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Heroes of Portsmouth #1: John Pounds and The Ragged School Movement by Imogen Reed

Every Portsmouth schoolchild can tell you about the most famous former residents of the city. The ubiquitous Dickens, Kipling, HG wells & Conan Doyle all trip off the tongue. There is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, James Callaghan and Southsea born Peter Sellers. Portsmouth born Christopher Hitchens, author controversialist and outspoken atheist, is a recent loss. This stellar array of varied talent is just a fraction of the roll call. But what about those who are not household names to people outside Portsmouth? One great, but little known hero of 19C Portsmouth, is John Pounds, who was the originator of schools for children of the poor. Others have tried to claim the title, but it is Pounds who began the Ragged Schools Movement, and deserves his place in history. Chosen as ‘man of the millennium’ by local people, few outside of the city have heard of him. And while Dickens’ concern for the poor is legendary and Blake’s poems about destitute London children are heart-rending, it was in Portsmouth in 1803 that a humble shoemaker was demonstrating through his actions this concern and compassion in deeds, which went on to drive forward help for poor children all over the country.

Shoemaker, Schoolmaker

Born on 17th June 1766 John Pounds was apprenticed to the royal dockyard as a shipwright by his father, at just twelve years old. His brief career ended in disaster three years later however, when he fell from the side of a ship he was working on, into the dry dock below, shattering his thigh bone. After treatment failed, he was left permanently disabled and was unable to continue working on the ships. He took up shoemaking, and did so well at it that he had his own shop in St Mary Street by 1803 (now Highbury Street). It was during this period that he began teaching the children out on the streets. At this time, just as in London, children of the poor were left to fend for themselves, running barefoot through the streets, ragged and dirty, picking pockets and getting food where they could. Pounds was horrified by the neglect, and began taking children in, teaching them to read as he worked at his shoemaking. He did not charge for this service and his reputation as a fine and natural teacher grew.

Thomas Guthrie

It is true that without the work of others, John Pounds pioneering work may not have seized the imagination of the great and good in the way that it later did, and it is Thomas Guthrie who made Pounds work widely known. He offers an insight into Pounds’ early experiment in schooling, writing of an engraving he had seen, which first pricked his own interest in Ragged Schools. In the picture was –

…a cobbler’s room; he was there himself, spectacles on nose, an old shoe between his knees, that massive forehead and firm mouth indicating great determination of character; and from between his bushy eyebrows benevolence gleamed out on a group of poor children, some sitting, some standing, but all busy at their lessons around him.

Soon the classes expanded, although the room in which they were taught was only 6×16 feet in size. Up to fifty children crammed themselves in, and the classes expanded from reading to writing and arithmetic and onwards. Guthrie goes on to describe Pounds’ care for Portsmouth’s abandoned children thus:

“When he went out upon the Portsmouth quays at night he put baked potatoes in his pockets for the ‘drifts’. Not only so but he taught his girl scholars to cook simple food, so that the ragged school cookery class had its origin in the shoemaker’s shanty. To the lads he taught his own trade…”

Clearly the conditions of the school were not ideal, but in time Pounds’ school inspired the creation of three new schools, one in Portsea, one in Fratton and the John Pounds Training Home for Girls. Collectively these were known as the Ragged Schools.

The Movement Gathers Momentum

The movement went from strength to strength after Pounds death, aided by the writings of Guthrie and Dickens. Dickens wrote a description of the attempts being made to help the poor through Ragged Schools, which were set up in London, in a letter to the Editor of the Daily News:

“This attempt is being made in certain of the most obscure and squalid parts of the Metropolis; where rooms are opened at night, for the gratuitous instruction of all comers, children or adults, under the title of ‘RAGGED SCHOOLS.’ The name implies the purpose. They who are too ragged, wretched, filthy, and forlorn, to enter any other place: who could gain admission into no charity-school, and who would be driven from any church-door: are invited to come in here, and find some people not depraved, willing to teach them something, and show them some sympathy, and stretch out a hand which is not the iron hand of the Law, for their correction.”

The intake of Ragged Schools would be today described as ‘mixed’. There were no shortage of appallingly badly behaved children, just as today, and you can read accounts here from the diary of a Ragged School Master, who recounts the astonishing trials of teaching the most challenging of pupils. However, overall the experiment was a great success. Lord Shaftesbury formed the Ragged Schools Union in 1844, and in the following eight years alone over 200 free schools were set up, helped by money from rich philanthropists. By the time of the Education Act of 1870 there were 350 free schools in existence, which were gradually absorbed into the new ‘Board Schools’. Education for all was being born and it was thanks to a simple Portsmouth man, to whom the nation should be truly thankful.

