In a quiet London square not far from the British Museum is Coram Fields, home of the Foundling Museum and the site of the original Foundling Hospital, started in 1741 by a philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. He had been shocked by the sight of infants exposed in the London streets and he agitated for seventeen years for the foundation of a foundling hospital. The museum explores and exhibits the work of this first children’s charity through art, music and…
Re-blogged from The History Girls
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Foundling Museum, in Coram’s Fields, London. It is also the 275th anniversary of the Foundling Hospital, started by Thomas Coram to care for London’s abandoned children. There are going to be lots of celebrations throughout the summer and if you haven’t been, I would very much recommend going in the next few months.
In 1722, Thomas Coram was fifty-four and had led a hard life at sea. On his return to London, he went to work in the City but chose to live in Rotherhithe, ‘the common Residence of Seafaring People’. Naturally inclined to hard work, he walked to and from the City at dawn and dusk, and was shocked to see so many ‘young Children exposed, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, and sometimes dying’. It took until 1739 for him to raise the money to open the hospital.
Coram’s success lay in petitioning London’s aristocracy and making philanthropy fashionable. William Hogarth and Handel were both governors and the Messiah was performed there for the benefit of the hospital. The first children were admitted on 25 March 1741. There to supervise their admission were the Duke of Richmond and William Hogarth. A crowd had gathered outside, and the porter struggled to close the door on those wanting to get in. Thirty children were admitted, made up of eighteen boys and twelve girls, and ‘the Expressions of Grief of the Women whose Children could not be admitted were Scarcely more observable than those of some of the Women who parted with their Children, so that a more moving Scene can’t well be imagined’.