Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Friday 1st August - The Gordon Riots

Thankfully the rain held off for our walk today, only sending raindrops as we came to the end of the walk.

Today's walk was all about the Gordon Riots, the most violent civil uprising in the history of London. After meeting up outside Holborn Tube Station, Aly led us down to our first stop in Sardinia Street, having paused at Twyford Place for a brief summary of today's subject. The Gordon Riots actually took place in 1780 but it was events two years earlier in 1778 that actually set things in motion. Sir George Savile has successfully introduced a Catholic Relief Act which was part of a Whig tradition of religious tolerance. The Act absolved Roman Catholics from taking the religious oath on joining the army (to help boost the size of the British Army at a time when we were involved in wars against America, France and Spain) and was passed by Lord North's government.

Burning of Newgate Prison

Two years later in 1780 Lord George Gordon, an extreme protestant set up the Protestant Association demanding the repeal of the 1778 Act. He made a speech which spread fear of 'popery' - that there was a conspiracy involving 20,000 Jesuits hiding in tunnels under the River Thames waiting for an order from Rome to rise up and attack London. He also suggested that the Roman Catholics in the army could join forces with the Irish, French and Spanish to attack England. He saw the Act as a threat to Anglicanism and as being a Roman Catholic was tantamount to being a traitor (because they could not be loyal to the monarch and to the pope at the same time) much anti catholic feeling was whipped up.

Lord George Gordon
(courtesy Trustees of the British Museum)

So at our first stop in Sardinia Street we look at was is now the new London School of Economics building but where on this site stood the Sardinian Embassy. At that time Italy was a series of individual states, hence Sardinia having it's own embassy and the name of the street!

Following Gordon's speech, mobs took to the streets, and their first target was the Sardinian Embassy, because there was also a Catholic Chapel situated here where Catholics could come to take part in mass although mass was still semi-illeagal at that time. Because it was a well known chapel however, it was always going to be a target. The building was attacked and destroyed. The Church of St. Anselm and St. Caecilia was later built on the site, but then moved further up Kingsway to it's current location near Africa House.

The Bavarian Chapel in Soho and Newgate Prison were also attacked. The latter in an effort to free prisoners and to increase the size of the mob. People became anxious for their own safety and began to write on the doors of their homes "No Popery" to prove they were not catholics.

The mob attack Newgate Prison
(courtesy City of London)

Plan of Watchman's Posts in Charing Cross during the riots
(courtesy City of London)

We now walked back up Kingsway and across into Southampton Row and then turned left and walked into Bloomsbury Square and stopped outside what was once No. 29. It was here that Lord Chief Justice Mansfield lived. On Tuesday 6th June 1780 his home was attacked by a mob and raised to the ground. He managed to escape through the back of the house on to what is now Southampton Row. The mob burned his precious Law Library. Whether coincidence or by design, Lord Mansfield presided over Lord George Gordon's trial.

A House in Bloomsbury Square
Lord Justice Mansfield

Three of the mob who attached the house, John Gray, Charles Kent and Letitia Holland, were hung in Bloomsbury Square as it was believed at that time that criminals were hung as close to the scene of their crime as was possible.

We now walked back to Southampton Row, headed north and then turned right through Cosmo Place into Queen Square, turning right again into Old Gloucester Street

Cosmo Place

At No. 44 we find a plaque which notes that Bishop Richard Challoner lived and died here. He was a prominent catholic who produced a revised edition of the Bible and a catholic prayer book. At the time of the riots he was nearly 90 years old. He managed to escape from his home before the mob arrived taking refuge in Finchley, north London, although at that time a rural area. When the riots died down he returned home but he never really recovered from the shock of having to escape and he died shortly thereafter.

Bishop Richard Challoner
(courtesy Bishop Challoners School)

44 Old Gloucester Street

The Plaque on No. 44

We now continued down to Theobalds Road, crossing over to Drake Street, then along the edge of Red Lion Square and into Proctor Street, before crossing High Holborn to stand outside the Chancery Court Hotel.

There was a climate of very severe punishment at the time and an example of this is shown by the following case.

