The World of Interiors did a lovely story last March about an 18th century
Foundling hospital created by Captain Thomas Coram. Having made his fortune
in trade with the colonies, in his retirement he had noticed on early morning walks
from Rotherhithe into the city of London numerous swaddled babies left on the
steps of various Churches in the hopes that the abandoned babies would be
taken care of . By 1739 the foundling hospital he created with the help of 375
others, including six dukes and 11 earls became the first charity to received a
royal charter, and in 1741 received it’s first orphans. Recently discovered is an
archive of 18th century fabrics that were collected as part of paperwork to
admit each child. Though no question were asked of the women, no names were
required, they were asked by the hospital to leave a small token of remembrance
in case they were able to return to claim their child. Sarah Bender left the scrap
above with her son Charles, who she returned to claim nine years later.
Though many left nothing, others left trinkets, beads, keys, ribbons, and fabric cut
from a mother’s hem or sleeve that was attached to the registration billet. Sadly, of
the 16, 282 children admitted between 1741 and 1760, only 152 were reclaimed.
The poignancy of the hopeful and loving scraps pinned to so many forms tell a
wistful story in the Threads of Feeling exhibit held at the Foundling Museum last
March. The heart is a reoccurring emblem, as well as fabrics decorated with
flowers, birds, butterflies.
Closeted in dark archives, the textiles have survived the centuries in
remarkable condition and are a glimpse into a wide swathe of the social
economic population. Each scrap tells a story. If you’re a fabric nut
or a fan of old script…you’ll love this glimpse into the 18th century…
brings to light the significance of what is now recognized as Britain’s
largest collection of everyday textiles. Threads of Feeling exhibit
The kitchen counter is crowded with garden roses
and my Mother’s coming for a visit. One child will undoubtedly
call from college and the other might help me with the weeding!
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
From Swatch with Mother
by Frances Spalding
World of Interiors March 2011