Foundling Hospital

Orphanage in/near Bloomsbury, existing until 1926

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Orphanage · Bloomsbury · WC1N ·
MARCH
28
2017

The Foundling Hospital in London was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram.

An early print of the Foundling Hospital.
It was a children's home established for the education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children. The word 'hospital' was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply indicating the institution's hospitality to those less fortunate.

The first children were admitted to the Foundling Hospital on 25 March 1741, into a temporary house located in Hatton Garden. At first, no questions were asked about child or parent, but a distinguishing token was put on each child by the parent. These were often marked coins, trinkets, pieces of cotton or ribbon, verses written on scraps of paper. Clothes, if any, were carefully recorded. One entry in the record reads, Paper on the breast, clout on the head. The applications became too numerous, and a system of balloting with red, white and black balls was adopted. Children were seldom taken after they were twelve months old.

On reception, children were sent to wet nurses in the countryside, where they stayed until they were about four or five years old. At sixteen girls were generally apprenticed as servants for four years; at fourteen, boys were apprenticed into variety of occupations, typically for seven years. There was a small benevolent fund for adults.

In September 1742, the stone of the new Hospital was laid in the area known as Bloomsbury, lying north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray's Inn Lane. The Hospital was designed by Theodore Jacobsen as a plain brick building with two wings and a chapel, built around an open courtyard. The western wing was finished in October 1745. An eastern wing was added in 1752 'in order that the girls might be kept separate from the boys'. The new Hospital was described as 'the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence' and became London's most popular charity.

In 1756, the House of Commons resolved that all children offered should be received, that local receiving places should be appointed all over the country, and that the funds should be publicly guaranteed. A basket was accordingly hung outside the hospital; the maximum age for admission was raised from two months to twelve, and a flood of children poured in from country workhouses. In less than four years 14,934 children were presented, and a vile trade grew up among vagrants, who sometimes became known as Coram Men, of promising to carry children from the country to the hospital, an undertaking which they often did not perform or performed with great cruelty. Of these 15,000, only 4,400 survived to be apprenticed out. The total expense was about £500,000, which alarmed the House of Commons. After throwing out a bill which proposed to raise the necessary funds by fees from a general system of parochial registration, they came to the conclusion that the indiscriminate admission should be discontinued. The hospital, being thus thrown on its own resources, adopted a system of receiving children only with considerable sums (e.g., £100), which sometimes led to the children being reclaimed by the parent.

This practice was finally stopped in 1801; and it henceforth became a fundamental rule that no money was to be received. The committee of inquiry had to be satisfied of the previous good character and present necessity of the mother, and that the father of the child had deserted both mother and child, and that the reception of the child would probably replace the mother in the course of virtue and in the way of an honest livelihood. At that time, illegitimacy carried deep stigma, especially for the mother but also for the child. All the children at the Foundling Hospital were those of unmarried women, and they were all first children of their mothers. The principle was in fact that laid down by Henry Fielding in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling: Too true I am afraid it is that many women have become abandoned and have sunk to the last degree of vice

Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is an area of the London Borough of Camden, in central London, between Euston Road and Holborn, developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area.

The earliest record of what would become Bloomsbury is the 1086 Domesday Book, which records that the area had vineyards and 'wood for 100 pigs'. But it is not until 1201 that the name Bloomsbury is first noted, when William de Blemond, a Norman landowner, acquired the land.

The name Bloomsbury is a development from Blemondisberi – the bury, or manor, of Blemond. An 1878 publication, Old and New London: Volume 4, mentions the idea that the area was named after a village called Lomesbury which formerly stood where Bloomsbury Square is now, though this piece of folk etymology is now discredited.

At the end of the 14th century Edward III acquired Blemond's manor, and passed it on to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse, who kept the area mostly rural.

In the 16th century, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII took the land back into the possession of the Crown, and granted it to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton.

In the early 1660s, the Earl of Southampton constructed what eventually became Bloomsbury Square. The area was laid out mainly in the 18th century, largely by landowners such as Wriothesley Russell, 3rd Duke of Bedford, who built Bloomsbury Market, which opened in 1730. The major development of the squares that we see today started in about 1800 when Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford removed Bedford House and developed the land to the north with Russell Square as its centrepiece.

Historically, Bloomsbury is associated with the arts, education, and medicine. The area gives its name to the Bloomsbury Group of artists, the most famous of whom was Virginia Woolf, who met in private homes in the area in the early 1900s, and to the lesser known Bloomsbury Gang of Whigs formed in 1765 by John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford.

The publisher Faber & Faber used to be located in Queen Square, though at the time T. S. Eliot was editor the offices were in Tavistock Square. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents' house on Gower Street in 1848.

The Bloomsbury Festival was launched in 2006 when local resident Roma Backhouse was commissioned to mark the re-opening of the Brunswick Centre, a residential and shopping area. The free festival is a celebration of the local area, partnering with galleries, libraries and museums, and achieved charitable status at the end of 2012.
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