Canon Samuel Barnett
Canon Barnett was the vicar of St Jude’s church on Commercial Street. The church was next door to where the school was eventually built in 1901.
Samuel and his wife Henrietta came to live here in 1865. All around them they saw poor families struggling to live and feed their children. He wanted to help them.
In 1901 with the help of a £6,000 donation from Passmore Edwards, who built the Whitechapel Library, Canon Barnett bought some land and built the Whitechapel Art Gallery. He wanted everyone who lived in the area to be able to see some of the finest art in the world.
He had it designed with no entrance steps so that everyone would just drop in. It also had electric lights which other museums and galleries did not have at this time. For their first exhibition 206,000 came to visit with 16,000 on one particularly successful day.
Also with the help of some money from Passmore Edwards he started the first free library in Whitechapel. This was finished in 1902.