Coram to open new exhibition showcasing the life and legacy of children’s champion Thomas Coram

Published: Thursday 20th September 2018

Coram, the UK’s first children’s charity, is hosting a new exhibition about the extraordinary life of its founder Thomas Coram at its historic campus in Bloomsbury to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of the pioneer of children’s rights and welfare

‘Thomas Coram: My Life and Legacy’ highlights Thomas Coram’s overseas work and travels in America, and his 17 year campaign to establish his charity, formerly known as the Foundling Hospital, the first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them.

The display features historic items from the Coram archive, including Thomas Coram’s prayer book – given to him by the Speaker of the House of Commons – and his Pocket Book bursting with contemporary notes including the names of the “Ladies of Quality and Distinction” supporting his petition and who are the subject of a current display at The Foundling Museum which displays Coram’s historic art collection. The display complements the exhibition at the Foundling Museum next door of 21 Ladies of Quality and Distinction featuring the women who supported Thomas Coram in his campaign - the museum is open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday. 

The centrepiece of the display at the heart of the continuing charity is a recreation of Coram’s famous red coat, in which he is seen in the portrait of 1740 by William Hogarth. Created by historical costumier Ninya Mikhaila, whose work has been seen in programmes including BBC 4’s A Stitch in Time, it brings to life the presence of the driving figure in the origin of children’s social care.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about the influence of Coram and his “darling project” on literature throughout the ages, from the characters in Charles Dickens’ novels to the recently published ‘Captain Coram’ book for children being distributed free to schools to enable children to discover the origin of their rights.

Coram Chief Executive Dr Carol Homden CBE said: “In the year marking Thomas Coram’s 350th birthday, it is important to note the achievements for children’s rights over the centuries and that this is a fight which remains as relevant and pressing today. Coram fought for children to be respected and protected and this display invites visitors to explore his journey and to pledge their own commitment to the rights and welfare of all our children.”

The new display is open free to visitors 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday until January and features treasures from the Coram archive which is housed at the London Metropolitan Archive. 

Find out more about Thomas Coram and how he worked with the arts to establish his charity on Coram’s new website coramstory.org.uk and make your own pledge.coram.org.uk.