In the 18th century, there was no such thing as free education. Some charitable schools existed, but very few. By the 19th century, Victorian philanthropists started to show concern about the neglected poor and more ragged schools opened, so called because most of the children dressed in rags and few had shoes.
My 4 x great uncle Charles Corben, owner of the carriage works at 30 Great Queen Street, was the treasurer of the Charles Street, Drury Lane ragged school and soup kitchen. This establishment educated 400 children in one of the most deprived areas of London. Many of the children did not attend during winter for want of clothing. The school relied upon charitable donations and appeals were regularly made through newspaper columns.
And thank goodness altruistic men like Charles Corben existed. Whilst researching my maternal family tree, I recently discovered that my relative Samuel Laycock also lived in St Giles . A labourer by trade and presumably poor, he lived at 14 Queen St with four other families comprising a total of 18 people. Three of his seven children were named as ‘ragged scholars’ in the 1851 census. They may well have gone to The Charles Street ragged school. The three children who attended the ragged school were Eliza, Ann Celia and John Laycock. Ann and Eliza both married and lived to 86 and 91 respectively. John Laycock benefited from his education and became a printer’s pressman, an occupation he remained in all his life.