Serve and Obey


Foundling Hospital
11 August 1853

Frances Holmes

                             Your master & mistress called on me last Monday to complain of your conduct, which caused me much pain & regret.  It appears that, although you are very capable of the duties required of you, your insolence and general incivility are such that at times it is impossible to bear with you.  What does this mean?  You are without a relation in the world, and it behoves you therefore to create for yourself by good conduct friends, which the circumstances of your birth deprived you of.  Instead of which, you are doing all you can to make people dislike you, and if you go on in this manner you will leave the world as you entered it without any one willing to assist or even to care whether you live or die.  Now as your master & mistress are determined not to put up with your conduct any longer, I wish [you] to know what you may expect should you come here.  

The Committee being disgusted with the conduct of the Girls here converted the Treasurer’s House into a reformatory or Prison for refractory Apprentices where they are dressed as Workhouse children, fed on Bread & Water and kept apart entirely from the rest of the Establishment.  Now I beseech you to avoid this disgrace, beg pardon of your master & mistress & lead a new Life, then all will be forgotten & forgiven.

J. Brownlow.[1]

Like all Foundling Hospital children, the recipient of this letter had been handed over by her mother soon after birth, given a new name, and brought up without contact with or knowledge of her family.  For the Secretary of the Hospital to tell a seventeen-year-old girl, already isolated and far from ‘home’, that she stood to lose everything, with no-one ‘to care whether you live or die’, seems unkind and heartless.  This was certainly my initial reaction, on coming across the letter in the Coram archive.[2]  It was suggested in an earlier article, John Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital, that Brownlow, while still Treasurer’s Clerk, was ‘unremittingly harsh and judgemental’ in his attitude to girls.  Letters like the one sent to ‘Fanny’ Holmes appear to justify that idea and make one wonder if Brownlow, Secretary from October 1849, merits his status as one of the heroes of Foundling Hospital history.

Were there other such letters?  Yes, many.  Did boys receive the same sort of treatment?  Not to the same extent.  However, while Brownlow’s tirades seem objectionable, it is important to note that they were not the full story, for many of Brownlow’s responses were understandable and appropriate, dispensing a healthy dose of reality.  Nor were they the important story, which was the terrible plight of unhappy children.  These ‘bad girls’ did very little that was utterly bad and, from the little surviving evidence about their treatment, it appears likely that more bad was done to them than by them.  Thus, what began as a piece inspired by Brownlow’s outpourings became a more wide-ranging study of the often harrowing difficulties experienced by young girls who left the Foundling Hospital to find their way in the world.

Holmes was apprenticed ‘to be instructed in household business’ – in other words, as a domestic servant – in William Harding’s home at Aldenham, near Watford.  Indeed, the vast majority of Foundling girls, including every girl featured here, was in domestic service, and the peculiar relationship between a servant and her employer will underpin many of the girls’ problems.  At Easter 1851 and again in 1852 (one year into her apprenticeship), Holmes was warmly approved of by her master and was therefore welcomed back to the Hospital for ‘your usual annual Indulgence’ (five shillings), ‘the customary Reward for Good Conduct’.  Since then, however, she had ‘at times been most disrespectful to her mistress’ and in March 1853 the Hospital’s new annual questionnaire regarding the conduct of apprentices saw Harding write ‘Yes’ for ‘Honest?’  ‘Sober?’  ‘Obedient?’ and ‘Industrious?’ – but ‘Truthful?’ yielded ‘Not always’ and ‘Respectful?’ a straight ‘No’.  He sent an additional note describing Holmes as ‘a source of great annoyance to my wife’ and asked Brownlow to advise on ‘some mode of punishment’ if she continued in this vein.[3]

This was followed by the employers’ visit in August, which prompted Brownlow’s angry letter to Holmes, and, a few months later, Mrs. Harding wrote to ‘complain that no intreaties or threatenings can induce her to get up in the morning in proper time…  I am sorry to say her insolence is so intolerable that I feel degraded in being obliged to submit to it before the other servants.  I therefore most earnestly hope that I may send her to the Hospital to receive proper privations & punishment which you can administer better that I can.’  Brownlow suggested instead that if she were ‘made an example of before the magistrates of the district it would be the most effectual mode of dealing with so wicked a Girl…’[4]  He did send Miss Soley, the Girls’ School Principal, to visit the Hardings, but Easter 1854 found Holmes described as ‘Not at all’ respectful and her conduct ‘most unaccountable’ and the following year’s testimonial was similarly critical (‘Respectful?  Quite the reverse’).[5]  In April 1856, after she had left his house, Harding was asked to submit ‘a fair character of Fanny Holmes’ so that she could be awarded the gratuity of five guineas which ‘good and deserving apprentices’ received at the age of twenty-one, at the end of their term.  He found her living with a girl who ‘has already a child a month old, and unless Fanny removes from so bad an example I fear she will also be lost’.  He would not provide the testimonial if she did not find ‘a situation in a respectable family’.  Holmes, told that she was ‘not entitled to the five pound’, protested that she had served the full five years and (she believed) been given ‘a good character’ by Harding – but the Apprenticeship Register does not indicate that she received a gratuity.[6]


One possibility faced by misbehaving girls at this time, as Holmes was warned, was incarceration in the Hospital’s ‘reformatory’ for ‘refractory apprentices’.  Mary Pullen, who had the distinction of being foundling number 20,000, had just turned fifteen when she was apprenticed in December 1852.  She was only mildly criticised in the March 1853 questionnaire and was invited to the awards ceremony (‘Come’).[7]  There was clearly a rapid deterioration in relations, however, and in June her master denounced Pullen’s ‘exceeding bad conduct during the last two months’ and ‘her indolent, careless, filthy manner of keeping her own person…  [S]he positively is not fit to be in or about a respectable house…’[8]  She was ‘most troublesome and indolent, and also much given to falsehood and petty pilferings’, and the employers felt ‘compelled’ to return her to the Hospital after ‘finding her more troublesome and impertinent’ in the wake of a visit from Miss Soley.  In January 1854, Brownlow assured her master that the Reformatory had proved beneficial:

The temporary re-admission of your apprentice, Mary Pullen, into this Hospital appears to have had the desired effect.  She is very penitent & anxious to return.  Whilst here she has been under strict discipline & observation; & feels the disgrace she has brought upon herself[9]

However, the master declined to have her back, having ‘tried all we could to make her what she should be’ (and failed).[10]  She was re-assigned and soon was ‘getting on very well’ with a ‘very kind’ new employer; however, he, though happy with her conduct at Easter 1855, sent her back to the Hospital a year later, and the next employer rejected her (‘I can make nothing of the girl, she pays not the slightest attention to any thing I tell her’ – Ayre) after only a few weeks.[11]  It was probably during this last placement, after her mistress’s latest outburst, that Pullen sent a desperate appeal to Brownlow:

