Coram’s Fields and Harmsworth Memorial Playground is a children’s charity that serves as a safe place for all children to come and play. As well as a seven-acre park and playground situated in Bloomsbury, London we also have an after school and holiday programme and a sports development programme for children up to 16 years, a youth centre for 13-19 year olds and an Early Years programme which includes a Nursery and Under 5s Drop In.
The park is free to the public and gets up to a thousand children daily during the summer, especially from the diverse local community of South Camden. As a charity we are committed to being a safe and secure space for children to come and play and implement this in a number of ways. One such measure that is detailed in our Safeguarding Policy is that we do not allow any unaccompanied adults into the park.
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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 Foundling 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 seven 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.
You can find more information on the history of Coram’s Fields as well as the local surrounding area in ‘Tales of Brunswick Square: Bloomsbury’s Untold Past‘ by Ricci de Freitas, published by The Marchmont Association.