Sunday, November 14, 2010

Searching for Regency London

by Ann Lethbridge
Stories are flying out thick and fast from yours truly. This short story, Unmasking Lady Innocent will be available on line on December 1. Another great cover, even if it is an on line one. Just in case you want to know what it is about:

Spinster Diana Buntin has accepted that handsome Lord James Grey will never look at her as more than a friend. Yet she is tired of waiting to experience passion. Armed with a list of rakes known to specialize in seduction, Diana arranges to meet her first lover at a masked ball—keeping their identities secret and her reputation intact.

But while Diana feels a powerful attraction to her mystery seducer, she also senses that he may not be a stranger after all....

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury, London

Not all things Regency leave one with a happy feeling. Certainly my next stop did not. The Foundling Museum is interesting, but sad.

The Foundling Hospital (hospital meaning hospitality to those less fortunate rather than medical facility) was founded in the mid 1700’s and continued until the 1920’s. It was founded by Thomas Coram who was shocked by the number of dead and dying babies on the streets. Its mission was the education and care of abandoned children.

The children left here were not orphans; rather they were children of women who could not care for them because the fathers had abandoned them. Mothers were interviewed before they were allowed to leave their children who had to be under 1 year-old. The mothers had to be of good character, even if not married, and the child must be their first. Mothers would line up outside the high wrought iron gates for the chance to leave their “unwanted” children, because they knew they would receive better care than they could provide. Both Hogarth and Handel raised funds for the hospital by way of their art.


In 1801 the hero of the Nile and some of his friends the establishment with a visit and stood sponsors to several of the children The names given on this occasion were Baltic Nelson William and Emma Hamilton Hyde Parker &c Up to a very late period the Governors were sometimes in the habit of naming the children after themselves or their friends but it was found to be an inconvenient and objectionable course inasmuch as when they grew to man or womanhood they were apt to lay claim to some affinity of blood with their nomenclators The present practice therefore is for the Treasurer to prepare a list from which the children are named


A register on view at the Museum, records the names of the children admitted, the care they received, including if they were wet nursed or dry (fed bread and water) and their ultimate date of departure at age fourteen either to enter society as apprentices, or the date of their demise. In Georgian times, there were between 200 and 400 children under the care of the hospital.

Dec. 31, 1814,

Children remaining alive, and
on the hospital establishment...........................352

Received in the year ending Dec. 31, 1815...........58
Total....................................................................410

Apprenticed and sent to sea, within the said
year.............................................................26
Died.............................................................13
Children in the hospital, Dec. 31, 1815............192
Children at nurse in the country......................179
...............................................................-----
..................................................................410

Children at nurse in the country, meant children under five who were sent out of the city to be wet nursed and cared for, since the city air was thought to be bad for them

You can find a history of the Hospital in the following book as well as at Londonancestor.com.

The history and objects of the Foundling Hospital: with a memoir of the founder
By John Brownlow, Foundling Hospital (London, England)


Sometimes the mothers would come back for the child when their circumstances improved. Heartrendingly, many times they would discover their child had not survived. Among the artifacts left with the children were lockets and tiny rings, buttons and religious talismen, which were left as a way of identifying their child. They are still held in the Museum.

I found it hard not to feel sad as I walked around, even knowing that these children were better off than those left on the streets or in the workhouses. If you ever have a chance to visit, make sure you take a kleenex or two.

Until next time, Happy Rambles