Thomas John Barnardo (‘the doctor’) and his work with children and young people

Thomas John Barnardo (‘the doctor’). Dr. Thomas John Barnardo was what we might now call an extraordinary ‘social entrepreneur’. But who was he and what did he achieve? He was well known for his homes and training schemes, but what was his contribution to the development of youth work and social work practice?

contents: introduction · thomas barnardo – life · Barnardo and ragged schools · Barnardo homes · child migration · ‘boarding out’ · Dr Barnardo and controversy · conclusion · further reading and references · links · how to cite this article

Thomas John Barnardo (1845-1905) is a classic Victorian figure – evangelical, entrepreneurial and philanthropic. His crusade to ‘rescue children from the streets’ was one of the best known social interventions in the last half of the nineteenth century. As Williams (1953: vii) has put it:

In the short space of forty years, starting without patronage or influence of any kind, this man had raised the sum of three and a quarter million pounds sterling, established a network of Homes of various kinds such as never existed before for the reception, care and training of homeless, needy and afflicted children, and had rescued no fewer than sixty thousand destitute boys and girls.

But who was Dr Barnardo, what did he achieve in his work with children and young people,, and what is his continuing significance?

Thomas Barnardo – life

Born in Dublin in 1845, the son of a furrier, Thomas John Barnardo’s childhood is somewhat blurred. As Rose (1987: 17) reports, as his fame grew, ‘so did the anecdotes and legends about him until they became folklore’. She continues, ‘much of the early history of his life and of the homes he wrote himself, but where his father’s family came from and how he spent his first years in London remains uncertain’. There are hints that his childhood was stormy and far from happy (ibid.: 20). His schooling included Sunday school, parish day school and St Patricks Cathedral Grammar School, Dublin. Thomas (Tom) appears to have had an independent spirit, reading radical writers like Rousseau and Tom Paine. He was seen as a troublemaker (becoming bored quickly with lessons) and was eloquent and argumentative. Tom Barnardo did not pass his public examinations and at the age of 16 was apprenticed to a wine merchant.

Approaching his seventeenth birthday Thomas Barnardo experienced ‘conversion’ (on May 26, 1862). He became a strongly evangelical Christian ‘impatient to convert others, urgent for action’ (Rose 1987: 24). Barnardo began teaching Bible classes in a Dublin ragged school and became involved in home visiting. His mother and brothers were already members of the Plymouth Brethren – which Barnardo also joined. He also became a member of the Dublin YMCA – and often gave talks there. His commitment to social work strengthened – and on hearing Hudson Taylor speaking in Dublin about the work of the Inland China Mission, Barnardo believed his future lay in such work. The Brethren provided him with a small allowance, and the plan was to first study medicine at the London Hospital (friends from Dublin YMCA gave him an introduction).

Thomas Barnardo settled close to the hospital in east London (his first lodgings were at 30 Coburn Street, Stepney) in 1866 – although he does not appear to have begun his studies until 1867 (Wagner 1979). He appears to have thrown himself into missionary work in the East End visiting beerhouses, penny gaffs (little theatres), and homes – offering cheap Bibles and the word of Jesus. More than once he was attacked (suffering two broken ribs on one occasion). He also became involved in the Ernest Street ragged school (off Mile End Road) – and appears to have been a charismatic and engaging teacher. One of the stories associated with this period was of Barnardo’s first encounters with the ‘lays’ around Petticoat Lane where children slept. Thomas Barnardo frequently talked about this night, when he was taken by Jim Jarvis, a local lad, after a ragged school to visit the area (see Williams 1953: 54-7 for an account). What Jarvis told Barnardo about his life and the experiences of the other children had a profound effect. One of his first steps was to set up a ragged school (see below).