Mistress came down into the dining room and found fault with every thing she possibly could and said she would come and see Miss Soley.  Well I never felt so hurt in all my life…  I am sure she is fond of complaining about me for no lady else would have thought of it.  She gave Cook warning yesterday and I am sure a better Cook never entered a house…  [S]he [the mistress] had 9 housemaids in ten months…  I like Master very much…, he is always scolding her for grumbling at us so much, he tells her he really cannot live with her, she ought to have half a dozen children to employ her time.  I am sure we work hard enough, we are always up until 12 or 1 o’clock and then [she] makes us get up at half past 5…  I find it very hard to bear but I must leave it in the hand of him [God] who is able to do all things[12]

Pullen’s letter exposes tensions which, to some degree, existed in the situations of most of the restless girls, with the mistress’s temperament the main concern, even if this apprentice was rather more bold and impudent (the mistress needs to have children to keep her occupied!) than the typical servant.  Pullen completed her apprenticeship, perhaps with another employer.[13]  She reappeared in Brownlow’s correspondence in April 1864, now an adult of twenty-six, when the Secretary showed fatherly concern about her continuing unsteadiness:

Dear Mary,
I understand from Mr. Wadeson that you purpose leaving your place.  I do not like these changes.  Unless it is really a bad place, why not remain in it?  We must all put up with some disagreeables in this life and I have no doubt all things are not as you like but are your troubles serious?  If not, try and put up with them.  I am glad to hear that you are well.

Agnes Harvey and Elizabeth Morgan followed a very different route out of the Reformatory, on board a ship to Australia.  We have abundant evidence of what others thought of the Foundling apprentices, but the voices of the girls themselves are rarely heard.  Communicating to Brownlow her ‘mortification and regret to think I do not suit my mistress after all your endeavours to make me happy and comfortable’, Agnes Harvey told a heartrending tale of her tormented existence at the hands of a carping mistress:

I can never satisfy her.  I have tried my best but its no use I cannot please.  I know I have a great many faults and am very trying, but then my mistress is so very disagreeable that theirs [sic] no encouragement at all to do well.  She is grumbling all day about nothing at all – and she sits muttering for ten minutes together and expects me to know what she has been saying.  Indeed Sir I do not know what my mistress complains about for I have done a good deal of needle work and am always doing something or other for her.  I know she cannot say I am unkind to the Child, but let her say what she will I know I have done my best…[15]

The order of events is unclear, but Harvey was received back into the Hospital and in April 1853 hers was one of three girls’ names written on the back of a letter from Standish Haley of the Fund for promoting Female Emigration.[16]  Haley was offering passage to Australia for ‘two or three eligible young women’ from the Foundling, ‘provided the Governors undertake, as in former cases, to pay for their passages, and provide them with the necessary outfit’.[17]  Elizabeth Morgan, rejected by her first mistress, was returned to the Foundling Hospital in November 1852 and placed in the Reformatory.  She was then sent to a new position, where her rapid failure infuriated Brownlow: ‘I find that you are again allowing your temper to get the better of your judgement.  How is this?  Will you never come to your senses?’  It was ‘wicked’ of her ‘to allow these perverse dispositions to overpower you!…

Your Mistress threatens to send you back to us: let me warn you against this; you have had already a taste of our reformatory; the next will be more severe, if indeed we do not throw you off altogether & send you to the workhouse.  As your friend I caution you as to the future.  You have a kind Mistress; do all in your power to please her & her daughter: & notwithstanding all that has passed, every thing shall be forgotten…  Show this to your Mistress!’[18]

Morgan was returned again to the Foundling Hospital.  In November 1853, the General Committee discussed the two ‘refractory apprentices’, Harvey and Morgan, ‘who had been for some time in the Reformatory of the Hospital’.  The girls ‘expressed a wish to be permitted to emigrate by joining the Scotia on her passage to Sydney’ – under the auspices of the Female Emigration Society – and Brownlow ‘had under the sanction of the Treasurer taken the necessary steps for that purpose’.[19]  The Committee approved and both girls were sent to Australia (‘21 Nov. 1853.  Emigrated to Sydney by the Ship “Scotia”’).[20]  From the English Channel, Morgan wrote to express her nervousness – ‘I have not repented my choice yet but I feel very uneasy’ – as well as ‘hope for the future’:

I shall persevere and try to control my temper.  I do not forget to say my prayers every night and morning and may I ask you [Brownlow] if you will pray for us.  I could not tell you by words how much I thank you for being so kind to us.  I did not deserve it…  I am not seasick at present but Agnes has been very ill indeed and I have had to wait on her.  The ship rocks to and throw [sic] like a cradle but I think that we shall be very ill…  We did not have prayers on the Sunday but I think we shall the next if we are spared.  I hope to arrive in Sidney safe, we are in the most dangerous part now.

Dear Sir, I hope you are quite well and happy.  I shall never want to come back to England again unless it is that I should to see you once more.[21]

Thus did two troubled adolescents, trusting in prayer, sail into the unknown.[22]

Maria Polden, whom Morgan and Harvey might have encountered in the Reformatory in November 1853, also emigrated (eventually).  She had had the misfortune to be apprenticed to Hannah Piper, a protective mother who required a servant to be ‘careful of and kind to my dear little warm hearted children’.  Five of her eight children were under six years old in 1853 and they were ‘unusually lively little creatures and require an active, cheerful, sensible girl to be with them’.[23]  Piper rejected three girls in rapid succession in 1852-53.  Polden, the last of them, proved to be insolent (frequently laughing at Piper’s ‘reproof’ and ‘when reproved [she] manifests a great deal of temper’) and ‘very unwilling [and] negligent’ in her work – and, with the small son, she ‘will sit the little dear up on high dangerous places and leave him’.[24]  Brownlow’s response was severe and adamant:

We are really perplexed to know what to do with Maria Polden.  I sometimes think it would be right to take her before a magistrate & have her punished.  She can do well, but will not.  Such subjects ought not to have their own way.  A month’s imprisonment on Bread and Water might bring her to her senses.  She is, of all the Girls I ever met with, the most perverse and ungrateful, and sooner or later she will deeply lament her present behaviour.  I will bring her case under the notice of the Committee next Saturday, and let you know the result.[25]

Girls who did not fulfil the conditions of their apprenticeship could be taken before a magistrate, as Brownlow contemplated doing with both Holmes and Polden.  The General Committee decided, however, that Polden should be ‘re-admitted into the Hospital and placed in the Reformatory under the charge of Miss Soley’, where, presumably, the bread-and-water regime was inflicted.[26]  She returned to domestic service and completed her apprenticeship in 1855 (‘my time is up for me to leave my place’); unable to find her own way, she asked Miss Soley for advice as she did ‘not know what to do weither [sic] to go into lodgings or to write to you first to know what was to be done…  I will do the best I can to find myself a place.’[27]  Months later, Polden and Rachel Symonds sailed out to Australia: ‘Emigrated to Adelaide by the Ship “Nimrod” 11th September 1855’.[28]  The letters that Polden wrote to Miss Soley just before departure had little of the plaintiveness evinced by Agnes Harvey and Elizabeth Morgan.

