Jacqueline Wilson Story Writing and Illustration Competition

Inspired by the true story of the foundlings at the Foundling Hospital, Jacqueline Wilson has started a new story about two small children arriving at the Foundling Hospital with their foster mother. Why not join us to complete Jacqueline's new story - The Two New Foundlings - with lots of other children? Read the full instructions here.

The Two New Foundlings

‘Here we are at last,’ said Mother, approaching some large iron gates.

Tabitha and Toby had been arguing and poking each other on the long railway journey up to London – but now they reached out simultaneously and clasped hands.

Mother bobbed a curtsy to the Porter.

‘If you please, sir, I’m returning a little sister and brother to the Foundling Hospital. They’ve been in my care for the last six years. May we proceed?’

The Porter nodded and opened the great gates. Mother had to give the children a little push to make them step onto the long gravel path that led to the huge forbidding building beyond.

Tabitha and Toby weren’t a real sister and brother, but Mother had started fostering them on the same day, when they were babies. Mother wasn’t a real mother either, but she had been kind enough to the children. Tabitha started crying at the thought of saying goodbye to her. Toby screwed his face into a ferocious scowl to try to stop his own tears spilling.

‘Now now, my chicks. Don’t look so upset. I’m sure you’ll love it at the Foundling Hospital,’ said Mother. She didn’t sound sure though. She sounded just as upset as they were.

They walked as slowly as they could, but soon they reached the door. Mother rang the bell and a tall woman in a long dark dress and a white cap and apron opened the door. Tabitha and Toby held hands tightly. Who was this new lady? Was she going to be kind to them?

Lucy Naylor, age 14

Tabitha and Toby nervously looked up at the lady before them. She was wearing a pinafore dress, the colour of pig muck. It reminded Toby of the pigs on the farm he had just come from. He looked at the ground quickly to hide his tears - he knew he would never be going back to the farm again.

The lady gave Tabitha a hard look in the eye, unlike the one Mother used. Mother always said to smile when meeting new people, but this lady clearly hadn’t met mother before for she had a sour pout on her lips. She stared down at the children in disgust.

From behind a door, another lady appeared. She had a much warmer smile on her face. She reached out her hand to greet mother, Toby and Tabitha. 'Good morning' she said as she grasped Toby’s hand in a comforting way. 'I’m nurse Nightingale'. When Toby looked into her eyes, he could see a sparkle. He liked the name Nightingale, it reminded him of the birds he used to wake up to on the farm, the sing song of their chirpy voices talking to each other.

The stern lady introduced herself simply as Matron, and Tabitha wondered what her real name was. As she spoke, Toby’s grip on Tabitha’s hand tightened in fear. Matron declared that they must say goodbye to mother and each other. They knew this moment was coming - mother clasped them into one last brisk tearful hug.

'Toby you will be coming with me' Matron stated 'and Tabitha you will be going with Nurse Nightingale'. Tabitha felt a sigh of relief, she could not bear to stand a minute longer with Matron, but she felt awfully sorry for poor Toby. Matron broke their hands apart and grabbed Toby’s plump sweet wrist and began walking towards the corridor. Toby took one last sad, scared look behind him and Tabitha thought to herself 'when am I going to see him again?'

Matilda Brain, age 10

Nurse Nightingale took Tabitha by the hand as they walked along the long corridors. There was silence except for the faint chatter of older girls, Tabitha heard a Matron’s stern voice, a sudden snap and then silence. Her stomach dropped like it did coming down the hill, away from the farm, sadness poured over her and she had to bite her lip to stop the tears from spilling out. Nurse Nightingale gave Tabitha a warm reassuring smile. Tabitha’s stomach settled and the sadness rippled away. She caught the sharp scent of vinegar and saw three girls in identical brown skirts and white aprons scrubbing hard at the red tiled floor. Tabitha slipped her hand into her pocket and felt the soft cotton handkerchief Mother had given her before she left the farm. It had Tabitha embroidered along the side and there was an intricate flower design in one corner. Again, Tabitha bit her lip, is Toby O.K.? she wondered.

Taylor Woolerson, age 10

At the end of the long corridor, Tabitha was led up a large staircase. As they climbed the stairs Tabitha couldn’t help wondering about poor Toby. She hoped she would never have to see moody Matron again but deep down she knew that wouldn’t happen. As they climbed the stairs, the sharp, scent of vinegar returned to make her eyes water, they passed some exhausted girls on their hands and knees scrubbing them until they were squeaky clean. 'Good work girls,' encouraged Nurse Nightingale with a warm smile.

As they reached the top of the stairs, Nurse Nightingale said 'Let’s get you into the washroom and cleaned up.'Tabitha thought to herself 'I am clean, Mother bathed me last night, especially for the journey' but she didn’t dare say her thoughts out loud. 

