Education   Social Change   Innovation

in Deptford since 1844



The Deptford Ragged School in Victorian Times

a film by year 5 at Tidemill Academy

Introducing a wonderful film made with year 5 at Tidemill Academy, Deptford. ​







This film is result of 6 week project, exploring what life was like for children who went to the Deptford Ragged School in Victorian times. Year 5 researched DRSA's original archive documents to find out who started the Deptford Ragged School, why they started it, who were the children who came to the school and exactly where it was in Deptford. Making the film gave the students a focus for the project, providing the means for a creative response with their literacy, drawings and ideas.

In this film you meet two ‘ragged’ characters; Bella and Frank Jackson Tanner (known as Sparky to his friends), based on research, telling real life experiences of ragged children. Bella and Sparky helped the children to understand the impact the Deptford Ragged School had on the lives of the poor; teaching them to read and write, giving them skills to get a job and even providing breakfast before they started lessons.

The children at Tidemill showed real empathy for the Victorian children who ‘went barefoot in all weathers, were so neglected that they didn’t have names - they were known by nicknames.’ This project caused the children to reflect on their own situation - ’we are very lucky to have an education.’ They were amazed to find out that at one time the Deptford Ragged School was on Giffin Street, the same street as their school. ‘That we are in [the same street] that the Deptford Ragged School was in, is awesome’.

For more information see our blog page about the project.


The Deptford Ragged School?
The Deptford Ragged School was founded in 1844, twenty-seven years before the State began providing education for all children. It was started in a loft over a cowshed by eight Christian men and women as a Day School and Sunday School. As many children as possible were crammed into the rented room to learn how to read and write, and very often to be fed too. It was one of the first twenty ragged schools exclusively run for ‘ragged children’, so called because they were ‘dressed in rags’ with bare feet in all weathers.

In 1851 the school expanded to teach adults as well as children. In 1855 it got its first building after a running from a few different locations. From it’s beginnings in a loft over the cowshed to a stable and another over a skittle alley, the Deptford Ragged School finally settled in a disused chapel on Giffin Street. By 1862 attendance averaged 160 at the day school, 64 at the night school and 140 each Sunday.  

In 1886 the ‘New’ Deptford Ragged School was opened on Giffin Street, and the then Earl of Shaftesbury wrote “there is no institution in England more worthy of support than the Deptford Ragged School”.   

By 1914 H.R.H. Princess Louise had become a patron and, as part of the opening of a building on Hales Street, The Deptford Ragged School was renamed ‘The Princess Louise Institute’.  Following her death in 1939 Princess Louise bequeathed £1000 towards another building:  the ‘new hall’ which was to be built next door, facing Frankham Street. This hall was completed in 1953 and is still in use today.

The Hales Street building was sold to developers in 2004 but the ‘new hall’ is still occupied by The Deptford Ragged Trust and home to The Bear Church whose aim is to see it kept and used for the people of Deptford.

Deptford Ragged School Archive
The Deptford Ragged School Archive is a collection, 175 years worth, of ‘stuff’ that tells the history of the Deptford Ragged School and the part it played in the community of Deptford. There are so many documents, annual reports, minutes, plates, certificates, letters, photos, architectural plans etc.  All kept, more recently in a damp cupboard, for a time such as this.

At the beginning of 2019 a group of volunteers began to meet regularly to catalogue the collection and make a record of all the ‘stuff’ - that’s when we’re not completely distracted by the stories we’re finding!

Can I View the Archive?

You can see what we’ve got and where we’re up to on eHive. Have a look at our gallery page for some previews!

Who are we and what’s the plan?
The Archive is based in The Bear Church, Deptford, and is being run on a voluntary basis by Dr Katharine Alston, a professional in the area of public engagement and learning in museums, with a particular interest in family learning. Our approach is informed by the history of the Deptford Ragged School which provided and championed education, social change and innovation in Deptford since 1844.  We hope to become an accredited museum, aiming to share and celebrate the story of the Deptford Ragged School, making the collection widely available and running public programmes. We plan to get funding and use the archive and the stories from the Deptford Ragged School to inspire community arts projects in Deptford.


To follow our story head over to our blog page.

If you want to get in touch, please do so with the contact details at the bottom of the page.  

Connect With Us

If you have any connection to the Deptford Ragged School then please do contact us with the form at the bottom of the page. We would love to hear any stories, memories, and connections to help us preserve the legacy of this amazing institution.






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© 2019 Deptford Ragged School Archive