In 1818 John Pounds a Plymouth shoemaker started the idea of ragged schools a form of free education for working class children. Mary Carpenter continued these ideas in Bristol becoming the first female to present a paper to the Royal Statistical Society in advance of her ideas. Lord Shaftsbury, the Victorian reformer, helped create the Ragged Schools union in 1844 to spread these ideas through Great Britain.
In 1837 the Dr Thomas Guthrie was invited to become the minister of Old Greyfrairs Kirk. In 1841 Sherrif Watson found the Industrial Feeding School in Aberdeen, the first known instance in Scotland. In 1847 Dr Guthrie started campaigning in Edinburgh for a ragged school. He rasied £2000 though public subscription and open his school on Ramsay Lane. Another two followed in 1849 and 1851 respectively.
In Edinburgh the streets teemed with destitute children – the officers in the high street office allowed children to sleep overnight in the cells. The establishment of the Ragged Schools reduced the number of children sleeping rough and who had to turn to crime to survive.