The Foundling Hospital archive contains a vast array of historical treasures, each with a fascinating fact or story to tell. In this new feature, we will be inviting a range of people who have spent time with the archive to share their stories. The first feature is a necklace, which has recently been uncovered in one of the petition letters in the collection.
From 1763 onwards, those seeking admittance for their child into the Foundling Hospital began to write letters petitioning the Governors of the Foundling Hospital. In these letters, most often from the mother of the child, they would present their case as to why their child should be admitted into the care of the Foundling Hospital. The letters would be supported by references, that the Governors would then follow up and check on, before making their decision about whether to admit a child. These letters are one of the most moving elements of the Foundling Hospital archive, as they contain details about the lives of mothers, fathers and others around them, such as family members or employers. They build a picture of these individual lives, but also start to provide a broader sense of society at the time.
As part of the Voices Through Time project, conservation and digitisation work is being carried out on these petition letters by specialists at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). This necklace was found in an envelope recently by Volunteer, Jasmine Bullock, who has been assisting with this work.
The necklace had been left by Alice Stoffell for her daughter, Violet, to have as a token of their connection. It could well have been enclosed in the envelope it was discovered in, since the time of deposit in 1901.
Whenever a token like this comes to light in the collection, it really is a special moment. This is even more interesting, as tokens that were left by mothers would generally be found in with the billet books. The billet books are bound volumes of forms that recorded an inventory of all the items of clothing, notes and any tokens that were left with a child at the time of their admission. The envelope that this necklace was found in is dated four days after Violet had been accepted into the care of the Foundling Hospital. This could suggest that perhaps Alice didn’t have a token that she wanted to leave on the day she handed her daughter over, or she wasn’t happy with what she had left and wanted to ensure something memorable was left for her daughter.
To find out more about this necklace and the story of the mother who sought admittance for her child to the Foundling Hospital, read our first Collection Highlights blog by Volunteer Jasmine Bullock. You can also learn about the digitisation process here.