Our history

The Coram story began more than 275 years ago when we were established by Thomas Coram as the Foundling Hospital, London's first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them.

Gin Lane, William Hogarth (1751)When Captain Coram returned from sea in 1720, he was shocked to see children abandoned or dying on London’s streets.

Coram's campaign for children

Coram began a campaign to create a home for these babies by enlisting the support of leading members of the aristocracy, the City, the arts and the sciences though a series of petitions. Early supporters of the captain's endeavours included the composer George Frideric Handel, the artist William Hogarth and author Charles Dickens.

The Foundling Hospital is created

Thomas Coram’s 19-year campaign was finally brought to the attention of King George II who signed a Royal Charter on 17 October 1739 for the creation of the Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, then surrounded by fields.

Mothers brought their babies to the Foundling Hospital to be cared for, with many hopeful that their circumstances would change so they could one day reclaim them. The Hospital arranged for foster families to care for the babies and young children until the age of five. They were then brought to live and be educated in the Foundling Hospital until the age of 15, many being trained for domestic or military service.

Every child admitted to the Foundling Hospital was baptised and given a new name. Mothers also left a token which could be used to identify their child if they returned to reclaim their child.

The story continues

The charity evolved to begin pioneering work in adoption, early years and parenting from our original London site. The Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, today known as Coram, developed new approaches to childcare and education, informed by developments in child psychiatry which highlighted the importance of children’s emotional wellbeing and need for secure family placement.

Over the centuries, more than 25,000 children's lives were saved. Today, as the children’s charity Coram, we continue Thomas Coram’s legacy by creating better chances for thousands of children across the UK. 

Discover Thomas Coram's personal story.

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