Newspaper report on a visit to the Field Lane ragged school


‘Ragged schools’, funded by charitable donations, provided free basic education to children of poor families in the 1800s. The teachers were often local volunteers, using makeshift locations – railway arches, stables or lofts. Children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and Bible studies. 

In 1844 the Ragged School Union was formed in London, chaired by social reformer Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1801–1885). Over the next eight years over 200 such schools for poor children were established in Britain, supported by wealthy donors, with an average 100 pupils each. Food, clothes and lodging were often provided for deserving cases. 

This book, published in 1859, reprints a Times article from Friday 24 December 1858 reporting a visit to Field Lane Ragged School in London, concentrating vividly on what would today be called case studies. 

The Field Lane area, long since demolished and under modern-day Farringdon Road, was then a slum and notorious for terrible poverty as well as crime. It was familiar to author and poverty-exposing journalist Charles Dickens (1812–1870): in his 1838 novel Oliver Twist, he had set the gangmaster Fagin’s den there. The Ragged School was set up by missionaries in 1841, and when Dickens visited in 1843 he was so shocked by the conditions it inspired episodes in his book A Christmas Carol, published later that year. 

Ragged schools gradually disappeared after the establishment of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which made free education widespread. 

Full title:
'Our homeless Poor'. From the Times, December 24th, 1858. The Result of a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, etc.
1859, Bath, Somerset
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles


Article by:
Judith Flanders
London, Poverty and the working classes

Judith Flanders examines the state of housing for the 19th-century urban poor, assessing the ‘improvements’ carried out in slum areas and the efforts of writers, including Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, to publicise such living conditions.

The working classes and the poor

Article by:
Liza Picard

Liza Picard examines the social and economic lives of the Victorian working classes and the poor.

Ragged Schools

Article by:
Imogen Lee
Childhood and children's literature

Ragged Schools provided free education for children too poor to receive it elsewhere. Imogen Lee explains the origins and aims of the movement that established such schools, focusing on the London’s Field Lane Ragged School, which Charles Dickens visited.

Related collection items

Related works

A Christmas Carol

Created by: Charles Dickens

A Christmas book by Charles Dickens (1812–1870), published in 1843. Dickens was prompted to write this ...