Days Gone By - The history of the Ragged School in Ipswich
- Credit: OWEN HINES
Local history enthusiast David Kindred has shared pictures and his knowledge of the former Victorian Ragged School on Waterworks Street.
Every day hundreds of vehicles use Waterworks Street, Ipswich, as part of the town’s gyratory traffic system.
Few drivers notice the small building that was once home to a school.
With Victorian bluntness the Ragged School was founded in 1849 for children: “Too poor, too ragged, too filthy, too ignorant, for ordinary instruction.”
The school was first in St Clements Church Lane, it was established by Richard Dykes Alexander, a local wealthy banker and philanthropist.
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The St Clement’s and Rope Walk areas of Ipswich was then packed with tiny poor housing with a high rate of crime and unemployment.
The school later moved to the Waterworks Street building. When the Ipswich School Board started in 1871 the Waterworks Street building became Waterworks Street Infants.
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When plans were made to make Waterworks Street wider for traffic in the mid 1980s the frontage of school building was moved back several feet to save this important part of Ipswich’s education history.
It was not only the Victorians who were tactless when naming schools and organisations. In the 1920s there was a building at 253 Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, called “Home for Feeble Minded Girls” with Miss Lincoln as Matron. This building is now gone and a McDonalds drive through restaurant, close to the junction with London Road, is there.
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The picture below shows the sorry state of the children at the Ipswich Ragged School, it gives some idea of life close to the Ipswich town centre in the Victorian period.
It was said at the time that parts of Ipswich had a “Class of boys and girls who were prevented, either by their debased condition, by the worthlessness or criminality of their parents, or the tattered state of their garments, from receiving instruction from any previous school”
The photograph taken around 1859 is one of a set of photographs taken by Richard Dykes Alexander, a pioneer of photography in Ipswich. His photographs are now stored at the Suffolk Record Office, reference K420.
Similarly the next picture shows a sad looking bunch of boys at the Ragged School in 1859 has one boy with an injured arm and one in bare feet.
With them is Joshua Newman who taught at the school for nineteen years with his wife Deborah.
In 1859 Mr Newman had 135 pupils. Picture by Richard Dykes Alexander, courtesy of the Suffolk Record Office, reference K420.
Pictured here is George Newman with a group of Ragged School boys in 1859.
The pupils were reported to be unmanageable, unruly and insubordinate. Then there was no state or compulsory education; parents who could afford a private education for their children sent them to a fee-paying grammar school. Christian religions opened schools for a select few from their own parish, but most young people went without education. Picture by Richard Dykes Alexander courtesy of the Suffolk Record Office, reference K420.