View Full Version : Foundling child

20-06-12, 20:27
This might be a difficult question to answer but does anyone know if a child baptised as a foundling in 1682 was more likely to become a mariner or a schoolmaster? :-)

20-06-12, 21:02
My gut feeling would be the mariner. Schoolmasters at that time were, I think, licenced and I suspect would have had a university education. Not impossible for a foundling, but unlikely.

Olde Crone
20-06-12, 21:21
I tend to agree with Phoenix because it would be very easy for a foundling hospital or home to apprentice a boy at 7 or 10, to the sea, whereas the apprenticeship to be a teacher would have cost a lot of money and would have been much older than 10.

HOWEVER! I never stop being amazed at the unlikely things that happened, so it is by no means cut and dried - the foundling could have appeared very bright and been sponsored by someone.


20-06-12, 21:42
Thank you both - I thought the same. I might post what I have tomorrow when I've sorted through a bit:-)

21-06-12, 05:52
Ok. I have John Smelton who married 1701 Stepney, London and is a school master of Spitalfields at that time and at the birth of all his children except one where he is described as a wrighting master and one as a victualler. His wife is 46 in 1729.

There's also a John Smalton marrying in 1697 in Stepney who is a mariner and whose widow I think dies in 1712 but the baptism I'm looking at is too late for him really.

I may be trying to get a back a generation too far but there is a John Smolton baptised 29 Dec 1682 at St Giles Cripplegate "foundling in Grub Street". There aren't any others of the same name that I can see anywhere else. His widow and surviving children marry into weaving families.

21-06-12, 09:43
I found an old occupation definition:

Wright : Workman, especially a construction worker


Wright - a skilled worker in various trades

so he may not have been a school master.

Olde Crone
21-06-12, 09:50
I think it is more likely to have been "Writing master" - a teacher of writing.

A point to consider is that just because someone calls himself a school master, doesn't actually mean he ever qualified in any way whatsoever - think Charles Dickens. Anyone could set up as a school teacher.

I think it quite likely that a foundling would have been taught to read and write, so perhaps he earned a living passing on these skills.


anne fraser
21-06-12, 10:02
A bit later but my grandmother qualified as a schoolmistress after becomming a pupil teacher and following a correspondence course. When she was fourteen she put her hair up and started teaching the little ones. She had to take exams but she was earning from fourteen and able to leave home at eighteen after her mother died and support herself. They were known as certificated teachers. In her case it was due to the village school master who took an interest in her and coached her for the exams.

21-06-12, 10:53
Thanks Kit - I think it's just a wrongly spelled writing master which would fit in with all the other baptisms and burials but it amused me;-)

Thanks OC and Anne - I need to do a bit of research as I know nothing of education at this time but I suspect as OC said he was a bright lad and was taught a bit and then took up teaching wealthy weavers' children to read and write. There may well be foundling school records somewhere - I don't know. The surname Smelton is quite rare and the majority of the C18th London ones are the descendants of the schoolmaster and his wife.

Olde Crone
21-06-12, 11:22

I know that Coram's kept good records. Our Jess on here is the expert for Coram's, I think.


21-06-12, 12:14
Thanks OC

23-06-12, 07:14
No she's not the expert, just has some knowledge. The original Coram foundling hospital in Bloomsbury does keep good records.

The Coram hospital , in its original form, moved from London to Surrey, and again to Hertfordshire.My Grandfather worked for them and is fondly remembered by the then children. I'm not sure how early it started,but children certainly were sponsored. The sponsors sometimes named the children too.

Thomas Coram did believe in educating the children, and I guess anything is possible.His whole ethos was ''a better life'' than most orphans. That said, it was far from an easy existance

I urge anyone who has an interest in Foundlings, (or just because they can) to visit their museum in Bloomsbury. A soecial exhibition has just finished ( Foundling voices) which was superb


23-06-12, 14:02
Thanks Jess - I think I've read that Corams was founded in 1739 so too late for my chap but interesting all the same and does give the impression that benevolent people believed in giving foundlings the basis of an education . I'm just on my way out of London but will see if I can go to the museum next time I'm up.