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Fate, hope and charity exhibit in New Year

Posted: 20 December 2012 by Rob Dabrowski

A new exhibition will tell the story of ‘tokens’ which mothers left with foundlings in the eighteenth-century.

Foundling exhibitions
The Foundling Museum will stage the revelatory story-telling exhibition, bringing to light the untold stories of the Foundling Hospital tokens.

Tokens are small everyday objects which were left by mothers with their babies as a means of identification, should the mother ever return to reclaim her child.

Most of the tokens were textiles, which were pinned to the admission records and were the subject of the Foundling Museum’s previous Threads of feeling exhibition.

But among the tokens were also hundreds of small objects, including keys, coins, jewellery, buttons, poems, playing cards and medals.

The new exhibiton, called Fate, hope and charity will reunite the tokens with the foundlings to who they belonged, and tell the stories of grief, separation and the timeless bond between a mother and child.

After 250 years, these heart-wrenching stories are being revealed for the first time at the museum on Brunswick Square, London.

Each offers a glimpse into the lives of the women in the eighteenth century who left their children at the hospital.

Most poignant of all is the story of Margaret Larney, who falsely tried and found guilty of counterfeiting money in 1757.

She wrote a letter requesting the admission of her unborn child to the Foundling Hospital and her newborn son was admitted.

But immediately after the birth, Margaret was taken to Tyburn – the modern Marble Arch – where she was publicly executed by ‘strangulation and burning’.

Her letter of petition to the hospital is on display along with other stories, art works and artefacts from the period.

Fate, hope and charity is curated by Stephanie Chapman and is open from 25 January to 19 May.