Your Visit - History of Coram's Fields

Thomas Coram by Hogarth
Portait of Thomas Coram by Hogarth

Foundling Hospital c.1900
Foundling Hospital c. 1900
© Peter Higginbottom http://www.workhouses.org.uk

Coram's Fields plaque
Plaque outside Coram's Fields
CC BY-SA 3.0 Oosoom / Wikipedia

Captain Thomas Coram (c. 1668 – 1751) was a philanthropist who created the London Foundling Hospital to look after unwanted children in Lamb's Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury. It is said to be the world's first incorporated charity.

As a great philanthropist Coram was appalled by the many abandoned, homeless children living in the streets of London. On 17 October 1739 he obtained a Royal Charter granted by George II establishing a "hospital for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children."

When, in the 1920's the hospital was relocated outside London, the land was sold to a developer who demolished the hospital building itself leaving only the single storey colonnaded Georgian buildings. Following a campaign and lengthy fundraising by local people the land was turned into London's first public children's playground.

A plaque outside the park reads:

The site of the Foundling Hospital established in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram were offered for sale as building land in 1926 when owing to changing social conditions the old Hospital was sold and demolished.

After eight years anxiety as to its fate the site was eventually preserved for the use and welfare of the children of Central London by the generosity and vision of Harold Viscount Rothermere, by the efforts of the Foundliong Site Appeal Council, by the co-operation of the Governors of the Foundling Hospital and of the Education Committee of the London County Council, and by the enthusiasm of many thousands of donors, large and small, who contributed their money or their toil to the saving of these nine acres, henceforth to be known as Coram's Fields.

The park was re-opened under its new name in 1936. Since then it has continued to flourish, often in very difficult circumstances, to become the jewel it is today. Coram's Fields continues to celebrate diversity and to promote a safe yet stimulating environment for London's children to enjoy.

In 2000, Jamila Gavin published a children's book called Coram Boy about the Foundling Hospital. The book was adapted into a play by Helen Edmundson, which had its world premiere at the Royal National Theatre in London in November 2005 and recently had a brief run on Broadway.