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The Death of Our Founder

Release Date: 19 Sep 2017

This blog from our archive department focuses on the anniversary of the death of our founder, Thomas Barnardo. We're sharing previously unseen footage and images from the funeral procession and the days that followed.

On the 19th September 1905 Thomas Barnardo died, and the nation mourned the loss of a man who was arguably one of the greatest believers in children and young people the world had ever known.

That may sounds excessive, but not when you consider the impact his death had on the nation, and the mourning that followed. Today, 112 years later, we are sharing some of the funeral footage and images from Barnardo's archive.

Dr Barnardo died at his home in St Leonards Lodge, Surbiton, at 6pm that Tuesday evening in September. His family kept the news of his death from the organisation that bore his name until the following morning.

Once news emerged, every newspaper across the nation carried long death notices with headlines variously describing him as  "the nations benefactor", "the famous philanthropist", and "friend to the homeless children". Tributes and stories of his work filled many columns and, to allay public anxiety at the future of the organisation, William Baker, a long time friend, supporter and Barnardo's council member, was immediately announced as Barnardo's replacement.

In her memoirs, Mrs Barnardo recounted how she received letters of condolence from across the globe and highlighted a note from the King and Queen in which the Queen expressed the wish that his "splendid life-long work may be kept up as an everlasting tribute to his memory".

It was quickly clear that special arrangements would have to be made for the funeral in view of the great public interest. Barnardo's son-in-law, Henry Wellcome, a highly successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist, offered to help and subsequently took on the management of the funeral.

From Sunday 24th September, Barnardo's body lay "in state" at The Edinburgh Castle Mission Church in east London for three days to give children, former children and staff an opportunity to pay their respects.

Dr Barnardo's Funeral 1Dr Barnardo's Funeral 2

The following Wednesday, a procession of staff, officers and children followed the coffin to Liverpool Street Station from Mile End, where they were met by the Barnardo family. The streets were lined with people paying their respects. The only other "commoner" to have a funeral procession of this size was Winston Churchill in 1965.

Dr Barnardo's Funeral 3

Special permission was sought for the cortege to be taken by train to Barkingside where the funeral service was held. A colossal marquee was erected on the main green to accommodate the huge number of mourners on that rainy afternoon.

Dr Barnardo's Funeral 4

After the service, the coffin was taken to the Village church to "lie in state" for several more days. In his Last Will and Testament, Barnardo had instructed that his body be cremated after death and his ashes were buried at a spot chosen by him at the Girls Village Home in Barkingside. This detail was not made public at the time.

His burial spot is marked with a memorial and is situated next to Cairns Cottage (the clock tower), which at the time would have been the centre of the Barnardo Girls Village Home. It was created by the renowned sculptor George Frampton, installed in 1908 and designed as a place for quiet thought and contemplation.

The woman at the top of the memorial depicts charity, protecting the children encircled in her arms. Below the lion within the crown replicates a ring worn by Barnardo and below Thomas Barnardo are three girls, all modelled on girls who were resident in the village at the time. The inscription at the base was taken from Barnardo's Last Will and Testament.

Dr Barnardo's Funeral 5

The life of Thomas Barnardo is celebrated with an annual service of Thanksgiving at the Village Church in Barkingside every September.

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