In the washroom, there was an iron tub filled with water and next to it was a small bar of soap. Nurse Nightingale picked up a pair of large silver, shiny scissors. 'Sadly we have to cut all the new girls hair short to prevent the spread of lice' she told Tabitha. Tabitha could feel her eyes starting to water, she clenched them together to try and stop the tears from falling. 'My mother told me, my long brown hair is beautiful.' Murmured Tabitha. But in two quick snips, both of Tabitha’s long, brown plaits fell to the floor. 'Don’t worry, it will grow back but you do need to get in the tub.' replied Nurse Nightingale softly. Tabitha did as she was told and stepped into the lukewarm tub.

After washing and drying, Nurse Nightingale handed her some new clothes. 'Where is my special handkerchief?' exclaimed Tabitha. 'It will be locked away, safely until you leave.' Replied Nurse Nightingale So Tabitha slowly pulled on a long scratchy dress, the same pig muck colour as moody matron’s and nice Nurse Nightingale’s. Also a strange white cap and apron. 'Good girl, let’s take you to your room.' said Nurse Nightingale. Tabitha thought to herself 'Will my hair ever grow back? I miss mother so much and the handkerchief she gave me, Will I ever see her again? And I wonder how Toby is, with that awful, moody Matron?'

May Webster, age 10 

Toby was dragged harshly along the carefully scrubbed corridor. It was empty apart from the odd scrubbing brush abandoned by a younger girl. He wondered if he could run away when Matron's back was turned, but where would he go? The farm was not his home anymore. He had been told that the Foundling Hospital was his new home. He did not want it to be. Matron came to an abrupt halt every now and then, looking around as if she were missing something. It reminded Toby of mother's sharp glances at the village children whenever they jeered at Toby or Tabitha about the life that awaited them at the Foundling Hospital, the life he was about to begin. They had reached the end of the corridor and were now turning into a room full of chattering girls. Matron's feet snapped through the laughter and talking, creating a shudder of silence. Everyone was quiet apart from a small girl scrubbing at the floor, her face and eyes red from crying. She looked up; her tear stained cheeks growing even redder with humiliation as each girl turned their gaze on her. Matron put out her foot and rubbed the muddy sole of her shoe across the shimmering floor. As she did so, she smiled. Toby felt his stomach lurch, making him feel slightly sick. On the way out of the room, Toby turned to look at the girl once more. There was something strangely familiar about her large dark eyes like pools and her dotted freckles. 

'Tabitha?' he whispered, edging towards the girl. Matron made no attempt to pull him back, she was too busy talking to a tall man wearing smart clothes and little glasses that made him look rather silly, Toby thought. He edged closer and the girl looked up. It was Tabitha. She smiled through her tears when she saw Toby but shook her head and looked anxiously around her. Toby understood he was not to talk and instead gazed at her. She looked different somehow. Her black hair was short and spiky and she seemed pale and unlike the Tabitha Toby had known on the farm. He gave her an awkward, nervous smile. Their eyes told each other they were not going to escape this place yet. Then he slipped back to Matron but was shoved into the hard grip of the man in the glasses and suit and was dragged off once more, leaving poor Tabitha alone with her thoughts. As he was pulled further and further away from his sister, 'she will be ok...won't she?' he whispered under his breath...

Cairo Weston, age 11

As the fierce man pulled Toby along the polished floor, all he could think about was Tabitha. What had that lady done to her? ‘Hurry up, boy!’ The man pulled on his sleeve even harder. Toby struggled to keep up. All he wanted to think about was Mother. He missed her already. The man in glasses and a suit stopped at a door.‘This is your dormitory,’ He said. Without any instructions, he let go of Toby’s hand, pushed him inside, and walked off.

Toby looked around. Some of the boys looked up from unpacking and smiled at him. Then they got back to what they were doing. However, one boy, with a shock of red hair, didn’t smile or even look up. Toby thought nothing of it at first, but when the boy did look up, he smirked. Toby knew that the boy wasn’t very friendly. Some other boys saw Toby staring at the boy with red hair, and came up to Toby.

‘Hey,’ the first boy said. ‘Oh hi!’ Toby glanced up. Standing above him were three tall boys, who Toby thought looked very tough. ‘Ignore the ginger boy, he did the same to us when we first came,’ the second boy said. ‘Really?’ Toby asked. ‘Yeah, but don’t worry, nobody likes him,’ the last boy explained. Just as that was said, another boy, with a birthmark on his left cheek, walked up to the red-haired boy and punched his shoulder. ‘Hey Joe,’ said the boy with the birthmark. ‘Oh, except for him’ the last boy said. Toby smiled. He was going to have some fun with these three boys, and he knew it.

