The Foundling Hospital and neighbourhood

Pages 356-368

Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.


In this section



"The helpless young that kiss no mother's hand
She gives in public families to live,
A sight to gladden Heaven."—Thomson.

Establishment of the Hospital by Captain Coram in Hatton Garden—Its Removal to Lamb's Conduit Fields—Parliamentary Grant to the Hospital—Wholesale Admission of Children—Tokens for the Identification of Children deposited in the Hospital—Withdrawal of the Parliamentary Grant—Rules and Regulations—Form of Petition for the Admission of Children—Baptism of the Infants—Wet-nurses—Education of the Children—Expenditure of the Establishment—Extracts from the Report of the Royal Commission—Origin of the Royal Academy of Arts—Hogarth's Liberality to the Institution—His "March of the Guards to Finchley Common"—The Picture Gallery—The Chapel—Handel's Benefactions to the Hospital—Lamb's Conduit Fields—Biographical Notice of Captain Coram—Hunter Street—A Domestic Episode in High Life—Tonbridge Chapel—The British College of Health.

This quaint and dull old-fashioned looking building, which reminds us of the early days of the last century, stands on the north side of Guilford Street, and forms part of the south-eastern boundary of the parish of St. Pancras. It is constructed of brick, with stone dressings, and consists mainly of a centre and wings, with a large open space before it for the exercise of the children, and extensive gardens at the back. These gardens, including the court in front, which is laid down in turf, cover some acres. The hospital was first established by royal charter, granted in 1739 to Thomas Coram (master of a trading vessel), for the reception, maintenance, and education of exposed and deserted young children, after the example of similar institutions in France, Holland, and other Christian countries. The first intention of Captain Coram, however, was modified after his death, because it was feared that the hospital would prove in practice only an encouragement of vice, if illegitimate children were admitted as long as there was room, without any restriction; and the restrictions imposed so far diminished the applications, that in a few cases the doors were thrown open for the reception of some legitimate children of soldiers.

In the petition which Coram makes for a charter, backed by "a memorial signed by twenty-one ladies of quality and distinction," he recites that, "no expedient has been found out for preventing the frequent murders of poor infants at their birth, or for suppressing the custom of exposing them to perish in the streets, or putting them out to nurses" (i.e., persons trading in the same manner as the baby-farmers of more recent times), "who, undertaking to bring them up for small sums, suffered them to starve, or, if permitted to live, either turned them out to beg or steal, or hired them out to persons, by whom they were trained up in that way of living, and sometimes blinded or maimed, in order to move pity, and thereby become fitter instruments of gain to their employers." In order to redress this shameful grievance, the memorialists express their willingness to erect and support a hospital for all helpless children as may be brought to it, "in order that they may be made good servants, or, when qualified, be disposed of to the sea or land services of His Majesty the King."

The governors first opened a house for "foundlings" in Hatton Garden, in 1740–1; any person bringing a child, rang the bell at the inner door, and waited to hear if the infant was returned from disease or at once received; no questions whatever were to be asked as to the parentage of the child, or whence it was brought; and when the full number of children had been taken in, a notice of "The house is full" was affixed over the door. Often, we are told, there were 100 children offered, when only twenty could be admitted; riots ensued, and thenceforth the mothers balloted for the admission of their little ones by drawing balls out of a bag.

It was not until some years after the granting of the charter that the governors thought of building the present hospital. Fresh air is as necessary for children as for plants; and so the governors, wandering round the then suburbs in search of some healthy spot whereunto they could transfer their tender "nurslings," found it in the balmy meads of Lamb's Conduit Fields, then far away out in the green pastures, five minutes' walk from Holborn. The governors bought fifty-five acres of these fields from the Earl of Salisbury, for £5,500; in fact, the governors bought the whole estate, not because they required it, but because the earl, its owner, would not sell any fractional part of it. As London increased, the city approached this property; and in course of time a considerable part of the estate—indeed, all that was not actually absorbed in the hospital and its contiguous grounds—became covered with squares and streets of houses, the ground-rents producing an annual income equal to the purchase-money. The new building was at once commenced, the west wing being completed first, the east wing afterwards; the chapel, connecting the two, was finished last. The edifice was built from the designs of Jacobson. The children, 600 in number, were removed hither in 1754, when the expenses of the establishment amounted to something very considerably above the income. The governors, nevertheless, who had long been desirous of making it a Foundling Hospital on the largest scale, found in the known favourable inclinations of the king towards them an excellent opportunity for pushing their scheme. London was not then a sufficient field for their exertions, and they accordingly applied to Parliament, who voted them £10,000, and sanctioned the general admission of children, the establishment of county hospitals, &c.