Memorial

John Pounds’ shop has now been destroyed, and in the absence of modern financial products to protect from such a loss such as shop insurance, it was never rebuilt. But a reproduction of the original shoemakers shops was eventually constructed in the grounds of the John Pounds Memorial Church, which shows the size of the place extremely well. When we consider classes of thirty today to be a headache, consider the difficulty of teaching fifty deprived children in this space and trying to run a business at the same time.

John Pounds is buried behind the Unitarian Church in the High Street, and his name was honoured at the newly opened £7 million John Pounds Community Centre in Portsea. But a national memorial would perhaps be more fitting, for this man led the way in the humane treatment and education of the poor, which has been the model for British society ever since. He added to the cultural history not just of Portsmouth, but to the whole nation.










6 Comments to Heroes of Portsmouth #1: John Pounds and The Ragged School Movement by Imogen Reed

  1. Interesting post. There are indeed many unsung heroes in Portsmouth’s history. The interesting thing is that many of the people often cited as being famous Portsmuthians although very famous, actually had quite weak links with the city – Dickens and Nelson, for example.

    James Daly on June 6th, 2012
  2. A fantastically written article, giving a real insight into our unsung heroes. Thank god for

    Anna Swift on June 7th, 2012
  3. men like Mr Pounds.

    Anna Swift on June 7th, 2012
  4. James, it’s a bit of a bum steer to talk about the “weak” links of Dickens with Portsmouth.

    Let’s look at another example. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was there for only a few days. But everyone knows it, don’t they? That’s because his whole life is celebrated. And his birth is a fairly important event in his life, right?

    Pompeyites should be proud to acknowledge that our city has value and deep cultural significance – and to celebrate it. It’s good for all of us to feel that greatness can be born here, whether they left when young or not.

    There is a strong positive message to be had from Dickens’ birth. I wrote about it here. http://www.lifeisamazing.co.uk/charles-dickens-a-ball-in-commemoration-of-his-birth-where-it-all-began-6th-february-2012/

    As for Nelson, he spent his last night and morning in Britain in Pompey. How much more connection do you want?

    John Pounds is a great hero, too. The only thing I think about him is that it’s a shame that he isn’t recognised nationally and internationally as the other Portsmouth Heroes are.

    He is hugely important, which is why I wrote about him here: http://www.lifeisamazing.co.uk/a-simple-act-of-kindness-can-change-the-world/

    I also spoke with someone who actually saw his house, in the basement of the Portsmouth City Museum – turned into rotten wood after the fire brigade flooded it when the museum was hit by an incendiary. The links are still around us to the past… Just!

    Matt Wingett on June 7th, 2012
  5. Love it. Christopher Hitchens is another great Pomponian

    Paul P on June 17th, 2012
  6. Excellent piece about John Pounds, I have to agree that he is truly one of Portsmouth’s unsung heroes.

    Apart from the church and a couple of buildings in Queen Street, he hardly gets a mention, but his work revolutionised education in this country and abroad.

    You can read more about John Pounds here http://www.welcometoportsmouth.co.uk/john%20pounds.html

    Dave on September 25th, 2013

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Features

Victorious Festival 2016

Victorious Festival have announced the first wave of acts to perform at this August’s festival. Portsmouth has always been very much an ‘indie city’ and the news that Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will be taking stage on Southsea Common is likely to excite most of Portsmouth. Joining Noel will be Manic Street Preachers and Mark Ronson.

Saturday night will see The Manic Street Preachers performance will coincide with the 20th anniversary of their triple platinum selling album Everything Must Go.

“We’re so excited to be announcing this line up. It’s taken a lot of hard work but we couldn’t be more pleased to be bringing Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and The Manics to Portsmouth. It’s going to be an incredible year for both Victorious and Portsmouth.” – Andy Marsh, Festival Director.

Also announced for the festival will be The Levellers, Ash, The Coral, Jack Savoretti, Space, Echo & the Bunnymen, Will Young, Selector and Emmy the Great. Of course you can expect a host of the best local acts performing at the festival.

If you need reminding of what you missed last year then check out the highlights from Strong Island Media.

The organisers are always looking to evolve and develop and have also announced that this year there will be a giant circus tent up in the kids’ arena as well as a whole host of free entertainment and activities for children and their families. It goes without saying that you will see Strong Island and many other local traders offering some of the finest food, booze, craft and clothing.

The festival will take place on Saturday 27th (my birthday!) and Sunday 28th of August. Don’t be surprised if they managed to beat last years figures which saw 100,000 spectators on Southsea Common over the weekend. If you would like to be there this year then you can get your hands on tickets from their website www.victoriousfestival.co.uk.

