About the object

Former pupil John Downing was given this suitcase on leaving school in 1950. At the time all the pupils leaving were issued with them. Typically they contained one change of clothes, a comb and a toothbrush. John was taken by the school’s welfare officer to get a suit when he started work. His first job was for a theatrical costumer in London.

John gave this suitcase, along with one belonging to his foster brother George, to the Museum as part of the Foundling Voices oral history project. George joined the army and the inside of his suitcase listed many of the places he saw on his travels.

More recently, care-experienced young people fought for a policy change to ensure that those in care were given a proper suitcase or bag to carry their belongings from one care placement to another. Prior to this change in 2005, many young people arrived at their new foster place with just a bin bag for their clothes and other items.