A basket was hung at the gate of the hospital in London in which the children were deposited, the persons who brought them ringing a bell to give notice to the officers in attendance. In order to forward the "little innocents" up from the country, a branch of the carrying trade was established, and babies arrived in London in increasing numbers from the most distant parts of the country. Large prices were, in some instances, paid for their conveyance, a fact which more than hints at the position of the parents; and as the carriage was prepaid, there was a strong inducement on the part of the carriers to get rid of their burthens on the way. Many of the infants were drowned; all of them were neglected, and that, in the large majority of cases, was equal to their death. It was publicly asserted in the House of Commons that one man, having the charge of five infants in baskets—they appeared to have been packed like so many sucking-pigs—and happening to get drunk on his journey, lay asleep all night on a common, and in the morning three out of the five were found dead. Many other instances of negligence on the part of carriers, resulting in the death of infants entrusted to them for carriage to London, are on record. Even the clothing in which the children were dressed was often stolen on the way, and the babes were deposited in the basket just as they were born. It is reported that a foundling who lived to become a worthy banker in the north of England, but who was received into the hospital at this time, being in after life anxious to make some inquiry into his origin, applied at the hospital, when all the information he could obtain from this source was that it appeared on the books of the establishment that he was put into the basket at the gate naked.

On the first day of this general reception of infants, June 2nd, 1756, no less than 117 children were deposited in the basket. The easy manner in which the children were thus disposed of led naturally to suspicion, on the part of neighbours, that they had not been fairly dealt with; and a person was actually tried for infanticide, and would have been hung, were it not that he was able to prove that the crime was committed by the carrier. In order to secure the parents against any such suspicion, in 1757 a notice was issued by the governors to the effect, that all persons bringing children should leave some token by which, in case any certificate should be wanted, it might be found out whether such child had been taken into the hospital or not. From that date all the children received had some token attached to their person, and in course of time a goodly collection of these was accumulated. Dr. Wynter, in an article on this subject in the Shilling Magazine, enumerates several of these tokens, which are still preserved in the hospital. Here are a few of them:—"Coins of an ancient date seem to have been the favourite articles used for this purpose, but there are many things of a more curious nature. A playing card—the ace of hearts—with a dolorous piece of verse written upon it; a ring with two hearts in garnets, broken in half, and then tied together; three or four padlocks, intended, we suppose, as emblems of security; a nut; an ivory fish; an anchor; a gold locket; a lottery ticket. Sometimes a piece of brass, either in the shape of a heart or a crescent moon, was used as a distinguishing mark, generally engraved with some little verse or legend. Thus one has these words upon it, 'In amore hæc sunt vitia;' another has this bit of doggerel:—
"'You have my heart;
Though we must part.'
Again, a third has engraved upon it a hand holding a heart. Whilst we were musing over these curious mementoes of the past, the obliging secretary of the hospital brought us a large book, evidently bulged out with enclosures between its leaves: this proved to be a still more curious recollection of the past, as it enclosed little pieces of work, or some article of dress worked by the mother as a token, with some appeal for kind treatment attached. In many cases the token was a finely-worked cap, quaintly fashioned in the mode of the time; sometimes it was a fine piece of lace. We remarked a bookmarker worked in beads, with the words, 'Cruel separation;' and again, a fine piece of ribbon, which the mother had evidently taken from her own person. All of these tokens in the book indicated that the maternal parents were of the better class—many of them that they were of the best class." Now these tokens are no longer wanted. The letters of the alphabet and figures are prosaically made to supply their place.

Before the use of tokens was insisted upon, the only means of identification open to the governors was the style in which the infant was dressed. Some of the entries show that "the quality" were by no means above taking advantage of the hospital. Thus under date 1741, on the very opening of the institution, we find the following record:—"A male child, about a fortnight old, very neatly dressed; a fine holland cap, with a cambric border, white corded dimity sleeves, the shirt ruffled with cambric." Again, "A male child, a week old; a holland cap with a plain border, edged biggin and forehead cloth, diaper bib, shaped and flounced dimity mantle, and another holland one; Indian dimity sleeves turned up with stitched holland, damask waistcoat, holland ruffled shirt." This poor baby of a week old must have exhibited a remarkable appearance. Doubtless these costly dresses were used with the idea that special care would be taken of the wearers; but this was a vain hope: the offspring of the drab and of the best "quality" stood on an equal footing inside the Foundling gates; and possibly in after years their faces—that invariable indication of breed—proved their only distinguishing mark.

Besides the tokens, letters were occasionally deposited in the basket with the child; some of these were impudent attempts upon the credulity of the governors. Thus, one had the following doggerel lines affixed to its clothes:—
"Pray use me well, and you shall find
My father will not prove unkind
Unto that nurse who's my protector,
Because he is a benefactor."

In less than four years, while this indiscriminate admission lasted, and until Parliament, appalled at the consequences, withdrew the grant, no less than nearly 15,000 babes were received into the hospital; but out of this number only 4,400 lived to be apprenticed, this "massacre of the innocents" having been effected at a cost to the nation of £500,000. After the withdrawal of the Government grant, the governors were left to their own resources, to recruit their now empty exchequer; and this they did by the very notable plan of taking in all children that offered, accompanied by a hundred-pound note, no questions being asked, and no clue to their parents being sought. As none but the wealthy could deposit children at the gates of the hospital on such terms, it is obvious that this was nothing less than a premium upon pure profligacy in the well-to-do classes. This system lasted, nevertheless, for upwards of forty years—in fact, till the year 1801; and of all the children so received, no sign of their "belongings" is left behind.