You can stay up to date on all things Victorious via Facebook and Twitter @VictoriousFest, or by signing up to the mailing list HERE.

Victorious Festival 2016 Initial Line-Up

Victorious Festival by Todd Lawton
Photo by Todd Lawton
Victorious Festival 2015 by Jack Daly
Photo by by Jack Daly
Victorious Festival by Gavin Withey
Photo by Gavin Withey

Strong Island, Dumpster Design and Community Fusion Collab

We recently joined forces with Portsmouth-based Dumpster Design and Community Fusion to bring together local young creatives and volunteers to construct a stunning bespoke dress made entirely from out of date promotional materials. Community Fusion volunteers along with students from Havant College and Portsmouth Academy For Girls took part in the project.

Dumpster Design dresses are a powerful concept of wearable art created from unusable and surplus materials. The dress offers a positive way to support sustainability and repurpose materials in an eye catching and utterly unique way.

Dumpster Design’s founder and designer Daisy Harris-Burland described how “This has been a fantastic opportunity to work with Strong Island and Community Fusion to design, create and work with such a wonderful group of young volunteers.” The end result as modelled by our shop manager Lara is not only striking but also encompasses iconic aspects of the nautical Strong Island brand with over 300 origami boats and 200 anchor medallions intertwined in the design of the dress.

You can find the dress currently on display in store now so pop in and check it out yourself.

You can find out more about Dumpster Design over on their website www.dumpsterdesign.co.uk.

Lara

Lara 1

Photos by Aduroe Photography

Created Local – Instagram @JonathanPink

Welcome to the first of a new Strong Island feature where we are looking to celebrate some of our favourite Instagram photographers who have links with our city. The first of which is Jonathan Pink who you can follow yourself on Instagram as @JonathanPink.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and your links with Portsmouth if no longer living here?

I haven’t always been local to Portsmouth, but always visited and taken a keen interest in the city, it’s history and connection to the sea. I moved to Southsea two years ago after regularly visiting the city, getting to know it’s quirks and scratching the surface of what it’s about. I’m a graphic designer and commute to my job out of the city, I live with my partner and Miniature Dachshund name Hugo.

Do you have a favoured camera or device that you use for your Instagram photography?

I always use my iPhone6 for my Instagram photography. For me, Instagram is that instant capture of a moment in my life and the things I see. The phone makes it quick, easy and accessible.

Can you tell us more about your photographic experience, is this something that you’ve studied or maybe a hobby which you’ve developed?

Being a graphic designer, I consider myself a creative thinker and have always enjoyed different expressions of this. Photography being one. I own a Canon digital SLR which I use occasionally or for specific shoots, events or days out. I’ve never been trained in photography, but have naturally picked up the functionality and use of a camera on my way, capturing a great shot is something which come s little more naturally being a designer.

@jonathanpink 2

@JonathanPink 4

@jonathanpink

Would you say that you take photos more for yourself or for others?

I take photographs for myself primarily, the instant enjoyment of finding, capturing and posting a photo of my everyday life. That said, my Instagram account is public, so there is a nature of enjoying other photography and them enjoying what I have taken.

Exploring the theme of the “Local”, Portsmouth has a wide variety of climatic conditions, buildings and landscapes. Are there any local places or environments that are personal to you or that you love to photograph for a particular reason?

Not coming from a city on the sea, I genuinely appreciate the shoreline, sea and walking our dog. The constant change in weather, seasons and activity makes this space an interesting one to live beside and take photographs of. From the summer sunsets, eerie fog, busy shipping lanes to the stormy solent. This space gives so much to me.

Are their any other photographers who either influence you or that you would encourage our readers to also check out?

Instagram photographers include the Isle of Wight based photographer Chad Powell (@isleofwightmilkyway), from New York Cubby Graham (@CubbyGraham) and locally based tattoo artist Louise Bush (@Lapin_Lou).

I generally enjoy a mixture of photographers, especially on Instagram. Those who inspire me, through their subject matter, style and general approach to life/photography and content different to my own.

@JonathanPink 6

@jonathanpink 1

@JonathanPink 5

@jonathanpink

Of course you can also find Strong Island on Instagram under @StrongIslandUK and @StrongIslandClothingCo.

Strong Island Recordings – Treacherous Tides Vol 2 Feat Kassassin Street, Wyldest, Violet Swells & More

On the 19th February Strong Island Recordings release the follow up to the first Treacherous Tides Compilation from 2013. The latest compilation features a collection of our favourite acts from Portsmouth to Turkey, Glasgow, Australia and New Zealand. The album includes tracks featuring all things from psychedelia to stunning dream-pop gems and will be available via digital and a limited run of cassettes.