Thomas Barnardo became increasingly torn between his work in east London and his preparation for medical missionary work in China – and wrote about it. As a result, he was offered a significant sum of money to continue his evangelical and children’s work in east London. The East End Juvenile Mission was established and in 1870 he started his first ‘home’ in a rented house in Stepney Causeway (see below). Work converting the building had to be halted temporarily when he ran out of money, but Thomas Barnardo again made use of his Evangelical networks to get practical help and financial support. (His network, by now, included Lord Shaftesbury who was particularly impressed with his work, and Robert Barclay, the banker). He also began to see the urgent need for a home for girls – they were, for example, presenting themselves at the new boys home as in need of accommodation and support (see, for example, Williams 1953: 93-4).

His medical studies had begun to suffer and there was some disquiet among his fellow students about his religious zeal (Williams 1953: 69; 108) (It wasn’t until 1876 that he resumed his studies and then sat his final examinations in Edinburgh. He registered as a medical practitioner in London, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh in 1880). Thomas Barnardo had begun to earn a small income from his writing and from preaching. His evangelical efforts also started to be on a large scale. In the summer of 1872 he set up a huge tent (able to seat 3000) outside the Edinburgh Castle public house – and reportedly some 200 people a night would profess conversion. Attendances at the tent affected the numbers using the public house and it was put for sale. Worried that it would re-open as a music hall, and concerned with the impact of drinking upon family life and children’s well-being, Thomas Barnardo set about raising money for the house – and was able to open it as a coffee palace and People’s Mission Church. It was to become a significant centre for evangelicalism – with revivalists such as D. L. Moody preaching there.

In the space of seven years or so, and still not thirty, Thomas Barnardo had exploded onto the philanthropic and evangelical scene. He had established a ragged school, a home (and employment agency), and a mission church. He had acquired more than a dozen properties in east London – and even bought up a children’s magazine. The first account of these developments How it All Happened, written by Thomas Barnardo, was published in 1872. A year later he married (Syrie Louise Elmslie – they had met when she had invited him to speak at a meeting in Richmond) and was given the lease on Mossford Lodge, Barkingside for fifteen years as a wedding present. Like Barnardo, Syrie shared a commitment to evangelicalism and philanthropic work – and he saw he now had the opportunity to open a home for girls. They went to live at Mossford Lodge and in October 1873 12 girls came to live in a converted coach house next to the Lodge.

Dr John Barnardo by Stepney Causeway Studios bromide print on mount, 1900-1905. NPG | ccbyncnd3 licence

Thomas John Barnardo 1900-1905.
National Portrait Gallery ccbyncnd3 licence

The work continued to develop apace. More hostels were opened and his ambitious plan to create a Village Home for Girls (with a population of over 1000 girls) to replace the home at Mossford Lodge was realized by 1880. Thomas and Syrie Barnardo lived for a while at the Lodge – but then moved to a large house in Hackney (The Cedars) a gift from Syrie’s father – and later to Surbiton. (As Thomas and Syrie began to have children, Syrie’s father was concerned about the surroundings in which they would be raised). The expansion of the work was made possible by Barnardo’s ability to market his projects. Of special significance here was his decision in 1874 to open a Photographic Department in the Stepney Boys’ Home. Over the next thirty years or so every child who entered one of the homes had their picture taken. Children were photographed when they arrived and then again after several months. This was the origin of Barnardo’s famous ‘before’ and ‘after’ cards. These cards were sold in packs of twenty for 5 shillings or singly for 6d. each with titles such as ‘Once a little vagrant’ – ‘Now a little workman’. A new organization was set up to manage the homes (it was later incorporated as the National Incorporated Association for the Reclamation of Destitute Waif Children otherwise known as Dr. Barnardo Homes). The Committee of the Barnardo Homes included veterans from the boys club and ragged school movement (like T. H. W. Pelham and Arthur Kinnaird), financiers and religious figures.

Further initiatives included the development of ‘boarding out’ (placing children with families in more rural settings) beginning in 1886/7 and sending children to Canada initially to homes and then to be ‘boarded out’. The latter of these afforded some controversy at the time – and caused suffering to a significant number of the children involved (see below). He also began to set up homes for the ‘feeble-minded’ (this coincided with the birth of his seventh child who had special needs) and homes for children and young people with disabilities.

