About the object

You have my heart

This heart-shaped token is inscribed with a short, poignant poem:
You have my Heart
Though wee must Part.

Below are the letters I and W, perhaps the child’s initials, or those of their parents. Finally, ‘Nat.’ (short for ‘born’ in Latin) and the birthdate, 6 September 1759. For now, we are left to imagine the backstory of this token, as we have not yet been able to match it to the record of a child.

A planned parting

This is one of several objects in the Collection made specifically as tokens, as opposed to repurposed possessions. The tokens parents left with their children at the Hospital were not gifts, keepsakes or love tokens. They had a practical purpose: proving the relationship and identifying the child if a parent came back to reclaim them. But parents sometimes chose or made tokens to express their feelings of loss, love or hope, such as this one.

Children brought up in the care of the Hospital never saw their tokens. The objects were part of each child’s official documentation, kept in the Hospital archives. Each object was wrapped inside the child’s paper record or ‘billet’, sealed, and filed by date of admission. These packets were only to be opened if a parent returned for their child.