Foundling Hospital, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
In 1759, a branch of London's Foundling Hospital was established at Shrewsbury, Shropshire. It was one of several such satellite institutions set up to receive children from the London Hospital which, to fulfil the terms of its government funding, was required to admit any infant that arrived on its doorstep. The other branch Hospitals were located at Ackworth, Aylesbury, Barnet, Chester and Westerham.
A local committee was formed to manage the Shrewsbury Hospital and a 99-year lease was taken out on a plot of land called Kingsland, on what is now Ashton Road, Shrewsbury, on which to build its new premises. For more immediate purposes, a house was rented on Dog's Lane, Shrewsbury, and the first batch of children — 20 boys and 20 girls — arrived there in January 1759. A house was also leased in St Chad's, Shrewsbury, for use as a nursery until the main Hospital was built. Construction of the new building began in the spring of 1760.
It was decided that the older children at Shrewsbury should be employed in the manufacture of carpets and other items. A number of them were sent to Ackworth to learn the woollen industry. The infants sent to Shrewsbury were initially placed with wet nurses in the area. According to a history of Shrewsbury from 1779:
The new building was designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard. The total cost of the land and building was £16,960. Construction was completed in 1765 but parts of the building came into use before that date. In 1764, it housed 435 orphans, all but two of them from London.
The withdrawal of government funding for the charity in 1760 quickly resulted in a fall-off in its admissions and the branch Hospitals were gradually closed. In 1769, 50 of the older boys at Shrewsbury were transferred to Ackworth. The number of inmates continued to be run down until the final closing down began in 1771. In June 1772, all the children aged seven or over were ordered to be returned to London, with thirty-one being sent by wagon the following month. At the end of the year, the Hospital's furniture, beds and bedding were sold off.
The building was subsequently occupied by Baker's woollen manufactory and was also used to house foreign prisoners. In 1784, the parishes of Shrewsbury bought the premises for the knock-down sum of £6,080 for use as a 'House of Industry' or workhouse. In 1871, the site was acquired by Shrewsbury School.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. Holdings of Foundling Hospital records include General Registers, Petitions, Baptism Registers, Inspection Books, Nursery Books and Apprenticeship Registers. The LMA have also produced a guide to tracing an individual foundling. Due to the Data Protection Act, registers containing personal information about named individuals remain closed for 110 years.
- Former pupils of the Foundling Hospital and their relatives can request information from closed records by contacting the Adoption and Permanent Families Service at Coram. The Adoption Services at Coram Family also provide a counselling service for anyone who wishes to talk about any aspect of the Foundling Hospitals history that may have affected their lives.
- Allin, David S. The Early Years of the Foundling Hospital 1739/40-1773 (2010, privately published)
- Brownlow, John The History and Design of the Foundling Hospital: With a Memoir of the Founder (1858)
- Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain s Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
- Levene, Alysa Childcare, Health and Mortality in the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800: 'Left to the Mercy of the World' (2012, MUP)
- McClure, Ruth Coram's Children: London Foundling Hospital in the Eighteenth Century (1981, Yale University Press)
- Nichols, R.H. and Wray, F.A. The History of the Foundling Hospital (1935, OUP)
- Pugh, Gillian London's Forgotten Children: Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital (2011, The History Press)
- Sheetz-Nguyen, Jessica A. Victorian Women, Unwed Mothers and the London Foundling Hospital (2012, Continuum)
Except where indicated, this page () © Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.