The scale of developments, and existing commitments, was such that an ever more complex fund-raising strategy was needed. Dr Barnardo often overran his resources – and there needed to be temporary cutbacks. The new Council of the Barnardo homes set various budgets and limits on the numbers of children, for example, who could be boarded out. However, Thomas Barnardo was not one to put off by such measures. At times he simply ignored them, at others, he redoubled his efforts to raise funds. In this area, there were many innovations. Dr Barnardo was one the first to develop organized mass charity giving – with much of the money for his schemes coming in small amounts from a large number of donors. Of particular note here was his founding of the Young Helpers’ League in 1891 – in which more fortunate children were encouraged to give (its membership had grown to over 34,000 when Barnardo died).

All this work took its toll on Thomas Barnardo’s health. By the time he was 50, it was clear he had some sort of heart complaint – and he was required to take a period of absolute rest (although he was not emotionally able to do this). He was soon working again at full pressure but by 1903 was in significant difficulties. Despite periods of convalescing he died on 19th September 1905. As Williams (1953: 209) reported, on that day:

… he spent a busy morning with correspondence, had a little sleep in the afternoon, and in the evening partook of a light meal. Then he settled down in an easy chair for a rest by the fireside, and turning presently to his wife, he said, ‘My head is so heavy. Let me rest it on you’. A moment later his spirit quietly passed away.

When Dr Thomas Barnardo died, there were nearly 8,000 children in the 96 residential homes he had set up. Around 1300 of these children had disabilities. More than 4,000 children were boarded out, and 18,000 had been sent to Canada and Australia

Thomas Barnardo and ragged schools

Barnardo’s first independent effort was to raise money via an article in The Revival to hold a large tea meeting service for children. His ability to present work to gain funding was already in place – he soon got donations – and held his first meeting in November 1867 (with a remarkable 2347 children attending). Within a few months, Thomas Barnardo had rented two cottages in Hope Place, Stepney – opening a schoolhouse for boys in one and for girls in the other. In later life, Thomas Barnardo was to contribute to all sorts of myths about this work – but it does appear to have involved a number of elements common to other ragged school initiatives including a penny bank and a shoeblack brigade. He was well acquainted with ragged school work, as we have already seen, having worked in schools in Dublin and east London.

Within a few years, the numbers attending the school had grown He rented some canalside warehouses (46 Copperfield Road, Stepney) and converted them into a school. The Copperfield Road Ragged School opened in 1876 and was aimed at children aged five to ten years. It soon became the largest ragged day school in London. By 1896, the records show that there were some 1,075 children attending the day schools and 2,460 attending the Sunday School. As well as receiving an education, children attending the school could have breakfast and dinner. The day school finished in 1908 – when the London County Council condemned the building as unsuitable for schooling, the Sunday School continued until around 1915.

The picture of The Ragged School founded by Thomas Barnardo was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Nigel Cox and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

A ragged school in Mile End, London – founded by Barnardo

Barnardo homes

The experience of working with children and young people in the ragged school was a key factor in pushing Barnardo towards setting up a home for homeless boys. This opened at 18 Stepney Causeway in 1870. The first 33 inhabitants were all older youths. Some were respectable lads who could afford to pay for accommodation; unemployed young men who were given work in the home (and taught self-reliance); and destitute boys who were clothed, fed, housed and taught simple trades (Rose 1987: 37). Barnardo set up a small wood chopping business for the lads (which paid them wages and made a small profit for the home). Thomas Barnardo didn’t simply open the doors and wait for children and young people to appear – he took to the streets to ‘rescue’ children and to bring them to the home. There were, inevitably, problems concerning his right to do this. Within a year the income and activity of the home had doubled.

