School days often loom large in people’s memories and the Record Office holds many other records that can shed light on school life in times gone by. These include photographs, oral history recordings, punishment books, school magazines, posters and programmes and sometimes exercise books and other work completed by the pupils. Log books were compiled by head teachers and include inspectors’ reports and details of day-to-day occurrences in school, attendance and reasons for absences, accidents and illnesses of the staff and children, weather conditions, visits to the school (including the school nurse), punishments, local celebrations, awards of prizes, grants etc. They are particularly informative during both the First and Second World Wars showing the impact of these events on school life whether it be children knitting socks for soldiers at the front or accounts of air raids affecting school attendance.
Admission registers give dates, ages, residences, father’s occupation, date and reason for leaving, previous and next place of education. They are a great place to start if you are planning a school reunion but are also an excellent source for family historians.
Dorothy Flatman remembers the Ipswich Ragged School in one of her digital stories collected by Chronicle Digital Storytelling (see www.chroniclestories.co.uk/the-hold). Ragged schools were established by philanthropists to provide free education for poor children. This type of school began when Portsmouth cobbler, John Pounds, provided a school in 1818 free of charge for the poorest children. In 1844 Lord Shaftesbury helped to found the Ragged School Union.
These photographs of children at the Ipswich Ragged School by Richard Dykes Alexander (1788-1865), pioneer photographer and member of the prominent Quaker banking family are from a photograph album held in the Ipswich Record Office. Alexander gave much of his time and money to the foundation of benevolent societies - the Anti-Slavery Society, Bible Society, Peace Society – as well as philanthropic causes for the benefit of the people of Ipswich. He was actively, indeed passionately, involved with the Temperance Movement, and built at his own expense the Temperance Hall in High Street, Ipswich. He was also active in various educational movements and was a founder of the Ipswich Ragged School. In 1849 he supplied the money for a school to be set up to provide at least some education for children ‘too poor, too ragged, too filthy, too ignorant, for ordinary instruction.’
The boys are pictured with the master Joshua Newman. (Suffolk Record Office Ref K420/1/61). The school’s premises were originally in St Clement’s Lane but later moved to a building in Waterworks Street. The girls’ Ragged School was in Bond Street. The photograph below is one of several of the schools held at Ipswich Record Office (Ref K681/1/262/1283).