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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

The Southsea Show Competition

The Southsea Show returns next weekend. If you’ve been passed Southsea Common you will have seen the tents and marquee’s going up in preparation. It looks like this years event is going to be even bigger and better than last years!

The Southsea Show team have kindly donated two sets of family tickets to give away, so thats two adults and two children. These tickets can be redeemed on a day of your choosing. All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following question…

Hampshire based Batala Portsmouth are a local samba band playing authentic Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae music. They are returning this year and can be found performing on Sunday 3rd August. What three colours make up their uniforms?

The deadline for entries will be midnight Wednesday 30th July with the winners being announced on Thursday morning.

Tickets for the event are £8 or £5 for concessions and are available on the website HERE. You can follow all things Southsea Show on their Facebook and Twitter @SouthseaShow.

Southsea Show 2014

Southsea Comedy Festival Competition Winner

The first ever Southsea Comedy Festival opens with Eddie Izzard performing his most recent show ‘Force Majeure’ on 31st July and 1st August. Last week we gave you the chance to win two tickets to see Eddie Izzard on Thursday 31st July. The lucky winner is Si Bunting, he correctly answered the three following questions…

1) What is the name of the character voiced by Eddie in Cars 2?
Sir Miles Axlerod
2) In which American city did Eddie begin his 2014 tour Force Majeure?
Washington DC, America
3) For which charity did Eddie run an incredible 43 marathons in 51 days?!
Sports Relief

If you aren’t lucky enough to be Si’s plus one, then you can still get your Southsea Comedy Festival tickets by calling 0844 847 2362 and online at www.southseacomedyfestival.co.uk. You can follow the Southsea Comedy Festival on Twitter @SouthseaComedy.

Eddie Izzard Southsea Comedy Festival Logo

Southsea Comedy Festival

Photos from Head Jam 2014

For the second year running Head Mens Hairdressing, Strong Island and My Dog Sighs (this year with Lex Luthor) put on the Head Jam street art event on Albert Road in Southsea. The yard out the back of Head and the Strong Island HQ had last year’s artwork covered during last week and Saturday saw local artists My Dog Sighs, Los Dave, M-One, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Stu Linfield, I am Posy, freakSTATIC, Midge and Samo get involved with new artwork on all of the walls plus the new sculpture too. Extra artwork is also being added today by My Name is Leila. A huge thank you to all the artists and to everyone who popped by throughout the day.

Check some of the photos from the day below, you can see a load more on our Flickr (which is a growing archive of our photography over the last 6 years) or on our Facebook page and if you want to pop in and have a look visit Head at 53 Albert Road.


































Southsea Comedy Festival Competition | Win Two Tickets

The first ever Southsea Comedy Festival opens with Eddie Izzard performing his most recent show ‘Force Majeure’ on 31st July and 1st August. We have a pair of tickets to give away for the Thursday 31st July performance. All you have to do to win this prize is email stuart@strong-island.co.uk with your answer to the following three questions.

1) What is the name of the character voiced by Eddie in Cars 2?
2) In which American city did Eddie begin his 2014 tour Force Majeure?
3) For which charity did Eddie run an incredible 43 marathons in 51 days?!

The deadline for entries will be midnight Monday 21st July with the winner being announced Tuesday 22nd in the evening.

If you don’t want to risk missing out then Southsea Comedy Festival tickets are available by calling 0844 847 2362 and online at www.southseacomedyfestival.co.uk. You can follow the Southsea Comedy Festival on Twitter @SouthseaComedy.

Eddie Izzard Southsea Comedy Festival Logo

Southseacomedyfestival

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection

We’ve been exceptionally busy over at Strong Island HQ for the best part of 2014 so far and the latest Strong Island Clothing Co range has been in development for some time. We are now proud to announce the launch of our latest line of tee and crew designs for the Summer. This is the biggest run we have done to date and we wanted to ensure it was a really strong range so didn’t want to rush it.

