Intended for healthcare professionals


The Foundling Museum

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 15 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:176
  1. Joanna Lyall (, freelance journalist
  1. London

    40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ

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    Stigma, separation, segregation, and loss—the Foundling Museum, which opened in London's Bloomsbury last month, tells a sad tale. How could it be otherwise? Among the most affecting objects are the small tokens mothers attached to their babies when they left them to the care of the Foundling Hospital, hoping one day to reclaim the children they could not support.

    Between its inception in 1741 and its closure in 1953 the hospital, founded by the childless philanthropist Thomas Coram, looked after 27 000 deserted children. Admitted when they were under a year, babies were baptised by the hospital, given a new name, put out to a wet nurse or foster mother, and then readmitted between the ages of three and six and cared for until they were 21. Only a few were ever reclaimed by their mothers.

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    Boys march out of …

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