June 2017 saw MFAA complete the new year long Sharing Heritage project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Two Gates Ragged School.
For 12 months MFAA members worked together with the congregation, friends and community volunteers to research, record and publish the history of Two Gates Ragged School, Cradley to show the national importance of The Ragged Schools Movement in the development of free education provision for children during the 1800s.
Two Gates Ragged School is one of only a handful of ragged schools country-wide remaining that once were at the forefront of providing free education to poor people who were raggedly clothed. In the early 1800s the area of Two Gates, Cradley was made up of whole families of men, women and children who were mainly employed in making chain, on farms, in mining or in brickmaking. The Black Country was undergoing significant change as more and more people came into the region to work in a wide variety of metal bashing industries that used the natural resources of the area. In those days education was something that had to be paid for and was therefore mostly neglected by poorer people as feeding the family and keeping a roof over their heads was seen as far more important.
John Pounds, a crippled cobbler, is credited with starting the early development of providing free education for children who were too poor to pay. He established the first truly free school for children in Portsmouth and slowly other benefactors jumped on board with The Ragged Schools Movement.
In the Two Gates area of Cradley free general and religious education for whole families was set up at Two Gates Ragged School which was first established as a chapel in June 1867. Eventually Parliament passed the first Education Act to provide free state funded education which forced children out of paid work.
During the project MFAA took some of the Deacons, congregation and friends of Two Gates Ragged School on a visit to The Ragged Schools Museum, London. The group also produced audio-visual presentations, held sharing heritage workshops, built a website, hosted visits to the ancient Broadstone boundary marker and facilitated visitors to discover the chapel's geocache. Archives were created and published giving free and easy access to the chapel's long history. The project celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Ragged School on Sunday, June 4th 2017 and an Open Day held on June 10th was supported by a visit from the Mayor of Dudley..
Barry Willetts said, "Being able to celebrate and share 150 years of Two Gates Ragged School on the sesquicentenary of the chapel was very special and was something that we were only able to do with such success because of the Sharing Heritage award from Heritage Lottery Fund. We are grateful to Midland Film And Art volunteers for leading the project."
Visit the new website at: twogatesraggedschool.com