Captain Thomas Coram (c 1668-1751) and Mr. George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) were two major supporters and governors of the Foundling Hospital although they never met. The proposed work is a hypothetical meeting between the two men. They reach out to each other across the Atlantic Ocean as if about to meet at the gates of the Foundling Hospital.
Captain Thomas Coram, born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, was a merchant and ship builder. He spent some years sailing between the American-British colonies and England. He was constantly horrified by the fate of unwanted and abandoned children in his home country and in London itself. He was determined to set up a hospital where these children could be sheltered and provided for. He spent many years and a great deal of money until he eventually obtained a Royal Charter for what became known as The Foundling Hospital.
Mr. Handel was the eminent musician and composer who had come from his native Halle, in Germany, to settle in London. He too was distressed at the sights of poverty and the fate of unwanted children born in England and was determined to help the Hospital. He wrote the anthem for the official Chapel opening and put on many concerts and performances to raise funds. He became a governor after Captain Coram had, after some dispute, resigned. I have long been fascinated by their histories and great philanthropy. Some years ago I heard a short item on BBC Radio 4 which prompted me to read more and to visit the Foundling Museum.
The illustration will be presented on the refectory table in the Committee Room. This is an eighteenth century table from the Hospital's dining room. It will be swathed with cream cloth and at either end will be a cuffed glove - each denoting its owner. In Handel's case, the cuff is of fine silk and hand embroidered. In Coram's case it is of plain woolen cloth, scuffed and worn a little, with minimal decoration.
By each man's glove will be maps of those areas of the American colonies, of England and of Europe pertaining to their birth and work, and the parts of the North Atlantic they shared.
The central motif will be a drawing of the main original gate of The Foundling Hospital. In the form of a cartouche, reaching out to this, across a map of some of London's streets, will be a skeletal hand. It will hold or be adjacent to three balls, representing the lottery for the admission of foundlings after the open-door policy had had to be changed owing to the terrifying numbers of children abandoned at the gates.
I have been moved by the philanthropy of Captain Coram and Mr. Handel. Also closely involved in the foundation and early years of the Hospital was William Hogarth. He had backed the idea of the Hospital, had donated some of his paintings to the cause and was one of the first governors. The three men contacted many wealthy, landed people and The Coram Foundation, as it is called, continues to help needy children and families today. My own small contribution is of my time, work and materials in the hope that I can myself in a small way help the Foundation to continue.