The Ragged School Museum from Regent's Canal, Image courtesy of The Ragged School Museum 2023
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The Ragged School Museum in Mile End Park reopens after three years of renovation

The Lottery-funded restoration of the former Barnardo ragged school in Mile End Park gives visitors insights into Victorian-era schools for the poor.

On 28 June 2023, the Ragged School Museum in Mile End Park reopened to visitors following three years of significant restoration and refurbishment. 

The Ragged School Museum received a restoration grant of £4.3 million in 2016 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It had previously received no public funding, being run entirely by volunteers. 

The museum closed in 2020 for its restoration. The project sought to fully restore the largest of the museum’s three warehouses, and improve the other two structures. 

The newly refurbished museum includes an extended exhibition space, lifts, wheelchair access, lettable offices and a new cafe opening out onto Regent’s Canal, a convenient stop for coffee on walks towards Limehouse. 

The museum reopened to school groups in January this year, offering insight into Victorian education through its recreated Dickensian classroom. Now, visitors have the chance to see additional exclusive exhibits. 

The new exhibition space features Ragged School founder Dr Thomas Barnardo’s desk, replicates of which belonged to Queen Victoria.

28 June marked the museum’s official reopening to the public. The refurbishment took three years to be completed, longer than initially expected. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent national lockdown that came into effect three days after the project began.  

The Ragged School Museum preserves the history of the Copperfield Road Ragged School and Victorian society in East London. The school was opened in 1877 by philanthropist Dr Thomas Barnardo, providing free education, hot food, clothing and lodging to the East End’s most destitute children. The warehouses that once housed the school were converted into what we know as the Ragged School Museum in 1990. 

Erica Davies, the Ragged School Museum Director, says: ‘The Ragged School Museum is witness to the movement for universal free education and a tribute to the men and women who struggled to achieve it. We urgently needed to repair and restore this important building and preserve the stories of the children that are part of its history and the community that surround it.’

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