George Bourton was a drunken cobbler. He was walking down High Holborn when he decided to try his hand at begging. Richard Stone was walking past him when Bourton held out his hand and said "Pray remember the Protestant religion" as a begging device. Stone offered him tuppence but Bourton being greedy demanded six pence. Stone reluctantly gave him the money but reported him - Bournton was arrested and hung.

On Wednesday 7th June 1780 the mob pillaged and set fire to the Black Swan Distillery on the site of Barnards Inn in Holborn. The drunken mob attacked the distillery because it's owner Mr. Langdale was known to be a catholic. The rioters poured alcohol on the flames which of course exacerbated the strength of the fire and in fact caused a number of deaths.

The novel 'Barnaby Rudge' by Charles Dickens is set during the riots. Lord George Gordon together with his secretary Gashford and a servant John Grueby stop for the night in the village of Chigwell before leaving for London and inciting anti-catholic sentiment along the way and recruiting volunteers for his cause. Dickens describes them as "sprinkled doubtless here and there with honest zealots, but composed for the most part of the very scum and refuse of London, whose growth was fostered by bad criminal laws, bad prison regulations and the worst conceivable police."

A scene from Barnaby Rudge

By the 8th June 1780 troops had been called in and the authorities gained the upper hand. King George III ordered his officers to exert "their utmost force" to repress the rebellion.

George III's Proclamation
(courtesy City of London)

As a result of the riots Lord George Gordon was charged with treason and was sent to the Tower of London. He spent 8 months in prison but was later cleared of blame. He later abandoned his Christian faith and became Jewish, changing his name to Abraham George Gordon. He died in Newgate Prison aged 42 having been incarcerated for libelling Marie Antoinette.

As a result of the riots:

285 people died
200 were wounded
450 people were arrested
25 people were hung
£200,000 worth of damage
£70,000 compensation paid to individuals
100 Roman Catholic buildings (including churches, presbyteries and private homes) were looted and/or burned.

I really enjoyed this walk, as it was about a period I knew very little about. The next walk is a longer evening walk on The Bloomsbury Group.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Friday 18th July 2008 - The Hunterian Museum

The Coat of Arms of The Royal College of Surgeons 1822
(picture courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

A cloudy damp today for our walk today - something a little different again with a visit to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields. (Click HERE for the Museum Website)

We met as usual outside Holborn Tube Station, and our guide Aly led us to Lincoln's Inn Fields and the Royal College of Surgeons. We collected visitor badges at reception and then made our way up the stairs to the entrance to the museum. We were welcomed and given a Museum Guide, and walked into the Crystal Gallery which is just amazing. Originally, we were to have split in two and had a 20 minute guided tour of the Museum, but due to number size instead we were given a wonderful talk by the Director of the Museum, Simon Chaplin who held everyone spellbound with his clear oration and amazing knowledge!

The Crystal Gallery
(photo courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

So first some background. The Hunterian Museum is named after John Hunter who was a surgeon in the second half of the 18th century. At that time you needed no university education or to study medicine to become a surgeon. You would train under an apprenticeship starting at about 14 years of age and then spend the next seven years learning to be a surgeon. The practical side was good but it was no so good for learning anatomy and of course this was only open to men.

William Hunter
(picture courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

One of the drawings by William Hunter

John Hunter was born in East Kilbride in Scotland in 1728. In 1748 he came to London to join his elder brother William who ran an anatomy school in Covent Garden. William Hunter (1718-1783) was already an established physician and obstetrician. Under his tutorlege John learnt human anatomy and quickly showed real aptitude in the dissection and preparation of specimens. William also arranged for him to study under two eminent surgeons, William Cheselden (1688-1752) and Percivall Pott (1714-1788).

