This blog entry is for the Grandkids! If you adults want to read on too, great!
Yesterday was amazing! We got a train from the Temple to one of the most famous train stations in the world… Victoria Station right in the middle of London. From there we got on the tube and went straight to Russell Square where we were to meet who we think is the foremost authority in the world on Lucy’s Syndrome, Dr. Philip Beales. He has done almost 20 years of research and has worked with so many families who have kids who have the same thing she does so we learned SOOOO much!
We decided to find the hospital where he works first so we would know just where to go to meet him for lunch.
It is part of a hospital call UCH (University College Hospital) which we know a lot about because they saved Jonah’s life there when he was a little preemie baby born 9 weeks early and weighed 3 pounds 13 ounces when we were living in London! We LOVE this hospital, partly because of Jonah but now because this place is also going to help us so much with Lucy!
Since we were early, we decided that we would look around and see if there was anything historical in that part of London. To our amazement, we realized that we were in the cradle of aid for helpless children in England which began almost three hundred years ago!
In about 1720 a man named Thomas Coram (above)realized that there was no place and no one to take care of thousands of orphans, abandoned children or children whose parents were unable to take care of them and who were starving or left to die. He was a sea captain with no children of his own but an enormous heart. After a long “campaign” to raise funds and begging for money from his wealthy friends, he finally started The Foundling Hospital (foundling is a destitute child who has been “found”) in 1739 within a few blocks of where Lucy’s hospital now stands.
As we read the sad stories of mothers having to leave their children at this school because they were unable to feed them or because they were single and it was against the law to work as a single mother, we were deeply saddened! This letter is from a mother who has been sentenced to death (probably for stealing bread to feed her children or something) and is writing from prison pleading with the Foundling Hospital to take her child:
When the mothers got to the hospital, which not only nursed sick children back to health but put them in school as well they were still not sure their child would be accepted. After long journeys and huge sacrifices to get there, they led them to a kind of roulette machine that stirred up balls. If a blue ball dropped to the bottom, the child was rejected, red, they would have to wait and white, they were accepted!
If they accepted, they left the loving arms of their mothers to the great unknown of whoever was assigned to care for them at the school. Can you imagine how sad and scary that would be???
Occasionally the mothers were able to come and try to get their kids back but because of the living conditions of the day about 70% of the kids died before they were five years old! The picture above is of a little girl whose mother has come to “collect” her.
Another man who was an artist named Hogarth also did a lot of good for children in those days because he did lots of black and white pictures as well as oil paintings that showed how badly kids were treated in those days and how hard it was for their parents to provide for them.
There were so many people in who were so poor that many of the mothers just had to leave babies to die if she couldn’t find anyone or any way to take care of them! These pictures are just pictures of pictures so you can’t see them very well, but you’ll get the idea!
Through the establishment of this hospital and school, Thomas Coram saved about 30,000 destitute children from certain death and who knows how many people donated to the cause because of pictures like this!
Another interesting person who helped was George Fredrick Handel, who donated concerts for rich people at the chapel by the Hospital every year so they would use the money for the kids. The first time people in England heard the Messiah was at their chapel and he continued doing concerts there every Christmas until he died!
I got a book with a CD of Handel’s music for the Grammie Camp kids this summer. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Only a few blocks away from the Foundling Museum was the house that Charles Dickens lived in when he was a little boy and the place where he wrote a lot of his stories and books. Here’s Grandfather on the front doorstep!
It was totally serendipity that when we walked in, we discovered that Charles Dickens’ great great great grandson was walking around the house with us! The cute girl at the till introduced us and took this picture for us! (He had a broken arm).
Charles Dickens’ stories were full of examples of injustices to children and the sad lives that so many lived in abject poverty! Do you remember the story of Tiny Tim in the story called, “A Christmas Carol”?
Here’s Grandfather in Dickens’ living room:
The same artist from the Foundling museum (Hogarth) also inspired Dickens to write about the plight of the child in that day. Here is one of his sketches.
Even Charles Dickens, whose Father got into serious debt in trying to raise 6 children, had to go to work for sometimes 12 or 14 hours a day with hardly a thing to eat…in a workhouse putting labels on black shoe polish when he was about 11. The picture above is from a story about a character in one of his books but is exactly like what Charles remembers from being in the workhouse. He was devastated when his father was sent to prison for debts. The whole family lived in the prison for two years. These hard experiences opened his eyes to the hardships of people’s lives and gave him lots of things to write about!
Tonight, Grandfather and I are going to see Oliver, a new play in London which shows the story from one of his books called Oliver Twist that shows the sad lives of the poor kids who lived at the time of Dickens! Maybe some of you have seen the movie Oliver. If not, maybe you should! That book helped a lot of people suddenly realize what a hard life children and families were having in London at that time.
Charles Dicken’s mind was full of amazing stories and he wrote, sometimes day and night to get them all written down! Grandfather is sort of like that too. Have you noticed? Not only that, he had nine children just like Grandfather and I!
This is a picture of Charles Dickens sitting in his room, surrounded by all the characters that he created in his books. This summer remind me to show you the antique collection that Aja’s mom gave Grandfather and I of all the books written by Charles Dickens that used to belong to a famous American composer named John Phillip Sousa! They’re amazing!!!
What a mind this great man had…even though he did have funny hair!
Grandfather and I were amazed to realize that people are still helping children today in this very same place in London through this incredible children’s hospital, helping children with rare and special problems.
We can’t wait to tell you all we learned about Lucy that day at lunch with “Dr. Phil”! She’s going to have a very exciting life which will be made even better because of the things this Doctor and others who are working to learn more about her syndrome! What a great day!!!