Goldings Web Photo Gallery
By Frank Cooke ©
photos from Barnardo's archive

Stepney Causeway,
London E1.

No. 18 Stepney Causeway was opened December 1870 as a home for working and homeless boys on a 99 year lease @ £57.00 per year. The home houses 60 boys in 5 bedrooms. In 1908 provided trade training and general education. Then in 1888 it was reported the dormitories are the perfection of comfort, cleanliness, and neatness. Each room accommodated eighty boys, and every dormitory has its separate matron , who is responsible for its good order. The huge dining room is a bright, airy apartment, lined throughout with glazed tiles. The kitchens include a large bakery, where some 600 loaves of bread are baked daily and distributed among the various branch institutions in London. There are extensive bathrooms and a splendid swimming-bath, which contains 38,000 gallons of water. In the different workshops the lads are taught carpentry, engineering, brush-making, shoe-making, and tailoring , whilst others are trained in the kitchens as cooks and bakers.

There are two large school-rooms under the charge of certificated masters and subject to the regular Government inspection. Dr. Barnardo's system of education is an admirable one, and its adoption in other institutions would be of immense practical benefit to the masses of London. Half the day the lads are under the tuition of the schoolmasters and the other half they spend in learning some useful trade.

On the 19th April 1922, 260 boys marched out from Stepney to go to their new home, The William Baker Technical School, Goldings, Hertford, Herts. The Prince of Wales opened the school officially on 17th November 1922 it would have been the 15th but a general election had been called for that day. So the date was moved two day to the Friday.

No. 10 open all night shelter. Opened 1874 for homeless children, Number 10 stayed open until 1939 when Stepney was evacuated. It never re-opened after the war.

No. 19 was opened in 1877, a hospital unit for sick children. 1 Bower Street, Stepney. Opened 1885 change house for boys. 1908 used for boys with suspected infectious diseases. No reference by 1911. Nos. 12, 13 and 16 Marie Hilton Crèche. Opened 1899 day nursery for babies and young children of working others. 1908  nos. 14 and 16. 1925 Nos 15, 16, 21, 23, 25 and 27. 1926 also nurses home. In 1939 Stepney closed for the duration of war. No. 30 opened 1903  used for children with suspected infectious diseases, closed by 1914. No. 4 was opened in 1945 to house boys in a temporary hostel for the over 14 years. Closed April 1967.

One boy who found himself at Stepney like so many wrote:

I wonder if the taxi-driver knew what a fateful journey he was taking his young passenger on that spiritless March morning in 1937. I suppose not, but certainly he must have known that something was amiss from the aura of sadness that was upon us as he drew up outside Dr Barnardo's 'Ever Open Door' at Stepney Causeway, E.1.

Aunty Mary took me by the hand and led me into the building. I was terrified and began to scream as loudly as my lungs would allow  it was as though I instinctively knew of the aggravation that was in store for me. Aunty Mary clasped me tightly to her bosom and tried to pacify me, but I would have none of it. I broke away from her and ran to a corner at the far end of the huge reception hall, bawling my head off, my screams ring in my ears even today. To one side of the hall there was a hatchway rather like a ticket office at a railway station. Uncle D. stood talking to someone on the other side of it, I did not hear what they were talking about but seem to remember some documents being signed. So that was it, the final abandonment, being signed away like lost property. I do not remember the exact moment that Aunty Mary and Uncle D. left, indeed I do not recall a single incident of the following ten days, during which time I was given various tests and a thorough medical examination. An extract from the doctor's report dated the same day as admission reads:

HEIGHT: 45½. Inches. WEIGHT: 48¾ lbs. MEASLES: No. SCARLET FEVER: No. DIPHTHERIA: No. WHOOPING COUGH: Yes. TEETH: F/G. GENERAL PHYSIQUE: F/G. Lymphatic Gland. MENTAL CONDITION: Backward (does not know letters). DISPOSITION: ? GRADE: B2.

What a heart melting, tear-jerking waif I must have been, but no tears were shed except my own.

Frank Norman recounting his entry into Dr. Barnardo's, from his Book Banana Boy 1969.

