14 October 2010 – 4 March 2011
The Foundling Museum, London
Baby Florella was born June 19th, 1758. She was one of over 4000 children given up by their mothers between 1741 and 1760 to the Foundling hospital. A sample of cloth cut from her clothing or from her mothers was added to her record as future identification. Threads of Feeling is a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum documenting and exploring Florella’s fabric and numerous others, which today equates to one of the largest collections of 18th Century everyday textiles.
John Styles Research Professor in History at the University of Hertfordshire received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to curate the exhibition with the intention to reveal a handful of the individual stories behind the samples.
“The process of giving over a baby to the hospital was anonymous. It was a form of adoption, whereby the hospital became the infant’s parent and its previous identity was effaced. The mother’s name was not recorded, but many left personal notes or letters exhorting the hospital to care for their child. Occasionally children were reclaimed. The pieces of fabric in the ledgers were kept, with the expectation that they could be used to identify the child if it was returned to its mother.
The textiles are both beautiful and poignant, embedded in a rich social history. Each swatch reflects the life of a single infant child. But the textiles also tell us about the clothes their mothers wore, because baby clothes were usually made up from worn-out adult clothing. The fabrics reveal how working women struggled to be fashionable in the 18th Century.”
The Foundling Museum approached London Printworks Trust with images of Florella’s fabric to recreate it into lengths of repeat. Staff worked from the tiny sample to create 30 metres of hand-printed cotton which will feature in the exhibition as a series of 18th Century garments.
Below are stills from the film London Printworks shot while printing the ‘Florella Print’ at the recent Lambeth Open weekend. The film is currently being edited and will be available to view online very soon.
To discover more on Threads of Feeling exhibition and how to visit it: www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk
For more information on John’s research: http://www.johnstyles.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
Image credits: top – Coram (via The Foundling Museum), bottom – stills from ‘Florella Print: London Printworks’ film