Foundling Hospital, Westerham, Kent
In 1760, a branch of London's Foundling Hospital was founded near Westerham, Kent. It was one of several such satellite establishments set up to receive children from the London institution 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 Shrewsbury.
A farm was leased for the purpose at Wellstreet and almost immediately children began to be sent there from London. Extensions were made to the buildings n 1764 and the following year a house belonging to Mr Warde of Westerham was rented for use as an infirmary.
The children at the Hospital were occupied in spinning and oakum picking. In March 1768, Mr Robinson of Horsleydown complained that the oakum he had supplied to the Hospital had not ben satisfactorily picked and he had made a loss selling it. He went to the Hospital himself and showed them how it should be done. He also submitted a bill for hiss loss although it is not clear if this was ever paid.
In January 1769, there were 170 resident at the Westerham Hospital. Following an inquiry by the London Committee into the work they performed, twenty of them were ordered to be sent to London to be apprenticed.
In April 1769, the Hospital Committee decided to close the establishment, despite being only ten years into their 21-year lease on the site.
Later renamed Chartwell, the property is now best known as being the home for more than forty years of British politician Winston Churchill.
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)
- 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.