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Barnardo charity marks 150th anniversary of first Ragged school in Stepney with old Victorian postcards

PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:19 03 March 2018

Barnardo's first Ragged school opened in Stepney in 1868. Picture: Barnardo's

Barnardo's first Ragged school opened in Stepney in 1868. Picture: Barnardo's

©Barnardo's

Long-forgotten postcards showing destitute street children in Whitechapel in Victorian times have turned up with the 150th anniversary of the Barnardo charity’s first ‘ragged’ school.

Victorian postcard from Barnardo's Ragged School in Stepney. Picture source: Barnardo's Archive Victorian postcard from Barnardo's Ragged School in Stepney. Picture source: Barnardo's Archive

The postcards from the 19th century showing children learning skills at the Ragged School in Stepney were in a scrapbook which turned up in a bookshop in Germany.

The bookshop owner had a friend who volunteered for Barnardo’s and sent them to her.

Teenagers today who learn practical skills through Barnardo’s Hub centre in Stepney Green have been inspired by the collection to create a series of their own self-portraits.

Victorian postcard from Barnardo's Ragged School in Stepney. Picture source: Barnardo's Archive Victorian postcard from Barnardo's Ragged School in Stepney. Picture source: Barnardo's Archive

The ‘then and now’ images coincides with the anniversary of the East End Juvenile Mission at Hope Place which opened in March, 1868, two years after Thomas Barnardo arrived in east London.

“These postcards from the very early days came at the right time for the anniversary of Hope Place,” Barnardo’s archivist Martine King said.

“It’s fascinating to see how the work Barnardo’s was doing in east London 150 years ago is still reflected in what’s happening at The Hub today.”

Barnardo's today... postcard project of youngsters at the charity's skills hub in Stepney Green. Picture: Barnardo's Barnardo's today... postcard project of youngsters at the charity's skills hub in Stepney Green. Picture: Barnardo's

Hope Place taught thousands of boys and girls how to read and write during the nine years it operated and trained them in practical skills like wood-chopping, shoe-shining and sewing so they could earn money independently.

The young trainees paid for their accommodation once they were earning, which meant Barnardo could expand into bigger premises at Stepney Causeway.

Barnardo’s chief Javed Khan explained: “Then, as now, our goal was to help youngsters build a positive future.

Barnardo's today... postcard project of youngsters at the charity's skills hub in Stepney Green. Picture: Barnardo's Barnardo's today... postcard project of youngsters at the charity's skills hub in Stepney Green. Picture: Barnardo's

“Countless children have been helped by Barnardo’s throughout its 150-year history. This is perhaps nowhere more so than the East End of London, where the very first of our services was started. ”

The charity opened The Hub in Stepney Green 10 years ago to help teenagers, including those who have struggled in mainstream education, to develop skills and give training in the construction and creative industries.

Artist and photographer Mat Webb, who volunteers as a Barnardo’s tutor, worked with his group to create a modern series of cards that convey who they are today, inspired by the original Victorian postcards now in pride of place in the charity’s archives.

Hope Place closed in 1877 and the converted cottages have long since been demolished, but its legacy continues.

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