We have a wide range of new colours and designs including our first 2 colour print on the popular Refuse to Sink and a return to our second tee style back in 2010 with a backprint (this time in navy) in the classic Strong Island logo. We also have a seriously strong collaboration with University of Portsmouth graduate and award winning letterform designer Andy Lethbridge AKA Hand Type. These are something truly special and we’re really stoked how they came out, the detail in the print really reflects the brush strokes of Andy’s work. We will have more on Hand Type and the development of these designs on Strong Island soon in a full interview. We also have pocket tees with the new Down the Hatch design which form part of something we are keeping under our hats for bit…some old favourites have been revisited too with new colourways and 2 new graphic tees as well. Our latest crew retains the same quality as before featuring ribbed side panels, a back neck loop, deep cuffs, a double v-insert on the neckline and raglan sleeves but with new striped cuffs. With a more contemporary and slimmer fit than most sweatshirts it’s certainly a more premium line. As always all our tees and crews are hand screenprinted in East London by the mighty Lovenskate, including the anchor signoff on the back and detail on the inside neck.

We have a few more mini launches coming up over the next few weeks including more tees, something for the cyclists out there, some very special hand produced items from Poland using original 1940′s techniques and also something to lounge on in summer and keep you warm in the winter. Not to mention another very special artist collaboration too.

All of the tees and crews from the main, initial drop will be available this weekend during Head Jam at Head Hairdressing, 53 Albert Road, Southsea (weather permitting). They will then go online in Shop Ahoy next week.

For now please enjoy our latest Lookbook shot by Strong Island Media over at Dell Quay, Chichester. The perfect day to go for a wander around the marina, fields and woodlands with a few cheeky beers at the Crown & Anchor.

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (1)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (2)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (3)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (4)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (5)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (6)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (7)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (8)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (9)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (10)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (11)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (12)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (13)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (14)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (15)

Lookbook for Strong Island Clothing Co Summer 2014 Collection (16)

Strong Island, Lex Luthor & My Dog Sighs present Head Jam 2014 – Saturday 19th July

Last years Head Jam was such a resounding success with some of the nations best street artists that we eagerly began talking about the following year before the paint had even dried. We discussed how we could run the event again and where to do it, but the answer was simple and literally looking right at us. We hold it in the same place again. Make the courtyard at Head Hairdressing the centre of an annual event where the outcome is available to view for the year, then return, white wash the previous artwork away, and do it all again. After all, street art is an ever changing and developing media in it’s own right and in it’s usual environment where it gets ripped down, tagged, covered in fly posters, lost to demolition and built on, the artists have no fear of their art being lost. It’s part of the job so to speak…

Rick from Head Hairdressing at 53 Albert Road (just along from the Wine Vaults and next to Southsea Gallery) conceived the idea of having the courtyard to the rear of the local barbers transformed in to a permanent giant art piece. From precision multilayered stencils, through bubble gum cutsie to surreal illustrative mayhem, Lex Luthor and My Dog Sighs have hand picked some of their favourite artists to produce the ultimate street art dreamscape courtyard…again!

Head Jam will run all day so feel free to pop along, take a look, have a chat, hang out, meet the artists and enjoy the atmosphere. There will be music on all day, a BBQ turning over in the background if you want to stick a burger on (not supplied), and please feel free to bring along a beer too. Everyone is welcome, so bring the kids so they can see some of the finest street artists working together in this unique environment.

Attending artists include: MyDogSighs, Lex Luthor, Mimic, Fark, Nova, M-one Art, Los Dave, Stu Linfield, Morf, Freakstatic and Ooberla. Wow, this is going to be amazing! If you pop along please be sure to tag the event on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HeadJam and we will put up a series of your photos from the day.

Strong Island Clothing Co will also be launching their latest range of tees and crews before they go online the following week. So if you want to get in there for an exclusive purchase before anyone else head on down and check it all out. Everything will be out to view, and there is a sneak peak at the end of this post (the full look book will go up this week). Also all of our PFC tees and crews are on offer, bargain. We look forward to seeing you all.

Old paint on a wall

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (1)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (2)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (3)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (4)

Head Jam, photo by Matt Maber (5)

Head Jam, photo by Paul Gonella

Photos: Matt Maber

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