In 2010 The Foundling Hospital Museum in Bloomsbury, London put on an exhibition called "Threads of Feeling - 18th Century Textile Tokens left with Abandoned Babies". You can see more about it HERE on a slide show.
When babies were left at the foundling hospital the only things identifying them were tiny scraps of fabric. Although the babies were given new names and were not told of their previous history, mothers were encouraged to leave a token with the baby so that, should they ever be able to return to claim their children, they would have something that would identify them.
The Foundling Hospital Museum is a moving place to visit - the thought that, out of all the abandoned babies only a few were ever reclaimed, is heart rending. Also, almost two thirds of babies taken in died - not through neglect but because the infant mortality rate in London was so high.
I have woven a copy of a piece of cloth that was pinned to a baby boy who was left at the Foundling Hospital. He would have been under 2 months old (the hospital was so overwhelmed with babies that it could only take 20 children a month - under the age of 2 months) and, if he had survived, he would have been sent off to a wet nurse in the country straight away. At age five he would have returned to the hospital to be educated and then apprenticed at 10. (Sadly, he died soon after he was taken in).
|Threads of Feeling woven sample|
If you are visiting London please put The Foundling Hospital Museum on your itinerary of places to visit.