John Hunter

In 1760 John was commissioned as an army surgeon and spent three years in France and Portugal. During this time he developed new ideas on the treatment of common ailments to be found in the army such as gunshot wounds and venereal disease, but he also spent time collecting specimens of lizards and other animals. Following his return to England in 1763 he became engrossed in scientific research and this came to characterise his approach to surgery.
He began to build up his private practice. In 1767 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his scientific work and in 1768 he was elected Surgeon to St. George's Hospital, then in Hyde Park. In the 1770s his home in Jermyn Street had become full of his collection of specimens so in 1783 he moved to a large house at No. 28 Leicester Square, and here, together with his wife the poet Anne Home, he entertained his friends and colleagues and it became a natural meeting place for the many artists, naturalists and philosophers of the time. Behind No.28 was a second house where his school of anatomy was based. This was also where his students lived. On the top floor were the dissecting rooms and one of his students, James Williams wrote to his sister :

"My room has two beds in it and in point of situation is not the most pleasant in the world. The Dissecting Room with half a dozen dead bodies in it is immediately above and that in which Mr. Hunter makes preparations is the next adjoining to it, so that you may conceive it to be a little perfumed. There is a dead carcase just at this moment rumbling up the stairs and the Resurrection Men swearing most terribly. I am informed this will be the case most mornings about four o'clock throughout the winter. There is something horrible in it at first but I am now become reconciled."

(This letter was written in October 1793. The originals of the letters were in a private collection but transcripts are in the library of St. George's Hospital Medical School. Thanks to Simon Chaplin for the quote)

Between these two houses was a third building which housed John Hunter's Museum and contained 13000 specimens, both human and animal. Hunter opened the museum to the public to try and explain his work to them every Saturday in May. Three Saturdays were for gentlemen and one Saturday for ladies. The pub The Moon Under Water in Leicester Square now stands on the site of No.28.

The Moon Under Water pub, Leicester Square

Hunter, who became Surgeon Extraordinary and then Surgeon General, died in 1793 and was regarded as one of the leading medical figures of his generation, and a pioneer of a new style of scientific surgery. An example of his pioneering work, is the story of the Coachmen's Leg. A coachman was treated by Hunter at St. George's Hospital for an aneurism behind his knee. Most surgeons at that time would have amputated the leg, but Hunter wanted to try a different solution. Remember at that time there were no anaesthetics, no antibiotics or antiseptics He used a ligature to tie off the artery high on the coachman's thigh. The man went on to live for another 40 years. When he died, his widow was asked if she would donate her husband's leg. You can now see the limb in the Crystal Room of the museum. This was typical of Hunter's approach to try and find ways of treating patients without operating.

The Museum in 1963
(photo courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

His Collection was regarded as being of such importance that it was purchased by the government and presented to the Royal College of Surgeons. As well as human specimens there were animal bodies too including two elephants, from Queen Charlotte's Royal Menagerie and dissected by Hunter.

A Charicature of the Battle between the Barbers and the Surgeons
(picture courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

And now a brief history of the Royal College of Surgeons :-
The College had it's beginnings in the union of the Fellowship of Surgeons and the Company of Barbers by Henry VIII in 1540 to form the Company of Barber Surgeons. They maintained a rather uneasy partnership until the 18th century, when with the number and importance of surgeons increasing through the development of an academic basis for surgical practice, and new anatomy schools such as the one run by William Hunter increasing in popularity, the Surgeons split off to form a separate Company of Surgeons which had it's hall close to the Old Bailey and Newgate Prison. This was of course very convenient for the delivery of fresh bodies for dissection! However, they decided to move to new premises in Lincoln's Inn Fields in the 1790s, but failed to inform their neighbours that there would be bodies delivered for dissection. The judges and lawyers resident in Lincoln's Inn were not happy with the idea of the bodies arriving, and raised a Bill in Parliament to force the College to move away. It was the gift of Hunter's Collection that helped to rescue the situation and a few years later in 1800, The Company of Surgeons were granted a Royal Charter and became the Royal College of Surgeons in London and later of England.

The Whale Skeleton - The Hunterian Gallery before the wars
(photo courtesy Royal College of Surgeons)

A new building was constructed in the 19th century and by the end of that century there was over one hundred thousand specimens in the collection. In 1941 the building suffered severe damage during the bombing of London, and most of the museum was destroyed. The College was rebuilt after the war, with the original inner hall and Library and part of the facade retained.
Although the museum specimens are not used as a practical resource any longer it is still an important place for scientific research today. The College is the leading institute of post graduate training for surgeons today.