I have heard that we are to set sail on the Saturday.  I hope you will receive this letter before we go, but I am so anxious to hear a little about home.  I am always thinking of you and hoping to see you once more.  It might be perhaps the very last chance we shall see you on this side of the grave…

We returne many and greatfule [sic] thanks to you and Mr Brownlow for your great kindness to us.  I am very glad to inform you that the Matron has taken great fancy to us.  Everybody thinks us the most respectfull of the lot.  When we where [sic] in the depo[t] there where a great many people behaving rather rudely and the Matron of the ship said to them why do you not take [the] example those four young girls are setting you…[29]

Polden thanked Soley for replying and sent her respects to Brownlow:

[T]ell him that we should very much like to see him once more before we go.  I so long for the time to come when we shall see you and Mr Brownlow come down in a little boat sailing across the river.  We are going to set sail on Sunday, our ship is going into the river as I am writing this letter.  I never had no idea of what a ship was before, it is just like a great house…  We have plenty to eat for just now there came in a great number of sheep and pigs…

Farewell.  I am afraid that I shall not be able to write any more before we land.  Then I will write immediately to let you know w[h]ether we got over safe.[30]

Rachel Symonds’s employers, the Gabains of Stoke Newington, first expressed concern about their apprentice in July 1853 and, her conduct having ‘seriously affected Mrs. Gabain’s health’, by the end of the year they were pressing to have her replaced.[31]  Brownlow decided against punishing Symonds, deeming it ‘very questionable whether the punishment of a Reformatory will avail anything with a Girl nearly nineteen years old,’ and was prepared ‘to give her what I understand she seeks, a change of place’.[32]  The change was not made, however, and Symonds revealed the extent of her bafflement and distress the following July:

Dear Madam,
I am very sorry to trouble you but I am so unhappy as my Mistress declears
[sic] this shall be the last Sunday I shall be in her house but what it is for I cannot tell you but going to bed on Saturday night, very tired I over slept myself this morning.  I am always working and doing anything and everything I am told, besides my regular Housemaids work.  I am certain my mistress cannot say I am idle.  I do my duty [as] far as I can but I have more than I can do properly, they keep no boy which makes it very hard on me.  The Cook is leaving on Tuesday and my Mistress says she will not have another servant in her house whilst I am here as though it was through me they [sic] left. 

Symonds also complained that, although her wages (£8 a year) were paid, promised money for clothes had been withheld, so that ‘the postage of this letter will take the last penny I have.  I do not wish to leave before my time is up as it is so very short now…  I have had a grate [sic] deal to put up with and you are my only friends.’[33]  Nevertheless, she was not re-assigned, the Gabains were ‘quite pleased with her behaviour’ when they reported at Easter 1855, and her being awarded the full £5 gratuity for good apprentices in May 1855 suggests that she turned things round.[34]  Considering it ‘useless to ask Mrs Gabain to let me stay there’, she asked Miss Soley if she could ‘come home’ – but she managed to find a new job in Worcestershire, from where she complained of an impossible workload and unkind employers; once, when she could not have lunch ready on time, the master said that ‘if it happened again’ he ‘would turn me out of the house…  I have not been able to please him since although I have tryed my best.’[35]  Under duress, then, she made the decision to emigrate, leaving on the Nimrod with Maria Polden.  She sent Brownlow a cheerful farewell from Southampton:

As I was about writing to you, Maria received a letter from Miss Soley.  We were so delighted but would of [sic] been more so had you come yourselves.  Many thanks for your kindness in sending me five shillings, I have found it very useful already.  We have slept in the ship one night, it is rather better than I expected, it is bad enough but I hope it will be better when we get settled.  I am happy to say the Matron has taken great interest in us, she said we were well behaved girls.  I hope she will be able to say so at the end of the journey…  [I hope] you will excuse the writing, for the wind is so high and we are on deck…  We are very happy together…[36]


Mary Wentworth was one of very few girls who, despite falling foul of her master and being rebuked by Brownlow, fought her corner vigorously and managed to secure the Hospital’s eventual acknowledgement of her merits.  She fared well in the March 1853 questionnaire, but there was an ominous comment on her ‘very ungovernable temper’.  Her master, Alexander Fraser of Charlwood in Surrey, wrote in October to deprecate her ‘extraordinary conduct’:

Her impertinence, impudence and extreme rudeness of behaviour must be witnessed to be believed…  The Girl’s great failings are vanity, conceit and some foolish notions, the seeds of these sown in my opinion before she quitted the Hospital.  It will be impossible for me, having lost Mrs Fraser, to manage this Girl, it would be better that she return to the Hospital, or I shall, very reluctantly, be obliged to give you the required notice of my intention to send her before a Magistrate and request punishment or a discharge…  I am perfectly convinced she will not be content here, and I think if possessed of a little money she would abscond.[37]

In fact, Wentworth had already decided that she wanted to quit her apprenticeship (to go on her ‘own hands’), as she explained to Brownlow:

Sir, I am now going to trouble you but I hope for the last time, I wish to go upon my own hands.  Do not think me ungreatful [sic] for I am very thankful for all you have done for me, but I am tired of being hear [sic].  My Mistress is dead and it is quite a horror to live hear now.  My Nurse’s daughter said she would come to see me, but she could not so she sent her husband and he came all the way from Kent, and Mr Fraser or as he calls himself my Master but he is not worth calling master he sent him away and would not let him have any dinner.  Do you not think that was a nasty trick, and sooner than I would keep hear I would beg my bread but I need not fear that for I can work and I will work to[o].  When I first came hear I was under the governess in the Nursery, but lately I have been trying to do the Housemaids work, and it is pretty hard work to[o] but I have tried to cut through it and work as hard as I could and this is what I get by it.  I will ramble all over the world first.  I think I shall do a great deal better upon my own hands.  I should be very glad if you will give me my little sum of money out of the Saveings [sic] Bank and then I think I shall be able to get on a little.  I hope you will soon answer my request and I will not trouble you any more.

