Tuesday 26 January 2010

The Foundling Hospital and Ackworth School

The buildings that now house Ackworth Quaker School were originally commissioned by the directors of the London Foundling Hospital to provide overflow shelter for abandoned children. It was considered that the bracing and relatively clean air of the northern moorlands would be beneficial to their well-being. The London Foundling Hospital came into being thanks to the vision and dogged persistence of Thomas Coram. Born in Lyme Regis, he was later apprenticed aboard ship and sailed to America where he prospered. Later in life, he returned to England and settled at Rotherhithe, famous for its docks on the Thames, and infamous for its heaps of uncollected garbage. Here Thomas saw the bodies of babies who had been abandoned by desperate or incapable mothers and was moved to take personal action. In the Foundling Hospital children were taught to read and perform simple arithmetic. A resolution of 1754 stated that no children should be instructed in writing since that might encourage them to seek work above their station – such as clerking. However, attitudes changed and at the end of the eighteenth century, writing was incorporated into the curriculum. Boys were taught to knit, though this was later dropped as it was not viewed favorably by prospective employers. Girls were taught needlework and spinning ‘in such manner as may enable them to make useful Servants’. A woman also taught the girls ‘Pencilling on Calico’. In 1772 the Schoolmistresses reported on the talents and likely work opportunities for the girls in their care: 17 Shirt and Shift menders; 5 Darners; 17 Knitters; 12 Spinners; 13 Coat menders and several young children not capable of anything. The girls’ uniform changed little over the centuries and consisted of a little peaked white muslin cap and a white triangular bib and apron worn over a brown serge dress trimmed with red. And on leaving the Foundling Hospital they would, most likely, have simply changed one uniform for another.

There is a free download of a longer article about the Foundling Hospital. To read more, just click here.


  1. Next time I write an article, I'll check to see what info you have first! I searched for hours looking for info on this uniform and charity schools when I designed the Bristol doll.

    Kirsten Edwards
    The Gift of Stitching

  2. I'm really pleased this was helpful to you. As I have been helped by the research of others on so many occasions.