The Royal College of Surgeons

I think we were all impressed with Simon Chaplin's talk - he managed to pack in an amazing amount into a relatively short period of time and was happy to answer questions afterwards.

After a brief look around, some of our group met up with Aly outside for a short walk around Lincoln's Inn Fields. Our first stop was in the corner of the fields where we saw a bust of John Hunter.

The Hunter bust in Lincoln's Inn Fields

We then walked out onto the west side of the square to see No.66, now the home of Farrar's Solicitors. The house was built just before 1700 for Lord Powis and was called at that time
Powis House. On 27h July 1694 the Charter of the Bank of England was sealed in this house.

No 66 - Now Newcastle House

In 1705 the house was acquired by the Duke of Newcastle and renamed Newcastle House. Part of the house was remodeled in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

We then looked a No. 3 Lincoln's Inn Fields . This was at one time the home of Ramsey MacDonald, who became the first Labour Prime Minister in 1924 for just a few months, and then again in 1929. He later formed a National Government together with the Conservatives, and was expelled from the Labour Party in 1931. He continued as Prime Minister for another four years until 1935 and died in 1937.

No 3 Lincoln's Inn Fields

We now moved to Whetstone Park which runs along behind the North side of Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was somewhere along here in what was always a rather dubious street, that the poet Milton (1608-1674)lived. At British History Online we find the following: -

Parallel to the northern side of the "Fields," and lying between them and Holborn, is an almost untenanted row of houses or buildings, now chiefly turned into stables, but formerly dignified by the name of "Whetstone Park." Two hundred years ago it was a place of very bad reputation, and was attacked by the London apprentices in 1602. The loose character of Whetstone Park and its inhabitants is a frequent subject of allusion in the plays of Dryden and Shadwell, and occasionally in Butler's "Hudibras" and Ned Ward's London Spy. But Whetstone Park is not without at least one distinguished inmate. At all events we read in Philips's "Life of Milton" that the author of "Paradise Lost" "left his great house in Barbican, and betook himself to a smaller (in Holborn) among them that open backward into Lincoln's Inn Fields. Here he lived a private life, still prosecuting his studies and curious search into knowledge."

Milton was a supported of the Parliamentarians and after the Restoration of Charles II a warrant was issued for his arrest. Even after a general pardon was issued, he was still arrested and had to rely on his influential friends to obtain his release from prison. His most famous work, Paradise Lost, written between 1658 and 1664 is based on that era. He also wrote many other poems including Paradise Regained in 1671.

I hope you enjoyed this walk, and if you get the chance please do visit the Hunterian Mueum - entry is free. Check the website for opening times.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Saturday 5th July 2008 - Architecture in Holborn - Then and Now

Today's walk, was on a Saturday, (Wimbledon Ladies Final Day no less) which having started out rather damp, became warm and sunny. I was here in Holborn for a summer party, so I was able to sneak away for a couple of hours to go on this walk. Accompanying our usual guide Aly, was local architect Mary Thum. Todays walk was an official part of the London Festival of Architecture programme.

We set off as usual from Holborn Tube Station - a huge group of 85! This is a record for any of the walks and any further Saturday walks will have a lot to live up to. We walked down Kingsway then turned into Keeley Street to a new building designed for CityLit, (1-10 Keeley Street)which was completed in May 2005 and is the largest Adult Education Institute in Europe. CityLit has been operating for 88 years supporting adult education. The building designed by Allies and Morrison was designed to meet today's needs while still blending into the area and forming a bond with the local community. CityLit had been based ina number of properties scattered around the area. The large window visible in the picture below is the Dance Studio. There are 56 modern teaching rooms, a multi purpose theatre which seats 120, and a cafe with displays of art. The proportions of the building are cleverly staged so that on one side the height of the building is the same as the Masonic Temple and while on the other it is higher to reflect the tall building to the right on Kingsway.

We now returned to Kingsway to look at No.24 . This building is being redeveloped by the London School of Economics in a £46 million redevelopment by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners, architects who have also designed the Eden Centre and the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo. The design aims to incorporate modern teaching facilities in an historic facade. When finished it will allow double the number of students and includes an Atrium and a roof pavilion to reflect the open space of Lincoln's Inn Fields (as the building stretches down the length of Sardinia Street into Lincoln's Inn fields). Two huge red steel boxes eleven storeys tall were installed for the lift shafts - the first time something this large has been installed. Previously such structures were installed in sections on site. There is also a Roman artesian well deep beneath the foundations and this will be used to provide water for the building.