I shall be very glad to get away from hear.  My Mistress is dead and I only wish it was my old Devil of a master instead.  I dont see why I should be hear working and then to get nothing but such behaviour as this.  I wish to leave and get a place and be paid for my work.[38]

When Brownlow wrote to say that Miss Soley would pay a visit, Wentworth, seemingly hysterical, insisted that ‘I realy cannot stay hear any longer…’

Now my Mistress is Dead it is quite a horrid place to live in and when I want any thing I am not going to ask a man for it.  I would as soon be selling apples in London streets as to be hear.  I wish before you had taken me in the Hospital my Mother had thrown me in a ditch or killed [me] in some way or other…  I realy wish I was dead, I might as well be sold for a slave as to be hear.  Why should I be [shamed?] to stay.  I work in a place for nothing and never hear a friendly voice encouraging me and when a friend did come and from so long a way to be sent away for fear he should have a dinner…  All I wish of you my kind friend is to let me part in peace, [let?] me go upon my own hands and if I fail why that is my fault…  I only want to leave Mr Fraser and where next I go God only knows, I daresay he has prepared a home for me.[39]

Mary Wentworth was clearly a feisty individual and the relationship with her employer was irretrievable.  The General Committee decided that she should be ‘received again into this Hospital and placed in the Reformatory under the charge of Miss Soley’.  Fraser hoped, in a final sneer, ‘that Miss Soley will not be disappointed by my late ‘Young Lady’’.[40]  She was sent to another mistress, in Bayswater, but this woman ‘was unkind to her & the work too hard’; she left almost immediately, without the Hospital’s consent, but she asked Brownlow to approve her staying with a Mrs Hall, the married daughter of the wet-nurse in Kent who had cared for the infant Mary.[41]  That ‘excellent nurse’ retained ‘a Mother’s feeling for those children committed to her care & Mary Wentworth being the last she had, she feels deeply interested for her’ – and Mrs Hall, the daughter, ‘feels truly a sisterly interest for her’.[42]  Though Wentworth’s conduct was ‘very reprehensible’, Brownlow felt it was ‘of very little use to say much about it as you appear now to be in good hands, where you must remain.  The choice is your own and you must take the consequences of the step you have taken.  We shall not disturb you.’  He signed off with, ‘I am still your Wellwisher.’[43]

Over a year later, Robert Starling (the Hospital’s Inspector in Kent) reported that Mrs Hall ‘complained to me of her [Wentworth’s] sulky temper & that she likes to have her own way’; she was ‘evidently not a good tempered person’.[44]  Wentworth asked Brownlow again to give her ‘my money out of the Bank’, 18 shillings, so that she could buy clothes adequate to the task of finding another place, ‘and I mean to try and keep it.  I try to govern my temper but sometimes I have a hard struggle.’  Brownlow sent the money.[45]  In 1856, Wentworth and Hall were having ‘frequent quarrels’ – they did not ‘get on very cleverly together’ – and had decided ‘they should part’.  Needing to find employment, Wentworth proposed returning to London; according to Starling, she ‘talked of coming up to Town and presenting herself at the Hospital, as she is tired of the Country and is anxious to obtain a place in Town.’[46]  But Brownlow firmly shut the door:

I cannot give Mary Wentworth any encouragement to come here.  She thought fit to withdraw herself from the protection of the Hospital and of its Officers and this in defiance of very good advice to the contrary.  She must now provide for herself by the aid of Mrs. Hall.  Were she to come to Town she could not procure a situation without a character and who is there here who would give her one?  I should recommend her to find a place in the Country and I have no doubt she might yet do well.  She is known now where she is and to people who would perhaps be inclined to take her, but here we have lost sight of her so long a time that no one can speak of her as she would like.  Mary Wentworth is a clever Girl but she allows her temper to master her.[47]

This seems rather hardhearted, but there is an air of sadness about it and a suggestion that Brownlow did regret having to tell an impetuous girl that she must lie in the bed she made.  In the end, in May 1857, the General Committee considered her case ‘& it appearing that Mary Wentworth, altho’ not entitled to the gratuity given to good apprentices, has conducted herself during the last 3 years satisfactorily as a hired servant.  Ordered, That 2 Guineas be presented to Mary Wentworth.’[48]


The Reformatory was shortlived.[49]  Brownlow was generally reluctant to take miscreants back into the Hospital, where they might corrupt the younger girls, which was a consideration in the case of Abigail Evans.  Evans’s master was keen to be rid of her – ‘having the wish to leave she actually now will do nothing for us on any terms’ – and her return to the Hospital was arranged.  But Evans ‘earnestly entreated her mistress to try her once again’.  She was ‘exceedingly sorry’ she had ‘given so much trouble’ and asked her mistress ‘to try me once more’.[50]  Despite this, ‘the Girl wishing for an other Situation where there are more Servants, and her Mistress for a better hand at her needle’, the master, Dawes, soon pressed again for the Hospital to take her back.[51]  In April 1854, he accused her of ‘dishonesty’: ‘she came into my Bed room one morning before I was up and took away my Trousers from the Bed side and on my rising I detected her with them in her hand on the Landing, she is I am sorry to say exceedingly insolent, slow and dirty’ and, ‘a new misfortune [which] has befallen us’ (emphasis added), her health has been ‘very indifferent’ for several weeks.[52]  Brownlow had to take the allegation of theft seriously but, perhaps unconvinced by the trousers episode, did not show his more ferocious side:

I find that you have not left off your former bad habits but added to them that of theft.  For this your master could, if he thought proper, have you transported.  He however kindly abstains from doing so in the hope that you may yet turn round and become a Good Girl.  You have now only a short time to serve, and I warn you to be careful how you dispose of it; you may yet become a useful member of society.  Take the advice of your kind mistress and master, be honest and obedient in all things, remember it is never too late to repent.  From this moment, commence a new course.  You are, I think, nineteen years old.  In fact you are in age a young woman.  If you reflect at all, you must see how disgraceful it is to act as you do at such a period of your Life.  Be assured that should you go on in this way God will punish you in a manner you little think of.  Therefore cease to do that which is wrong and always pursue that which is rightYou are well acquainted with both.

If I hear a better account of you I shall still continue to subscribe myself,
Your Friend
J. Brownlow.

