Foundling Hospital in London

Foundling Hospital in London

Why was the Foundling Hospital Built?

The Foundling Hospital in London was one of the first purpose home built for abandoned children whose mothers couldn’t provide for them due to poverty or social exclusion. The hospital began in Bloomsbury, London by Royal Charter in 1739 after a 17-year campaign for the establishment.

Foundling Hospital in London
Foundling Hospital, London in 1749

This campaign was spearheaded by the then shipbuilder and philanthropist, Thomas Coram after whom the hospital was later named and is still referred to as Coram.

How did Children get into Foundling Hospital?

In the beginning, there was a lot of confusion with the admission of children since it was initially in the ‘first come, first serve’ basis. However, it later changed to a ballot system where mother drew out balls to see if their children were admitted to the hospital.

If the mother drew out a while ball, the child was admitted if it was healthy, red meant that they were on a waiting list and black meant that they couldn’t be admitted to the hospital.

Band practise for the boys
Band practice for the boys

The main aims of this hospital were to provide shelter for children and help mothers to re-establishment themselves in society and become financially indecent before taking their children back from the hospital.

The first five years of the children’s lives were spent at a foster home so they could be wet-nursed. Then they were given a basic education of arithmetic, geometry,

There was not much importance given to education because the boys went into the military and the girls became domestic servants. The hospital acts as their guardians till they turn 21 and then provide support and care if required. Those girls who show some academic interest are allowed to pursue their studies at Camden Girls School.

Foundling Hospital in London

It was decided by the Hospital authorities that London was becoming too dirty to bring up children. The Hospital shifted temporarily to Surrey and then moved to a brand new building with a chapel, concert hall, dining room and swimming pool in Hertfordshire in 1935.

After the teachers were called to war from 1939 to 1945, a new set of younger and more qualified teachers were brought in. Many rules were relaxed and there was more importance given to education. The children were given assistance in finding their birth mothers. Girls started to learn shorthand and boys were also given the opportunity to pursue various occupations over than going into the military.

Uniforms in Foundling Hospital 

Boys had to wear military outfits and girls had to wear servant clothes complete with an apron. The children were not allowed to wear their own clothes. The clothes they possessed when they came from their foster homes were taken away and given regimental clothes.

Foundling Hospital Punishments 

While there was no corporate punishment for the younger children, a lot of bullying took place which ended up hurting numerous children. The children were not given any privacy and had to be subjected to humiliating searches.

Foundling Hospital in London

As they grew older and started classes, they were caned by their teachers and this as another cause for their humiliation. These actions were deeply imprinted in their minds and this affected hitter adult lives.

Shut Down of the School

The school was accused of using archaic ways to discipline their children according to the Curtis Report in 1946. It closed in 1954 and the building was sold to Hertfordshire County Council.   The hospital finally changed its name from Founding Hospital to the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children and is still run as a charity for vulnerable children.

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