Reading the words, ‘One of the girls that came out of Ackworth Hospital’ on her marriage certificate intrigued me into learning as much as I could about my 5x great grandmother, Ann Fordyce. This is her story.

Early Life

Ann was admitted to the Foundling Hospital in London on 24 August 1757 during the period of General Reception, when anyone could anonymously hand a baby through a hatch in the wall, at any time of day or night. The nurse who received the baby on the other side of the hatch ensured the infant was under two months old, the only admission criteria.

Of course, her name was not Ann at that point; she was simply number 5537. The billet sheet for number 5537 records information from a note pinned to her clothes: she had been born in Kingston, Middlesex, and had not been christened.

The baby was baptised Ann Fordyce on 24 August, before going to live in Dagenham, Essex, with wet nurse Sarah Williams, the following day. Ann stayed with Sarah until she turned five, then in 1762 returned to the Foundling Hospital in London for her education.

Three years later, in June 1765, Ann was sent to Ackworth Foundling Hospital in West Yorkshire. The journey, by horse-drawn carriage, would have taken six days, and we can only imagine the bewilderment seven-year-old Ann must have felt embarking on such a long and arduous journey.

Ann was the 885th Foundling to enter the Ackworth Hospital. She remained at Ackworth until 1768 when, at age 11, she was apprenticed as a domestic servant to George Munday of Leeds.

Marriage and family

When Ann married in 1784, she was living in Sherburn in Elmet, 15 miles from Leeds. Her new husband was a young widower named Joseph Bradley. The couple immediately moved to Pocklington in East Yorkshire, where they raised at least eight children. Joseph worked as a wheelwright and eventually began a coach/carriage building company with their son, Francis, which continued down the line to their grandson, John Bradley Johnson of Great Driffield.

It was great luck that Ann lived long enough to make it on to the 1841 census, or I could never have learned of her life in Pocklington. A great coincidence too, as I too settled near to Pocklington after marriage.

Ann was 84 when she died, and was laid to rest in Pocklington cemetery. From her humble beginnings as a Foundling, she appears to have lived a fine and healthy life after her marriage to Joseph, leaving behind a fine legacy of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Most stayed close by, in Pocklington itself or nearby villages.

One of Ann’s descendants, her 2x great grandson Frederick Lee, lived in Hull and started the Reckitt’s Sunshine Fund in 1902. The scheme paid for annual trips to the countryside or seaside for less privileged children. The Sunshine Fund ran for almost 80 years, progressing into trips for the elderly too. I wonder if Fred knew of his great grandmother’s pitiful beginnings.


Foundling Hospital Archive

Billet: A/FH/A/09/001/066/233

General Register: A/FH/A/09/002/002/203

Baptism Register: A/FH/A/14/004/001/195

Nursery Book: A/FH/A/10/003/005/072

Ackworth Register: A/FH/Q/01/064/145

Apprenticeship Register: A/FH/A/12/003/001/196