Foundling Hospital, Ackworth, YorkshireWestRiding

In 1757, a branch of London's Foundling Hospital was established in the village of Ackworth, West Yorkshire. 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 Aylesbury, Barnet, Chester, Shrewsbury and Westerham.

A committee of local gentlemen was elected as the as the governors of the new Hospital, its members including Sir Rowland Winn, Sir George Dalton, Sir John Ramsden the Marquis of Rockingham, Lord Viscount Irwin, Sir William Lowther, The Rev. Timothy Lee and Mr Osbaldeston. In March 1757, the committee agreed the purchase of a farmhouse and 58 acres of land from Jonathan Seaton. Following alterations to the farmhouse building, children began to arrive from June of the same year. In June 1758, a further 17 acres were purchased and in the same month construction was approved on the East Wing extension which was devoted to the accommodation of boys. The Centre building was constructed in 1759-62 and the West Wing and infirmary begun in 1763.

The infants at Ackworth were looked after by a team of wet nurses who fetched the children from London in a horse-drawn vehicle known as 'the caravan'. Older children at the Hospital were taught spinning and weaving and produced flannel and blankets.

Foundling Hospital site, Ackworth, date unknown. © Peter Higginbotham

Following the withdrawal of government funding for the charity, the Ackworth Hospital was closed in September 1773. During its lifetime, a total of 2,664 children had passed through its doors. In 1778, the site was sold for £7,000 to the Society of Friends, then becoming used as a school for Quaker children.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

  • 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.

Bibliography