The earliest known film of the Foundling Hospital dates from 1899. This is only a few years after the Lumière Brothers held their first commercial screening, in December 1895, of the short films they had taken with their Cinématographe camera. During the 20th century, the Hospital appeared in several newsreels now held in the archives of Reuters, Pathé, and the Imperial War Museum.
Foundling Hospital Sports Day (1899)
In 1899, filmmaker Charles Goodwin Norton recorded the boys’ sports day in the grounds of the Foundling Hospital. As participation in sports was not open to the girls, they sat and watched the boys doing the three-legged race, sack race, tug-of-war, etc. At one point, however, Norton told the girls to run up to the camera, allowing him to capture these close-ups of 19th-century Foundlings. The full 2.5-minute silent film is preserved in the British Film Institute’s National Archive (reference: 21734). It can be viewed in the Mediateque at the BFI Southbank, London.
Foundlings on Parade (1916)
In 1916, during World War I, the Lord Mayor, Sir Charles Wakefield, and Major General Sir Francis Lloyd visited the Foundling Hospital. This Topical Budget newsreel shows the children standing in lines, ranked by age and gender, so that the important visitors could ‘inspect’ them. The white dots that look like snow are actually areas of deterioration on this old film. The Foundling Hospital segment runs from 03:54 to 04:52.
Parade of Children: Reviewed by H.R.H. Prince Henry at the Foundling Hospital Holborn (1921)
This 28-second Gaumont Graphic newsreel from October 1921 shows pupils marching in the grounds of the Foundling Hospital as Prince Henry looks on from the review stand. Prince Henry (1900-1974), Duke of Gloucester, was the fourth child of King George V and Queen Mary. At the time, he was a lieutenant in the 10th Royal Hussars.
Happy Days: Children from the Foundling Hospital combine work and play in camp at Whitchurch Hill (1925/26)
In 1925 and 1926, the Foundling Hospital organised a summer camp for its pupils on a farm at Whitchurch Hill, near Pangbourne, Berkshire. This Gaumont Graphic newsreel (2mins 16sec) is dated January 1926, indicating the footage was shot in 1925. The 1926 summer camp lasted three months and marked the pupils’ transfer from the Foundling Hospital, which was being closed down, to a temporary school in Redhill while a new Hospital was built in Berkhamsted.
Mayfair in Bloomsbury (1927)
This 37-second newsreel from Empire News records the St Pancras Fair, which was held on the grounds of the old Foundling Hospital in May 1927. The Hospital’s pupils had moved out the year before and the buildings lay empty. Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, opened the fair, which included a dance demonstration by local children.
Historic Building Goes (1928)
The Foundling Hospital’s main building was demolished in 1928, as shown this 25-second newsreel from Empire News.
Out and About (1944)
The gates of the Foundling Hospital can be seen in this newsreel from New Sound Pictorials about the old buildings of Bloomsbury (from 00:50 to 00:55). They still stand as the entrance to Coram’s Fields.