About the object

Buckling a shirt

This solid gold shirt buckle would have been worn like a brooch. Men’s shirts had no buttons in the mid-eighteenth century. A buckle like this would hold the two sides together. To attach it, you would pull the shirt cloth through the central hole of the buckle and spear it with the pin.

Paying for a reunion

Anne Costley, who was unmarried, left this buckle with her two-week-old son on 19 April 1759. The Hospital renamed him John Lisle. Exactly one year later, she returned to reclaim him. Before locating his record, the Hospital subcommittee made Costley pay a deposit of eight guineas to cover the cost of his care, regardless of whether he was alive or dead.

Returning the heart

Sadly, Anne Costley’s son had died just ten weeks before she came to reclaim him. A note in his record states ‘the heart returned by order of the subcommittee, April 19 1760’. The archives give us no further clues about what exactly this means. Was it a second token? Did Costley bring it as a gift for her child? We also don’t know why the valuable gold buckle was left behind. She had paid all her dues.

We know the story of this token because it is the only buckle in the Collection. This means we can confidently match it up with the child’s admission record which mentioned a buckle.