A Focus on Stepney Causeway 1870 to 1966

The bridge belonged to the then London & Tilbury Railway

As a young student doctor at the London Hospital in Whitechapel, it didn't take Thomas John Barnardo long to realise the terrible conditions in which young children existed and lived in the poorer areas of the capital. Appalled at their existence, Doctor Barnardo opened a school where they could be taught the rudiments of reading, writing, and grammar. But this wasn't enough. His earnest desire was to open a home for the reception of destitute children.

In 1870 the dream came true. No 18 Stepney Causeway was acquired and the Home for Working and Destitute Lads came into existence. Forty years before Stepney Causeway had been a highly reputable street of dwellings for retired seamen who could not live unless within sight of their beloved Thames. But it came down in the world, and when Dr Barnardo found it the houses were dirty and dilapidated, and the property was cheap. 'The house was old and tumbledown, every floor of which shook under a heavy tread, in a narrow and squalid street hard by Stepney Station on the Commercial Road', wrote Dr Barnardo. 'When completed it will contain five dormitories.  here are besides, four rooms fitted up as lavatories, with basins, baths, etc, and also a good kitchen and wash-house, and a private room for the father and mother of the family; space for healthful recreation is provided by the back premises, which consist of a good yard, coach-house with stable and loft. The rent for all is £45 per annum, exclusive of taxes, which are about £12 more', wrote the Doctor.

In 1874 the first Ever-Open-Door was opened at No 10 Stepney Causeway. It was open all night and for many years a lamp over the doorway, with the wording 'Children's Shelter open all Night' shone brightly in the Causeway. No child was ever turned away. A bath, a comfortable bed and breakfast was always ready, and the next morning the boy or girl was turned over to the Home a few doors away. In due course the accommodation became overcrowded and No 6 and 8'were added to the centre.

EXPANSION - to 1905

When Dr Barnardo leased No 18 he was granted an option on the adjoining premises, if needed later on. It was as well that this precaution was taken, for No 18 soon overflowed into No 20, and this in turn absorbed No 22, till within a few years the home occupied Numbers 18 to 26. By 1877, what had begun as one small house had grown to six large ones, and the freehold was bought with money given by the public. In the beginning it catered for 35 inmates - seven years later it was home to 253 boys.

In 1877 'We never refuse admission to a boy or girl on account of any physical defect or deformity which they may possess' was added to the charter of the Homes. 'Our Homes', wrote Dr Barnardo, 'are always widely open to those unfortunates, and in order to render them all the help that medical or surgical skill can afford the Infirmary for Sick Children has been erected on freehold land opposite the Home in Stepney Causeway.

By 1876 the rebuilding of No 20 to 26 had become a necessity. The houses, all but one, were condemned by the parish authorities as unsafe, and the trustees were compelled to pull them down. They were old and made of wood, and if fire had broken out it would have been disastrous. The main reason, however, was simply that there was not enough room for the boys and new admis­sions were being received every day.

The Infirmary for Sick Children, which had com­pleted 12 very useful years of service, had become inadequate to the growing needs of the work. 'In spite of straitened funds I was compelled to make preparations for a larger building,' wrote Dr Barnardo. The houses. adjacent to the Infirmary – No  13 to 15, and 17, were bought and in the autumn of 1887, 'It seemed', wrote the Doctor, to me and my co-workers that the time was ripe to arise and build.

The patients were temporarily moved to another home and Her Majesty's Hospital for Sick Children, designed as the Town Memorial of Her Majesty's Jubilee in 1887, rose on this site. A plain brick building of three and a half storeys, it cost £7,800. Among rooms in the basement there was a dispensary, kitchen, pantries, and a mortuary. The ground, first, second, and third floors had wards, and accommodation for the matron and nurses, ·and an operating room. The resident physician had an apartment on the fourth floor where there was also a boys' playroom, tank room, and a large, asphalted open-air exercising flat for convalescents. The hospital was connected with the Boys' Home opposite by a subway passing beneath the Causeway.

During 1898 No 12 Stepney Causeway was purchased, and in 1899 No 14 and 16, which had housed the Marie Hilton Crèche. Barnardo's kept the Crèche and until 1939 continued to look after East End babies by day whilst their mothers worked.

Dr Barnardo's Homes now owned the whole of one side of Stepney Causeway, from the Commercial Road to the railway line. Even that didn't stop the growth, for in 1903 a house at No 30, on the other side of the railway, was purchased and opened as an Isolation House where children suffering from ringworm, measles, suspected infectious diseases, and eye troubles were looked after.


