The Epsom connection to Coram's Foundling Hospital
A network of wet nurses under the supervision of Thomas Langridge

An engraving of the Foundling Hospital
An engraving of the Foundling Hospital

The list of burials at St Martin's church between the years 1695 and 1774, recently published on this website [Link], contains a remarkable number of individuals noted as 'Foundling Hospital' or just 'Foundling' - around 175 souls with more who might possibly be included, described simply as 'infants'. Such an institution was unknown in Epsom and the references would have related to the one established by Captain Thomas Coram in London [Link To - http://en.wikipedia.org ]. Epsom never became the location for one of its country branch hospitals, set up between 1757 and 1763 to look after 'grown children', but had an 'Inspectorate of wet nurses', as did Ewell.

Additional information may be found at:
- www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk,
- The Early Years of the Foundling Hospital, 1739/41-1773 by D.S. Allin
- Childcare, Health and Mortality at the London Foundling Hospital, 1741-1800 by Alysa Levene
Title page of the Hospital Regulations
Title page of the Hospital Regulations

Of the Chief Receiving-Nurse


"She is to be a sober and discreet Person, not above the Age of fifty years, used to the Care of Children, and acquainted with their Disorders.

She is to reside in the Lodge appointed for the Reception of Children.

To attend constantly at the Receipt of Children; to take care none be received above the Age appointed by the General Court; to acquaint the Receiving-Clerk when any Child is received, that it may be immediately numbered and registered.
She is to be careful in examining Children as soon as received, to see if they appear to have any infectious distemper; and if she observes any Signs of such Disorder, she is to take care such Child be kept in the outward Room, and not be suffered to be brought amongst the other Children, till it has been viewed by some of the Doctors or Surgeons of the Hospital. And if they shall find that such Child has really any infectious Distemper, she shall take care that it be sent as soon as possible to the Infirmary, and that an Entry be made in a Book to be kept for that Purpose, of the Number of the Child, and of its Name if it has been baptized, and if it has not been baptized is to acquaint the Matron therewith, who is to give Notice to the Chaplain or Reader thereof.

She is to take care that the Nurses appointed to attend in the Receiving-Lodge do their Duty, in taking care of the Children there; and that the Children with all convenient Speed be carried from the Receiving-Lodge to the Wet-Nurses Ward, there to remain till they can be delivered to Country Nurses.

There is always to be a sufficient Number of Wet-Nurses in the Hospital, who are to be examined by the Matron, with the Assistance of the Physicians of the Hospital, to see that they are healthy, and have good Milk; they are to behave soberly, and not drink spirituous Liquors, and take due Care of the Children committed to their Charge, till such time as they can be delivered to the Country Nurses".

Country Nurses


Country nurses were appointed for the infant children and were paid 2 shillings a week (eventually increased to 3 shillings). Among other regulations relating to them, it was provided that any nurse who had lost two of the children committed to her care, should not have another entrusted to her without an express order from the committee. This was intended as a preventative against carelessness or neglect; and, on the other hand, an inducement was held out to these nurses for a conscientious performance of their duty, by a promised premium of ten shillings (in 1756 later increased to twenty-five shillings), at the end of the first year, to any nurse who had reared a child to that period in perfect health. Inspectors and inspectresses visited the cottages where these nurses resided, to see that everything was done for the comfort and welfare of the children.

The governors also compensated nurses who had looked after children with illnesses such as smallpox, measles or whooping cough, even if the child died. In 1760, following a request from Mrs Bankes, the inspector at Ewell, the governors awarded Nurse Morris the very substantial sum of five guineas to compensate her for the expense and trouble she had been at in looking after some children with smallpox.

D S Allin also observes -
"The majority of Foundling Hospital nurses in England probably came from the poorer classes,... probably married to farm labourers or village craftsmen. Most of the nurses seem to have been illiterate. ...What the children needed was a good-tempered, sensible woman who had brought up her own children successfully. Those women who were going to act as wet nurses also needed to be healthy with a good supply of milk."

