Archives

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The records of Coram and the Foundling Hospital, held at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) include general registers, inspection books, petitions and other documents dating back to Thomas Coram’s campaign to establish the Foundling Hospital.

Our organisation’s 275-year history is preserved as a continuous record, in over 240 metres of shelving, giving unique insights into the problems and dangers facing vulnerable children across the centuries.

Children’s needs never change but understanding of the best ways to meet those needs has altered radically over the centuries. Our archives give a perspective on those changes, showing how Coram has reflected contemporary thinking and pioneered good practice in helping vulnerable children.

To plan a visit to our archives, please visit LMA’s website. Historical records are available to the public through The Foundling Hospital Archives.

Billet book

Records of children inoculated at the Foundling Hospital

Token

Tokens, billet books and more will be digitised for future generations thanks to the National Lottery grant.

Grant from National Lottery awarded to Coram to digitise our archives

Coram has received a grant of £1.26 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable the digitisation of a major portion of our archive.

Coram’s Foundling Hospital archive, which is held at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), is fragile and vulnerable, in part due to its status as one of LMA’s most popular holdings. Formed of over 245 linear metres of records, it reveals the details of the lives of children in its care from the 18th century and will digitise some 112,000 images over the period to 1900, a quarter of the archive which is unbroken to the present day.

This will be part of a four-year project, Voices Through Time: The Story of Care, which will secure access to the precious materials including Petition Letters from mothers seeking entry for their children and the Billet Books containing fabric tokens they left with their children. These will be safeguarded for future generations and brought to life for new audiences who will be able to view it online for the first time.

Young people in and leaving care today will undertake creative projects, using the archive material to illuminate the past, gain new skills and build public understanding of the issues of separation and care which continue today. More than 100 young people will be directly involved, working with creative partners through writing, theatre, film and displays, connecting the stories from the past with their experiences of the present.

The archive documents will be transcribed with the support of a global community of volunteers and will be made accessible to the general public at here on the Coram Story site, along with stories and content from the projects created by care-experienced young people, and an online interactive timeline of care.

Were you adopted through Coram and want to find out more?

Finding a Foundling

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.

Family history researchers will find useful information on the LMA website information leaflets page.

The Foundling Museum can also help with family history research here.

Are you using our archives?

Undergraduate, post-graduate or just for interest – get in touch if you are using our archives for your own research.

We can help you find the details you are looking for, post requests for further information and put up a link to your finished project.

Recent Projects

The Early Years of the Foundling Hospital, 1739/41-1773 by D.S. Allin

Drawing extensively on the Foundling Hospital archives, D.S. Allin’s comprehensive research focuses on the early years of the Foundling Hospital, particularly the period of General Reception, its aftermath and the important contribution of the branch hospitals.

Contact the Foundling Museum for a downloadable pdf.

‘Restored to its mother’: Reclaiming Children at the London Foundling Hospital in the Nineteenth century

Project by Amy Gallimore (University of Bristol, Department of Historical Studies, Best undergraduate dissertations of 2013)

This undergraduate dissertation explains the process and nature of restoring children to their parents at the Foundling Hospital in the 19th Century. It looks into the reasons that led to children being reclaimed, how often children and parents were reunited and the processes around reclaiming a child. The dissertation is stored on the Bristol University website. You can see it here.

Hospital regulations

Title page of the Hospital Regulations, published in 1757