Dr Barnardo: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about the work of Dr Barnardo, founder of the charity Barnardo’s, who provided homes and education for poor children in Victorian Britain.

  • Thomas John Barnardo was born on 4th July 1845 and he died on 19th September 1905.

  • He was born in Dublin, Ireland.
  • When he was sixteen years old, he decided he wanted to become a Protestant medical missionary in China.
  • He moved to London in order to train to be a doctor. He studied at the London Hospital, but never actually completed the course to earn a doctorate. Although he is known as ‘Doctor’ Barnardo, he never actually qualified as a doctor.
  • During his time in London, Thomas Barnardo became interested in the lives of the Victorian poor. He was apalled by the number of people living on the streets of London and he witnessed the horrific effects of cholera, unemployment and overcrowding.
  • Barnardo decided to put aside his plans to visit China. He opened his first ‘ragged school’ in 1867, in the East End of London, to educate and care for poor orphans.
  • One of his pupils, a boy called Jim Jarvis, took Barnardo on a walk of the the East End, showing him the sheer number of poor children sleeping rough. Barnardo was so moved by the sight that he decided to do something about it.
  • In 1870, Thomas Barnardo opened a home for boys in Stepney Causeway, providing shelter for orphans and destitute children. A sign hang on the building which said: ‘No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission’.
  • Barnardo founded the Girls’ Village Home. Located in Barkingside, the ‘village’ consisted of a collection of cottages and was home to 1500 poor girls.
  • During his life Barnardo continued to open institutions that helped to care for poor children. By his death in 1905 it is estimated that his homes and schools cared for over 8000 children in more than 90 different locations.
  • The Barnardo’s is still in existence today. Have a look at their website.

Click here to learn more about other famous Victorians.

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