Six months later, Dawes was sure that ‘a worse Girl does not exist’ and regarded her promise to improve as ‘a last chance’.  This promise was made in a rather pathetic note in which Evans acknowledged ‘the great many faults’ she had committed and the ‘great trouble’ she had caused to her ‘kind’ master and mistress, who had ‘done more for me than a Mother would’.

Sir, I ham [sic] very sorry I must sincerely beg your Pardon for the great disappointment I have cause[d] you for I know that you was in hopes I should of been such a good girl.

But I will indeed bee what you and my Master and Mistress was in hopes I should have been.

Now that she had reached the last year of her apprenticeship, she had ‘determined not to give another offence’.  As she could ‘now see my own crimes’ and was ‘ashamed’, she had lost her appetite and felt unwell, so she wanted to return to the Hospital to recover.[54]  Brownlow welcomed her ‘making a small atonement’ but he was ‘sorry that we cannot receive you here, we cannot allow Girls who have behaved ill to have the run of the home and perhaps corrupt the rest.  When you have sincerely repented we may again countenance you.’[55]  Unfortunately, her mistress was soon complaining that ‘things have gone on much worse than ever’ and claiming that Evans ‘has stolen a half sovereign out of my purse’ and ‘will not answer a bell or come when she is called unless she likes it and she very seldom does like to do any thing at all but eat and drink…’[56]  Evans was denounced again at Easter 1855 (‘Sober? Yes’ was the only positive comment) and ‘this bad Girl’ was out of the Dawes household by mid-June 1855.[57]  She found her next job ‘too hard’ and moved on again, earning £8 a year, but remained unsettled.  Brownlow advised her to ‘remain where you are’ (Gravesend) with ‘very kind friends’ who could give her ‘their kind advice and countenance’ and not to ‘come here’, for ‘we could not give you a character…  I know of no lodging in this neighbourhood for you.  In London the temptations to do evil are greater than in [the] country.  Get a good place and keep it.’[58]

Brownlow’s first letter to Abigail Evans was written on the same day, 24 April 1854, that he sought to explain the Hospital’s refusal to grant certain girls the annual gratuity for good conduct.  He was quite forgiving – ‘It is never too late to repent.  Let her begin from this moment to be a better Girl and all that is past shall be forgiven’ – regarding Charlotte Adams (long ‘a source of continual trouble and anxiety’ to her mistress), but rather threatening in relation to Sarah James, who was already (after 11 months) in her second placement.  James’s first mistress, Anne Lucy, had experienced ‘continual worry’ over a servant who ‘destroys so many things by actual cluelessness or wilfulness’:

[L]ast week Sarah annoyed me so much, and finding this only laughed at me and threatened if I touched her she would let me see what she was made of and she would scream the house down, that I took a small stick and gave her two or perhaps three sharp strokes on her back which did not seem to hurt her, but I will never again keep a girl whose conduct would require such treatment.  I suffered much more in mind than Sarah did in body but still I think I was to blame to strike her.  What say you [Brownlow]?’

Unsurprisingly, James was soon reassigned, but her second mistress, Jane Ward, could ‘do nothing with her’ such were ‘her negligence, impudence & carelessness’.  She ‘put Sarah back into the nursery under my nurse to see if having very little to do would make her more obedient & less sulky but I am very sorry to say I see no improvement…’  Ward offered a clue as to why the Reformatory was no more, reporting that James ‘only wishes to return [to the Hospital] as she says she has little or nothing to do in the reformatory or wherever it is you place them’.[59]  Brownlow promised that ‘if ever she returns to this Establishment for misconduct she will bitterly repent it…  I myself will take care she is disgraced & punished in every consistent manner.  What she means by adopting her present course I know not…  Let her be obedient in all things and respectful to those placed over her and I promise her that … she shall be received here as if nothing had happened.’  Ward then reported that a repentant James realised she had ‘done wrong’ and was now ‘doing all I could wish’ – but James was given to a different employer, who praised her in 1855, 1856 (a ‘very good girl & gives entire satisfaction’) and 1857 (‘perfectly satisfactory’) and she was invited back every year to the Foundling for the annual awards.[60]  In May 1857, Sarah James featured on the list of ‘young persons to whom gratuities have been awarded’.[61]

Sarah Nowell’s first mistress kept her for only one year and her second, completing the annual questionnaire in March 1854, considered her ‘very heedless, untidy, [but?] clean’.  She was soon ‘compelled to decide that Sarah Nowell is quite incompetent for the situation’, owing to the ‘want of proper previous instruction’.[62]  Nowell was passed ‘from place to place’ (mostly if not entirely in Birmingham) before being taken on at a ‘Ladies School’ run by Mrs Southwell, who discovered ‘in a few days’ that she ‘had made a mistake’.  Such was ‘Sarah’s heedlessness, want of order, method & punctuality & [her] natural sullenness of temper’ and her defiant refusal to take part in ‘family worship’ (‘she would not utter a word’ when asked to read lines of Scripture) that she had ‘to part with her’ despite concern that this ‘orphan’ would be left ‘friendless’ in the world, ‘this poor, foolish, friendless girl’.[63]  But Brownlow would not accept her back into the Hospital:

What is to be done for a Girl who perversely refuses to profit by any experience and every kindness.  To receive such a Girl within these walls [would] set a bad example to the rest…  However willing (and God knows how anxious we are about these Girls!) the time must arrive when we must necessarily leave them to themselves in order that we may be the better enabled to provide for & look after those unfledged younger ones whom it is the peculiar object of this Charity to protect.  Sarah Nowell is nearly 20 years of age and I am afraid if [she is] unable at this period of her Life to take care of herself will ever remain so.  You will perceive therefore that we cannot offer her an asylum here though we should rejoice to hear of her welfare.[64]

Nowell was determined to stay the course: though overworked, she felt it her ‘duty to own the school as my home after so much kindness that has been shown me … I should be very ungrateful if I did not…’[65]


In December 1855, Jane Franklin’s master, a Westminster barrister, complained of her ‘general conduct, that is of your disobedience and inattention to your duties’.  Brownlow sought to ‘bring you [Franklin] to your senses’ by ‘warning you of the consequences of the course you are pursuing.  It is not only your duty but your interest to make friends of your master & mistress, by being obedient in all things.’  This seems unexceptional – any Victorian father might have used the same words – but Brownlow went on to threaten the girl with legal proceedings and the punishment which would follow:

I have advised your master to take you before the Magistrates of the District who no doubt would punish you by imprisonment or by sending you to the Workhouse.  Within these walls you will not be permitted to enter, except as a good Girl.  In that capacity we shall be at all times happy to see you, but otherwise never.  God has been good and gracious to you in very many ways – this you return by ingratitude, for it is most ungrateful of you not to do your duty in that state of Life in which He has been pleased to place you.

