Friday, 11 March 2011

Threads of feeling.

This week I discovered an exhibition which I found really interesting and strangely moving. It is an exhibition of 18th century textile tokens left with abandoned babies at the London Foundling Hospital.
The exhibition is being shown online for those who can not get to see it. You can find it here, 
The snippets of textiles are fascinating especially from a historical perspective but the scraps of letters and documents, for me,  hint at a story of heartbreak and loss. Amazing.

Fabric swatches from the 18th century tell stories of mother and babies parting.

Letter and token left with Florella Burneys at the foundling hospital 19th  June 1768.

'Worckt with flowers'. Linen or cotton embroidered with flowers.

'Flowered all over with cards'. Cotton or Linen printed all over with playing card pattern.

In the cases of more than 4000 babies left between 1741 and 1760, a small object or token, usually a piece of fabric was kept as an identifying record. The fabric was either provided by the mother or cut from the clothing by the hospitals nurses. Attached to registration forms and bound up into ledgers, these pieces of fabric form the largest collection of everyday textiles surviving in Britain from the 18th Century.

For more information you can also visit  

The first children were admitted to the Foundling Hospital on Lady Day 25th March 1741, and baptised in new or 'Hospital' names, a practice that continued until 1948.( The child was never told the identity of the mother, neither was she told the 'Hospital name of the child.)

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