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Foundling Hospital a home for children…

The Foundling Hospital London 1741

The Foundling Hospital was opened in 1741, at a time when more than half the babies born in London did not survive, what a dreadful statistic that is.

In the Poor Houses and Workhouses poor and illegitimate children had an even lower chance, more than 90% did not survive:

  • Despite some excesses of higher society, the period of the Enlightenment had created a more liberal  environment in the early 18th century in which a number of wealthy individuals horrified by the conditions for the poor stood up and created initiatives, organisations and funds to improve the lot of the poor.
    •  The Latitudinarian branch of the Church of England partly accounted for this new liberalism, fuelled by the thinking of philosopher John Locke, they emphasised benevolent deeds as opposed to mere church worship.
    • The drive for social reform in London was largely driven the desire to reduce the terrible waste of life.
  • Thomas CORAM was once such enlightened philanthropist, who horrified at seeing children die on the streets, decided to establish the Foundling Hospital ‘for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children’.
    • It was a registered charity and reliant on donations, the organisation still exists today some 400 hundred years later.
    • There was not enough money to accept every needy child unfortunately, and an age limit was set that the baby must be only two months or less
    • 20 children were admitted each month and demand more than outstripped the available places, so places were highly valued.
    • Selection was just pot luck with a black or white ball pulled from a sack by the mother of the child.
    • Sadly so poor was the health of the babies that more than two thirds did not survive
  • The mothers could leave a token button, ribbon or piece of fabric which they would need to identify should they ever wish to reclaim the children. They would have to provide the other half of the token to claim the child.
    • Of the 16,282 babies brought to the hospital between 1741 and 1760, only 152 were ever reclaimed.

Foundling Hospital London Coram Fields

  • Seven acres (28,000 m²) of it were purchased for use as a playground for children with financial support from the newspaper proprietor Lord Rothermere.
  • This area is often used by children who are in- or out-patients at the nearby Great Ormond Street Hospital, and is owned by a separate charity called Coram’s Fields.
  • The Foundling Hospital itself bought back 2.5 acres (10,000 m²) of land in 1937 and built a new headquarters and a children’s centre on the site.
  • The replacement smaller building houses the Foundling Museum, an independent charity, where the art collection can be viewed and forms part of it’s major assets.

The original charity still exists as one of London’s largest children’s charities, the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children (now using the working name Coram) and operates in adjacent buildings, constructed in the 1950s.

The Foundling Hospital Museum: currently located in a newer building than the original at 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ

  • Foundling Hospital, Asylum For Children, Guilford Street, Including No 40 Brunswick Square and No 47 Mecklenburgh Square, London


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