Restoring the social fabric

Paul Lay is moved by an exhibition of tokens left by the mothers of children abandoned during the mid-18th century.

Though barely five minutes’ walk from the British Museum and the delights of Bloomsbury, the Foundling Museum remains one of London’s neglected treasures. It stands on the site of the Foundling Hospital, London’s first home for abandoned children, founded in the 18th century by Thomas Coram ‘for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children’. The Coram foundation still operates from here, making it England’s longest-established children’s charity. The museum houses a fine permanent art collection, as well as a gallery devoted to George Frideric Handel, one of its principal benefactors. Though popular with gardenless London parents, who bring their children along to the spacious ‘fields’ adjoining it, the Foundling Museum deserves to be better known, as does its current exhibition, Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770.

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