New research undertaken by the Museum has reunited a Foundling Hospital token with its infant owner.
We are delighted to have rediscovered the story of child number 9009, who was admitted to the Foundling Hospital on 22 June 1758. Examination of the child’s admission paper, or ‘billet’, in the London Metropolitan Archives, revealed important clues about her token, allowing us to identify it in our Collection.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Hospital Governors decided to open the billets and remove the tokens left by mothers to put them on display. While these poignant objects undoubtedly encouraged charitable donations, no record was kept of which token belonged to which baby, and so the link between token and child was broken. Our research into the Hospital’s archive has reunited some tokens with their histories, although there is often little evidence to go on. However, a note pinned to the billet of child number 9009 contains significant clues. It reads:
This infant is the child of a poor salor who being prest in the Kings Service. Its mother left in distress is a Bliged to commit it to your cause & protection to preserve life, but hopes to see it again, has sent as a token a Shilling, with the child’s surname engraved on it, month, day of the month & date of year.
These specific details enabled our Collections Manager Alison Duke and researcher Janette Bright to identify the token, with only one William III shilling so engraved in our Collection:
With the child’s foundling number, we are able to trace her progress through the Foundling Hospital. Records show she was renamed Martha Bromley and in 1763 sent to the Shrewsbury branch of the Foundling Hospital, set up to deal with an increased intake of babies. On 15 April 1772 she was apprenticed for ‘household business’ to Richard Weston, a coachmaker in Kensington. You can see her token on display in the Introductory Gallery.