Evocative pictures show Victorian youths rescued from the streets before being sent to Canada8 min read

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These evocative photographs show homeless Victorian youths who were rescued from the streets of London before they were sent to start a new life in Canada.

The young men, aged between 12 and 28, were taken on by the Ragged School movement which would educate them before sending each to start a new life in Toronto, Kingston and Quebec in Canada or, in one case, in India.

The stunning pictures along with notes on their lives were taken by the Ragged School movement, as the group had organised their journey to the new world, for posterity and to record their successes.

The long-forgotten images have, however, re-emerged after they were dug up from the London Metropolitan Archives and are now on display at the Ragged School museum in Tower Hamlets, London.

The Ragged School movement, founded in 1844, began by sending 150 children to New South Wales, Australia, in 1849, according to Liverpool Museum.

After parliament voted to allow Poor Law Guardians to fund child emigration to ‘the colonies’ between 1870 and 1914 some further 80,000 children were sent to Canada alone by organisations including the movement.

Others that sprung up include the Farming School movement, founded in 1903, which sent children to train at a farm in Nova Scotia, Canada, before shopping them to mainland farmers. The Fairbridge society, which emerged in 1913, would send a further 3,362 children to Australia after training them as farmers.

Ragged schools, which got their name from the fact children attending had ripped clothes, were founded by Thomas Barnado after he came to London from Dublin in 1866 to train as a doctor and then become a missionary to China.

After being horrified by scenes of overcrowding, poverty and disease in the capital he set up the institutions to offer free basic education to children to help them improve their chances in life. 

William Ford, aged 14 years old, in 1855. Both his parents had died. Maintained by his brother who was a railway porter, he attended the Ragged School at Stratford for two years and read well, but had been living on the streets of London. He sailed to Toronto, Canada on April 16th, 1865. In 1858 it was reported he was living in Toronto, selling muffins

Richard Watson, aged 12-years-old, in 1856. His father deserted his mother and children two years prior and left to Australia. He went into a workhouse and then lived on the streets begging and petty thieving. He couldn't read or write and in a state of great ignorance. In July 1856 he sailed to Canada where he found work as a sailor on the lakes

William Ford, pictured aged 14 in 1855 on the left, lived with his railway porter brother in Stratford for two years before ending up on the streets. He sailed to Toronto, Canada, in 1865 and in 1858 was reported to have become a muffin seller in the city. Richard Watson, pictured aged 12 in 1856 on the right, was deserted by his father who had left for Australia. He went to a workhouse and then lived on the streets begging and petty thieving. He couldn’t read or write and was considered of great ignorance but, in July 1856, he sailed to Canada where he began working as a sailor on the great lakes

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Charles Capps, 18, in 1856. Both parents were dead and he lived in a refuge for eight months. He worked for some time but was discharged and having no-one he soon fell into destitution. In April 1857, he sailed from Bristol to Canada and got a job on a farm and then at a brewers.

John Ward, from Hull, Yorks, 28-years-old, in 1856. Both his parents were dead, an uncle became his guardian. He was well-educated and apprenticed to a reputable firm but having got into bad company his indentures were cancelled after serving five years. He then became a clerk in a shipping house but the firm became insolvent. Was made a tide-waiter in Hull, but discharged for drunkenness. Then travelled as a book canvasser, imprisoned for a year at Shrewsbury for forging an order for six-pence. He was found in Field Lane Night Refuge. Most anxious for a fresh start in life, read his notes, which also say that he seemed intelligent and well-educated but had been a 'sad drunkard, which was his downfall'. On Aug 27th, 1856 he sailed for Canada in the city of Hamilton. He changed his ways and cast off his reputation. He found work with a builder in Toronto.

