About the object
A unique token
Many parents used coins as tokens, sometimes with a hole so that the coin could be threaded onto ribbon and worn. Often they added extra holes to make it more individual. Jane Crispin, the mother who punched the five holes into this silver coin, successfully transformed it into a unique token – it is the only one like it in the Collection.
A mother returns
The child left with this token in 1756 was originally called Ann Williams. Her mother, Jane Crispin, an unmarried woman living in Soho, returned for her two years later. Ann, now renamed Lucy Draper by the Hospital, was alive and being looked after by a wet nurse in Kent.
Jane’s detailed description of the token on her claim paperwork as “a piece of silver the size of a sixpence piece with five holes in the same” has helped researchers match up this coin with the child’s record.
Before 1764, if you returned to reclaim your child, you had to promise to pay the Hospital’s costs in caring for them. Only once you had committed to paying would you be told if your child was alive or dead.
Even if a child had died, the person making the claim would be expected to pay costs up until the date of death. Claimants needed someone to vouch that they were able to pay. For Jane Crispin these were Thomas Gibson, coronet in General Hawley’s Regiment of Dragoons, and Charles Hagan, maker of boned bodices (called ‘stays’), of Dean Street, Soho.
The rule was changed in 1764. From then on, so that as long as a petitioner could prove who they were and that they were able to care for a child, the infant was returned free of charge.