The Barnardo Story

Marriage and Mossford Lodge

On June 17th 1873, Barnardo, now aged 28, married Syrie Elmslie, two years his junior and the daughter of a city businessman. The couple had met when Syrie, who ran a ragged school at Richmond, invited Barnardo to speak at a meeting and entertainment for poor boys.

Thomas Barnardo, 1873. © Peter Higginbotham

As a wedding gift, the Barnardos had been given the lease of Mossford Lodge, a large house at Barkingside near Ilford in Essex. Here, in the property's coach house, Barnardo was able to set up his first home for destitute and homeless girls, who were given training for domestic service. The home was managed by Syrie but she proved unsuited to the role. Barnardo also concluded that the girls needed a different style of accommodation.

Syrie Elmslie — Mrs Barnardo, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

The couple went on to have seven children: William Stuart (born 1874), Herbert (1876), Gwendoline (1879), Kenward (1881), Tom (1882), Cyril (1884) and Marjorie (1890). Tom, Herbert and Kenward died at a young age and Marjorie suffered from a lifelong disability. Gwendoline, who was known as Syrie married the wealthy American pharmaceutical manufacturer, Henry Wellcome, in 1901, then the author, William Somerset Maugham, in 1917.