Orphans of Empire: The Fate of London’s Foundlings by Helen Berry - review by Jerry White

Jerry White

Save the Children

Orphans of Empire: The Fate of London’s Foundlings


Oxford University Press 364pp £20

‘Florella Burney Born June the 19: 1,758: in the Parish off St Anna SoHo. Not Baptiz’d, pray Let porticulare care be take’en off this child, As it will be call’d for Again.’ The love felt by desperate mothers forced by circumstances to abandon their babies in the 18th century emanates clearly from this note, left with the 8,959th child admitted to the London Foundling Hospital a few days after her birth. It is one of myriad telling details unearthed by Helen Berry in her attractive retelling of the hospital’s fascinating history.

The Foundling Hospital was London’s pet charity. Its founding father was Thomas Coram, a stalwart Dorset-born seaman and merchant who finally settled in Rotherhithe, alongside the banks of the Thames. He was moved to pity by the plight of babies abandoned in the streets to die or perhaps

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