About the object
Not that Handel
This medal, engraved ‘Maria Augusta Handel’, was left with a three-week-old girl admitted in 1758. The composer George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) was an enthusiastic supporter of the Foundling Hospital. Their shared name has led many to assume a personal link between him and this child. There’s no firm evidence for this, however. ‘Handel’ was the child’s birth name, and she was renamed Ann Ketelby by the Hospital.
In 1763 Maria/Ann was claimed by John Covert, a friend of her parents. At that time, anyone claiming a foundling child was expected to pay towards the care they had received up to that point, and John Covert offered twenty pounds. The Hospital later stopped asking for these payments, as it was thought to discourage parents from claiming their children.
A seven-year sentence
A footnote added by the vicar notes that the child’s father was a felon who had recently been transported. This could explain why Anne’s mother was unable to care for her. In January 1756 (four months before the child was born), a John Harris was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing coal. He was convicted and sentenced to transportation for seven years. Penal transportation to North America (and later to Australia) was a punishment applied to crimes such as theft. Transported people were forced to work for the period of their sentence. After that, they were left to make their own way back home, thousands of miles away.
The three-dimensional tokens were separated from their paper records in the middle of the nineteenth century. This broke the link between these objects and the children they were left with. Sometimes detailed descriptions in the paperwork can help us reconnect them. Not in this case though. The admissions billet for this token said simply ‘token enclosed’. Researchers were able to make the match only because the child was claimed, and the claim form describes this token in great detail.