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Monument to 513 Barnardo’s children buried in unmarked graves a century ago unveiled in London

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Thomas Barnardo

A MONUMENT to hundreds of orphans cared for by Irishman Thomas Barnardo’s charity and buried in unmarked graves was unveiled in east London today.

The two-metre high Portland stone sculpture features a pair of hands releasing a symbolic cockney sparrow.

It has been erected in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in honour of 513 deprived children who were buried between 1876 and 1924.

Thomas Barnardo, the Irishman who founded Barnardo’s charity in 1867, buried three of his own children – Thomas, Kenward and Herbert – who died in early childhood and were interred with hundreds of others.

Every child was given a proper funeral and burial, but Barnardo’s were unable to afford gravestones due to the shoestring budget which allowed the charity survive through the poverty of Victorian London.

Money for the £10,000 sculpture was stumped up single-handedly by Jean Clark, a former Barnardo’s child from Birmingham.

“It’s been a labour of love to give these children the recognition they deserve,” she said.

“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’s unmarked graves were discovered thanks to thousands of hours of research by volunteers from Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park heritage team.

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’s 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.”

The memorial sculpture was crafted by master carver Tom Nicholls, who also worked on the Queen’s Jubilee barge.

It was unveiled by David Barnardo, the great-great nephew of the charity’s founder, Dubliner Thomas Barnardo, who died in 1905 aged 60.

Barnardo founded the first Barnardo’s house in 1867 in the East End to care for abandoned and deprived children.

Though Barnardo’s level of care was ahead of its time, many children died due to the lack of available healthcare and sanitary conditions.

The monument marks the first time the forgotten children of Barnardo’s who were buried in anonymous graves have been remembered.

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