Local news for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets

Barnardo’s memorial honours orphans buried in unmarked graves

By on December 28, 2016 in History, Tower Hamlets

Friends, supporters and family of Barnado’s recently gathered at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park for the emotional unveiling of a memorial honouring 513 Barnado’s children, buried there in unmarked graves.

Volunteers from the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park heritage team spent four years tirelessly searching thousands of archive records for the names of Barnado’s children buried there, so they can be honoured and recognised.

David Barnado, the great-great nephew of Barnado's founder, Thomas Barnado and Jean Clark, a former Barnados girl and fundraiser unveil the memorial.

David Barnado, the great-great nephew of Barnado’s founder, Thomas Barnado and Jean Clark, a former Barnados girl and fundraiser unveil the memorial.

David Barnado, the great-great nephew of the Barnado’s charity’s founder, Thomas Barnado and Jean Clark, fundraiser and a former Barnado’s girl, unveiled the two meter high Portland stone sculpture showing a pair of hands releasing a symbolic cockney sparrow on Tuesday.

This is the third memorial that Jean Clark has fundraised single handedly for and she says that “As someone who grew up in Barnado’s care, I regard them as my brothers and sisters and wanted to ensure their lives are recognised”.

During the unveiling ceremony, held in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, guests listened to touching stories about the children remembered and buried in the cemetery park, read by former Barnado children and staff.

One of the people attending the service was Mayor John Biggs. “I had a personal interest [in the memorial] given that my grandfather grew up in a Barnardo’s home, and an interest also as Mayor, given that Barnardo’s was founded in the East End and its fantastic record of care is something we should all be proud of.” he said.

Doctor Thomas Barnado was born in Dublin in 1845 and studied as a medical student at the London Hospital in Whitechapel, moving to the east end in 1866, when he took lodgings in Stepney.

Shortly after he arrived in Whitechapel an outbreak of cholera killed over 3,000 people in east London, which left families destitute and children begging and sleeping on the streets after the death of the only breadwinner in the home.

Appalled and distressed by the situation, Barnado set up a Mission in Stepney, where poor children could get a basic education and he bought up further properties in the borough for the children to live and be educated in across the east end, with “No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission”.

From the foundation of the first Barnardo’s home in 1870 to the date of Barnardo’s death, nearly 100,000 children had been rescued, trained and given a better life.

A t memorial to honour 513 Barnardo's children buried in unmarked graves is unveiled in Tower Hamlets Cemetry Park in east London.

A t memorial to honour 513 Barnardo’s children buried in unmarked graves is unveiled in Tower Hamlets Cemetry Park in east London.

Children who died in Barnado’s care were respectfully buried in individual public graves, but without headstones, as Barnado thought it unnecessary to spend more money on the burials than necessary. Barnado himself, lived on a shoestring and spent all his money caring for London’s most vulnerable children.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Barnado’s charity so it is fitting that the “Now unforgotten faces of the past” are remembered in Tower Hamlets, where his work began, just a stone’s throw from Wapping.

Wording on the memorial.

“I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight” – inscription on the memorial.

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  1. Elaine Delay says:

    Thank you for this Love Wapping – what an amazing difference this memorial will make. Have a great New Year!

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