Now from this time resolve to mend your ways and be a good Girl and all will be forgiven and perhaps forgotten, otherwise you must take the consequences of your conduct and these consequences will be bitter indeed![66]

The noxious aspect of this lecture is the suggestion (hinted at in the references to God’s grace and the girl’s ingratitude) that a rescued foundling should know her place and be mindful of her indebtedness.  The next Easter report noted that Franklin was ‘better since Mr Brownlow wrote to her’, she improved again in 1856-57, and in June 1858, when Franklin applied for the end-of-term gratuity, she was adjudged ‘to be deserving of a portion of the same only’ and awarded three guineas (‘3 Guineas 1858’), only the second girl featured in this study who was given this partial endorsement.[67]

Brownlow adopted a similar approach, combining disappointment, an appeal to her self-interest and a strong dose of religious obligation, when he addressed Sophia Foster in April and October 1856.  Foster’s mistress in Hanover Square had complained that, ‘You are still careless and dirty about your work and, although capable of doing all that is required of you, you willfully neglect your duty.’[68]  Foster’s response was that of another hapless victim, indeed, that of a bullied little girl:

My dear Miss Soley
I ham very sorry to think that Mrs Synnot should write about me.  I do not know what it
[is] for.  I ham not treeted well.  On Satday after I had been working hard all day I was shut up in my room with out any food and also I was kept in all day Sunday and shut up with out any food…[69]

Nevertheless, Brownlow warned Foster that her behaviour ‘must end in your losing our regard and the good feelings of the Governors of the Hospital.’  He went on,

Why do you pursue this course?  You have strength and sense to support you and every capacity to make a good Servant and yet you fail to satisfy your mistress.  Let me urge upon you, in the strongest manner possible, to turn over a new leaf and to pursue always the same course, which you have done for short periods, during which you have given satisfaction.

Be firm in your resolutions and ask God to assist you.  We have a deep anxiety about your welfare, not for our own sake but yours, and when the Girls from this Hospital go wrong they have more to answer for than others, because of the great advantages they have derived and thrown away.      

This resembles the ‘ingratitude’ charge made against Jane Franklin.  When Foster’s mistress returned to report ‘that those faults of temper & manner which she before complained of were not removed’ (although she ‘speaks highly of your honesty’), Brownlow highlighted the failings – ‘Ill temper & bearish and insolent manners cannot be tolerated in any respectable family’ – and told her that attending the annual (Easter) awards ceremony was out of the question (‘we cannot receive you’).  The idea of the new leaf, perhaps less appropriate to October than April, was urged again six months later:

Why not therefore turn over a new leaf and alter your conduct?  It will afford us pleasure and you happiness, for no Girl who is on bad terms with her mistress can be thoroughly comfortable in herself.  I understand you rely upon our protection whether you behave ill or well and that you have said we shall receive you here even if your mistress should send you away for misconduct.  You deceive yourself in this.  If your mistress cannot get you a[nother] situation because of your character, how can we?  We must not give false characters and no one will take you without seeing your mistress.  I implore you therefore to get into her good graces & favor [sic]…  Pray to God to assist you in your endeavours to kirb [sic] your temper – if you seek his aid seriously He will give it [to] you.[70]

The Secretary’s sound advice proved unavailing, for in March 1857 it was concluded that Foster would have to be moved to ‘another situation’ and she went, in turn, to a Mrs Barnes in St John’s Wood and a Miss Crozier in Somerset.  The latter gave her a truly terrible report in 1858 (‘convicted of theft’, ‘an awful liar’, ‘thoroughly disobedient’, ‘indolent & dirty’) and there was almost an air of resignation about the Committee’s decision ‘that Sophia Foster be permitted to emigrate to Australia at the expense of this Hospital.’[71]

When the master and mistress of Elizabeth Seares applied ‘to get rid of you on account of your perverse & disobedient conduct’, Brownlow accused her of contriving to secure a transfer to another place by being purposely ‘insolent & disobedient.  This betrays great craftiness & cunning; &, in fact, you are chargeable with obtaining money under false pretences.’  Brownlow would have no truck with her scheming:

It is plain enough what you are after.  You are seeking to change your place from some whimsical motive; but this shall not be; you can do your duty when you like, & must be made to do so; here you shall not come except with a good character.  This both Miss Soley & I have determined on; examples such as yours are mischievous to the rest of the Girls, & the governors have resolved not to encourage girls such as you.  My advice to you is this:

Turn over a new leaf… [and] keep to it instead of allowing your temper to get the better of you.  You must not expect to pass through this world without your little troubles; persons in better situations in life than yours have much more to put up with…[72]

This smacks of the idea that foundlings should remember their place.  In January 1859, Seares did secure a move to another position, in a house in St. Pancras, but she did not settle there and moved again; some years later, in July 1862, Brownlow, answering her letter, complimented its ‘good spirit…  I need not tell you (for you seem to feel it) that you have much to be grateful for.’  He promised to help her to find a new situation (‘when the time shall arrive for your leaving your present home’), but in September 1863, he ‘heard of your leaving Miss Griffin and was sorry for it.  I suppose by this time you have found out your mistake.  I do not see how I can help you to a situation.  You must seek one for yourself.  Should an opportunity occur I would assist you, but you must not rely upon me or the people here.’[73]

Lucy Ford’s mistress, Mrs Henry Salisbury of faraway Worcester, reported that the girl appeared ‘discontented’ and did not ‘go about your work as a Servant should do’.  Brownlow duly wrote,

You are in fact miserable in yourself and the cause of misery in others, all of which arises I understand from your wishing to return here to be instructed as a Teacher; now I intend to be plain with you, you had the choice of being a Teacher when an inmate here and refused it, and made choice [sic] of your present occupation.  That chance you will never have again.  Even supposing we were disposed to gratify your caprice you shew by your present conduct how incompetent you are for such an office.  How can you train others properly when you know not how to govern yourself?

