Vauxhall Ragged Schools tour & Buddhist centre Open House at the Beaufoy

When Diamond Way Buddhism bought the Beaufoy Institute to renovate as our Buddhist centre, we were aware that we had become custodians of a landmark with important history in the Vauxhall area. The Beaufoy itself has a fine history of helping people learn about life and developing themselves, and is part of a philanthropic movement that resonates with Buddhist values. This interest in local history is a strong part of the reason for creating the Friends of the Beaufoy group.

The Buddhist centre is at the corner of Vauxhall Street and Black Prince Road. In particular, the stretch of Black Prince Road close to the Thames is very much connected with the Ragged School movement in Vauxhall, as well as with the history of Doulton ceramics. During our first Open Days earlier this year, we learned a lot about local history from the visitors who came and participated in the tours.

So we were delighted to be able to take part in the Thames Festival this year. The Mayor’s Thames Festival is one of the largest river-focussed arts festival in the world. Running from the source of the Thames right down the its mouth, and concentrating its activities between Vauxhall Bridge and St Katharine’s Docks, the festival includes walks, talks, boat rides, and performances. The Friends of the Beaufoy organised the Vauxhall Ragged Schools Tour and Open House, as part of this year’s festival. Taking place over 2 days, from 7th-8th September, 11am-4pm, the event included tours every hour of local sites of interest, including the Beaconsfield Gallery, the White Hart Dock, and the former Royal Doulton Head Quarters.

The map for the Vauxhall Ragged Schools tour, showing the sites of interest

The map for the Vauxhall Ragged Schools tour


The Beaconsfield Gallery is an exhibition space run by artists for artists, situated in the former Lambeth Ragged School on Newport Street.
On the way to the river, the tour admired mosaics and ceramics by Southbank Mosaics, which depict the Black Prince, as well as local industry. At the river, one can see the White Hart Docks, dating back to the 14th century, and which played a vital role in the business of the Doultons. The main offices of what became Royal Doulton are still in fine condition at the corner of Lambeth High Street and Black Prince Road.

Lambeth Ragged SchoolA tour group at the White Hart DocksOne of the ceramics on Black Prince RoadDetailing on the Royal Doulton factory exterior

The tours started from the Beaufoy institute, where we had the second “Open Days”. Visitors could see the progress made in the restoration so far, including the main hall, which used to be the assembly hall, the ceramic features in the basement, and the small exhibition room, where statues and paintings belonging to the Buddhist centre were displayed. In the main hall, the film “London river” was shown, kindly lent by the British Council, whom we had first worked with on our week-long Buddhist art exhibition “Space for Art”. As with the first Open Days, everyone was very interested in how we work together as friends and volunteers. Perhaps because of the shared interest in history, this time visitors also really made friends with each other on the tours. And some people had come from as far afield as Richmond or even Warwick to attend the Festival and take the tour. We even had tourists from the US and France.

Sign outside the Buddhist centre on Black Prince RoadEntrance to the Buddhist centreShoesThe meditation hall in the Beaufoy Institute

A tour group in the main hall of the BeaufoyWatching the presentationA view of the main hall from the galleryLight coming through the rear window illuminates the main hall of the Beaufoy

Photographs of life in the old Beaufoy InstitutePhotos of students in the Beaufoy InstituteLay Buddhist teacher explains the historical photos of the BeaufoyA tour group at the exhibition of Beaufoy Institute history

Tools used in the old Beaufoy InstituteBuddhist meditation artwork on the Vauxhall Ragged Schools tourVisitors on the Vauxhall Ragged School tourStatue of the 16th Karmapa, important teacher of Tibetan Buddhism

A total of 250 people came, and an auspicious 108 people attended on the Sunday. All in all, the volunteers got as much out of the experience as the visitors. And, having experienced the building and its potential, everyone wanted to know when the Buddhist centre will be open. This very much depends on the renovations, and we will announce it on this blog, so subscribe and stay tuned!


Related PostsBeaufoy Institute Open Days: Diamond Way Buddhist centre invites Lambeth for tours and tea Diamond Way gets the keys to the Beaufoy Institute! Lambeth Buddhist Centre symbolically opened by Lama Ole Nydahl A message from the architects working on the Beaufoy Institute renovation project