The present plan of admitting children dates from the abolition of these hundred-pound infants. The regulations are very curious, and apparently rather capricious. Thus, the committee will not receive a child that is more than a year old, nor the child of a footman or of a domestic servant, nor any child whose father can be compelled to maintain it. When, however, the father dies, or goes to the "diggings," or enlists as a soldier, the child is eligible. The mother's moral character must be generally good, and the child must be the result of her "first fault;" and she must show that, if relieved of the incumbrance of her child, she can shift to another part of the town or country, where her "fault" will be unknown. The first step to be taken by the mother is to obtain a printed form of petition; when this is done a day is appointed for her examination, when, if she prevaricates in any of her statements, her application is rejected, and many otherwise eligible cases are dismissed on this ground.

The following is the printed form of petition:—
The Petition Of (name) Of (place of abode) Humbly Sheweth—
That your petitioner is a (widow or spinster, ( ) years of age, and was on the ( ) day of ( ) delivered of a (male or female) child, which is wholly dependent on your petitioner for its support, being deserted by the father. That (father's name) is the father of the said child, and was, when your petitioner became acquainted with him, a (his trade), at (residence when the acquaintance began), and your petitioner last saw him on the ( ) day of ( ), and believes he is now (what is become of him). Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that you will be pleased to receive the said child into the aforesaid hospital.

The instructions appended to this printed form state that no money is ever received for the admission of children, nor any fee or perquisite taken by any officer of the hospital. It may be added that no recommendation is necessary to the success of a petitioner's claim.

The mother is obliged to attend before the board and tell her story, and inquiries are afterwards set on foot in as secret a manner as possible to verify her statement. The object of the charity is not only to save the life of the child, but to hide the shame of the mother, by giving her time to retrieve her faults. The world is but too prone to be hard upon poor women who have "made a slip" of this nature; and but too often their own sex affix a kind of moral ticket-of-leave to them, which effectually prevents their regaining their position. Under the contumely and the desperation to which such treatment reduces them, the oor creature sometimes sacrifices not only her own fe, but also that of the unhappy child.

Immediately the infant is received into the ouse, it is baptised. Of old, contributions were laid upon every name illustrious in the arts and sciences. When these were exhausted, all our naval heroes were pressed into the service; then our famous poets once more—in name, at least—walked the earth. The Miltons, Drydens, and Shakespeares that flourished within the walls of the Foundling in the last century must have made it a perfect Walhalla. Let no man flatter himself that he is descended from our famous bards upon the strength of a mere name, however uncommon, lest some spiteful genealogist should run him to earth at the end of Lamb's Conduit Street.

In the Gentleman's Magazine, under date 29th March, 1741, occurs this entry: "The orphans received into the hospital were baptised there, some nobility of the first rank standing godfathers and godmothers. The first male was named Thomas Coram, and the first female Eunice Coram, after the first founder of that charity and his wife. The most robust boys, being designed for the seaservice, were named Drake, Norris, Blake, &c., after our most famous admirals." Thus, when the Foundling was first opened, noble lords and ladies stood sponsors to the little ones, and gave them their own names. As these foundlings grew up, however, more than one laid claim to a more tender relationship than was altogether convenient. Now-a-days, it is thought best to fall back upon the Brown, Jones, and Robinson class of names of ordinary life to be found in the Directory. The governors, however, act in a perfectly impartial manner in this respect. A list of names is made out beforehand, and as the children arrive they are fitted to them in regular order. As soon as they are baptised they are dispatched into the country, where wet-nurses have been provided for them. Within a distance of twenty miles, in Kent and Surrey, there are always about 200 of these Foundlings at nurse. Every child has its name sewn up in its frock, and also a distinguishing mark hung round its neck by a chain, which the nurse is enjoined to see is always in its place. These children are regularly inspected by a medical man, and the greatest care is taken that due nourishment is afforded to the babes. When the nurse cannot do this, a certain amount of milk is required to be given. The foster-children, whilst at nurse, are under the observation of visitors in the neighbourhood. When Hogarth lived at Chiswick, he and his wife took charge of a certain number of these little ones; and it is pleasant to read the faded accounts in the handwriting of the great painter, in which he shows that the interest he took in the charity was of the most intimate kind; that he not only enriched it with the gifts of his pencil, as we shall presently show, but also with his tender solicitude for the foundlings who could make him no return for the care with which he watched over them. The foster-children, as a rule, are very well taken care of; a large per-centage, indeed, surviving the maladies of childhood, which they certainly would not have done, under the peculiar circumstances of their birth, inside the walls of the asylum.