He built workshops, fitted workrooms, started a city messengers’ brigade, brushmaking and boot-making departments and a tract department for the sale of improving literature. He opened up a new branch ragged school in Salmon Lane and employed twenty four ‘staff’ including cook, drill-master, trade manager and two schoolmasters in the home and teachers, door-keepers and a sick visitor and a Bible woman in the mission. His hot dinners and soups were famous in Stepney. And both the boys’ work (the woodchoppers sold wood to the value of £765) and the tract shop were ‘driving a fair business’. (Rose 1987: 40)

In 1873, as we have already seen, the first home for girls opened at Mossford Lodge. Numbers grew to just over 50 – but this was a good deal less than expected. What is more, the work itself did not achieve what they Barnardo’s had sought. Rose (1987: 43) reports that one night he overheard the girls talking and was horrified by their ‘vile conversation’. He continued:

… in a moment I realized what were the hidden forces of evil at work, undoing all we hoped had been attained. Indeed, I was made to feel, as I listened with horror, that probably I had done harm, not good, and that by our system of aggregating these girls I was but propagating and intensifying evil.

They closed the girls home – and instead announced plans for a new Girls Village Home at Barkingside in which girls would be housed in little cottages – each overseen by a ‘mother’. Girls of different ages were to be housed in the same cottage. This sort of approach had been tried in France and by Mary Carpenter in England. Within three years the first thirteen cottages were opened, and by 1879 all of the thirty cottages proposed in the original plan had been completed. Eventually, there were some 90 cottages. The village had its own school, a laundry and church, and a population of over 1,000 children.

Exhibit 1: National Incorpd. Waif’s Association (Dr Barnardo’s Homes)


“Christian, Protestant and Evangelical” is the religious motto of the Association. In its support, the members of all Evangelical denominations may, and do, join hands.

Last year 7,677 Children (the Greatest Family in the whole world) were maintained in the Homes.

Applications for urgent cases are received at any hour of the day or night.

Destitute children of any age or creed, of either sex and of any nationality are eligible.

Deaf or Dumb, Blind or Crippled Children, or those Diseased and already Given Over to Death, are, if destitute, always eligible.

The most searching inquiry is made into every application, but No Really Destitute Boy or Girl is ever rejected. Each case is determined solely upon its merits, without election and without the intervention of wealthy patrons.

The Homes have in the 35 years of their existence admitted 44,397 Waifs and Strays, without any distinction as to age, sex, creed or birthplace. In 1900 alone they admitted 2,879 Fresh Cases. From 50 to 60 Fresh Cases are admitted weekly.

2,362 Young Children are now boarded out in rural districts, through the agency of the Homes, under careful supervision.

Technical training in one of the fourteen handicrafts carried on in the Homes is given to every Lad capable of receiving it.

All the Girls are brought up in Cottages on the family system, and carefully instructed in the various branches of Domestic Service, or in Dressmaking.

12,604 Trained and Tested Emigrants have already been placed out in the Colonies. Of these 98 per cent. have been successful.

Three Lodging Houses and a Night Refuge, open in the Metropolis, are always accessible, day and night, to homeless Waifs and Strays seeking temporary shelter.

Eleven Branches under the common title of “An Ever-Open Door” are also ready for the reception of Destitute Children at any hour of the day or night, in as many Provincial Towns and Cities, viz: – Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Plymouth, Newcastle and Portsmouth. The address of the “Ever-Open Door” in Liverpool is 142a ISLINGTON

The Liverpool “Ever-Open Door” was opened in 1892, and it has in these nine years investigated 3,388 cases, of which 1,205 Lancashire Waifs and Strays were admitted to the Homes for testing or training, and thus permanently removed from destitution, degradation and unattached lives upon the streets of Liverpool and other Lancashire cities and towns.

In all, this Association now includes 91 separate Homes, dealing with every age and class of destitute and needy childhood, and 15 Mission Branches.


Source: Extract from an advertisement that appeared in the 1902 Kelly’s/Gores Street Directory of Liverpool. The advertisement can be viewed in full at:

The range of homes that Barnardo founded was wide – and there was later a very significant emphasis on provision for those with special needs and disabilities. To make this possible there was a substantial infrastructure including medical facilities, schemes of training, placement arrangements and so on.

