Charter Street Mission (Ragged School) is situated in Angel Meadow close to the City centre of Manchester, UK. It is recorded as a building of Special Significance and retains many of its original features. The existing building was started in 1866 and extended in 1891 and 1900. The architects for the extension were Maxwell & Tuke, designers of Blackpool Tower amongst other celebrated works. Both founders had died by the time Charter Street was commissioned. It is a rare survivor of a purpose-built institution of its kind, sitting on the corner of Dantzic Street and Little Nelson Street. Formerly the Chartered Street School, it was renamed Charter Street Ragged School and Working Girls Home in 1892 by Lord Shaftesbury.
The Chartered Street School opened in 1861. It was set up on the site of the first Industrial School in Manchester (opened as a Juvenile Refuge and School for Industry) which had opened 1 January 1847. The Industrial School had become a dancing saloon in the 1860’s. So in 1862 the Chartered Street School felt compelled to buy the building, so as not to have to compete with it.
Charter Street Ragged School provided thousands of children and adults with free meals, clothing and education. Destitute children whose ‘raggedly’ clothing gave the schools their name and were mainly run on non-denominational lines by evangelical Christian groups.
The Sunday School took the members on annual trips and is recorded to have taken up to a thousand children to the seaside (Lytham) travelling from the nearby Victoria train station as a reward for regular attendance. They also took the children and families to Manchester’s Heaton Park and other local suburbs at Whit week.
At Christmas children would be given a toy and in 1900 it’s recorded that 3000 were given toys & drums. “Saint” Tommy Johnson as he was fondly known by those linked with the Sunday school Christmas appeal aimed to raise £600 in anticipation of proving 60,000 suppers during the period.
Charter Street tried to help a wider range of people in the community. It opened a men’s gymnasium in 1881 as well as running a number of other classes such as sewing, carpentry, adult literacy classes, mothers meetings in addition to bible classes. Charter Street Mission was also part of the temperance society and in 1870 the Band of Hope was begun and members were encouraged to sign the pledge.
In 1892 it offered support via the Working Girls Home, which provided safe accommodation (with 2 bathrooms) for 40-50 young girls who would otherwise be vulnerable, given the area was surrounded by crime, vice and ignorance.
The School also helped elderly people, who either had trouble receiving parish assistance or problems in qualifying for the old age pension when it was introduced in 1908 and organised treats (trips out) just for them.
Records from the Mission are kept at Manchester Central Library and Chetham’s.