"Though mothers may abandon their children to the tender mercies of a public company," says a writer in Chambers' Journal, "they cannot do so without pain. The court-room of the Foundling has probably witnessed as painful scenes as any chamber in Great Britain; and again, when the children, at five years old, are brought up to London, and separated from their foster-mothers, these scenes are renewed. Even the foster-fathers are sometimes found to be greatly affected by the parting, while the grief of their wives is excessive; and the children themselves so pine after their supposed parents, that they are humoured by holidays and treats for a day or two after their arrival, in order to mitigate the change. In very many cases the solicitude of the foster-mothers does not cease with their charge of the little ones, as they frequently call to inquire after them, and they, in return, look upon them as their parents."

The education which the children receive at the Foundling is confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic, and they are also taught part-singing. At fifteen the boys and girls are apprenticed, the boys to tradesmen, and the girls to private families as domestic servants; and we hear that, as a rule, both turn out very well. The governors make a very strict inquiry into the characters of those wishing to receive them before they are permitted to have an apprentice, and they desire to be furnished with regular reports as to the conduct of their wards. Whilst the term of their apprenticeship lasts, the governors continue their careful watch over them; and when they are out of their time, means are afforded the boys of setting out in life as artisans: whilst the girls are, if well behaved, entitled to a marriage portion. It will be remembered that Thomas Day, the eccentric author of "Sandford and Merton," selected from the Foundling Hospital one of the two girls whom he resolved to bring up and educate, in the hope that she would prove a model wife; but both, it is needless to add, turned out failures. Even at the termination of apprenticeship all connection with the hospital does not necessarily cease, as many of the children return to it as their home when in necessity, and, if well behaved, they are never denied assistance. Some of the children, crippled and helpless, remain for their whole lives as pensioners upon the bounty of the institution. It is stated by Hone, in his "Year Book," that for the plan adopted in rearing the children here, the hospital was largely indebted to Sir Hans Sloane. An economical kitchen, ingeniously fitted up for the institution by Count Rumford, is described at some length in the "Annual Register" for 1798.

The whole expenditure of the establishment in town and country, for the year ending December, 1874, amounted to £13,873 7s. 6d., which—after deducting the expenses with reference to apprentices, and a few other miscellaneous accounts—divided by the average number of children on the establishment in that year, namely, 487, gave an average cost of £23 14s. per head.


There are now (1876) 504 children in the establishment; the girls and the boys are pretty equally divided. The additional four are maintained from the interest of £1,500, the proceeds of the sale of a handsome vase now in the possession of Lord Dudley.

It appears from the report of the Royal Commission, instituted in 1869, to inquire into the working of this charity, that, though the infants received into the hospital are never again seen by their mothers (save in peculiar cases), a species of intercourse with them is still permitted. Mothers are allowed to come every Monday and ask after their children's health, but are allowed no further information. On an average, about eight women per week avail themselves of this privilege, and there have been some who attend regularly every fortnight. Even when application is made by mothers for the return of their child, the request is frequently refused. When they are apprenticed no intercourse is permitted between them, unless master and mistress, as well as parent and child, approve of it; nor when he has attained maturity, unless the child as well as the mother demand it. Thus a woman, who was married from the hospital, and had borne seven children, once requested to know her parents, on the ground that "there was money belonging to her," and her application was refused. But in November of the same year the name of a certain foundling was revealed upon the application of a solicitor, and his setting forth that money had been invested for its use by the dead mother. The governors granted this request upon the ground that the mother herself had disclosed the secret, which they were otherwise bound to keep inviolable. Again, in 1833, a foundling, seventy-six years of age, was permitted, for certain good reasons, to become acquainted with his own name, though, as may be imagined, not with his parent. "It is a wise child in the Foundling who knows even its own mother."

The stratagems resorted to by women to identify their children, and to assure themselves of their well-being, are often singularly touching. Sometimes notes are found attached to the infant's garments, beseeching the nurse to tell the mother her name and residence, that the latter may visit her child during its stay in the country; and they have been even known to follow on foot the van which conveys their little one to its new home. They will also attend the baptism in the chapel, in the hope of hearing the name conferred upon the infant; for, if they succeed in identifying the child during its stay at nurse, they can always preserve its identification during its subsequent abode in the hospital, since the children appear in chapel twice on Sunday, and dine in public on that day, which gives opportunities of seeing them from time to time, and preserving the recollection of their features. In these attempts at discovery, however, mistakes are often committed, and attention lavished on the wrong child; instances have even occurred of mothers coming in mourning attire to the hospital, to return thanks for the kindness bestowed upon their deceased offspring, only to be informed that they are alive and well. One exception to the rule of non-intercourse is related, where a medical attendant certified that the sanity of one unhappy woman might be affected unless she was allowed to see her child.


Another piece of information afforded by the Commission, and this, perhaps, the saddest of all, is that "twice or thrice in the year the boys are permitted to take an excursion to Primrose Hill; but at other times (except when sent on errands), and the girls at all times, are kept within the hospital walls." This confinement, it is asserted, so affects their growth, that few of either sex attain to the average height of men and women.

