Coram Story explores the history and heritage of Coram which was established as the Foundling Hospital in 1739 and continues today as the Coram Group of charities. We support children and young people from birth to independence, creating a change that lasts a lifetime.
Established by Thomas Coram as The Foundling Hospital in 1739, Coram is the UK’s oldest children’s charity and has been supporting vulnerable children for 280 years.
This website explores our history, the continuing story of social care and showcases projects that delve into that history to understand and learn from the experiences of children and young people then and now.
Voices Through Time: The Story of Care
Voices Through Time: The Story of Care is an ambitious project to digitise the earliest part of Coram’s historic archive, going all the way back to 1739 when it was established as the Foundling Hospital, the country’s first home for children whose mothers could not take care of them.
As well as aiming to preserve this fascinating historical record online for future generations, it will directly involve young people in care or who have been in care, giving them opportunities to both engage with the archive and tell their own stories. We are also looking for people interested in volunteering to help us transcribe the materials and make them progressively available online.
Voices Through Time: The Story of Care is run by Coram and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Why are we digitising our archive?
The Coram Foundling Hospital archive is held at the London Metropolitan Archives and is one of its most popular holdings, consisting of over 245 linear metres of records. It contains revealing details of the lives of the children in its care, from the Hospital’s foundation through to 1910.
However the collection is fragile and vulnerable, which is why, with the support of a £1.26m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Coram is now embarking on a four-year project to conserve and digitise the most fragile documents, some 112,000 images, which include:
- The general registers, documents recording the details of the children admitted to the Hospital from 1741, and charting their evolution and movements during their time there;
- The letters written by mothers appealing for their children to be accepted by the Hospital, full of interesting and often highly moving details of the circumstances behind each application;
- The billet books containing fabric tokens that the mothers left, both as an identifying record and a symbol of their connection to their children, made up of either fabric provided by the mother or cut from the child’s clothing.
Through this project, we are making these priceless documents more widely available to the public via the internet, while also ensuring that they are preserved for the future.
The archive documents will be transcribed with the support of a global community of volunteers and, once complete, will be made available online to the general public at here on our website. We anticipate that the archive will be online in 2023.
The work will involve transcribing portions of text in the historical documents, and volunteering is open to everyone – no specialist background, training or expertise is required. Volunteers will be able to commit as much or as little time on the project as they would like. We are hugely grateful for any time you can dedicate to helping us bring these fascinating archives to life.
A timeline of care
The public phase of Voices Through Time began on 2 February 2021, when we uploaded our story of care timeline, starting in 1668 (the year our founder Thomas Coram was born) right through to the present, referencing both how Coram itself has worked with children and young people throughout its story and also setting out key moments in the evolution of policy and practice affecting children and young people. We will continue to add to this timeline as the project progresses and we uncover more information about the Foundling Hospital from the archive.
Opportunities for Young People
More than 100 care-experienced young people aged 16 to 25 will be directly involved in Voices Through Time, as participants in a range of creative projects inspired by the archive and as volunteers through our Ambassador scheme, helping to shape the wider programme and our social media campaign designed to challenge perceptions of young people in care.