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Langar Church of England Primary School


Doctor Barnardo


Thomas John Barnardo, known as Dr Barnardo, was the founder of many homes for poor children and started the charity Barnardo’s. From the time of his first home in 1870 until his death in 1905, Dr Barnardo helped nearly 100,000 children. See the fact file below for more information about Dr Barnardo.


Dr Thomas John Barnardo was one of the most significant and important people in the Victoria era and he is well known to this day for the work he did with Victorian children to rescue them, train them and give them better lives.


Facts About Dr Barnardo


  • Dr Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 4 July 1845. He died on 19 September 1905 at the age of 60.
  • He was the founder and director of Barnardo’s charity, which started as a home for poor children. From the date the first home was founded in 1870 until his death in 1905, Dr Barnardo helped nearly 100,000 children through good care and education.
  • He wanted to become a Protestant medical missionary to China. When he was 16, moved to London to begin his studies at the London Hospital.
  • Barnardo was shocked at the conditions many homeless children were living in in Victorian London. This was at a time where children worked in factories and did other dangerous jobs like chimney sweeping.
  • Life for the poor was especially hard as the belief at the time was that poverty was self-inflicted. Poor people were also classified into deserving and undeserving of charity.
  • Driven by his strong Christian conviction to help poor children, the course of his life changed and he became a pioneer of social work.
  • He opened his first Ragged School in the East End of London in 1867. Guided by Christian values and principles, these were charities gave free education to poor children in the Victorian era. Around 300,000 children went through the London ragged schools between 1844 and 1881.
    • There is a Ragged School Museum in the East End of London in a building that was used by Dr Barnardo. The museum shows how a ragged school would have looked in Victorian times.
    • It was a young boy at the Mission, Jim Jarvis, that convinced Dr Barnardo to help poor children. The boy took him around the East End and showed him children sleeping on roofs and in gutters.
    • Dr Barnardo opened his first home for boys in 1870. It was located in Stepney Causeway and they trained boys in carpentry, metalwork and shoemaking. These were skills that the boys could use to secure an apprenticeship and work.

    Barnardo used to limit the number of boys who could use the Shelter. One evening, an 11-year old ball called John Somers, who had the nickname ‘Carrots’, was turned away because the shelter was full. Carrots was found dead two days later and from that day forward Dr Barnardo vowed he would never turn around child away and a sign was hung that said “No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission"


  • Barnardo’s was fully established with a ragged school, a home, an employment agency, and a mission church before Dr Barnardo was 30. He had also bought more than 12 east London properties and bought a children’s magazine as well.
  • In 1873 Thomas Barnardo married Syrie Louise Elmslie. They were given a 15 year lease for Mossford Lodge in Barkingside as a wedding present.
  • Barnardo opened The Girls’ Village Home at Mossford Lodge. It was a 60 acre site and within 3 years, Dr Barnardo had purchased the lease and owned the land. By 1900 there were 65 cottages at the home, as well as a school, a hospital and a church with three village greens.
  • Thomas and Syrie had seven children. Their daughter Marjorie was born with Down’s Syndrome. Dr Barnardo was devoted to Marjorie and his experience caring for her influenced the Barnardo’s approach to helping disabled children. The charity accepted children with physical or learning disabilities and had specialist homes for children with disabilities.
  • Dr Barnardo opened many homes during his lifetime. When Thomas Barnardo died in 1905, the charity had opened 96 homes caring for more than 8,500 children.
  • The Barnardo’s charity is still going strong today – nearly 150 years after Barnardo opened the first boys home. For more information about Dr Barnardo and the Barnardo’s charity you can visit their website.