The George Yard Ragged School

Every night as we set out on our Jack the Ripper tour, we pass into the wonderfully evocative Gunthorpe Street, and, almost immediately, the 21st century dissolves, and, if it wasn’t for the sound of the traffic from without, you could almost believe you had stepped through a time-portal, and had been transported back to 19th century Whitechapel.

In 1888, Gunthorpe Street was called George Yard, and in the August of that year it would become infamous as the scene of the murder of Martha Tabram.

However, on the left as we enter the cobbled thoroughfare there is a sturdy building, now flats, above which is emblazoned the year of its construction – 1886.

The following article, which appeared in The Echo on Wednesday the 25th of January, 1888, took readers inside this old building:-


Readers of Lord Shaftesbury’s Life, will recognise a familiar name in this heading, but although it is one of the most active agencies among the many now scattered round Whitechapel-road, it is not a well-known one, from the fact partly that it lies off the main thoroughfare, in an insignificant alley.

Mr. George Holland is its active secretary, and he has organised a most extensive non-sectarian, social mission.

One of the first buildings we pass on our Jack the Ripper Tour is this old building in Gunthorpe Street.
Gunthorpe Street – Old 1886 Building


It includes a bright, cheerful créiche for infants, opened at 7.30 every morning, in which, for the sum of threepence (or twopence if the mother is in great poverty, a baby is tended, nursed, fed, and, if ill, medically attended all day.

A very charming feature is its “toy class,” to which poor, neglected little waifs are invited for a game of play.

Then there are nightly classes for the roughest lads, entirely managed by ladies, most of whom come from the West-end; and by patience and tact have won love and confidence from the boys, as well as imparting to them religious and educational teaching.

The one on Tuesday night is conducted by Miss McNaughten, who, knowing that many of them ultimately go to sea or emigrate, has taught them to mend their own clothes, as well as to knit.

The consequence is that the class looks anything but “ragged,” and some of the lads have actually advanced to making a shirt or knitting a stocking!


One of the most popular classes is that for drawing, conducted by a gentleman in connection with the Polytechnic; and, though the boys’ efforts may not be very brilliant, it gives them a most desirable interest.

The platform in one of the larger rooms was put up by the lads themselves, and reflects the greatest credit upon their skill in carpentry, as it includes some turned work, and a very pretty piece of fretwork carving executed by a boy rescued from the streets, and now filling honestly and well the post of driver of one of Pickford’s vans.


The girls are not neglected, and have working evenings, while the refining influence of the ladies who superintend these is being felt.

Both Lady Ashburton and Countess Compton take the warmest interest in the whole scheme, and give regular weekly assistance at the mothers’ meetings and sewing classes, and, in addition to these, is a mission to inebriate women, which has effected some marvellous rescues.

In connection with the work, it would not be fair to omit mention of the country cottages in Surrey, which Lady Ashburton has established to provide rest and change for the suffering poor, and through which nearly a thousand pass per annum, besides the two exclusively for sick children.


Last night, an interesting meeting of senior ragged school scholars, and those who have passed out into life’s struggle, took place.

It was very striking to note the respectable appearance of these latter, and to hear their remarks.

Many of them are filling responsible places in business houses.


Earl Compton presided, and called forth enthusiastic applause as he traced the three lessons of Lord Shaftesbury’s life in its unceasing, hard personal exertion, its struggle with frequent physical infirmity, poverty, and constitutional momentary fits of depression, and the reasons that his work would outlive him.

The noble Earl expressed his strong sympathy with ragged-school work, and his intention to do all he could to further it.

Mr. Morgan gave an address, and Mr. Holland contributed a few touchingly pathetic reminiscences of his last interviews with Lord Shaftesbury.