24 Kingsway

We now walked down Sardinia Street and into Lincoln's Inn Fields to look at a building I am very well familiar with - Nos. 59-60 Lincoln's Inn Fields, the site this sunny Saturday of our Chambers party which I had snuck away from. Bouncy castle, rodeo bull and ball pools and giant lego were being enjoyed to the full by the children and a steel band and a barbecue were also there, but hidden from view behind a tent. As I have talked about this building before, I will be brief. Lincoln's Inn Fields was London's first garden square and is the largest. No. 59-60 is the only remaining example of the original houses built here, and may have been designed by the great Inigo Jones, an early English renaissance designer. Aly pointed out the two stone vases atop the gateway. The front is stuccoed and painted, at present a pinkish colour. It is not original however, but dates only from 1975. English Heritage are now giving consideration to Garden Court Chambers request for permission to repaint the front in an appropriate colour which is historically correct.

59-60 Lincoln's Inn Fields

We now walked into the Fields and over to the bandstand. This is in fact part of the original Chinese Pagoda which once stood here, and again English Heritage are considering restoring the original design in full. In the past, the fields were home to grazing cattle, jousting and executions, and were laid out by Inigo Jones in the late 17th century.

The Bandstand
We then crossed to Sir John Soane's Museum, which covers Nos. 12, 13 and 14 Lincoln's Inn Fields and has a neo-classical style. Soane was a professor of architecture and a contemporary of Robert Adam. He also designed the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the old Bank of England. Soane purchased No. 12 in 1792 and over the next 32 years purchased Nos 13 and 14 which he demolished and rebuilt to provide not only his home but the office for his architectural practice.

Sir John Soane's Museum
The four column capitals on the front are 14th century, and there are two stone caryatids which are modelled on a temple next to the Parthenon in Athens. The roof lights have been restored to allow light to pass through all the way to the basement, and replaced coloured lights. The breakfast room has a ceiling domed with convex mirrors. There are even decorative coal hole covers at the front of the house.

One of the column capitals

A decorative coal hole at Sir John Soane's Museum

We now walked back towards Gate Street, stopping to look at Little Turnstile, which together with Great Turnstile were just that - turnstiles to stop the cattle from wandering. We walked through Little Turnstile onto High Holborn to our next stop at the Chancery Court Hotel. This wonderful 5 star hotel kindly allowed us inside to look at some of the wonders inside. But first we stopped to crane our necks and look up to the cupola at the top of the building. From a distance this has been known to fool people into believing it is the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. The hotel was originally built as the headquarters of the Pearl Assurance Company, and was vacated in the 1990s. The building was designed by H. Percy Monkton, of whom little is known, and begun in 1912. In fact the whole frontage was only completed in 1962 because, following bomb damage during World War II, buildings on either side were destroyed and damaged and these spaces were incorporated into the original building. The frontage is made of Scottish grey granite to first floor level and thereafter pearly grey Portland Stone is used throughout the remainder of the construction. These are solid blocks not just facing stones.

Looking up at the Cupola-The Chancery Court Hotel

The inner courtyard at The Chancery Court Hotel
We now walk through an arched entrance way into a courtyard. To our right as we enter is the main entrance and to our left a bar with tables and umbrellas. We then stop and turn to look back. Now to the left of the entrance arch stood the West Banking Hall - this is now a bar. On the right of the entrance arch stood the East Banking Hall - this is now a lovely restaurant. We now turn to our left and walk into the lobby through the main entrance. This is the largest hotel lobby in London. There are eight columns with bronze plinths and the floor is made of Portugese limestone inset with Scottish slate which has all been restored. The building is listed so of course everything must be done to preserve the original building as much as possible. We now turned to the right and through double doors to see the staircase. Frankly I was blown away! Up a flight of carpeted stairs and then left through more doors we come upon the most stunning staircase which leads eight floors to the top of the building and to the inside of the cupola. The staircase is made of Italian white marble with black staining from Pavanazo. Six years ago the staircase alone was insured for £40 million! The photo below can't really do it justice - if you ever get the chance you must visit this lovely hotel and see that staircase. I wandered back into the lobby by myself to get some more photos and I took these photos of the very helpful porters on duty. By the way, the restaurant serve the most gorgeous cupcakes for tea!

