What They Wore

Two Nerdy History Girls is talking about how much clothing saved from the past is that worn by the rich. However, there is one place where clothing (or, at least, snippets) of more common folk has survived — the records from London’s Foundling Hospital.

As explained by the Two Nerdy History Girls: “Children were to be left anonymously and without questions, and at once the new Hospital became the best hope of desperate mothers. Over 4,000 infants were left between 1741-1760, and the billets cataloguing their admission (and often, sadly, their too-early deaths) have been preserved. Pinned to each child’s page is an identifying token that had come with the child. In some cases, this is a tiny linen cap, sleeve, or ribbon rosette, but most often the nurses simply cut a swatch from the clothing the child was wearing when admitted. The tokens were kept in case a mother’s circumstances improved and she came to reclaim her child. Almost none did.”

Click through to read in full. The Hospital is now a museum and its current exhibit is Threads of Feeling (which has its own Facebook page) which is all about these last connections mothers had with their infants. More on the exhibit Threads of Feeling at the Guardian (UK).

Book links:

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, which is the story of a mother and the child she left at the Foundling Hospital.

Coram Boyby Jamila Goram.

Any other books set in London’s Foundling Hospital?

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