Charles Capps, pictured aged 18 in 1856 on the left, ended up on the streets after both parents died and he was discharged from his job. In 1857 he sailed from Bristol to Canada where he got a job on a farm before joining a brewers. John Ward, from Hull in Yorkshire, is pictured aged 28 in 1856 on the right, was well-educated and apprenticed to a good firm. But, after becoming a drunkard he was sacked. John then became a clerk in a shipping house, but the firm collapsed, and then a tide-waiter in Hull before being sacked. He was imprisoned in Shrewsbury for a year after forging an order for six-pence before being found in Field Lane Night Refuge. In August 1856 he was sent to Hamilton, Canada, where he changed his ways and eventually found work with a builder in Toronto

James Henry, aged 14-years-old in 1856. His father had been dead for four years and his mother was receiving outdoor relief from St Giles workhouse. He'd been engaged in a painting office but had been out of work and on the streets for a long time. Described as willing, honest and obedient. On Sep 19th, 1856 he sailed from Liverpool to Bombay after he was apprenticed on a ship. In 1858 the Ragged School received a letter from him whilst in Panama. It said he was doing well, and he liked his service

Ebenezer David, 17-years-old, in 1856. He was in a Lambeth workhouse, and had been separated from his parents for several years. He used to work at a fireworks factory but had struggled to find regular employment. He has been jailed three times and was described as being quarrelsome, untruthful and a nuisance. He sailed to Canada in August 1856, and was initially naughty but began to grow up after working on a farm near Kingston

James Henry, pictured aged 14 in 1856 on the left, was out of work and on the streets when he was picked up by the Ragged School. He had been working in a painting office beforehand. His father was dead and his mother was in St Giles workhouse. In September 1856 he went from Liverpool to Bombay, modern-day Mumbai, in India after he was apprenticed on a ship. In 1858 he wrote to the movement to say that he was doing well and liked his new job. Ebeneser David, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the right, was found in Lambeth workhouse after being separated from his parents. He had been jailed three times and was described as quarrelsome, untruthful and a nuisance. He sailed to Canada in 1856 and found work on a farm near Kingston

John Farrel, aged 19-years-old in 1856. An orphan for 15 years from Hounslow and with four brothers and sisters, he was placed in St James's workhouse at the age of nine and then moved to a Roman Catholic institution. He was apprenticed to a tailor, who was a drunkard and cruel to him, before moving to another. He was imprisoned four times for stealing food and applied for assistance from the Ragged School, which sent him to Canada in April 1857. The last entry says he found work but was discharged for idleness and disobedience and for not being in his right mind.

Charles Stevenson, aged 15, in 1856. A native of Boston, Lincolnshire. After his mother died his father took him to London and then left him on the streets. He was there for more than a year, sleeping at the refuge in Field Lane. He could read and write and was never imprisoned so, on April 7 1857 he sailed from Bristol to Canada, where he found work near Toronto

John Farrel, pictured aged 19 in 1856 on the left, was sent to Canada after being an orphan for 15 years. He had been in the workhouse and was apprenticed to a tailor who was a drunkard and cruel to him. Charles Stevenson, pictured aged 15 in 1856 on the right, was taken to London by his father from Lincoln and left on the streets after his mother died. He was sent to Canada in 1857 where he found work near Toronto

Charles Holloway, 17-years-old, 1856. His father has been dead for 12 years and his mother was an invalid living inside St Giles workhouse. He'd worked in a butcher's but found himself out of work. He sailed to Canada in April 1857 and found work as a butcher where was happy and well-paid

Edward Payne, from Southampton, in 1855. His mother and father had died when he was just ten-years-old. He was placed in a workhouse, but managed to train as a teacher as he had received some education as a young boy. However, a medical condition meant he couldn't get the required certificate, marring his future prospects. He left the South Coast to go to London in a bid to find an Uncle, but he failed to locate him. He ended up on the streets in great destitution, until he was taken into the Ragged School in April 1855. He sailed to Canada in 1857, where he first found employment as a gardener but later took examinations to become a school teacher which he passed.