Child migration

The export of destitute and orphaned children has a long history in Britain – with around 130,000 children being shipped off to various parts of the Empire over some 350 years. The first group was arguably sent in 1618 to Richmond, Virginia in the USA; the last was dispatched to Australia in 1967. The various groups and agencies sending children to Canada, Australia and other countries generally thought they were providing them with a new start:

[The children ] were seen as having no prospects in Britain, of having only a remote chance of doing well and that if they remained, they would drift towards the criminal and dangerous classes. Their families were seen as failing to provide adequate care for them. Sometimes the child had been deserted and put in a home; sometimes the strength of family ties was considered weak and unlikely to last. So what better reason could there be, the argument went, for providing care and opportunities elsewhere? (Bean and Melville 1989: 4).

However, as we get under such arguments, different and rather less high-minded reasons for child migration appear.

The public face of the scheme may have been directed towards the welfare of the child but no one could deny there were advantages to the agencies sending them. In the late nineteenth century, for instance, it cost about £12 a year to look after a child in an institution in Britain. To send one overseas was a one-off payment of £15.

Child migration was also a way of populating the colonies with ‘British stock’ and of providing a source of cheap labour.

Bean and Melville (1989: 40) argue that Dr Barnardo was the most influential figure in the child migration of the last half of the nineteenth century, ‘and his organization the most important’. The first party of 50 boys was sent to Canada in 1882; girls’ migration began in 1883 (the youngest being just four years old). Cost appears to have been a significant factor in Thomas Barnardo’s thinking – but it was another face that was turned to the public.

Overcrowding is a primary, if often unrecognised cause of the moral cesspools I and others are continually engaged in deodorising. It therefore behoves any scheme of large hearted Christian philanthropy to make at least an attempt to relieve the ‘population pressure’ in our congested cities. What avails it to take the weakest out of the struggle, to train them into robustness, and then to throw them back with their new accession of vital force into the crowd who are already engaged in snatching the morsels from each other’s mouths? The miseries of those yet unhelped would only be aggravated and intensified by such a process. (Barnardo 1889 quoted by Hitchman 1966: 64)

Having already established his agency in the public’s eye, and able to draw upon particular skills of showmanship and propaganda, Dr. Barnardo presented child migration as a much-needed policy. He was also able to convince host governments such as that of Canada of its efficacy. Reception homes were established and from them, children were placed. Those still at school stayed in the homes until they finished schooling – after which they were fostered with local families. Between 1882 and 1939 the agency sent over 30,000 children to Canada.

Thomas Barnardo was accused of ‘spiriting’ children away to Canada against the wishes of their parents (Hitchman 1966: 65) – and there were a number of court battles – and considerable concern within the Roman Catholic press that Dr. Barnardo’s efforts in this, and other areas, were directed at converting Catholic children. Later he reached an agreement with the Church to refer cases to Catholic care agencies if a child was found to be a member of the Church.

‘Boarding out’

Thomas Barnardo believed that families were generally preferable to institutions as places for bringing up children. For example, a high proportion of children who had been in the workhouse returned there. To deal with this problem Barnardo began to look at the possibilities of ‘boarding out’. This practice, of placing children with respectable families, often away from their own parish, had been used as a means of cutting child pauperism in a number of Scottish districts since the sixteenth century. Thomas Barnardo examined continental schemes as well as the Scottish – and decided that if boarding out (‘fostering’) was to work it had to be well organized and operated to certain minimum standards. The first major scheme began in 1886/1887 when 330 boys were sent to ‘good country homes’ – well away from the slums and pollution that he believed was so injurious to physical and moral well-being.