The Lobby(1)-Chancery Court Hotel

The Lobby(2)

The Lobby(3)

The Lobby (4) - The Porter's Desk

Gazing up the marble staircase to the interior of the Cupola
We now wended our way back out into the sunshine and on to High Holborn to look briefly at Mid City Place which was designed by Kohn Pederson Fox and completed in 2001. At the end of the 1990s Holborn was not the most desirable place to work, but with the Chancery Court Hotel coming to High Holborn property prices began to revive with Turnstile House at No. 90 High Holborn and then Mid City Place, suddenly the area became revitalised.

Mid City Place

We now turned down Great Turnstile. Our next building is another modern one - Great Turnstile House designed by Mary Thum Associates and developed by her company Cube City Properties. Great Turnstile is only three metres wide, and the building, which received a Camden Design Award, with high performance windows and insulated stone render, painted a bright yellow. The penthouse affords a wonderful view apparently.

Great Turnstile House

We now walked back to High Holborn and walked east crossing over Chancery Lane and stopped to look across at the Prudential Building at Holborn Bars a Grade II listed building, which fronts Waterhouse Square. The square was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and was built between 1879 and 1906, as they gradually acquired additional land to extend the square. The design was part of the Victorian Gothic Revival, and Waterhouse also designed the Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall. Waterhouse used moulded brick and unglazed terracotta, with glazed terracotta inside. Prudential moved away in 2002 and various companies including English Heritage are now based there.

The Prudential Building

We then walked on to No. 33 Holborn - This building was completed in 2001 by Foster & Partners, and is now the headquarters of J. Sainsbury. There is over 328,000 square feet on the ground floor alolne. There is a huge atrium and eight upper levels. If you look to the left of No. 33 along New Fetter Lane you can see a number of new developments which have contributed to the property boom in Holborn.

J. Sainsbury at 33 Holborn

Crossing over Holborn we walked back past Waterhouse Square and headed west along Holborn and eventually turned down Red Lion Street, turned left into Eagle Street and right into Dare Street and then down to Red Lion Square, to No. 12 Summit House. Now the home of top solicitors Mishcon de Reya who moved there in 2002 and restored and maintain the beautiful Art Deco building, which was designed by Westwood and Emberton who were one of the first firms to build in this style. The first occupants were a tailoring company and two of the original wood panels which decorated the old front doors still remain, a reminder of the origins of the original owners.

Summit House
Details of the remaining panels

Red Lion Fields was developed as a square and laid out in 1684 by Dr. Nicholas Bourbon. Nos 14 and 15 are part of the original 1680s development. The members of Grays Inn were very unhappy at the prospect of building taking place, as it would impinge on their views and a number of the lawyers came down and attacked the builders with bricks, in an attempt to prevent the development going ahead.

We now headed across the Square and up towards Theobalds Road and then along to Southampton Row to see our final building Victoria House. This magnificent Beaux Arts block was designed by Charles Williams Long and completed in 1932. It was originally the home of the Liverpool and Victoria Insurance Company. The columns at the front are three storeys high and the pediments describe industry and navigation. On the rear of the building there are similar sculptures depicting nature. The building was considered as a possible home for the Greater London Assembly, but in the end they chose Norman Foster's design on the south bank opposite the Tower of London. However the scheme for the interior by Will Allsopp did go ahead the main feature of which are gigantic hanging pods inside the mainn entrance hall. There is also an Art Deco ballroom and a fine staircase.

Victoria House
As we made our way back to Holborn Tube Station, we took a brief detour to look at Sicilian Avenue. which was built in 1905 from yellow terracotta and is lined with Corinthian columns, and is a delightful place to stop for a coffee.