Charles Holloway, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the left, was an invalid living in St Giles workhouse, London. He had worked in a butcher’s but, after losing his job, was sent to Canada in 1857, where he again found work as a butcher. Edward Payne, from Southampton, pictured in 1855 on the right. He had travelled to London in a bid to find his uncle but, after failing to find him, ended up sleeping rough and in great destitution. He was taken into the Ragged School and sent to Canada in 1857 where he started working as a gardener before becoming a teacher

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Thomas Healey, 16, in 1856. His mother was a 'great drunk' and he'd been an errand boy at the Queen's Theatre. He had no home or decent clothing for some time. He subsisted by holding horses and carrying parcels. In February 1857 he returned to his mother who said she wouldn't consent to him going abroad. The notes read 'He is a well-liked, honest and industrious lad, but his prospects in town cannot be as promising as they would be as an immigrant.' In May 1857 he was out of work and at his 'wits ends' due to his mother's drunkenness and was re-admitted to the Ragged School. In July of the same year he sailed to Canada and did well after finding work

George Crockett, aged 14 ears, pictured in 1855. His father died when he eight-years-old. His mother supported him and two young children by shoe binding. He worked for a cork-cutter but dismissed for continual quarrels. He then lived on the streets earning a precarious living, his mother losing all control. He was described as being quick and active but of a choleric temper. On April 8th, 1856, he sailed to Quebec. After he fell ill and attended the Royal Hospital in Quebec, he impressed the surgeons at the hospital and began work for them

Thomas Healey, pictured aged 16 in 1856 on the left, had worked as an errand boy for the Queen’s theatre but with no home or decent clothing he subsisted by holding horses and carrying parcels. He went back to his mother but in May 1857 he left due to her ‘drunkeness’. He was readmitted to the Ragged School and in July sailed for Canada where he reportedly ‘did well after finding work’. George Crockett, pictured aged 14 in 1855 on the right, lived on the streets after being dismissed from his job as a cork-cutter for continuous quarrels. In 1856 he sailed to Quebec and fell ill. After attending the Royal Hospital in Quebec, however, he impressed surgeons so much that they asked him to work for them

John Ragan, 17-years-old, 1856. He was from County Cork in Ireland, until him and his sister were orphaned at which time they travelled to England. They never found a regular home and subsisted by chance earnings, sleeping on stairs and in doorways. He was taken into the Ragged School where he was found to be hard-working and trustworthy. He later emigrated to Kingston, Canada. However, while working in Canada he had an accident with a hatchet and cut his leg. Although his leg was amputated, his condition deteriorated and he later died.

Robert Maudley, aged 18-years-old, 1855. Robert's parents deserted him when he was a young infant and at nine-years-old he was placed into St James's Workhouse, Soho, London. He was appointed as a shoe-maker where he was cruelly used and ran away repeatedly. He was never imprisoned and was too proud to beg, so made his living by 'jobbing' around carrying parcels, seldom being able to afford a bed. He also had a stammer. On April 17th, 1856, he sailed from London to Canada, working his passage. He found work in Toronto and was last reported in 1858 to be doing well.

John Ragan, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the left, moved to London with his sister from County Cork, Ireland, after his parents died. They subsisted on chance earnings and slept in stairs and doorways before he was taken into the Ragged School. He was sent to Kingston, Canada, but while working cut his leg with a hatchet. The limb was amputated to stop an infection but he later died. Robert Maudley, pictured aged 18 in 1855 on the right, was deserted by his parents as a youngster. He worked as a shoe-maker where he was cruelly used and ran away repeatedly. In April 1856 he was sent from London to Canada where he found work in Toronto. The final report says he was ‘doing well’

William Ashmore, 17-years-old, in 1856. He had been orphaned for many years and was once sent to sea but was 'ruptured' so couldn't work as a sailor. He'd been without a home for years, 'chancing' in the streets, carrying parcels and holding horses. He had been reduced to an awful state of debility through destitution and want. On April 16th, 1857 he sailed to Canada where he became much improved mentally and physically

Elijah Shell, aged 17-years-old, in 1856. His father had been dead three years, whilst his mother lived in Stratford making a living by caning chairs, which was his employment. Despite this, he was often in great destitution. He set sail to Canada in August 1856, where he found work on a farm and said to be happy and contented

William Ashmore, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the left, had been living on the streets as an orphan for many years. He was once sent to sea but was ‘ruptured’ so was unable to work as a sailor. In 1857 he was sent to Canada where he became much improved mentally and physically. Elijah Shell, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the right, lived with his mother in Stratford and made a living out of caning chairs. He was in ‘great destitution’ and was sent to Canada in 1856 where he found work as a farmer

