Ancestry UK

Labour House, Commercial Road, London

Barnardo's Labour House was opened in 1882 in premises at 622-626 Commercial Road, London E1. It provided lodgings and work for up to 120 boys aged seventeen or over who were too old for Barnardo's children's homes. Activities carried out at the establishment included wood-chopping, the manufacture of fire-lighters, and the operation of an aerated water factory.

The regime at the Labour House was tough. The boys were woken at 5.30am and worked from 6.00am until 6.30pm with half-hour breaks for breakfast, prayers, dinner and military drill. Following a thirty-minute recreation period, supper was served at seven and followed by evening classes until 9.15pm. Bedtime prayers were followed by lights-out at 10pm.

An important role of the Labour House was the preparation of boys for emigration to Canada, with many ending up at Barnardo's own Industrial Farm near Russell, Manitoba. From 1888 to 1907, the farm received around 1,660 British youngsters, with others sent to work on other farms in Manitoba.

Labour House, Commercial Road c.1907. © Peter Higginbotham

Wood delivery for Labour House, Commercial Road c.1907. © Peter Higginbotham

The Labour House closed in 1909. The building no longer exists.


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  • Barnardo, Syrie Louise, and Marchant, James Memoirs of the Late Dr Barnardo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907)
  • Batt, J.H. Dr. Barnardo: The Foster-Father of "Nobody's Children" (S.W. Partridge, 1904)
  • Bready, J. Wesley Doctor Barnardo (Allen & Unwin, 1930)
  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Rose, June For the Sake of the Children: Inside Dr. Barnardo's: 120 years of caring for children (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987)
  • Wagner, Gillian Barnardo (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1979)