About the object
Healthier than water
A drink of water could be dangerous in Georgian London. Clean wells and pumps were few and far between. Ale was genuinely safer because the brewing process removed most potentially harmful impurities. Most people – adults and children alike – drank weak ale throughout the day. Children at the Foundling Hospital were an exception. They were always given water, as there was a clean spring in the Hospital’s grounds.
Ale, not beer
This enamel label was used to identify the contents of a bottle. Today, ‘ale’ and ‘beer’ are used interchangeably, but for eighteenth-century drinkers they were two different things, ale being sweeter and maltier, with little or no hops added.
Researchers have been able to match many tokens with the children they were left with, but not this one. When the child’s admission paper, or ‘billet’, includes a description of their token we can connect them. But many billets say only ‘token enclosed’.