These are harsh, crushing words.  The Hospital had begun to send selected girls to be trained as teachers, with a view to their returning to teach the next generations, and had already employed at least one former foundling (Ann Hastings, Assistant Teacher in the Girls’ School) in that capacity; Brownlow, perhaps rightly, was blocking that route for this girl.  He went on to warn that she would be ‘made’ to behave and, again, to invoke the will of God: ‘God has done much for you and you are flying in his face – you are ungrateful and ingratitude never prospers.  Take my advice (the advice of a friend) [to] do your duty cheerfully in that state of Life to which it has pleased God to call you.  Make a friend of yr. mistress who will be a friend to you when you perhaps most need one.  Miss Soley is too disappointed with you to write herself.’[74]  Brownlow’s response seems more severe than the girl’s conduct warranted – there is a suggestion more of concern than anger in the mistress’s report – and the wish to be a teacher suggests a person of merit.[75]  Ford remained with Mrs Salisbury and was awarded five guineas at the end of her apprenticeship.  She was only the third girl featured here who was granted the full gratuity.[76]


Brownlow curtly dismissed Alice Jenkins as one who ‘has so little respect for herself to behave as she does…  So long as she conducted herself properly, we were glad to see her, but if she goes on as she appears to be doing now she will be shut out of these walls for ever.’[77]   Margaret Sturt’s problems took up rather more of his time.  They began when she was placed with an evangelical Christian, Georgiana Gill, who lamented the ‘sinfulness’ as well as ‘folly’ of her ways and charged that ‘her outbreaks are more frequent and violent than ever and all my servants say they cannot live with her’ because of ‘her insulting language, and insolent conduct…  She constantly refuses to obey my orders, unless given to her by myself (and even then neglects to perform them).’[78]  Brownlow’s reaction to Gill’s complaint is unsurprising:

I have been more hurt to day than I can well express at receiving a Letter from your good and Christian Mistress complaining of your conduct.  It appears that such is your temper & insolence that no Servant will remain in the house with you, and that you refuse to receive directions unless they come from your Mistress and even then disobey her orders.  I am at a loss to conceive what you mean by such conduct.

Do you wish to be brought here in disgrace and placed in the Reformatory?  If so, your object will soon be accomplished for your Mistress has given me notice that she intends sending you back shortly unless she perceives a great improvement.  It was a source of great pleasure & congratulation to your kind friend Miss Soley to believe that you were going on well but Miss Gill’s Letter sadly disappointed her.  As your best friend, I warn you to beware of the consequences of your present behaviour.  You will have no friend here after what has passed.  Make therefore friends where you are and keep them…  After reading this Letter I conjure you to go to your Mistress to ask her forgiveness and beg her to give you another trial – but above all pray to God to strengthen your resolution to follow the right path for the future.[79]

Brownlow agreed with Gill that Sturt’s conduct ‘is shameful after your kindness and the pains we have all taken to make her a good girl’.[80]  So, Sturt was condemned unheard.  But the unusual feature of the correspondence, as it unfolded, was the mistress’s enthusiasm for ‘punishment’, which she considered ‘a wholesome medicine’.  Brownlow must ‘take her and so punish her for her rebellious spirit that she may really make an effort to conquer her sadly abusive conduct…’  By August 1853, ‘correction’ was urgent, for, ‘like every other disease, if the remedy be delayed beyond the proper period, it would lose a portion (at least) of its efficacy.’  Of course, the religious aspect was well to the fore: ‘prayer and contrition’ were needed, ‘she must be changed in spirit’, punishment was ‘the only method of saving her both temporally and inwardly’, how ‘good it is for her to drink the wholesome draught of correction’.[81]

The girl herself was contrite:

I am very sorry that I have been so neglectful and caused my mistress so much trouble but I hope after this that I shall never do the like again.  My mistress is kind enough to say she will forgive me and I hope God will enable me to do better for the future.  I am very sorry to have vexed you and Miss Soley.[82]

However, having Sturt replaced – ‘let me have another girl in her stead’[83] – was on the agenda from May and finally demanded in August 1853.  This appears to have happened (the Apprenticeship Register is incomplete) in early September.[84]  The Hospital sent Sturt ‘upon trial’ to Mrs Dalrymple, with whom she was ‘insolent, idle and rude’, showed ‘a most disobedient, determined, wilful temper’ and, despite having ‘great bodily strength and health’, would not do her work.  ‘I have never met with a young person that was so devoid of all pleasing qualities as Margaret Sturt.’[85]  She was sent back in April 1854: ‘She must leave without any previous knowledge as her wickedness is so great that I could not keep her one moment in the house after she knows she is to go.’[86]  She was passed on to a Mrs Parrott and then to Mrs Freeman, who complained that Sturt’s behaviour had ‘constantly been growing worse’.  This found Brownlow at the end of his patience:

The ingratitude of Margt. Sturt is equalled only by her ungovernable temper.  We cannot receive her here: the example would be most mischievous.  She is now 19 years of age & ought, like other young people of her station, to seek a situation for herself.  It is really scandalous that she should require us to treat her as a baby at her period of life.  If she is not able now to keep her places, or to find others when she leaves them, when will she?  I lament exceedingly the trouble you have had with this Girl who ought to have returned your kindness to her in a very different way.[87]

Sturt apparently completed her apprenticeship, but when she applied for a gratuity in 1858, she and another girl were the only ones out of 22 applicants deemed ‘not to be deserving of the same’.[88]

Mary Fisher, ‘a girl of very small ability’, had been one of the girls found wanting by Hannah Piper (Maria Polden’s mistress); she moved to another employer in March 1853 and to a third in August.[89]  By Easter 1856, she was fully satisfying her employer and the testimonials book for 1857 lists her apprenticeship as ‘Expired’ – but the former apprentice, now twenty-one, found Brownlow entirely unsympathetic when she encountered difficulties towards the end of 1858:

I am sorry for everybody in trouble, but with respect to you your difficulties are entirely of your own seeking.  You have had all sorts of kindness & advice but nothing has restrained you.

We can do nothing for you here: your evil example would be ruinous to the rest of the Girls.  There is nothing for you but the Workhouse of the parish where you reside; & the sooner you go to it the better for your own sake.  If you are friendless you know it is your own fault.[90]

Brownlow’s words, pushing the girl towards the workhouse, seem rather cruel.  Susan Wright was still fifteen when her allegedly ‘perverse and shameful conduct’ caused him to threaten to have her sent ‘to the Workhouse or to Prison’.[91]  Jane Winter was set free to go her own way.  Considered ‘idle, ill tempered and very self willed and very inattentive to her duties’ by her first master, causing her to be re-assigned in August 1853, her second employer said she ‘cannot answer the last three questions [Obedient?  Industrious?  Respectful?] in the affirmative’ at Easter 1854.[92]  When this mistress subsequently informed the Hospital that Winter did ‘not suit her’ and must be replaced, Brownlow wrote that ‘you [Winter] might do better were you upon your own hand receiving wages’; she should ‘look out for a Situation…  We shall always be happy to hear of your well being but in future you will be more responsible for your own conduct [and] will be instantly discharged should you exhibit those instances of ill temper, besides Ideness, which appear to be your besetting Sin.’[93]  Happily, Mrs Bradley then reported an ‘improvement in her conduct’ which induced her to give the girl ‘one more trial’.[94]  Within a year, however, Winter had been released and Brownlow refused to help her to find a job – ‘I see plainly enough that it is useless to attempt to establish you in respectable service…  [A]dvice and everything is thrown away upon you.  I have heard of you & Sarah Tamlyn gadding about town’ – but, after she made several desperate appeals to Brownlow (‘I have not a friend in the world to assist me’), he did help by contributing towards her rent.[95]

