The Foundling Hospital in London, England was founded in 1741 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children’s home established for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.” The word “hospital” was used in a more general sense than it is today, simply indicating the institution’s “hospitality” to those less fortunate. That said, one of the top priorities of the committee at the Foundling Hospital was children’s health, as they were combating small-pox, fevers, consumption, dysentery, and even infections from everyday activities like teething that drove mortality rates up and risked epidemic. Energies focused on maintaining a disinfected environment, providing simple clothing and fare, the committee paid less attention to and spent less on developing children’s education. Indeed, financial problems would hound the institution for years to come, despite the growing “fashionableness” of charities like the hospital.
In the 1920s, the Hospital decided to move to a healthier location in the countryside. A proposal to turn the buildings over for university use fell through, and they were eventually sold to a property developer called James White in 1926. He hoped to transfer Covent Garden Market to the site, but the local residents successfully opposed that plan. In the end, the original Hospital building was demolished. The children were moved to Redhill, Surrey, where an old convent was used to lodge them, and then in 1935 to the new purpose-built Foundling Hospital in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. When, in the 1950s, British law moved away from institutionalisation of children toward more family-oriented solutions, such as adoption and foster care, the Foundling Hospital ceased most of its operations. The Berkhamsted buildings were sold to Hertfordshire County Council for use as a school and the Foundling Hospital changed its name to the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children and currently uses the working name Coram.