George III. on more than one occasion testified in a marked and substantial manner the interest which he took in the institution, and on the 21st of June, 1799, his Majesty, accompanied by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Clarence, and five of the princesses, visited the hospital in state.

That Tenterden Steeple was the cause of the Goodwin Sands does not seem at all more strange than that the Foundling Hospital should have been in some sense the parent of the Royal Academy of Arts. Yet such was the case. Not long after the incorporation of the society, the present building was erected, as we have mentioned; but as its funds were not available for its decoration, many of the chief artists of the day generously gave pictures from their own easels for the decoration of its several apartments. In course of time these came to be shown to the public on application, and a small sum being charged for admission, they took their place among the sights of the metropolis. Ultimately they proved so attractive that their success suggested a combined exhibition of the works of artists. This, as we have stated, (fn. 1) first took shape in the rooms of the Society of Arts in the Adelphi, from which, again, the Royal Academy took its idea. Thus, within the walls of the Foundling the curious visitor may see the state of British art in the era immediately preceding the extension of the patronage of George III. to Benjamin West.

Among the earliest "governors and guardians" of this charity we find the name of William Hogarth, who liberally gave his time, his labour, and his money towards aiding the benevolent design of his friend, Captain Coram. His first artistic aid was the designing and drawing of a head-piece to a power of attorney drawn for collecting subscriptions in support of the institution; and he next presented to the governors an engraved plate of Captain Coram's portrait.

The list of the early artistic friends and supporters of the newly-formed society includes the sculptor Rysbrach; Hayman, the embellisher of Vauxhall Gardens; Hudson, Highmore, Allan Ramsay, and Richard Wilson, the prince of English landscape-painters of that age. They often met together at the hospital, and thus advanced the charity and the arts at the same time; for the exhibition of their donations in the shape of paintings drew a daily crowd of visitors in splendid carriages and gilt sedan chairs, so that to pay a visit to the Foundling became one of the fashionable morning lounges in the reign of George II. The straight flat ground in front of the building formed the chief promenade; and brocaded silk, gold-headed canes, and laced three-cornered hats formed a gay and constant assembly in "Lamb's Conduit Fields," when they were fields indeed.

Some very interesting memoranda of the artists whose works adorn the Foundling, with a catalogue raisonnée of the pictures which they presented, will be found in Mr. Brownlow's "Memoranda or Chronicles of the Hospital." Among the pictures are "The Charter House," by Gainsborough; a portrait of Handel, by Sir Godfrey Kneller; and three works of Hogarth, namely, "The March to Finchley," "Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter," and the original portrait of Captain Coram.

As we have already shown, Hogarth took a pride and pleasure in this institution. Writing about himself, he remarks that the portrait which he presented with the greatest pleasure, and on which he spent the greatest pains, was that of Captain Coram, which hangs in the gallery of the hospital; and in allusion to the detraction from which he had suffered as an artist, he adds, "If I am such a wretched artist as my enemies assert, it is somewhat strange that this, which was one of the first that I painted the size of life, should stand the test of twenty years' competition, and be generally thought the best portrait in the place, notwithstanding the first painters in the kingdom exerted all their talents to vie with it." The portrait, we may add here, was engraved by McArdell, who resided at the "Golden Ball," in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, and whose engraved portraits were pronounced by so good a judge as Sir Joshua Reynolds, "sufficient to immortalise their author."

The "March to Finchley," which adorns the secretary's room, like several of his other works, was disposed of by Hogarth by way of lottery. There were above 1,840 chances subscribed for out of 2,000; the rest were given by the painter to the Foundling Hospital, and on the same night on which the drawing took place, the picture was delivered to the governors of that institution. There is, however, some little doubt as to how it came into their hands, for it is said by some that the "prize" ticket was among those bestowed on the hospital; others—an anonymous writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, for instance—says that a lady was the holder of the fortunate ticket, for which she had subscribed with the view of presenting the picture to the governors. The writer adds, however, that a kind and prudish friend having suggested that a door would be opened for scandal if one of the female sex should make such a present, it was handed back to Hogarth on condition that he should give it in his own name. Our readers may believe which version of the story they please.

Another good story is told about this picture. When Hogarth had finished his print of "The March of the Guards to Finchley," he proposed dedicating it to the king, and for that purpose went to court to be introduced. Previous to his Majesty's appearance, Hogarth was spied by some of the courtiers, who, guessing his business, begged to have a peep. He complied, and received much laughter and commendation. Soon after, the king entered the drawing-room, when Hogarth presented his print; but no sooner had the monarch thrown his eyes upon it, than he exclaimed—"Dendermons and death! you Hogarth; what you mean to abuse my soldier for?" In vain the other pleaded his attachment to the army in general, and that this was only a laugh at the expense of the dissolute and idle. His Majesty could not be convinced, till the late Lord Ligonier told him, "He was sure Mr. Hogarth did not mean to pay any disrespect to the army." This, however, but half pacified him; for, holding up the print hastily, he carelessly handed it to one of the lords in waiting, and desired him to let the artist have two guineas. Hogarth took the money, as the etiquette and practice of courts is not to refuse anything, but dedicated his piece to the King of Prussia.