Kicking off the compilation is Southsea favourites, Kassassin Street, with their immense wall of sound, festival ready, psych-pop meets new-wave anthem ‘Radio Silence’. It’s great to get the guys on a release of ours being from our hometown.

From the opposite side of the world, ‘Gravity Wins Again’ from Tasmanian outfit Violet Swells who draw comparisons with Tame Impala’s sunshine tinted, psychedelic-pop.

Wyldest have recorded an exclusive track for the compilation with their own take on A-Ha’s ‘Sun Always Shines On TV’ giving it a fine coat of their signature shimmering dream-pop sound which will available as a Bandcamp & cassette exclusive.

Love LUV’s ‘Sold My Love’ is infectious, joyous, garage-pop mirroring the 60’s revival. New Zealanders MOSES ‘Opium’ is perfectly titled. It’s a beautiful, sedate, stone jam delving between the kaleidoscope rainbow like realms of psychedelia and shoegaze.

Until recently Love Hippies & Gangsters was a one man project but now the four piece consisting of Yiğit Bülbül, Dan Hale, Mikel Acosta and Sam Enthoven. Their track ‘Through Your Mind’ is a shower of guitars and a throwback to 60’s and 70’s psychedelia.

Tin Foil Astronaut’s ‘Without A Sound’ is a nod to the current Australian psychedelic movement sounding like it’s came straight out of Kevin Parker’s studio in Perth. It’s a true sun-soaked, psych-pop banger.

Closing out the compilation is Life Model’s ‘Enough (To Know) finally getting a full release. Channeling Slowdive, MBV and Cocteau Twins, it’s a visceral yet euphoric and beautiful sonic journey.

You can pre-order and listen to the the compilation on Bandcamp and also pre-order the cassette over on our Music Glue pages (as well as find exclusive bundle deals on both) and the compilation will also be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other digital and streaming outlets.

SIR Digi Square

I WAS THERE – FIVE SENSES Performance at Portsmouth Guildhall

As part of Portsmouth Guildhall’s 125th birthday in 2015 Strong Island ran the I WAS THERE! project, collecting memories from Portsmouth people of their favourite live music moments throughout Portsmouth Guildhall’s history. Following on from the memory collection part of the project and the film that was produced and recently screened at the Guildhall, FIVE SENSES is the final stage of the project.

Strong Island Media and Old Salt Theatre have worked together with a group of young actors and performers from Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth to take many of these collected memories and bring them to life in a brand new stage performance. I WAS THERE – FIVE SENSES will be premiered on stage at Portsmouth Guildhall at 7:30pm on Thursday 21st January, with free tickets available from Portsmouth Guildhall box office in advance. This intimate performance brings to life many of the submitted memories we collected for the I WAS THERE! project, with scenes taking inspiration from events that occurred on the very same stage. The I WAS THERE film will also be screen just before the performance begins.

We’re very excited to have worked with Portsmouth Guildhall and Old Salt Theatre, with this beingStrong Island’s first project involving theatre and live performance, we hope everyone can come along!

This event is FREE however you will need a ticket, to reserve a ticket please contact the Portsmouth Guildhall Box Office 02393 870200 or email: enquiries@portsmouthguildhall.org.uk

I WAS THERE - FIVE SENSES

Vote for Your Strong Island Photo of the Year 2015

Through much of 2015 we asked photographers from all over to send in their images of Southsea and Portsmouth each week for the Strong Island Photo of the Year 2015 competition, with us picking out our favourite image for weekly winners.

Now it is YOUR chance to pick the overall Photo of the Year for 2015, with voting now open over on our Facebook page! Simply click on the link below and pick your favourite image from the 20 weekly winners, you can pick more than one if you are struggling…which is understandable as we had some awesome submissions.

You can vote all the way through until the end of January and we’ll be launching Strong Island Photo of the Year 2016 very soon!

VOTE HERE

Vote for Strong Island Photo of the Year 2015

All the winning photos are also shown below too, in the order that they won.


Photp by Alessandro Salvatore.


Photo by Tony Benham.


Photo by Rich Perrin.


Photo by Billie Cawte.


Photo by Johnny Black.


Port Solent Marina by Grzegorz Kopacz.


Photo by Tony Benham.


South Parade Pier by by Norbert Mintoff.


Photo by Jon Neil.


Photo by Pete Blackman.


Photo by Sheila Mackie.


Photo by Kebe Iwara.


Photo by Howard Hurd.


Old Portsmouth by David Ellis.


Old Portsmouth by David Ellis.


South Parade Pier by Howard Hurd.


South Parade Pier by Michael Mackenzie.


Photo by Howard Hurd.


Photo by Owen Davies.


Photo by Paul Watt.

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