Ancestry UK

Copperfield Road Ragged School, Mile End, London

By 1875, the ragged school at Hope Place run by Thomas Barnardo's East End Juvenile Mission had become overcrowded and needed to move to new premises. The school's new location, just a few hundred yards from Hope Place, was in two canal-side warehouses at 46-48 Copperfield Road, Mile End. The buildings, rented for £200, were converted by replacing their numerous access doors with windows, and installing fireplaces in each room. The basements were turned into playgrounds. As at Hope Place, boys, girls and infants were taught separately in different parts of the building. In 1877, the average attendance at the day-school was 106 boys, 100 girls and 70 infants, with around 1,500 children attending the Sunday school.

Copperfield Road Ragged School site, c.1895.

Copperfield Road Ragged Schools, Mile End. © Peter Higginbotham

As well as lessons, the school provided a breakfast of bread and cocoa, and a dinner of bread and lentil or pea soup. In 1888, a total of 62,093 free meals was served.

Copperfield Road Ragged School Dinner-time, 1879. © Peter Higginbotham

As well as the school, the buildings also housed a Factory Girls' Club and Institute where, on three evenings a week, girls from local factories were taught writing and sewing and studied the bible. A Working Lads Institute was established in 1884 which provided educational classes, a reading room and a gymnasium.

Copperfield Road Ragged Schools Factory Girls' Sewing Class, c.1879. © Peter Higginbotham

The school closed in 1908 after the London County Council decreed that the premises were unsuitable for the education of children. The children then went to other local schools. Other activities carried on for a few more years with the Factory Girls' Club being the last to go in 1916.

In 1909, former pupils from the now closed ragged school were invited to a Christmas treat at Barnardo's nearby Edinburgh Castle Mission Hall. The picture below, taken outside the Copperfield Road building, shows the children holding their invitations to the event.

Copperfield Road Ragged Schools Children with Christmas treat invitations, 1909. © Peter Higginbotham

After being used for a variety of purposes over the years, the buildings became the home of the Ragged School Museum in 1990.

Copperfield Road Ragged Schools building, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Recreated classroom at Copperfield Road Ragged Schools Museum, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.


  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)