Two Gates Ragged School (Brief History)
On 21st June 1867 the land on which Two Gates Ragged School is built was conveyed by Samuel Bennett, an innkeeper of The Two Gates Inn, Cradley, to Messrs Noah Hingley and Jeston Homfray. In those times people had to pay for children’s education and the chapel was part of the Ragged Schools Movement that provided free education and religious teaching for poor people who were unable to pay. In the Two Gates area men, women and children had to work long hours in poorly paid jobs to provide food for the family and to keep a roof over their heads.
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The large number of people joining the Ragged Schools Movement came to the attention of Parliament who saw the need to provide free education for children, and so the Elementary Education Act of 1870 was passed, which had the effect of forcing young children under 14 years out of work and into school.
In May 1896 a deed of trust was made when the land transferred between Sir Benjamin Hingley and Mr A Homfray and the managers of the chapel.
Papers from May 1911 show that James Willetts (labourer), James Adams (warehouseman) and Enoch Growcott (mine manager), all of Cradley, held the land in trust as a place 'for the non-denominational religious worship of God and for preaching the gospel to a congregation of Protestants, called Two Gates Ragged School'. According to the deed, this congregation of Protestants had many years previously erected a place of worship on the land and had used and occupied the property in conformity with this purpose up to the date of the deed, which then proceeded to convey the property to 21 named trustees.
There is no authentic record of how or by whom the chapel was built. Tradition says all materials were given by local industrialists and the school erected by voluntary community labour. Money was also raised by selling bricks in the Two Gates area at a penny each before they were laid.
Over time the congregation grew as surrounding farm land was developed for new housing and more people moved into the Two Gates area. About 1910 this resulted in the building being extended rearwards and new classroom partitions were installed. The new space (indicated in red below) was then used as a Sunday school.
In the mid 1950's the chapel nearest to the road was refurbished and a choir platform was raised above a new vestry and storeroom, with a new entrance created off Two Gates.
As the new millennium dawned the congregation decided to modernise the premises by adding inside toilets and a kitchen was built to facilitate catering for community events. More recently a disability friendly access ramp was added, old heavy hard benches were replaced with modern soft chairs, double glazing was fitted and the original wooden stage was renewed.
Today the chapel continues as an independent place for the worship of God and religious instruction managed by a Superintendent and Deacons, supported by a congregation of worshipers. The chapel remains at the heart of the Two Gates community and is an important centre for local social activities.
Going forward the chapel has begun to embrace the multi-media age with ‘on-line’ access to its history and facilitated world-wide virtual tours of the Ragged Schools heritage.
Our Heritage - 'Two Gates'
Many years ago for roads linking one place with another there was no responsible authority for making them properly or keeping them in repair, so one can imagine what they were like. Such a highway was the main road from Cradley to Stourbridge which went via Two Gates, Wollescote and Oldswinford, thus joining the older parts of Cradley, Lye and Stourbridge.
Since pre-Tudor times, however, industry had been steadily growing near the River Stour, where water power, developed by water mills, was put to many uses, forging being the most important. It became apparent that a more direct road with a good surface was needed to join these developing centres of Industry, and in 1762 (GEO. III.) an Act of Parliament was passed for the purpose of making a turnpike road from Stourbridge Market House, through Lye and Cradley Park to Colley Gate, and thence to Halesowen. That is now the main arterial route No A458 linking Birmingham with mid-Wales bypassing to the north of Two Gates.
The two gates at the ragged school symbolise the gates that once guarded the ancient trading route from Stourbridge to Halesowen and which protected farm animals from straying before the turnpike road was built.
Extract from Halesowen Who's Who (1951)
Two Gates Ragged School (Cradley)
The school began, like many of its contemporaries, in a house where prayer meetings were held. The occupier of the house then purchased a piece of land and decided to erect a school upon it. All the materials were given and bricks were carried a considerable distance to the site. All the labour was voluntary and when the school was opened in 1867, it had not cost a penny to build. As its name implies, it was the children of poor people who were catered for, as well as their parents. It had many struggles and a Mr Homfray, a local solicitor, was its stalwart. He was the father of Mrs Frank Somers, of the well known Halesowen family, and Mrs Somers can recall her father accompanying the singing with a flute.
Superintendent: Mr C Willetts