In our Archive Snapshot series, we’ll share some gems found in our archives as part of the conservation process.
This letter was found with a week-old baby left in a box on a doorstep of a house on Argyll St., Soho on March 17, 1777. The note reads:
“good cristones hear pray take me in and god will you reward for I am left hear in distress my father I have lost and god will puretect you and yours for Ever and aday if you doo But take me in and turn me not away” (sic)
The family took the girl in, baptised her Mary Goodluck and cared for her for two months before, due to “unforeseen inconveniences,” they wrote to the Foundling Hospital to take custody of the child. One request of the letter was that the governors retain the note and witness testimonies describing the moment of discover or, if they declined the petition, to return these papers.
The certificate of baptism was written on the back and both the note and testimonies from four servants were tucked inside the petition. Curiously, the letter and testimonies showed signed of tear and staining but this note was in very good condition.
After surface-cleaning and tear repair using wheat starch paste and light Japanese tissue paper, these papers were guarded and re-attached to the main petition letter.
The petition letter was sent by the lady of the house, Mary Gordon, on May 28, 1777. She states that, since the child was found they have cared for her and hired a wet nurse. However, “due to unforeseen inconveniences” they were advised to contact the Foundling Hospital governors.
The witness testimonies are by four of the servants:
John Johnson, coachman to Mrs Gordon, saw the hand(?) box on the doorstep at 7’o’clock, mistaking the cries as a cat. James Grundy, footman, opened the door and Robert Hewitt, butler, brought the box indoors and opened it. Elizabeth Lowe, servant, took the baby out of the box and found the note left with her.
Robert Hewitt saw the baby and ran to tell his mistress, Mrs Gordon, and her seven guests – Lady Mary Fitzgerald, the Honorable Mr Garterat, Lady Smythe, Mrs Worseley (?), Mrs Cavendish, Mr Hale and Reverend Mr Caetlogon (?) – who requested the baby be brought to them. The baby was estimated to be 7-8 days old and “not very well” and was promptly baptised by the Reverend.
Elizabeth Lowe brought the baby up to her lady and saw the Reverend baptise the baby there. She was then sent to find a wet nurse.