Ward's Book of Days.

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JULY 4th

On this day in history in 1845, was born Thomas Barnardo.

Barnardo was a pioneer of social work, and a social reformer who founded an institution for indigent children.

Thomas John Barnardo was born on 4th July 1845 at Dublin, the son of an English mother and an exiled Spanish Protestant of Jewish extraction, who had recently left Hamburg, travelling to Scotland but had mistakenly landed in Ireland. Little is known of Barnardo’s early life except that the family was wont to relocate homes at various places in the British Isles. In 1866, Barnardo was in London, studying medicine and training to be a Protestant medical missionary to China. He later completed his medical studies at Edinburgh, and was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons. As part of his training, he became superintendent of a ragged school, a charitable free school for poor children, in the East End of London. At the time a cholera epidemic was raging in London, and he saw first hand the effect that illness had on uncared for children, and was alarmed at the number of children orphaned and destitute by disease.

Barnardo gave up the idea of an overseas mission, and devoted his career to charity at home. He collected contributions from affluent gentlemen and, in 1867 founded a juvenile mission. The first of Dr.Barnardo's Homes was founded in 1870. Barnardo directed the home personally. The children were given care, food and clothing, and an education to a high standard. In addition, Barnardo insisted on a policy of free and immediate admittance, without regard to race or religion, and despite any shortage of funds his institution might have at the time.

In 1869, Barnardo married Syrie Elmslie, and together they had seven children, three of whom died in infancy, and one of whom had Down's syndrome, a circumstance which prompted him to set up homes for children with physical and learning difficulties. He continued to create new homes whenever he could find benefactors to support him, and during his lifetime created 112 district Dr. Barnardo's Homes. These included The Girls Village Home, at Barkingside, Essex, with 66 cottages spread over three village greens, and covering 60 acres.

Barnardo died of a heart attack in Surbiton on 19th September 1905. Unusually, his coffin was taken to the crematorium on the London Underground. Only one other instance of this form of funeral cortege has been recorded. His ashes were laid to rest at his home in Barkingside, near to The Girls Village Home. [Barnardos, Tanners Lane, Barkingside, Ilford, IG6 1QG]

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