The Foundling Hospital (The word “hospital” was used in a more general sense than it is today) was founded in 1741 by philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children’s home established for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.”In September 1742, the first stone of the a Hospital was laid in Bloomsbury, lying north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray’s Inn Lane (the first children were admitted to the Foundling Hospital on 25 March 1741, in a temporary house in Hatton Garden). 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 Hospital was later to be 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 at the door..In the 1920s, the Hospital decided to move to a healthier location in the countryside. The buildings were eventually sold to property developer James White in 1926. He had hoped to transfer Covent Garden Market to the site, but the local residents successfully opposed the plan. In the end, the original Hospital building was demolished and the children were moved to Redhill in Surrey.
The Foundling Hospital still has a legacy on the original site. Seven acres of it were purchased, with financial support from the newspaper proprietor Lord Rothermere, for use as a playground for children. The area is now called Coram’s Fields.
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