Coram Fields & Handel’s Messiah
Once I visited Handel House Museum at 25 Brook Street in London I came across a wonderful story about a retired sea-captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751) who is linked to Handel and to the painter William Hogarth( 1697-1764).
When Coram retired he came back to London and was appalled by the sight of the many abandoned children dying in the streets of the poor areas in London. The poor and lonely mothers had no chance to feed and bring up their illegitimate babies.
Gin was distilled in every fifth house in the area of St. Giles and the abuse of gin made the situation so much more miserable.
William Hogarth has shown the horror in his etching and engraving “Gin Lane”.
Gin was cheap and used by the poor women and caused an increase in child mortality and deformity and lack of care and protection for the children.
He started to raise money for a hospital called ” The Foundling Hospital” and it was inaugurated in Bloomsbury after 17 years in 1748. Handel’s “Messiah” was performed there many times to help raise money as well as William Hogarth and other fine artists were involved.
Already at the first opening day a long queue of unhappy mothers wanting to give their children away were waiting to get help.
The children got a very fine education in beautiful surroundings. At the museum you can see a lot of small amulets that were given as a token from the mothers to get back their children in a brighter future. But that never happened at that time.
You can hear stories live on head phones from people who have attended the school and they have kept together their entire lives.
Where the “Foundling Hospital” was situated you have “The Coram Fields” today. A wonderful play ground where children are welcome in company with an adult.
The Coram organisation is still helping children today and they are celebrating 275 years of helping children. During these many years tens of thousands abandoned children’s lives were saved.
A thing that struck me was that already in the time of the Foundling Hospital start educated people were aware of the dangers of alcohol like gin resulting in grave consequences in health and in social life and ability to survive.