He chose boys between the ages of five and nine because he believed that it was young children who suffered most from institutional life. From his foster parents he demanded high standards. They should be cottagers and working-class people, living in homes that ‘promised satisfactory sanitary conditions, pure moral surroundings and a loving and Christian influence’. Foster parents must have enough accommodation and be well intentioned. (Rose 1987: 113)

Foster parents were paid five shillings per week for each child – but he was also keen to avoid making fostering the central income. He stipulated that foster fees should not be the sole income of widows, for example.

Exhibit 2: Barnardo’s foster parent agreement

Foster parents were required to sign a substantial agreement form. They had to agree:

1. To bring up the said child carefully, kindly and in all respects as one of my family.

2. To provide the said child with proper food, clothing, washing, lodging and school fees.

3. To endeavour to train the said child in habits of truthfulness, obedience, personal cleanliness and industry.

4. To take care that the said child shall attend duly at church or chapel, and shall be taught the habit of daily prayer.

5. To take care that the said child, when of suitable age, shall attend regularly at a public elementary school.

6. To communicate with the lady and gentleman who has charge of the children in the district upon all matters affecting the welfare of the said child; and in the case of… illness to report it immediately … and if necessary at once to call in the assistance of a medical man.

7. To forward to the Director for inspection all letters which may be received from relatives or friends of the said child, before allowing the same to be opened… and not to enter into any correspondence myself with any person who may claim relationship.

8. At all times, to permit the said child to be visited by any person appointed by the Director and to permit not visit from relatives or friends of the child without the Director’s authorization.

9. To restore the said child to any person sent by the Director to receive it, on getting one fortnight’s notice of removal or equivalent payment.

(quoted in Rose 1987: 114)

Alongside the contractual and financial arrangements, Thomas Barnardo appointed a doctor to visit foster homes at irregular intervals (but at least every three months) to report on children’s welfare and conditions in the homes. A woman physician, Jane Walker was the first such visitor – and her reports indicate that the scheme was successful -with children avoiding the stigmatization of being ‘charity children’ – although she did recommend various amendments to the scheme (for example restricting the number of Barnardo children in a single village). There was also local supervision in the form of a committee involving, for example, the local minister, and ‘worthies’).

By 1893 there were more than 2000 children boarded out. It was a more effective practice than homes in many respects – but it was difficult to raise funds for. It was far easier to get money for something very visible like the Village Home than for the sorts of regular payments due to foster parents. Further developments included a scheme to board out illegitimate babies close to their mothers (provided that the girl was otherwise of ‘good character’ and pregnancy was a ‘lapse’) (see Williams 1953: 124-5). The mother would then go into service with an approved employer – and in her time off (half a day a week usually) would visit the child. He also sought to make the father, where this was possible, contribute towards the cost of maintenance. This scheme met with a certain amount of criticism and resistance. Many charities refused to offer help to such mothers as it was seen as rewarding immorality.

Dr Thomas Barnardo and controversy

Thomas Barnardo shared a number of qualities with other charismatic founders of philanthropic organizations – a belief in the rightness of his actions and his analysis; the ability to network and to present work in ways that opened purse strings; the facility to graft and work hard; and an ever-changing list of possible projects and plans. As one project got underway another one was starting. As Rose (1987: 47) comments with ‘his great talent for publicizing his work and the grandiose plans he unveiled, it was inevitable that he would provoke gossip and speculation’.

A range of accusations was thrown at Barnardo. These included:

… that the homes were badly managed; that the boys were cruelly treated; that the children and the Homes were specially prepared for the arrival of visitors; that the children suffered from disease, the consequence of the the neglect of simple sanitary precautions, and of poor diet; that there was scarcely any religious or moral training; that the Doctor’s stories of rescues were grossly exagerated, and the photographs he published were faked and therefore deceptive.

