Sunday 17 April 2016

No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission

"Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

NO DESTITUTE CHILD EVER REFUSED ADMISSION read the sign above the entrance to the Barnardo Home.  Started by the evangelical Christian Dr. Barnardo in 1866, Stepney House, located at 18 Stepney Causeway, provided shelter for London's poor and orphaned children.  The doctor, who hailed from Ireland, had worked in London's East End Hospital where he cared for cholera victims.  He had toured the rooftops of Whitechapel with orphan Jim Jarvis where he had seen street children living in filth.  The short figure had stood on a chair in the East End and ministered to the crowds about Jesus.  But when words failed to bring about change, he acted, opening Stepney House to shelter London's "waifs".


The Barnardo Home was leased for 99 years at 57 pounds per year.  It included five bedrooms which housed 60 boys.  In 1871, Stepney House was full and Dr. Barnardo was forced to turn away a red-haired boy, John Somers, nicknamed "Carrots".  Here is the doctor's account:

"When first I visited the Shades by midnight, or rather early morn, "Carrots" was there, and when by the offer of a halfpenny to each, I succeeded in counting out 73 destitute lads from the various shelters of old barrels, crates and packages in which they had been ensconced.  I thought I had seldom seen a more unpleasant specimen of boy life than he exhibited.  Having out of this number selected five poor lads to fill an equal number of beds in our Home, my memory vividly recalls the earnestness with which Carrots pleaded to be taken also, but alas, it could not be; we were already filled, and the five lads I then selected were as many as the funds in my hands warranted receiving.  A few mornings later, as some porters were moving a large sugar hogshead...they disturbed a sleeping boy...the porter took the form of the lad in his arms...only then did he perceive that "Carrots" was dead!" (


From then on, the evangelical vowed to never turn anyone else away.  The Home's slogan became "No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission".    In 1874, Dr. Barnardo opened 10 Stepney Causeway, the first open all hours shelter.  Two years later, Dr. Barnardo expanded the Home to include numbers 19 to 26.  By 1900, he added numbers 8 and 6.  By 1908, the Home offered a general education and trade training for the children.  The children who stayed in these Homes, were labelled Home Children.


While Stepney Causeway housed primarily boys, a second Home was opened for girls in Barkingside, outside of London, in 1876.  More Homes would follow but Dr. Barnardo could not keep up with the influx of destitute children.  For the next sixty years, 100,000 British home children, including my great-grandma, would immigrate to Canada as child labour.  The slogan at 18 Stepney Causeway, however, remained in practice.

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