Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Henrietta Barnett's birthdays

Samuel and Henrietta Barnett by H. von Herkomer (Toynbee Hall)

Today is the 160th birthday of Henrietta Barnett.

Henrietta Octavia Weston Rowland was born in Clapham on 4 May 1851. She married Samuel Augustus Barnett (born 1844) in 1873 who shortly afterwards became vicar of St Jude's, Whitechapel. There they founded Toynbee Hall and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. On her 56th birthday in 1907 Henrietta turned the first spade of earth for the construction of Hampstead Garden Suburb, and in October 1909 she did the same for the site of this St Jude's on Central Square.

For her 6oth birthday - a century ago today - Henrietta was presented with the tower and spire of the church "to symbolise the aspiration of the founders of the Suburb". It was dedicated on her 62nd birthday by the Bishop of London.

Henrietta died on 10 June 1936. At her funeral here on 15 June the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that what was "most remarkable in this one life was the way in which high ideals were translated into most practical action. . . . [and] the most conspicuous incident in her own life of this close union of the ideal and the practical was this Garden Suburb."

The Church of England commemorates Samuel and Henrietta together on 17 June each year - the anniversary of the former's death, and of therefore the couple's first 'birthday in heaven.

The current Bishop of London will be at St Jude's this Sunday 8 May at 1030 to celebrate the centenary of the consecration of the church on 7 May 1911 - a date almost certainly chosen because of its proximity to Henrietta's 60th birthday. All are welcome.