Education   Social Change   Innovation

in Deptford since 1844


The Deptford Ragged School Response to the Covid19 crisis April 2020

The Deptford Ragged School Archive needs your help.

In 1844, William Agutter founded the Deptford Ragged School in response to the poverty he saw on the streets of Deptford. Continuing this work, the Deptford Ragged School Archive (DRSA) is responding to those in need during this crisis by helping children learn at home.

In response to the Covid19 crisis, Katharine from the DRSA, in conjunction with Bear Cubs toddler group, The Bear Church, will be collecting donations of essential school resources, such as pens and pencils (see list below), for children who need them for learning at home while schools are closed.

Currently three Lewisham primary schools have identified families who would greatly benefit from resources and have agreed to distribute them. We will also reach out to other schools in Lewisham Borough, dependent on sufficient donations.

The following resources have been identified as beneficial:

  1. Pens, pencils of any type, coloured pencils, felt tip pens, rubbers and rulers

  2. Children's reading books (picture or chapter). "These would be really great as most of our children lack reading material"

  3. Children’s magazines

  4. Puzzle, colouring, dot to dot books

  5. Workbooks for reading, writing, maths.

  6. Lined, plain, coloured paper and card.

  7. Glue sticks, sellotape.

  8. Children's safety scissors

  9. Pencil cases

Please could you consider donating spare resources (new or in very good condition) that you may have at home, or perhaps buying something to donate.

Katharine will be collecting donations from doorsteps, a non-contact pick up, on Wednesday evenings, from Weds 22nd April. Please email to arrange a doorstep pick up.

Unfortunately the DRSA cannot accept any money for this cause, we do not have the means to process it. Please be reassured that we have protocol in place to help reduce the chance of virus transmission between DRSA staff, schools and families.

We hope that providing children with the means to learn at home will make a huge difference to their lives.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this, please get in touch.


What is 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