Saturday, January 15, 2011

Threads of Feeling: 18th-Century Swatches

 The London Foundling Hospital's Textile Tokens
Curated by John Styles

The Foundling Museum in London has an exhibit on display until March 6th that is of interest to everyone interested in Georgian England, women's history and textiles.

Foundlings, abandoned infants, were often left at the orphanage with a token, some form of identification,  family link or remembrance such as ribbons, medals, cockades and scraps of fabric. The foundling home kept dated records, included the tokens and often included a scrap of what the baby was wearing when found. The exhibit focuses on mid-18th-century tokens, giving us an unprecedented view of British fabric in those years.

Click here to read more about the museum and the exhibit:

Curator John Styles has published a catalog, but it may be too late to buy one. All the usual retail sites indicate it's sold out.
Update: The Foundling Museum writes in the comments: "The book has been restocked in the USA and available from http://www.burnleyandtrowbridge.com/books.aspx 
The Museum does not offer an online service, however if you email enquiries@foundlingmuseum.org.uk  or call 020 7841 3600 Tues-Fri the Museum can post a copy out to you."


Read what other bloggers have said by clicking on these links:

Linda Moore of the Ft Collins Museum

The Textile Hunter Blog

Austen Only Blog

"Florella Burney. Born June the 19:1758:
In the Parish of St. Anns...not Baptized,
pray Let particular Care be take'n off this child,
As it will be call'd for Again,...."

The London Printworks Trust silk-screened a small run of reproduction fabric from Florella's token to make a woman's garment for the exhibit.
Read more about their project here:


The reproduction print and garment
"Florella's Print"

The exhibit brings into focus the images of abandoned children we've read about in novels and biographies.

Harriet Smith, a fictional foundling,
played by Toni Collette in "Emma" from Jane Austen's novel

Georgianna the Duchess of Devonshire in 1784 
with her daughter by her husband.
She was not permitted to raise her daughter by her lover.
The painting is by Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Foundling Hospital about 1750.
It was founded in 1739.


  1. What a wonderful post...thank you for sharing with us! I did not items were left with the babies.

  2. The catalog can be ordered at www.amazon.co.uk, where it is listed as "temporarily" out of stock -- implying that they are re-ordering. Thanks for the lovely and moving post.

  3. What a wonderful post! The book has been restocked in the USA and available from http://www.burnleyandtrowbridge.com/books.aspx

    The Museum does not offer an online service, however if you email enquiries@foundlingmuseum.org.uk or call 020 7841 3600 Tues-Fri the Museum can post a copy out to you.

  4. Well, well, well...small world and all that!!!

    I spent 12 years working for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and the Institute for Child Health, which are just around the corner from The Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury. GOS, of course, is MUCH younger than hospital as it was founded in the mid 1840s by a local medic.

    As part of our charity work, some of us on the Facilities and Construction Department gave advice to the Foundling Hospital on repairs and improvements. An engineer/architect, I spent many days over there.

    And, amoung other activities, a colleague and I used to help the local Girl Guides (Girl Scouts, in North American) with stitchery. I'm fairly certain we even made a few small quilts!

    P.S. Adults aren't permitted into the grounds unless accompanied by a child. Fun facts to know and tell.

    Patricia in London, UK

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