‘What’s your name?’ the first boy asked. ‘Toby, Toby Joans,’ Toby said, proudly. ‘Hi, I’m Jack, this is Tom,’ he said, pointing to the second boy, ‘and this is Johnny,’ he pointed to the last boy. ‘And who’s he?’ asked Toby, signalling to the ginger boy. ‘His name is Hugh,’ said Jack. ‘I don’t like the look of him,’ laughed Toby. ‘Hah! You shouldn’t,’ said Johnny. ‘Anyway, thanks for making me feel more at home,’ Toby smiled at Jack, Tom and Johnny. ‘No problem,’ Jack replied, ‘Friends?’ ‘Friends,’ Toby confirmed. Toby threw everything he was carrying, and himself, on the bed and sighed. Johnny’s bed was next to his, so they started talking again. ‘You alright?’ Johnny could see that Toby was upset, but Toby knew that these guys were tough, and they would never cry, so he pulled himself together. ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I just miss the farm,’ Toby said. ‘I know how you feel’ comforted Johnny, ‘I didn’t want to leave my family either, I was really upset,’ ‘Did you cry?’ Toby asked. Johnny nodded his head slowly, ‘Everyone does, even me,’ Toby smiled, ‘I knew you were softer than you looked!’ They both laughed. ‘Better leave you to unpack in peace,’ Johnny said and left.

‘This isn’t going to be so bad after all,’ Toby thought.

Sofia Fraser, age 8

Finally, Tabitha finished scrubbing the muddy smear that Matron had cruelly left for her to clean. Where was she to go now? She did not know anybody here except Toby, and he had been taken away to the boy’s wing. At that moment, a small, skinny girl with red hair and freckles walked past. 'Excuse me…', Tabitha squeaked in a frightened voice. 'Please can you tell me what to do now? The girl looked at Tabitha’s teary face and felt deeply sorry for her. She remembered how lost and terrified she had felt on her first day at the Foundling Hospital. She looked at the clock. 'It’s almost time for lunch,' she said in a kind voice. 'Why don’t I show you where we go to eat?'

At lunch, the girl with red hair and freckles introduced Tabitha to her friends. The oldest one was called Beth. She was tall with black plaits. The second oldest with blonde hair was called Amy. The youngest one, who was just about the same age as Tabitha, was called Mary. They gave her lots of tips on how to survive in the foundling hospital. The most important tip was… STAY OUT OF MATRON’S WAY!!

A loud clang signalled the end of lunch. As Tabitha walked out, she wondered who the girl with red hair was…

Alice Goldstein, age 8

The small, red haired girl stumbled out of the dinner hall with Tabitha by her side. There were murmurings and giggles coming from behind them. Tabitha swiftly turned her head to uncover the identities of the snickering girls. 'Look at that pathetic new girl sucking up to Hetty, such a surprise!', sneered one.  'My, she is just as bad as Hetty was when she first came here. She was always hanging onto the seniors!', sniggered another girl. Hetty heard this, winked companionably at Tabitha and answered, her temper firing up, 'Well, I think she doesn’t want to be teased. I remember what it was like when I first came here and I don’t want it to be like that for Tabitha!' she paused and rudely stuck her tongue out at them. 

Matron appeared in front of them, announcing sharply, 'to the classroom and no more dawdling!' 'Yes, Matron Peters', chorused the girls, solemnly. As they trudged past her, she muttered in Hetty’s ear, 'No more rudeness from you. I’ll tell your teacher to keep an eye on your temper!' and with that she marched off. As they were approaching the classroom, the girl with red hair introduced herself to Tabitha as Hetty Feather, and told her the names of the two malicious girls: Sheila and Monica. Hetty told Tabitha to ignore them. Tabitha thought this slightly rude but did not say for fear of upsetting Hetty.

When they eventually reached the classroom, everybody filed in on rows of hard, wooden desks and benches. Yet another stern looking Matron was eyeing them from the front of the room.  On her desk lay a forbidding strap. Tabitha shuddered. Then Tabitha remembered Toby. Where was he? How could she find out? Was he okay?...

Milo Dawes, age 7

Toby heard a loud clang and quickly finished his delicious lunch. He had sat with Jack to eat his beef stew with some bread. They talked about the beautiful countryside and the farmlands, and how they wanted to go back to their farms. Nurse Nightingale came over and asked each of them how the lunch was. Most of them said ‘it was good’, but the boy with red hair said that he hated it. The nurse was very disappointed.

He saw a door at the back of the room and through a window he could see the girls. After he had finished telling the nurse how good his stew was, he quietly ran to the door and checked though the window to see if the girls were still sitting in their classroom with a very cross looking Matron...