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Museum at former Barnado's 'ragged' school secures £4.3m lottery grant

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The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced £4.3 million in funding for urgent restoration work at the Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets, east London

The museum, comprising three canalside warehouses in 46-50 Copperfield Road – two of which are Grade II listed – previously housed one of the largest ‘ragged’ – or free – schools in London, which provided the poorest children in east London with a basic free education.

The school was opened in 1877 by philanthropist Thomas Barnardo, founder of the children’s charity which still bears his name, and operated until 1907, when the government started to open state schools in the area.

But the buildings, now the Ragged School Museum, which conserves the history of free schools, need extensive restoration work – including repairs to the leaking roof.

Erica Davies, director of the Ragged School Museum, told the AJ that one of the Grade II-listed buildings, number 46, is currently unused because it has holes in the ceilings and no heating system.

She added that a competition to select an architect for the refurbishment would be announced in the coming months. 

The museum currently receives about 24,500 visitors a year, including some 15,000 from students on school trips. Davies said she hoped the restoration would increase visitor numbers and make a ’much more resilient building, safe in every sort of way’.

She added: ‘We are underusing 50 per cent of it. We can’t expand facilities and can’t expand the number of visiting schools we have in the building as it is at the moment.’

Following the school’s closure and prior to being a museum the buildings were used as a factory and were saved from demolition in the 1980s by local people.

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