We finally arrived back at Holborn Tube a little over two hours after we began, rather footsore and in need of a long cool drink, which I was quick to partake of on my return to Chambers summer party.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Friday 4th July - The Foundling Hospital

It has been a while since I went on one of the excellent walks organised by inHolborn, so I was looking forward to this one. Today, unusually, we met our guide Aly outside the old gates of the Hospital at the junction of Guilford Street and Lamb's Conduit Street, and then walked around into Coram's Fields and on to the Foundling Museum. The railings and the stone work here are all part of the original hospital. Mother's could leave their infants, either by passing them through the gates or leaving them anonymously in the stone bay seen below.

Entrance to the Foundling Hospital

Now for some history - The Foundling Hospital was formed by Captain Thomas Coram, a sea captain, who noticed on his return to England in the early 18th century that there were no facilities for abandoned children - you could literally step over dead and dying babies on the streets. He campaigned for twenty years for something to be done. The authorities were reluctant to do anything because they took the view that if provision was made for these children, it would increase promiscuity among the population and lead to a vast increase in children being abandoned. There was a general apathy and a puritan morality which disapproved of illegitimate children. London was far behind other European cities of the time - Rome had it's Conservatorio della Ruota, founded by Pope Innocent III in the 13th century, and Venice had La Pieta, a 14th century orphanage for girls. Christ's Hospital, founded in London in 1552, had dealt with foundlings as well as legitimate orphans, but by 1676 illegitimate children were banned so there was a desperate need for somewhere to care for these children. Mortality rates were high - 74% of children died before the age of 5. In workhouses (the only other place where the children could be placed) the death rate was over 90% - they just died of neglect or disease.

Captain Thomas Coram

Finally in 1739 Thomas Coram established The Foundling Hospital for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children". He had petitioned the King on a number of occasions, and his perserverance was rewarded when a Royal Charter was granted on 17th October 1739, and subscriptions poured in. The governors met to receive the Charter at Somerset House on 20th October, and they included many of the important figures of the day. These included dukes and earls, merchant bankers, Dr. Richard Mead (the foremost physician of the day), William Hogarth (the painter) and of course Captain Coram himself.

The first children were admitted to the Foundling Hospital on 25th March 1741 into a temporary house located in Hatton Garden. I can only imagine the scenes as the mothers handed over their children, the tears and cries that must have been shed. It must have been heartrending.

A permanent site for the purpose built hospital was found in the area known as Bloomsbury Fields lying north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray's Inn Lane. It consisted of 56 acres of land and cost £7000, £500 of which was donated by the Earl of Salisbury whose land it had been. The Hospital was designed by Theodore Jacobsen as a plain brick building with two wings and a chapel, built around an open courtyard. The western wing was finished in October 1745 and an eastern wing was added in 1752 "in order that the girls might be kept separate from the boys". It quickly became London's most popular charity.

The Foundling Hospital

In 1756 following a resolution in the House of Commons that all children should be received, and funds publically guaranteed, a flood of children poured in from country workhouses. In less than four years 14,934 children were presented. It was during this time that a vile trade among vagrants grew up. They would promise to take the children to the Hospital for a charge, only to either fail to do so or to treat the children with great cruelty. They were sometimes known as 'Coram Men'. Only 4,400 of those children lived to be apprenticed out and when the government saw the cost (£500,000) they came to the conclusion that indiscriminate admission should be abolished and they withdrew funding. Left to themselves, the Hospital adopted a system of receiving children with large amounts of money (£100 for instance) and this led to the children sometimes being reclaimed by their mothers at a later date. This practice was stopped in 1801 and a new rule that no money be received was introduced. All the children at the Hospital were those of unmarried women and they were also all first children of their mothers.

A lottery system was introuduced. Women would enter the secretary's office and putting their hand into a bag would withdraw a coloured ball. Depending on the colour of the ball, the child was either admitted or refused. The babies were baptised and given new names - they were never told their original names. Women could leave a small gift for their child, and if they wished to reclaim him or her at a later date, they had to describe the gift left. This was later replaced by a receipt system. When the child reached a certain age, they were apprenticed out to be manual labourers or admitted to the Army or Navy. Girls were placed into service. Following the tragic death of one of the girls, a Mary Clifford, who was whipped and maltreated by the midwife Elizabeth Brownrigg (1720-1767) as were all of her female apprentices, an investigation was held by the Foundling Hospital. Brownrigg was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to hang at Tyburn. The Hospital instituted a more thorough check of prospective apprentice masters and mistresses from them on.