The council-room adjoining is decorated with four large subjects from Holy Scripture, including the "Finding of Moses," and with eight medallion sketches of the chief London and suburban hospitals—St. Thomas's, St. Bartholomew's, Chelsea, Greenwich, &c.—in the middle of the last century.

In a corridor beyond hangs a fine portrait of Lord Chief Justice Wilmot. An inner room, formerly used as a hall, and now converted into a gallery, contains, besides the portrait of the founder, Captain Coram, spoken of above, the "Murder of the Innocents," by Raffaelle; the "Worthies of England," by James Northcote, R.A.; and fine portraits of George II., Lords Dartmouth and Macclesfield, Dr. Mead, Prince Hoare, Jacobson (the architect), and other friends of the hospital. The recesses in the windows are filled with glass cases containing autographs of the kings and queens of England from Henry VIII. downwards, as also of Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West, Captain Coram, Sir W. Sidney Smith, the Duke of Wellington, Charles Dickens, &c.

The chapel has, ever since the days of Handel, been celebrated for the attractiveness of the musical part of the services on Sundays, when its doors are open to the public; and readers of Thackeray's ballad of Eliza Davis and the false deluding sailor will remember how Policeman X., whom she let into her master's house in Guilford Street, refers to that unfashionable locality by the following reminder for his West-end friends:—
"P'raps you know the Fondling Chapel,
Where the little children sings?
Lord! I like to hear, on Sundays,
Them there pretty little things!"

Those who have attended the Foundling Hospital chapel must have been charmed with the beautiful effect of the fresh young voices swelling from the pyramid of little ones ranged on each side, and towering to the topmost pipes of the great organ (the gift of Handel), the girls in their quaint costume and high mob-caps, the boys in their very ugly uniform.

Among the principal benefactors to the hospital Handel stands among the foremost. Here, in this chapel, he frequently performed his oratorio of the Messiah, the score of which he left by will to this institution. Lysons, in his "Environs of London," remarks: "When that great master presided there, at his own oratorios, it was generally crowded; and as he engaged most of the performers to contribute their assistance gratis, the profits to the charity were very considerable, and in some instances approached nearly to £1,000."

The following is a copy of the announcement of Handel's performance of the Messiah for the benefit of the charity:—
Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children, in Lamb's Conduit Fields, April 18, 1750.

George Frederick Handel, Esq., having presented this Hospital with a very fine organ for the chapel thereof, and repeated his offer of assistance to promote this charity, (fn. 2) on Tuesday, the first day of May, 1750, at twelve o'clock at noon, Mr. Handel will open the said organ, and the sacred oratorio called Messiah will be performed under his direction. Tickets for this performance are ready to be delivered by the Steward at the Hospital, at "Batson's" Coffee House, in Cornhill; and "White's" Chocolate House, in St. James's Street, at half-a-guinea each. N.B. There will be no collection. By order of the general Committee.
Harman Verelst, Secretary.

The concourse of visitors on this occasion was so great, that the performance of the oratorio was repeated a fortnight afterwards. In the course of the following twenty years the Messiah was several times performed here, and the entire proceeds, which were added to the funds of the hospital, amounted to no less a sum than £10,299. Some of the announcements of these performances read curious now-a-days. We take the following from the General Advertiser of the 17th of May, 1751:—"Yesterday the oratorio of Messiah was performed at the Foundling Hospital to a very numerous and splendid audience, and a voluntary on the organ was played by Mr. Handel, which met with universal applause." The Gentleman's Magazine, in giving an account of this performance, thus observes: "There were above five hundred coaches, besides chairs, and the tickets amounted to above seven hundred guineas." For the oratorio, in 1752, the number of tickets taken was 1,200, at half-a-guinea each; and in the following year the sum realised by the sale of tickets was 925 guineas. The performance on this occasion is thus noticed by the Public Advertiser of the 2nd of May, 1753:—"Yesterday the sacred oratorio called Messiah was performed in the chapel at the Foundling Hospital, under the direction of the inimitable composer thereof, George Frederick Handel, Esq., who in the organ concerto played himself a voluntary on the fine organ he gave to that chapel."

