Keys of Health, the Lad's Key, front

My colleagues and I really do find fascinating items for this post – we don’t make it up!
This week we are in the middle of packing up and moving from our Marshall Street home to the newly refurbished Central Library. A couple of leaflets, waiting to be put back in their box, caught my eye.
On one level there is something quite amusing about the advice thought necessary back when the Health and Cleanliness Council published them. There’s an attempt at a matey tone, addressing the young lads of the day.

Keys of Health, The Lad's Key, reverse

The leaflet includes tips on job hunting and presentation. I love the advice to air your shirt and turn your socks inside out! No mention of underpants!

A second leaflet gives more general advice on keeping clean with a stand up bath, using a bowl. It’s aimed at people living in crowded conditions, perhaps without regular access to hot water or a bathroom.
The Will and the Way to a bath everyday, front

The Will and the Way to a bath every day, reverse

Nowadays these instructions might be useful at a muddy pop festival or on a camping holiday.

I remember our local swimming baths had ‘Slipper Baths’, a puzzling concept for me as a child.
Victoria Baths, entrance to washing and swimming baths, 1905

There’s a more serious note to these pamphlets though. They come from a collection relating to the Charter Street Ragged School in Angel Meadow, Manchester. The first Ragged School, offering free basic education to the poor, was set up in Portsmouth in 1818. In 1844 Lord Shaftesbury set up the Ragged School Union and another 200 schools were established within an eight year period. The 1870 Education Act absorbed Ragged Schools into Board Schools.
The Charter Street Ragged School was also the Working Girls’ Home. It provided social welfare as well as a basic education, helping old and young in different ways – clogs, clothing and food as well as the 3 ‘R’s.

Charter Street Ragged School and Working Girls' Home

Charter Street, Ragged School and Working Girls' Home

The kind of personal advice shared in these public information leaflets must have been intended as genuinely helpful to the people using the Ragged School.

Spare a thought for them as you consider the new socks and shower gel you got for Christmas.

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