Coram Fields & Handel’s Messiah
Once visiting the Handel House Museum at 25 Brook Street in London, I came across a beautiful story about a retired sea-captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751). He is linked to Handel and to the painter William Hogarth (1697-1764).
When Thomas Coram retired, he came back to London and was appalled by the sight of the many abandoned children dying in the streets of the most impoverished areas of London. The poor and single 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 shows the horrors 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.
Thomas Coram started to raise money for a hospital called “The Foundling Hospital” which was inaugurated in Bloomsbury 17 years later 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 leave their children at the hospital and waiting to get help.
The children got an excellent 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 headphones from people who have attended the school, and they have stuck together with each other their entire lives.
Where the “Foundling Hospital” once stood you have “The Coram Fields” today. A beautiful playground where children are welcome in company with an adult.
The Coram organisation is still helping children today, and they are celebrating 275 years of this kind of charity. During these many years, tens of thousands of abandoned children’s lives were saved.
It struck me that already in the time of the start of the Foundling Hospital, educated people were aware of the dangers of alcohol like gin. They knew the grave consequences in health, social life and the ability to survive.