A memorial paying tribute to more than 500 children buried in unmarked graves has been unveiled in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.

The sculpture depicting two hands cupping a cockney sparrow was revealed in a ceremony on Monday, December 8.

The two-metre high statue commemorates 513 Barnardo’s children who where buried in the Victorian cemetery between 1876 and 1924.

Although they were given proper funerals, they did not receive headstones because the charity’s founder, Thomas Barnardo, survived on a shoestring to care for London’s most vulnerable children.

Money for the £10,000 sculpture was raised single-handedly by Jean Clark, a former Barnardo’s resident who now lives in Birmingham.

Jean Clark raised £10,000 to pay for the sculpture

She said: “It’s been a labour of love to give these children the recognition they deserve. As someone who grew up in Barnardo’s care, I regard them as my brothers and sisters and wanted to ensure their lives are recognised.”

The children were discovered thanks to hours of research by volunteers from the Friends of Tower Hamlets Park heritage team.

And the sculpture was crafted by master carver Tom Nicholls, who worked on the Queen’s Jubilee barge, and unveiled by David Barnardo, the great-great nephew of charity founder Thomas Barnardo.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “This remarkable project has been made possible by a group of dedicated, passionate volunteers, particularly Jean Clark, who has single-handedly raised the funds required to bring Tom Nicholls’ beautiful creation to life.

“The incredible work of the volunteer heritage team is also to be commended. They have spent several years searching through burial records for the names of the children concerned, so that they can have a fitting memorial in the form of this stunning sculpture.”

Biographies of some of the buried children

Joseph Harley

Joseph was born at the Liverpool Union Workhouse in 1885 and admitted to Barnardo’s care at the age of seven, in 1893. His mother had been employed as general help in a sailors’ boarding house where his father was said to have stayed when visiting Liverpool from Africa. At the age of five, Joseph underwent surgery at the Royal Infirmary to correct leg weakness. Once in the care of Barnardo’s, Joseph was boarded out in Great Totham. Some years later, Joseph developed consumption.

He died in late December 1903 and was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in January 1904.

Henry Lyford

Henry was born at Bristol in 1874. In 1877, at the age of three, he and his sister Lillie were admitted to Barnardo’s. Their mother had suffered a difficult life and was unable to cope. Having lost her position as a domestic servant, she felt that if the charity could provide care for the children she could begin to find work. Once in the charity’s care Henry spent time at Church House. In February 1880 he suffered inflammation of the kidneys and was moved to the Infirmary at Stepney Causeway. His illness was sudden and he sadly passed away just a few days later.

Henry was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in February 1880.

John Mills

John was admitted to Barnardo’s in January 1875, aged nine. His father was a labourer who had died some years earlier and his mother a seamstress working in the most destitute parts of east London. John had attended the Hope Place Free School, a ragged school run by Dr Barnardo’s East End Juvenile Mission, but when his mother began suffering from heart disease and was no longer able to care for him, he came into Barnardo’s care. He spent over a year in the charity’s care before being moved to the Devonshire Cottage Infirmary where he passed away. John was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in May 1876 and his funeral was attended by Thomas Barnardo.

Pedro F. Bismark

Pedro was born in Africa and at the age of 16 in 1887, he was admitted to Barnardo’s. He was unaware of the details of his birth, the names of his parents or any relatives, nor where he was born. It is thought that Pedro came to England around three years prior to his admission into Barnardo’s care. He had been employed as a house boy in a vicarage, but the hardships he had endured in Africa and on his travels had left him with health problems which meant that he struggled with the work. Once in Barnardo’s care Pedro spent time at Cairns House, in Stepney Causeway. In May 1887, he was moved to the infirmary suffering from pneumonia and passed away in early 1888.

Pedro was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in January 1888.

William F. Long

William was born at Southampton in June 1902. He and a brother George were admitted into Barnardo’s care in 1912. The boys were sons of a coal trimmer who perished while aboard the RMS Titanic passenger liner. Their mother was too ill to care for them and they had been passed among a number of relatives prior to their admission. William spent time at Barnardo’s homes in Teighmore and Epsom, before becoming ill himself in 1917. He stayed at both the Boys Home at Stepney Causeway and Her Majesty’s Hospital before eventually succumbing to illness in July 1920. William was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in July 1920 and records state that his mother had planned to attend his funeral.