The Hospital was blessed with generous patrons - William Hogarth painted a portrait of Thomas Coram and donated other pictures. He encouraged his contemporaries to do the same and the hospital was the beneficiary of paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Francis Hayman. There is also a bust of Handel by Roubiliac and a picture of Christ presenting a little child by Benjamin West. This wonderful art collection can now be seen at The Foundling Museum.

We gather outside The Foundling Museum

Music was also important and George Frederic Handel frequently had The Messiah performed there, and donated a fair copy (a full score) to the Hospital. His involvement with the Hospital began on 1st May 1750 when he directed a performance of The Messiah to mark the presentation of the organ to the Chapel. This was a great success and Handel was elected a Governor. Music was deemed very beneficial to the children. In 1847 a successful juvenile band was started and the Hospital has provided many musicians to the bands of the Army and Navy.

The Foundling Hospital Chapel

In the 1920s the Hospital decided to move to a healthier location in the countryside. Originally the buildings were to be sold for university use but this fell through and they were sold to a developer called James White in 1926. His original plan to move Covent Garden Market there was successfully opposed by local residents. The original hospital building was demolished with the exception of one of two buildings and the children were moved to Redhill in Surrey and then to a new purpose built Hospital at Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire in 1935. When British Law in the 1950s moved away from institutionalisation of children to foster care and adoption, the Hospital ceased operations. The Hospital changed it's name to the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children and later to it's current name, Coram.

So after all that history on with the walk! We were met outside the Foundling Museum by our first guide. We were then taken inside for a very brief tour- we were a very large group and it was not possible to spend more than 10-15 minutes inside. The Museum was built in the 1930s to replace the original hospital and to provide administrative space for the Foundation and to provide a museum which would continue to encourage supporters and show the background to the Hospital and retain a connection with it's past. We were shown a wonderful model of the old Hospital which was constructed in the 1920s to ensure the old building was not forgotten. I would love to have had more time to really look at this exhibit. We then saw some of the wonderful paintings, including those by Hogarth that make up part of the Museum's collection. The finest parts of the old Hospital were dismantled and erected inside the Museum building. The staircase is from the old Boys wing and the magnificent Court Room on the first floor is where the Governors would have met.

For those who are interested in tracing an ancestor who may have been at the Foundling Hospital, the records are kept at the London Metropolitan Archive up to about 1920 and more recent records are held by Coram.

The Main Entrance to the Museum

After returning downstairs we went back outside to meet our next guide, who would tell us about Coram. We stopped to admire the statue of Thomas Coram, and then moved off to

Statue of Thomas Coram

walk to Coram. The sound of children filled the air - it sounded very much like sports day!

As we walked we looked at a print of the Hospital (see below). Our guide then then told us that the boys and girls had separate wings, and were kept apart even in death. The original Mortuary we now passed was split into Boys and Girls. There were 192 children in each wing of the Hospital - two to a bed.

A print of the Foundling Hospital

The Mortuary

Next to the Mortuary stand the remains of the old Swimming Pool. Both these buildings are due for demolition, as our guide said they are of no particular architectural significance. Personally I beg to differ - two historic buildings, one of which is admittedly Victorian , but part of the very first Foundling Hospital in this country, should be considered of importance, should be listed and preserved for future generations.

The old Swimming Pool

The other buildings surrounding us are all fairly new and house the offices of Coram. Coram is a childrens' charity which develops and promotes best practice in the care of vulnerable children and their families. They work with over 6000 children, young people and families each year, transforming their lives with practical help and support. They have an Adoption Service and other Education Services to support parents and children.

One of Coram's new buildings

This was a fascinating walk, and something different, in that we were able to go into an excellent museum, albeit briefly. I believe it will be well worth another visit at a later date. Charges apply to entry. Check out their website HERE.

Tomorrow I venture on another 2 hour walk around Holborn to celebrate he London Festival of Architecture.