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 Issues | Church History | Thomas J. Barnardo

Thomas John Barnardo (1845-1905)

The Children's Friend


  • 4th July 1845 Born at Dublin. Son of John Michaelis Barnardo, born in Hamburg. 
  • Baptized as a baby in St Andrew's Church, Dublin. Confirmed at the age of fifteen by the Archbishop of Dublin, although he claimed to be an agnostic and was much influenced by the writings of Rousseau, Voltaire and Thomas Paine.
  • Left school at 16 to become a clerk in a wine merchant’s office.
  • Converted to Christ during the Great Revival which swept through parts of Ireland during the years 1859-62. During this period he became an “Open Brother” (Brethren)
  • Soon after his conversion Barnardo rebaptized by immersion on October 19th, 1862. Later in life he returned to the Anglican Communion, the Church of his childhood.
  • April, 1866, travelled to London to begin his training for missionary work; but Hudson Taylor advised him to undergo medical training, with the result that he enrolled as a medical student at the London Hospital. During this time he became aware of the plight of many homeless children in London.
  • September, 1870, opened his first Home for Destitute Boys at 18 Stepney Causeway. This was an extension of the work of his East End Juvenile Mission, and was intended to house about 25 boys.
  • On June 17th, 1873, when he was 27, married Syrie Louise Elmslie.
  • On July 9th, 1876, the Girls’ Village Home at Barkingside was opened
  • By 1877 had opened 8 separate Institutes (homes) and in the Girls’ Village Home fourteen cottages.
  • By 1888 there were thirty-eight “distinct institutions” and fifty cottages in the Village Home.
  • In 1892 he established “Ever-open Doors” (homes where the children were looked after and given the opportunity to learn a trade. in Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff, Newcastle, Plymouth and Bath. Later homes were opened in Bristol, Birmingham, Belfast, Hull, Southampton, Sheffield, Portsmouth and Brighton. He was not content merely to rescue them from the squalor of the slums, but he desired to equip them spiritually, mentally and physically so that they could make their contribution to the well-being of the nation’s life. The basic foundation of his work was the creation of Christian character, and he sought and prayed for the conversion of the children in his care.
  • Died 19th September 1905 from a heart attack. During his lifetime he had rescued and trained 59,384 destitute children and had assisted a quarter of a million children in need.




Biography of Thomas Barnardo by E. J. G. Rogers

(Great Churchmen No. 20 - Church Book Room Press)




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