Deptford Ragged School Archive

The Deptford Ragged School Archive (DRSA) is a totally volunteer led heritage organisation based in The Bear Church in Deptford. Although it is a heritage organisation project usually running cultural learning projects, in response to Covid-19 and the challenges children in most need have faced learning at home, the DRSA has been putting basic resources together for children who don’t have access to them to use at home, along with Bear Cubs toddler group, both part of the Bear Church.

The History

The name derives from a school founded that existed on the same site as the present day Bear Church 175 years ago by William Agutter. It was created as a school for any child to go to in response to the poverty he saw on the streets of Deptford; open to all. Soon after founding the school, Agutter joined forces with the Ragged School Union, a national organisation.

While the school was open to all, it went through many forms, when the state started funding education it became a Sunday school and an evening school. It later became the Shaftesbury Christian Centre which then
merged with the present day Bear Church.

The Project Today

In January and February, the Deptford Ragged School ran a six week project with the year 5s of Tidemill Academy (funded by The MERRY Trust in Deptford) learning about the lives of children in Victorian era Deptford using the school’s stories and collections. The children’s learning was made into an animated film now on YouTube.

The Project During Covid-19

As Director of the Deptford Ragged School Archive, Katharine Alston felt compelled to respond to the crisis in the same way William Agutter did, by providing for those in need. Deptford Ragged School Archive (DRSA) did this by helping children learn at home. Using contacts established within local schools in Lewisham to identify children in need, the project collected and delivered educational equipment to local schools who distributed them to children that struggled to access to equipment while at home. Collections happened weekly!

The following resources were identified as by a Lewisham headteacher as beneficial:

● Pens, pencils of any type, coloured pencils, felt tip pens, rubbers and rulers

● Children’s reading books (picture or chapter). “These would be really great as most of our children lack reading material”
● Children’s magazines
● Puzzle, colouring, dot to dot books
● Workbooks for reading, writing, maths.
● Lined, plain, coloured paper and card.
● Glue sticks, sellotape.
● Children’s safety scissors
● Pencil cases

The resources were distributed safely, following government guidelines, to households around the borough, the resources are explicitly for children. The project ran for fourteen weeks and at the beginning they received so many pencils that an obsession with pencil sharpeners soon developed to accompany the influx!

The project has now come to a close as schools have finished for the summer holidays. They have given to over 2,000 children in across 18 schools in Lewisham, including Addey and Stanhope, St Stephens, Elfreida and Athelney Schools.

Teachers said that resource packs were particularly effective in aiding creativity for children when the Covid-19 lockdown was at its strictest! One headteacher wrote “It has made a real difference to so many of our struggling families. I only wish that I could have videoed the faces of some of the children when I delivered the packs to their homes…it was very clear that they don’t often if ever get anything special just for them.”

Get Involved

The project is now over, but if you would like to more information about the DRSA, see their website or get in touch with Katharine at

To donate you can also email Katharine at

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