Coram and the Foundling Hospital

Coram is the UK's first dedicated children's charity with a fascinating heritage that spans more than 275 years.

We were established by Thomas Coram as the Foundling Hospital, London’s first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them.

Pupils baking

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.

During the 1750s, several residential branches were temporarily opened to cope with the large number of children received during a period of ‘indiscriminate admission’. These were based at Ackworth, Shrewsbury, Aylesbury, Barnet, Chester and Westerham.

The coming of the railways and pollution prompted the Foundling Hospital to relocate to Redhill, Surrey, in 1926, while a new, purpose-built school, closely modelled on the original Foundling Hospital, was built in the countryside Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, which opened in 1935.

Although the London site was sold and many buildings demolished, the Hospital later bought back two and a half acres of land. Following the 1948 Children Act, which changed what children need from charities, children were taken back by birth mothers or found homes with foster parents and the residential home in Berkhamsted closed. Now Ashlyns School, it still contains stained glass windows, a staircase and monuments from the original London Hospital.

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 how the pioneering spirit of the charity continues today with Coram's ground-breaking projects and innovative services

Foundling Hospital records and archives

The Foundling Hospital kept meticulous records of every child who passed through the institution.

Coram offers a birth records information and counselling service to former Foundling pupils and their descendants and to those placed for adoption by Coram. For details see our Birth Records page.

Historical records are available to the public through The Foundling Hospital Archives, held by the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). With over 800 linear feet of shelving, records include the general registers, inspection books and petitions. Find out more about the archives here.

“…the originator of the Institution for these poor foundlings having been a blessed creature of the name of Coram, we gave that name to Pet’s little maid. At one time she was Tatty, and at one time she was Coram…and now she is always Tattycoram.” - Extract from Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens

Useful links

Visit our dedicated Coram Story website to discover more of Coram's fascinating and moving history

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