THE INSPECTORS


"The inspectors had to recruit the nurses and make sure they were looking after the children properly. They had to see that they were regularly paid, using the funds sent from London for that purpose, and that they were given the clothes for the children provided by the Hospital. They had also to ensure that when the children became ill they got proper treatment and had to inform the Hospital if a child in their 'nursery' or 'inspection' died or was suffering from any serious illness, such as measles or smallpox. In the large nurseries the work must have been quite demanding and time consuming"

Thomas Langridge of Epsom


Langridge appears in H L Lehmann's The Residential Copyholds of Epsom: -
1B12/1C12 As a grocer who, with John Slyder of Epsom, acquired five messuages at the end of South Street on 22 May 1751. In the 1755 Survey he appears holding here three messuages in four tenements, a slaughterhouse, stable, yards and backsides, abutting on the High Street and on Clayhill. On 4 May 1759, Thomas Langridge put these properties into trust in contemplation of his marriage to Mary Newbee of the parish of St Mary, Lambeth.

2C3 In relation to his wife's inherited interest in 'Elinors Lees' on West Hill.

3B20 On 24 February 1755, occupying one of the tenements comprised in the New Tavern.
In The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette, the marriage of Mr Thomas Langridge, Wine Merchant of Epsom to Miss Molly Newbee, of Lambeth, was announced to have taken place on 5 May 1759. Their daughter Sarah Wakeling Langridge was born in 1765. Mrs Mary Langridge died circa 1784 followed by Thomas on 29 September 1785 - late of the Parish of Saint Mary Lambeth in the County of Surrey, a widower [Will, 14 January 1783, 'grocer of Epsom', proved 29 October 1785, PROB 11/1134/361.]

Mr Allin credits Langridge with having become responsible, over time, for 490 foundlings whilst Alysa Levene reports that Epsom took 458 foundlings in the years from 1741 to 1764, looked after by 185 nurses. On 14 June 1747 the burial of an unknown child from the Foundling Hospital was recorded in St Martin's register. From 1775 to 3 March 1781 there were 17 'foundling' interments where no age on death had been recorded - the last of Ann Lyon.

Nurse Jane Derby


Alysa Levene chose Epsom district for one of her case studies and provides details of the involvement of Jane Derby. She became a wet nurse on 1 June 1757 two months before the baptism of her first child, John. A second foster child, John Sunderland arrived 23 January 1758 but had died by the following 10 February. His replacement, Penelope Child on 16 February, followed to the grave, 8 March 1758. In her place came Albert Wood, 8 May 1758, but he was interred on 22 September 1758. Four months after Albert's demise Jane Derby was delivered of her second child, a daughter, Jane. The next foundling, Jacob Sims, came on 15 February 1759 to remain in Jane's care until 29 May 1764. Her first charge, Benjamin Sparrow, had left her cottage, 2 August 1759, to be looked after elsewhere. William Lander was taken in 2 April 1759 but buried on 14 June in that year. His successors also survived only for months in her care - John Blacoe 16 July to 2 October 1759, Jasper Ford 19 December 1759 to 7 January 1760 & Catherine Lisle 15 January to 14 May 1760. All the 7 deceased infants were laid to rest in St Martin's churchyard.

As a nurse who had lost two of the children committed to her care, she should not have another entrusted to her without an express order from the committee but that rule does not appear to have been followed. Sanitary conditions in Epsom were primitive, and remained so until the middle of the next century; measles were rife in the area (as reported by Thomas Langridge himself in 1772) and smallpox a killer disease. The Foundling Hospital had inoculated children from the start but apparently did not extend the practice to infants out at nurse. In 1766, inoculation became available in Ewell [Link Smallpox in Ewell] and during the following year Langridge asked the Hospital for directions. The Inspector may have decided Jane had not been neglectful and exercised discretion over the number of infant deaths in her hands.

Brian Bouchard 2012




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