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Thomas Clarke, aged 18-years-old, in June 1856. His father had been dead for seven years and his mother re-married a notorious drunkard, his mother being no better. He'd been on the streets for months, worked for a man who made and sold clothes horses. He quarrelled with his employer and was dismissed without wages. As revenge he broke into his ex-employers' shop and stole tools. He was committed to prison for three months. He's been on the streets in great destitution since his discharge. In 1857 he sailed to Canada, where he continued to struggle to find work but had improved

George Morrel, aged 17-year-old, in 1856. Both his parents lived in great poverty. He learnt pouch-making for the army which he supported himself with for a while but the work ended and that left him in great destitution. He is miserably attenuated, but quick and intelligent. In 1857 he sailed to Canada and became a saddler in Toronto, proving himself to be respected and trust-worthy

Thomas Clarke, pictured aged 18 in 1856 on the left, had been living on the street for months and made a living by making and selling clothes horses. After he quarrelled with his employer however he was dismissed without wages. In revenge, he broke into their shop and stole tools which led to him being jailed for three months. In 1857 he was sent to Canada where he struggled to find work but was said to have ‘improved’. George Morrel, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the right, had lived in great poverty. In 1857 the movement sent him to Canada where he became a saddler in Toronto, and became both trusted and respected

Henry Harris, 17-years-old, 1856. An orphan for many years, he was at the West Ham workhouse for seven years. Worked as a labourer. Homeless for a long time, tried to gain a living by caning chairs, but was often in great want. Could read and write well, strong and healthy. On Aug 8th, 1856, he sailed for Canada. Proved himself to be an honest and hard-working seemed to feel his 'moral and religious obligations'

William Hoare, 18-years-old, in 1856. His father deserted his family and his mother died in St Giles workhouse. He had been working in a soda water manufactory until his brother, who was in the same employment, was sent to prison for embezzlement which he appears to have been caught up in. He had been about the streets without friends or home and has been reduced to 'bad crimes', which were words he used. In April 1857 he sailed from Bristol to Canada and worked his passage. He found work as a farmer and did well

Henry Harris, pictured aged 17 in 1856 on the left, was orphaned and lived in a workhouse in West Ham for seven years. He tried to gain a living by caning chairs but was left homeless. In 1856 he sailed for Canada where notes read that he proved himself to be ‘honest and hard-working’. William Hoare, pictured aged 18 in 1856 on the right, was deserted by his father and his mother died in St Giles workhouse and was found on the streets after he lost his job at a soda water factory when his brother was sent to prison for embezzlement. In 1857 he sailed for Bristol to Canada, working his passage, and found work as a farmer

(From left to right) Charles Stevenson, who found work near Toronto, William Hoare, who became a farmer in Canada, and Charles Holloway, who found work as a butcher in Canada. They are pictured together in 1856 before emigrating to Canada

(From left to right) Charles Stevenson, who found work near Toronto, William Hoare, who became a farmer in Canada, and Charles Holloway, who found work as a butcher in Canada. They are pictured together in 1856 before emigrating to Canada

(From left to right) Unknown on the left, John Ward, who became a builder in Toronto after ending up on the streets because he was a drunk, and John Ragan, who died after emigrating to Kingston, Canada. He had an accident with a hatchet that cut into his leg. The limb was amputated but John later died. The trio are pictured together in 1856

(From left to right) Unknown on the left, John Ward, who became a builder in Toronto after ending up on the streets because he was a drunk, and John Ragan, who died after emigrating to Kingston, Canada. He had an accident with a hatchet that cut into his leg. The limb was amputated but John later died. The trio are pictured together in 1856

(From left to right) Henry Harris, who proved himself honest and hardworking after moving to Canada according to his notes, George Crockett, who sailed to Quebec and, after being checked into the hospital there, impressed surgeons so much that they employed him, and Elijah Shell, who became a farmer in Canada. They are photographed together in 1856

(From left to right) Henry Harris, who proved himself honest and hardworking after moving to Canada according to his notes, George Crockett, who sailed to Quebec and, after being checked into the hospital there, impressed surgeons so much that they employed him, and Elijah Shell, who became a farmer in Canada. They are photographed together in 1856