In Schœlcher's "Life of Handel" we are told that the great musician in a manner divided his "property" in the Messiah with the Foundling Hospital; he gave the institution a copy of the score, and promised to come and conduct it every year for the benefit of the good work. This gift was the occasion of an episode in which may be perceived the choleric humour of the worthy donor. The administrators of the hospital, being desirous of investing his intentions with a legal form, prepared a petition to Parliament, which terminated in the following manner:—"That in order to raise a further sum for the benefit of the said charity, George Frederick Handel, Esq., hath been charitably pleased to give to this corporation a composition of music called 'The Oratorio of The Messiah,' composed by him; the said George Frederick Handel reserving to himself only the liberty of performing the same for his own benefit during his life. And whereas the said benefaction cannot be secured to the sole use of your petitioners, except by the authority of Parliament, your petitioners therefore humbly pray that leave may be given to bring in a bill for the purpose aforesaid." When one of the governors waited upon the musician with this form of petition, he soon saw that the committee of the hospital had built on a wrong foundation, for Handel, bursting into a rage, exclaimed, "De Devil! for vat sal de Foundling put mein oratorio in de Parlement." De devil! mein music sal not go to de Parlement." The petition went no further; but Handel did not the less fulfil the pious engagement which he had contracted.

The organ still in use in the chapel is the same that was presented by Handel, and the altar-piece, "Christ Blessing Little Children," is considered as one of West's finest productions. About the year 1872 the chapel was considerably enlarged and improved. The hospital, in fact, has not been without other friends also, for we are told how that a black merchant, a native of Calcutta, named Omichand, towards the end of the last century, left a legacy of £5,000, the interest of which is shared between this institution and the Magdalen Hospital. Captain Coram himself, the founder of the hospital, lies buried in a vault beneath the chapel, as also does Lord Tenterden, the chief justice, who died in 1832. It was suggested that Handel should be interred near the grave of the founder, but this idea was overruled, and the remains of the great musician found a resting-place in Westminster Abbey. It may be added that Laurence Sterne preached in this chapel in 1761, and that in more recent times Sydney Smith occupied the pulpit.

Whilst, as we have said, some 200 of the children on the books of the hospital are laying in a stock of health in the cottages and amid the orchards of Surrey and Kent, the rest are to be seen within the walls of this building, in itself one of the most open and healthful spots in the metropolis. It is true it does not stand, as of old, in the centre of Lamb's Conduit "Fields," for the town has crept up and devoured the latter; but it will be observed that the squares that flank the institution on either hand have no houses on the sides next to the hospital, and that consequently these large enclosures act as supplementary lungs to the ample gardens and grounds of the institution itself. Nevertheless, the governors at the end of the last century let off enough of their land for building purposes to bring in upwards of £5,500 per annum, or as much as they originally gave for the fee-simple of the whole estate to the Earl of Salisbury. As the land was let upon building leases of ninety-nine years, large house property will fall into the hands of the charity in the course of a few years from the present time; possibly by that period, if not before, the Foundling Hospital will be transplanted to the green country, as the Charterhouse School has already been, and possibly Westminster School will be; for why, it has been asked, should we keep young children in the midst of a smoky town when cheaper and better air can be provided for them in fields far away, and brighter than were even the Lamb's Conduit Fields of old? We should not dream of planting a nursery-ground in the metropolis from choice; and children, it should be remembered, flourish just as ill as roses in contaminated air. When this institution is removed to "fresh fields and pastures new," the sale of their land for building purposes will probably bring in upwards of £50,000 a year, and the charity will possess the means of vastly increasing the field of its usefulness.

At the gates of the hospital, facing Lamb's Conduit Street, there is a statue of Captain Thomas Coram, by W. Calder Marshall. The following short notice of the founder of this institution, from the "Biographical Dictionary," may not be out of place here:—"Captain Coram was born about 1668, bred to the sea, and spent the first part of his life as master of a vessel trading to the colonies. While he resided in that part of our metropolis which is the common residence of sea-faring people, business often obliged him to come early into the City and return late, when he had frequent occasions of seeing young children exposed, through the indigence or cruelty of their parents. This excited his compassion so far, that he projected the Foundling Hospital, in which humane design he laboured seventeen years, and at last by his sole application obtained the royal charter for it. He was highly instrumental in promoting another good design—viz., the procuring a bounty upon naval stores imported from the colonies; and was eminently concerned in setting on foot the colonies of Georgia and Nova Scotia. His last charitable design, which he lived to make some progress in, but not to complete, was a scheme for uniting the Indians in North America more closely to the British interest, by an establishment for the education of Indian girls. Indeed, he spent a great part of his life in serving the public, and with so total a disregard to his private interest, that towards the latter part of it he was himself supported by the voluntary subscriptions of public-spirited persons, at the head of whom was the truly amiable and benevolent Frederick Prince of Wales. This singular and memorable man died at his lodgings near Leicester Square, March 29th, 1751, in his eighty-fourth year; and was interred, pursuant to his desire, in the vault under the chapel of the Foundling Hospital, where his memory is recorded in a suitable inscription."

Readers of the works of Charles Dickens will scarcely need to be reminded how in the opening scene of "No Thoroughfare," the postern gate of the Foundling Hospital opens, and Sally steps out and asks, with all a mother's affection, what name "they have give to her poor baby." Nor will they forget, in the next scene, how, whilst the foundling children are at dinner after service, a veiled lady walking round the table, asks, on the sly, which is Walter Wilding; or how, further on in the story, Bintrey asks "whether Joey Ladle is to take a share in Handel, Mozart, Haydn," &c., as "Mr. Wilding knows by heart all the choruses to the anthems in the Foundling Hospital collection;" and how, in the issue, it turns out that Mr. Wilding, the wine merchant, was that very child for whom "Sally" had asked so tenderly.

