Ackworth Foundling Hospital

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This is a backup copy of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and is currently unavailable. Editing and account creation are disabled.

The original Foundling Hospital in London was founded in 1739 by the philanthropic sea captain Thomas Coram. It was a children's home established for the "education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children."

Ackworth Foundling Hospital was a branch of the London Foundling Hospital and was founded in 1746. The infant foundlings were sent to be reared by the cottages at Ackworth, notably at Seaton's Farm since 1741. The connection between a fashionable London Charity and Ackworth is somewhat mysterious. Sir Rowland Wynn of Nostell certainly interested himself in the project, and became the first Governor of the Ackworth branch when building began in 1757, but the reception of London foundlings can be traced back to a certain Rev. Thomas Trant, Headmaster of Archbishop Holgate's School, Hemsworth. In the committee minutes of 18th February 1741, Mr. Taylor White was asked to write to the Rev. Trant to ask if he could provide nurses in his neighbourhood for 10 to 12 children at 8/- a month. On 21st March, Taylor White was desired to pay the Rev. Trant £10 on account for the charges for 7 nurses sent from Doncaster to London. When the Rev. Trant died in 1759, Dr Lee, who had become Rector of Ackworth in 1744, took his two apprentices for household services. What induced the Rev. Trant to take foundling children from London as early as 1740 is not known.

When the decision to erect a branch Hospital or Orphanage at Ackworth was finally taken in 1746, Sir Rowland, despite his influence in the district, had difficulty enough in finding colleagues, for as he later wrote in 1757 when building began 'The country gentlemen in these parts do not like to give themselves much trouble.'

Jonathan Seaton's farm with 58 acres of land was bought for £2050. The total cost of the land, buildings and equipment was £20,807. The Ackworth Branch, which was the first to be founded and the last to close, was shut down after 12 years in 1773, when government funding stopped. The reason for the with-holding of the parliamentary grant was that due to a change in the admission rules, the London branch was literally being swamped by applicants and by 1773 could no longer afford to maintain the county branches. The statistics for Ackworth were - 2365 apprenticed, 11 returned to parents, 10 left, having come of age, 169 died, 109 returned to London. Total 2664.

The Hospital was not without problems, especially with children being moved from London to Yorkshire.There were certainly cases recorded of cruelty and neglect towards some children who were apprenticed some distance away, but of the 2664 children who passed through the institution in those years, 160 died, that is a death rate of about 6% and certainly no more than the national average for those days. Only the healthiest infants would be sent on the long and arduous journey to Yorkshire.

In the last year of its activity, the Ackworth branch produced cloth to the value of £500. It was good cloth too, as the following interesting announcement suggests -"Turk's Head Tavern, 1760. We whose names are hereunto subscribed do agree to appear next 5th November at the Artists Feast at the Foundling Hospital (London) in a suit of clothes manufactured by the children of the Hospital at Ackworth in Yorkshire."

Records for the hospital were transferred to London in 1995 and are held by the London Metropolitan Archives (ref:A/FH) see [ ]