had strong connections with the cast of Coronation Street and actress Violet Carson, who played Ena Sharples, became President of the school. This was an example of life imitating art as her character was a caretaker in a mission hall just like Sharp Street school.
In 1961, the minutes report changes in demographics in the area with only three houses still standing in the vicinity of the school. However, the 1976/77 report highlighted that the School was fulfilling a need to help tackle delinquency in the form of muggings and football hooligans, and highlights how "they didn't have the excuse of starvation to motivate them into crime like their Victorian counterparts". The building is now Grade II listed and operates as "independent offices and creative spaces".
Both schools met with resistance when they first started, from people with a vested interest in keeping the population of Angel Meadow ignorant and in want. The archives highlight that one group of people offered a higher rent for the original Sharp Street building to try to price out the school.
Timeline for Sharp St Ragged School
1853 School started by local businessman & philanthropist
1870 The School was taken under School Board control following Education Act
1895 School besieged by starving mothers. Basket making and artificial flower making introduced (encouraged by John Groom Society)
1900 Mothers class introduced
1914 No mention in the school minutes of impending war
1915 School disrupted by war with 49 serving and four killed
1916 Fifty serving and four killed
1918 By the end of WW1, 65 members of the school had served their country
1919 School affected by staff shortages due to the war and classes cancelled
1924 Pupils experiencing poverty with high unemployment and high cost of living
1931 Swimming club formed
1936 Clothing parcels distributed to the poor
1939 No Children attended services due to evacuation
1940 School suffered substantial damage in an air raid
1942 Attendance increased by cinema shows after the service. 40 school members serving in the forces
1943 Staff shortages due to the war and female staff working in munitions
1960 Became a registered charity
1961 Falling numbers due to demographic changes & slum clearances
1969 Christmas Fairs became a popular event with many celebrities invited to open them including Dusty Springfield
1970 Coronation St actress Violet Carson (Ena Sharples) becomes president and an association with the soap begins. Several actors including William Roach, Pat Phoenix and Michael Le Vell also opened the Fairs in subsequent years
1976 School role helps tackle delinquency including muggings & football hooliganism
1978 Local Comedian Les Dawson opened the 150
anniversary Christmas Fair
1990 School building restored
2005 Eventually sold by Manchester Cathedral following years of inactivity
2012 Converted into private offices but retains a Community Theatre Space in the basement under a condition of sale
In October 2014 FOAM presented a talk on "The Ragged Schools of Angel Meadow" for the Ragged University Project.
Thanks to Sarah and the Archives Team at Manchester Central Library, William Kenneth Jones and FOAM members past and present.