Money was scarce. An overdraft was obtained, which was to plunge the Homes into debt until the Doctor's death in 1905, and the rebuilding eventually completed. In place of the old home stood a new four-storey brick and mortar building. The new home was still not large enough to house the boys, the number of residents varied between 300 to 450 in 1885 - the school rooms and workshops where they were educated and taught a trade, and the Central Offices where between 70 and 80 people were employed.

More additions were planned. Doctor Barnardo was anxious to acquire property in Bower Street, Stepney, which ran parallel to the Causeway and which the Home backed on to. Funds were raised and in 1887 a new dormitory was supplied by adding a fourth storey to the existing building in Stepney Causeway. This was split into four dormitories, each containing an average of 100 beds.

The 11 small houses which the Doctor so much desired in Bower Street, 'were unexpectedly thrown into the market', and in the space of a year the much sought after addition to the Homes was in use and the previously too small playground was now of an adequate size for the boys to play in, and the drill yard, where the boys exercised every morning, extended. The new building was connected to those in the Causeway by a covered bridge.

The trade block attached to the rear of the main building catered for carpentry, brush making, tailoring, shoe-making, baking, and engineering, to which were now added workshops for wheelwrights and tinsmiths, printers, blacksmiths, and for mat-making and harness making.

As early as 1912 the headquarters were thought in some respects to be far from convenient. Months of searching for a suitable property, not too far from Stepney, culminated in the purchase in 1921 of an estate known as Goldings, just outside Hertford. The school was renamed The William Baker Technical School, and in 1922, 300 of the Stepney boys moved to their new surroundings. Only 82 crippled boys remained and by the following year, 1923, they too had gone to pleasanter surroundings. The boys gone, Her Majesty's Hospital was no longer needed. Additional office accommodation was required for the increased administration staff at Stepney and the Hospital was soon reopened as an office block. Its new name - Barnardo House.

By 1930 the need to replace the old houses, No 6 to 18, had become a necessity. 'They are neat and tidy, but terribly old: indeed the last of the row has long been an ugly ruin and is now being demolished' says a report of 1930. The houses were still being used to accommodate new admit­tances and one was the original Ever-Open Door. They were also being used as overflow offices from the main buildings. A rebuilding fund was started and new up-to-date premises opened in 1933. Two relics of the old Homes were preserved - a fireplace which was presented to the London Museum, and the doorway to No 10, for long the entrance to the Barnardo Museum in Stepney Causeway and now on permanent loan to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

1939- 45

Barnardo's didn't escape the Blitz and the rain of bombs which fell on East London. In the autumn of 1940 Nazi fire bombs fell on No 20 to 26 and the whole of the top floor was gutted. Large reserves of clothing and toys put by for Christmas were lost - the publications department was destroyed, and the general office suffered considerable damage by water. Ten days later a high explosive bomb struck the food stores and wrecked the Resident Superintendents' house.  With the coming of war in 1939 the Receiving Houses, the Ever-Open-Door, and the Marie Hilton Crèche closed and the children were evacuated. The closure was for the duration of the war, but they were never to open again. In 1940 No 4 The Causeway opened as a working lads' hostel and remained as such until 1966.

The EXODUS - 1969

Ninety-nine years after the first home opened at No 18, Barnardo's was on the move. Why? Several years earlier it was learned that the premises were in an area designated by what is now the Greater London Council as a development area and that the buildings were to be pulled down. Secondly, premises designed as workshops and hospital wards do not make good offices. They are expensive to maintain, light and heat and space cannot be used to the most economical advantage. The premises provide approximately 132,000 square feet, of which some 10,000 square feet is not in use.

As part of Barnardo's stewardship of its resources, it is recognised and accepted that the administrative centre must be a more convenient building in which administration, streamlined for greater efficiency, can be carried on effectively. Accordingly, Barnardo's are moving on 18th March to a new, purpose-built Head Office at Barkingside, on land already owned by Barnardo's and forming part of the famous Village. Situated in Tanners Lane, Barkingside, it is a five-storey building with a connecting two-storey building, providing 72,000 square feet of office and storage space.


In 2008 it has been announced that the Barnardo's HQ shown above is to be knocked down and the land used for local housing


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