The "Boat," an isolated tavern in the open fields at the back of the Foundling, doubtless commemorated the time when boats and barges came up the Fleet River as far as Battle Bridge. It formed the head-quarters of the rioters and incendiaries who aided and abetted Lord George Gordon in his anti-Popish riots in 1780.

Behind the Foundling Hospital, in a line with Judd Street, of which we have already spoken, is Hunter Street. At No. 2 for many years lived the lady who called herself the Marchioness Townshend. She was a daughter of Mr. William Dunn Gardner, of Chatteris, in the Isle of Ely, and in 1807 was married to Lord Chartley, afterwards Marquis Townshend, who died in 1855, leaving no family. The story of her married life is thus narrated in Hardwicke's "Annual Biography:"—"Shortly after the marriage, Lord Chartley separated from his wife, a proceeding which the lady endeavoured to set aside by a suit in the Ecclesiastical Courts. These courts, however, are proverbially slow in their proceedings, and while her suit was pending, she eloped from her father's house with a Mr. John Margetts, a brewer of St. Ives, with whom she lived, in this street and other places, down to his death in 1842, calling herself at one time Mrs. Margetts and at other times the Marchioness Townshend. During this time she had by Mr. Margetts a family of sons and daughters, the former of whom were sent to Westminster School, first in the name of Margetts, and afterwards under the names of Lord A. and B. Townshend. The eldest son was actually returned to Parliament in 1841, as Earl of Leicester, by the electors of Bodmin, who fondly imagined that they had secured as their representative the eldest son of a live marquis, and one who would hereafter prove a powerful patron of their interests in the House of Lords. At this time, Lord Charles Townshend, next brother to the marquis, and then heir presumptive to the title, presented a petition to the Crown and to the House of Lords, entreating that the children of Lady Townshend by Mr. Margetts might be declared illegitimate. The petition was referred to a committee of privilege, who, after hearing the evidence of a considerable number of witnesses, reported their opinion in favour of a bill to that effect. A bill accordingly was introduced 'for declaring the issue of Lady Townshend illegitimate,' and it passed the House of Lords, by a large majority, in May, 1843. If it had not been for this procedure on the part of Lord Charles Townshend, which was rendered more difficult by the forced residence of the marquis abroad (for he had never taken his seat in the House of Peers, nor had he been in England since his accession to the title, nor seen his wife since her elopement), the marquisate of Townshend, with the noble estates of Raynham, in Norfolk, and the castle at Tamworth, would have passed to a spurious and supposititious race, the children of a brewer at St. Ives. After the death of the marquis, in December, 1855, his disconsolate wife, having remained a widow for nearly a fortnight, was married by special licence to a Mr. John Laidler, an assistant to a linendraper at the west end of London."


In the Euston Road, near the end of Judd Street, is Tonbridge Chapel, a place of worship for Dissenters of the Congregationalist denomination, dating from about the year 1812. Close to Tonbridge Chapel, opposite to the former site of the Small-Pox Hospital, and facing the terminus of the Midland Railway, stands the British College of Health. It was erected in 1828, for the manufacture and sale of a vegetable pill, by Mr. James Morison, a gentleman of Scottish extraction, who began his career as a merchant at Riga, and subsequently in the West Indies. Ill health compelled him, however, to leave so hot a climate, and in 1814 he settled at Bordeaux. Finding no relief from the course of treatment carried out by his physicians, he at length decided on a method of his own. "From such men as Culpeper, and others of the old medico-herbalists, he sought advice, and his adventitious career was crowned with success. He found in the gardens of Nature (what his physicians could not find from minerals and from poisons) that alleviation of his disease which ultimately led to his complete recovery. Stimulated by this knowledge, his philanthropy was excited, and he decided to benefit others as he himself had been benefited. This was the origin of his founding the British College of Health." The world-wide fame which Morison's pills speedily attained, as well as the common sale attendant thereon, excited first the astonishment, then the jealousy, and afterwards the malice of the regular practitioners. Action after action was commenced against the proprietor for the sale of "so poisonous an article;" but falling to the ground, they only assisted in still further extending his fame and sale, until his very name became a "household word," which no other medicine has obtained either before or since. Its notoriety was such that Punch of those days continually referred to it. On Morison's death, in the year 1856, a memorial was erected in front of his establishment in the Euston Road by a penny subscription; "no person was allowed to give more than one penny, and no one was to subscribe but those who had derived some benefit from the Hygeist's medicine." The memorial consists of a granite pedestal, surmounted by the British lion, and on the sides of the pedestal are various poetical quotations and remarks.



  • 1. See Vol. III., p. 107.
  • 2. Allusion is here made to a performance which Handel had given on the 27th of May, 1749, for the benefit of this institution.