BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58)
Shocked by the sight of abandoned infants in the streets of London, Captain Thomas Coram (see picture) in 1742 founded the Foundling Hospital, a caring, charitable institution. At first the hospital was established in temporary housing. Thereafter Coram and colleagues bought 56 acres from the Earl of Salisbury. Following the design by Theodore Jacobsen, construction of the Hospital started in 1742 and was ready for full occupancy in 1745. The intention of the hospital was to clothes, house, safeguard and educate children of unmarried women who could not care for them.
Rules were established that only the first child of an unmarried mother would be admitted. The child had to be an infant (i.e., under 12 months) and the father must have deserted both mother and child. Finally, the mother had to have a good prior reputation. Once accepted, the babies were sent to foster parents in the country until they were four to five years old, then brought back to the hospital for education. At age 14, the Hospital arranged for practical job training. Most of the boys joined the Army while the girls trained to be ladies' maids.
One of the Hospital's great benefactors was George Handel (1685-1759), the renowned composer. As a result of his early support, the Hospital became fashionable in British society and was able to garner continued financing. The English novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was favorably impressed by the hospital and was a regular member of the congregation that worshiped in the Hospital's church (see below). He lived at nearby Doughty Street from 1834 to 1837.
The Foundling Hospital remained at its original Guilford Street address until 1929 when the old building was demolished and moved to a new location.
Nichols RH, Wray FA. The History of the Foundling Hospital, 1935.
Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.