In 18th century London the instances of abandoned babies and infanticide were common - up to a thousand a year in London alone. The abandoned children were known as "foundlings" (a child of unknown parentage, abandoned by its mother). In 1722 Thomas Coram started lobbying for a Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children. Like all good lobbyists, his temperament was not suited to administration and Thomas was soon ousted from the Board of Governors.
The hospital/school was successful, with patrons such as William Hogarth the artist and Handel the composer. As a result of this patronage the Hospital amassed a large and very valuable collection of art works. The school ceased to be a foundling institution in 1954 and is now Ashlyn's school in Hertfordshire.
The Foundling Museum in London now houses and displays the art collection.