About the object

A tiny telescope

This is a miniature telescope, known as a ‘spy glass’. In the eighteenth century it was fashionable to use one at the theatre, the opera or the races. Some were extremely elaborate objects, focused by extending an inner cylinder. This simple glass seems to be of a fixed length. Despite its large crack it still works perfectly.

The ‘leering look’

Use of these objects was not limited to public performances and events. At social gatherings too, curious people peered through a spyglass to see what was happening across a crowded room. But there they usually had make their observations more subtly. Women in particular were encouraged to be modest in their gaze. The Young Ladies Conduct (1722) advised them to avoid “the wanton turn of the Head, the leering Look”.

Matching child and token

The spy glass was left with a boy admitted in 1757 and named Thomas Lupton by the Hospital. This is the only such object in the collection, and the child’s number is written very faintly on the spy glass itself. This helped researchers make the link between Thomas and his token. No note was left with him, so we don’t know any more about his birth family. Sadly Thomas did not live to adulthood.