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.
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 them.
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 at 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 people's understanding of what children need from charities, some 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.
Discover more about Coram’s heritage, including the history of the development of The Foundling Hospital, stories of pupils from the 1700s onwards and poignant artefacts from our archives by visiting our dedicated Coram Story website.
Voices through Time 2019-2023
Today, through our ambitious project Voices through Time: The Story of Care, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are digitising the earliest part of Coram’s archives, going all the way back to when it was established as the Foundling Hospital.
As well as preserving this fascinating historical record online for future generations, the project directly involves care-experienced young people, giving them opportunities to both engage with the archive and tell their own stories. You can discover their stories as well as real stories from our history by following our #realstoriesofcare campaign on social media.
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