John Pounds

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John Pounds
Published by Bouvé & Sharp, 221 Washington St., Boston, c. 1843-1845
Born17 June 1766
Died1 January 1839 (aged 72)

John Pounds (17 June 1766 – 1 January 1839) was a teacher and altruist born in Portsmouth, and the man most responsible for the creation of the concept of Ragged schools.[1] After Pounds' death, Thomas Guthrie (often credited with the creation of Ragged Schools) wrote his Plea for Ragged Schools and proclaimed John Pounds as the originator of this idea.

Pounds was severely crippled in his mid-teens, from falling into a dry dock at Portsmouth Dockyard, where he was apprenticed as a shipwright.[2] He could no longer work at the dockyard, and from then onward made his living as a shoemaker.

He would scour the streets of Portsmouth looking for children who were poor and homeless, taking them into his small workshop and teaching them basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. This small workshop was often host to as many as 40 children at any one time. John carried with him simple food items like baked potatoes to attract children.[3]

Many years after his death, John Pounds has become a local hero in his birthplace of Portsmouth, winning a "Man of the Millennium" award in 1999 from a local newspaper, ahead of nationally more famous local heroes including Admiral Lord Nelson and Charles Dickens.

A unitarian chapel named in his memory stands in Old Portsmouth[4] and his life was celebrated in a sacred cantata Greatheart: The Story of John Pounds, by the Rev. Carey Bonner. In 2005, the John Pounds Centre was opened in Queen Street, Portsmouth to encourage "a happier and healthier lifestyle, should that be through learning, physical or social activities."[5] Until 1975 there was a girl's secondary modern in Portsea named after him:[6] it is now a community centre.[7]


  1. ^ The History of Ragged Schools
  2. ^ The accident happened 18 days after the death of his father. A double tragedy Coats, A. (Portsmouth Dockyard Historian) pp. 22-24 in "The Life and Times of John Pounds of Portsmouth: Originator of Ragged Schools" Worthington, G. (ed): Portsmouth, John Pounds of Portsmouth Heritage Appeal, 2007, ISBN 978-0955499005
  3. ^ Memorials and Monuments in Old Portsmouth (John Pounds Memorial Church) Archived 2012-04-10 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ John Pounds Memorial Unitarian Church
  5. ^ "John Pounds centre:about us". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  6. ^ National Archives
  7. ^ John Pounds Centre Archived 2013-01-03 at the Wayback Machine

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