“Foundlings, abandoned infants, were a common feature of life in the eighteenth century.” —The Beebs
Did you know that in the 1720s and 30s poor English children died at alarming rates? The illegitimate ones had it worst, frequently dying of neglect in parish poorhouses or workhouses. The Gin Craze didn’t help. Londoners were drinking 11.2 million gallons of spirits in a year in London—that’s about seven gallons per adult—that is a lot of gin.
The Foundling Hospital was founded* by Captain Thomas Coram who “made it” in the New World years before. Horace Walpole said he was “the honestest, the most disinterested, and the most knowing person about plantations I ever talked with.”
On his daily walks through London, Coram couldn’t help noticing dead and dying babies on streets. He decided to devote his life to pleading on the foundlings’ behalf.
He opened theFoundling Hospital in 1741 for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.” The hospital was described as “the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence.” It became London's most popular charity.
Some Victorian children were raised there, too. Here is possibly a picture of one of them.