Many Old Coram Association members have shared their experiences of growing up at the Foundling Hospital in Berkhamsted and what they went on to achieve afterwards. These serve as an important reminder of how learning about history can inform and shape the work we do today at Coram and the continuing story of care.

Memories of the Foundling Hospital

In this 2021 film, former pupils Lydia Carmichael and John Caldicott take us back to a different time and place. Lydia and John both grew up in the Foundling Hospital during the Second World War and in the film, they show us around the school building and tell us their personal stories and journeys.

Ruth’s story

Ruth Miller, pictured here in nurses uniform

Ruth was born in 1937 and came to the Foundling Hospital in Berkhamsted, aged five, in 1942. She left in 1950 and went on to become a continuing governor of Coram as she remains today.

Ruth, who went on to become a professional health visitor, believes that it is very important to share the stories of the children who attended the Hospital with future generations so that we can all learn from their experiences.

“I have mixed feelings about my time at the Hospital. I think their aims were good. In some respects we were very lucky, we had a swimming pool, a gym and acres of land so our physical health was greatly enhanced, but there needed to be more emphasis on our mental wellbeing.”

Read Ruth’s full story here

John’s story

John Caldicott, former Treasurer of the OCA

John’s mother was 27 when she became pregnant. After a few months, she lost her job at a laundry and found herself on the street with nowhere to go and no support from her family. John’s mother appealed for him to be admitted to the Foundling Hospital as her only alternative would have been a Public Assistance Institution, formerly known as a workhouse.

After being admitted to the Foundling Hospital, John was taken to live with a foster family in the countryside until he was 5 years old (as was standard practice at the Hospital), before he returned to Berkhamsted for his school years.

“Former Foundling pupils are not unique, we need to understand that children in the 30s, 40s and 50s in other institutions and boarding schools had similar experiences. It is by understanding and learning from history and past practices that organisations such as the former Foundling Hospital, now known as the children’s charity Coram, are able to provide an abundance of innovated services to our children today.”

Read John’s full story here

Lydia’s story

Lydia Carmichael

Lydia Carmichael is a founding member of the OCA. She grew up in the care of the Hospital in the 1940s and 50s.

“Identity to me is very important. Throughout my childhood I had no idea who I was, where I came from and where I was going. As an adult, I began to appreciate who I was, and what I hoped to achieve during my lifetime. This was achieved through living in the real world and being accepted as a person in my own right.”

Eleanor’s story

Eleanor Allen, photo ©Julia Claxton

Former pupil and OCA member Eleanor tells her story of growing up in the Foundling Hospital, her life after leaving and her important work with the Old Coram Association. She also gives an important message to care experienced young people:

“Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about being in care… it’s not your fault, you needed looking after and you shouldn’t be ashamed. As you get older you survive these things which other people think are handicaps, they’re not… So be yourself.”

Read Eleanor’s full story here

If you are a former Foundling Hospital pupil or family descendent and would like to access historical birth records, please contact us on 020 7520 0383 or at adoption@coram.org.uk to speak to an experienced social worker.