William R. Howard

William was born in London during 1884. He and a sister Catherine were admitted to Barnardo’s in 1892. William was aged seven at the time and was recorded as being a hermaphrodite. His mother had died of consumption in 1890, and his father placed the two children with a maternal aunt. Here the children suffered neglect and an application for their acceptance into Barnardo’s care was made. During his time in Barnardo’s, William was boarded out twice, but in early 1897 he became seriously ill and passed away.

William was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in February 1897.

Violet A. Beckett

Violet was born in 1903 at Wandsworth, London. In 1909, at the age of six, she and her sisters Daisy and Lily were admitted to Barnardo’s. Their father had been a bricklayer, who in his later years had owned a small general shop. He died of pneumonia in 1906 and the girls’ mother continued to run the shop. Sadly, the children were orphaned when she too passed away, in 1909. Once admitted to Barnardo’s care, Violet spent a few short months boarded out at Wickham Market before she fell ill. She was moved to Her Majesty’s Hospital but passed away in August 1909.

Violet was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in August 1909.

Margaret Care

Margaret was born in Canterbury. At the age of 14, in 1900, she and four siblings were admitted to Barnardo’s care. The children had come into Barnardo’s after both of their parents had died from consumption. Margaret spent time at The Beehive, a home for older Barnardo’s girls in Hackney, London, before contracting an illness.

She was suffering from ‘acute pulmonary tuberculosis’ and was moved to Her Majesty’s Hospital in June 1901. Sadly, the disease developed rapidly and in October 1901 Margaret passed away.

Margaret was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in October 1901.

Mary J. Peacock

Mary was born in Durham during 1890. She was admitted to Barnardo’s from the Darlington Union Workhouse in 1904. At the time she was suffering from Raynauds syndrome, and once admitted to the charity’s care was placed into Her Majesty’s Hospital. Mary also spent time at the convalescent home for children in Felixstowe, Suffolk. In October 1905 she returned to Her Majesty’s Hospital, suffering from pleurisy and pneumonia. She was seriously ill and despite the best efforts of medical staff, Mary passed away in March 1906.

Mary was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in March 1906.

Lilian E. Brown

Lilian was born in January 1899 and was admitted to Barnardo’s in May 1914. Consumption had claimed the life of her mother in 1908 and her father in 1913. Lilian was the only one of five children admitted to the charity. She suffered from rickets and a ‘lateral curvature of the spine’, which caused her to be very small for her age. Prior to admission she had also undergone surgery to correct deafness. She spent a number of months at a Barnardo’s home for children with vision and hearing problems, before moving to Her Majesty’s Hospital in December 1914. She was suffering from mastoiditis and passed away in January 1915.

Lilian was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in January 1915.

Annie D. Waterman

Annie was born in London during November 1896. In 1903, at the age of six, she and a sister Emily were admitted to Barnardo’s. The girl’s father had been a lath render who died of consumption. Their mother had managed to cope for a while, but after the birth of another sibling she was unable to provide for all three children. Annie suffered from Strabismus, caused by ulcers in her eyes, for which she had received treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital before her admission to Barnardo’s. Once in the charity’s care, Annie spent time at the Girls Village Home, Barkingside, as well as in Stoke Ferry, where she had been boarded out. In March 1910, Annie was placed in Her Majesty’s Hospital, having contracted tuberculosis. She passed away from the disease in May of the same year.

Annie was buried in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in May 1910.

Harriett Trembath

Harriett was born in 1887 at Pendeen, Cornwall. At the age of four, in 1891, she was admitted to Barnardo’s with a sister, Elizabeth. Harriet’s mother had been abandoned by both her husband, who had emigrated years before, and the father of Harriet and the youngest sibling. Without a consistent income, she was unable to provide care with all four of her children and the two girls were placed into Barnardo’s care. Harriet spent a number of years boarded out in Acton, as well as some time at The Girls Village Home, Barkingside and The Beehive home in Hackney, before being admitted to Her Majesty’s Hospital, Stepney Causeway. She was suffering from tubercular peritonitis and passed away from the illness in July 1901.

Harriett was buried at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in July 1901.

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