Of Barnardo himself it was said that he had no claim to the title of ‘Doctor’, and that he had improperly appropriated part of the funds received for the Homes to his own use and benefit. He was even charged with immorality. (Williams 1953: 110)

The scale and range of the charges were such that Barnardo called upon his Trustees to examine the situation. But this examination did not satisfy criticism and with the publication of a booklet Dr Barnardo’s Homes: Startling revelations it was clear that stronger action was needed. Thomas Barnardo was opposed to instituting an action for libel and instead opted for arbitration under an Order of Court. In October 1877, the Arbitrators issued a substantial document which stated that they were unanimous in their decision that there was no evidence to support the serious charges laid against him. They were critical, however, of his methods in some areas – and of the fact that at that time he had no proper Committee overseeing his work and that of the homes. However, as we have seen, even though he then organized a committee, there were times when he ran roughshod over its decisions.

Barnardo also believed that significant aspects of the laws surrounding children were wrong – and, as a result, flagrantly broke them. He argued that the highest law was that of compassion:

I have rescued (or if abducted if you will) little boys and girls from the custody of parents and guardians who were, to my knowledge, leading infamous and immoral lives; or who were, by their conduct, about to inflict upon unfortunate children in their care grievous wrong. (Barnardo quoted by Hitchman 1966: 104)

There were significant dangers in this orientation – especially in its lack of regard for what parents or the children themselves might think. A disposition to the right rather than the correct is a necessary part of a calling in this area – but the notion of the ‘good’ involved, while individual, has to be shared. It is the extent to which Thomas Barnardo was an autocrat – and imposed his thinking upon others – that are, and were, matters of great concern.


What is the significance of all this for practitioners of social work and youth work today? The entrepreneurialism of Dr Thomas Barnardo finds an echo in many youth, community and voluntary organizations in which informal educators function. His methods – the use of outreach, the emphasis on education and training, and upon creating an environment where the well-being of the child or young person comes into focus are also familiar. He also professed concern for the whole person (although just how he interpreted it is a matter of some debate). His fundraising activities raised the profile of work with children and young people. His organizing skills brought about a significant extension of practice. As we have seen, there are significant questions around some of his practices (especially with the benefit of hindsight) and around some of his personal characteristics – but Dr Thomas Barnardo left an indelible mark on the development of social care and practice with children and young people.

Further reading and references

Bean, P. and Melville, J. (1989) Lost Children of the Empire. The untold story of Britain’s child migrants, London: Unwin Hyman. 177 pages. A rightly angry account of the child migration and of the work of the Child Migrants Trust.

Hitchman, J. (1966) They Carried the Sword. The Barnardo story, London: Victor Gollancz. 160 pages. An account of Dr Barnardo and the homes etc. written by an ex-Barnardo girl.

Rose, J. (1987) For the Sake of the Children. Inside Dr Barnardo’s. 120 years of caring for children, London: Hodder and Stoughton. 335 pages. Using official sources plus interviews from former Barnardo ‘boys and girls’ Rose provides a good overview of the history of the organization and its work. She includes material on the impact of the mass emigration policies pursued by Barnardos.

Wagner, G. (1979) Barnardo, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Wagner, G. (1982) Children of the Empire, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Williams, A. E. (1943, 1953) Barnardo of Stepney. The father of nobody’s children, London: George Allen and Unwin. 233 + xii pages. Williams was Barnardo’s secretary for seven years – and provides an insightful ‘insider’s’ account of the man and his work.


The Ragged School Museum: material on ragged schooling and the experiences of their students from the museum, based in Dr Barnardo’s old Cromwell Road School. There is also a developing series of pages on the experiences of people living in London’s East End.

Acknowledgements: The picture of The Ragged School founded by Thomas Barnardo was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph’s page on the Geograph website for the photographer’s contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Nigel Cox and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The picture or Dr Thomas Barnardo is circa 1868. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons, it is believed to be in the public domain.

The picture of Barnardo teachers and children was sourced from Wikimedia Commons and dates from around 1871 (believed to be in the public domain).

To cite this article: Smith, M. K. (2002, 2020). ‘Thomas John Barnardo (‘the Doctor’)’ and work with children and young people, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [ Retrieved: insert date].

©  Mark K. Smith 2002, 2020