Sarah Tamlyn, who briefly lodged with Winter, had been condemned for her ‘unsubdued temper, constant insolence and ill conduct … I find it quite impossible to keep her in my house.’[96]  Brownlow shunned her when she chose to leave her place:  ‘She is old enough and clever enough to take care of herself and cannot be received here.’[97]  Tamlyn was soon reported to be ‘in great distress because she could not keep her place’ and ‘does not know where to go, or what to do,’ according to a woman who, urging Miss Soley to show sympathy, had ‘reason to believe you do feel a great interest yourself in those friendless ones committed to your care’.[98]  She acquired a sponsor who knew her to be ‘perfectly honest’ and ‘believe[d] her to be thoroughly well conducted, and the objection generally to her obtaining a situation arises from not being considered tall enough although she is an excellent waitress…’[99]  She did find another situation (at £8 a year) in March 1856 ( the family ‘are Roman Catholics by religion’) but, unable to stand the fault-finding mistress, left in April (‘I always thought we were not to live in a Catholic family’).[100]  Her ‘gadding about’ did not end well, for she became pregnant and had a child, and Brownlow absolutely rejected her appeal for assistance:

I really do not see how I can assist you.  I know of no one emigrating nor am I likely to know.  Besides your child would be in the way.  You are in service and I am afraid you will have to manage in the best way you can, however hard that may be.[101]


Both Laura Mansell and Matilda Burney had appalling relationships with their employers and some of the adults concerned, including Brownlow, showed considerable patience and forbearance before the Hospital (and the girls) turned to the solution of last resort, emigration.  In February 1853, the mistress of Laura Mansell (still 15 and already with her second employer) described a girl who may have been mentally disturbed: as a ‘slight specimen’ of Mansell’s ‘intolerable’ conduct, she claimed that ‘when told to take a cloth to do any thing she will snatch up the cloth, throw it on the floor and stamp upon it with her feet.  She will also throw any thing, food or cloths, on the fire, all this before our faces, [and] take up two or three plates and throw them on the floor at our feet.’  She left the candle burning ‘on the top of her bed’ at night, refused to get up in the morning, and stood ‘half an hour in one place’ instead of moving ‘to do what she is told.  She is also exceedingly insolent.’  Mrs Morgan therefore wanted the Hospital’s ‘assistance in curing her both of her obstinacy and insolence’.  At Easter, Mansell was deemed ‘certainly not’ obedient, ‘not Industrious’ and ‘disrespectful to the extreme’ in the annual questionnaire.  Miss Soley’s visit to the house in March 1853 possibly made the situation worse.  According to the mistress,

When I went into the kitchen after you left she was seated at the table with her elbows on it and her chin was resting in her hands and there she sat without moveing until it was quite dark.  I took down the tea things myself, washed them up & put them away at last.  Mr. Morgan insisted upon her cleaning the back kitchen floor which was filthy, he was obliged to stay in the place with her to get it done at all and to prevent her destroying everything she came near.  She turned round and told me in a most commanding manner not to speak to her.

Mrs Morgan ‘took away her best clothes out of her box’ with a view to ‘keeping her in bed’ – but she made two attempts to flee that night.

I never in my life heard such insolence … as I had addressed to myself from that Girl that night.  I took it in silence too for except telling her to hold her tongue I said nothing for I did not choose to bandy words with a Girl like that.  Excuse my saying that I think the truth is the Girls are not taught at the Foundling their duty to their Masters and Mistresses, they do not appear to think that they have a right to obey any one besides the superiors at the Foundling.  As soon as she was in bed I took away the things she had put off except her stockings and shoes and fastened her in for we really had an opinion that she was more fit for a lunatic asylum than being at large in our house, so much so that Mr. Morgan requested me to go back and bring every knife out of the kitchen and lock them up…

There she lay without speaking for one whole week, then she asked in an insolent tone for her clothes.  I told her then [that] she should not have them until she had asked pardon in a proper manner for the past and found a resolution to do her duty in future.  That appeared too much for her and there she lay again without speaking until yesterday when she appeared much more humble…[102]

After another visit from Soley, ‘Laura conducted herself pretty well’ for several months – but, influenced apparently by two Foundling girls who called on her, she began again to neglect her duties, failing to make the tray for afternoon tea, and next morning she was behaving ‘like a lunatic’ (throwing shoes) and Mrs Morgan felt that ‘it is not safe to leave the house in her charge…  this Girl upsets every thing and every body’ and the husband ‘feels like a stranger in his own house’.  Having found a previous Foundling girl insufferable, Mrs Morgan ‘begged of you only to give me a good tempered one.  I don’t believe any other lady would have borne with so much and so long as I have done with her.’[103]  Given the dire state of relations, it is a surprise that the apprenticeship continued until Easter 1854, when Mrs Morgan reported that ‘Laura continues to give way to the same violent temper … and continues to conduct herself in the same insolent & idle manner wilfully injuring everything.’  ‘Only last week her Master was obliged to take milk for breakfast … for want of the fire being burnt up sufficient to boil water… [and] could get no hot water to shave with… [and he had] his own boots to clean each morning and [had] to sit down in the room undusted’.[104]  In October, Morgan complained that Mansell was ‘worse than ever’ (‘her insulting language is past bearing’ and he was in ‘fear of leaving Mrs Morgan in the house with her…  I am quite determined she shall not remain here another week’).[105]  He was advised to bring the girl before the magistracy (‘the Governors must of necessity leave you [the master] to adopt the course pointed out by the Indenture’), but Brownlow also advised Mansell that she should consider ‘the propriety’ of ‘emigrating to Australia’:

Notwithstanding the trouble I took the other day, in calling upon you and advising you as to your conduct towards your master & mistress, I am told that you have since behaved towards them as badly as ever.

As the Governors of the Hospital have resolved not to receive you again within these walls and as you cannot get another place without a character which your master & mistress will not give you, I advise you, as a Friend, to try your fortune in another country & like some of our Girls to Emigrate to Australia.

Think of this advice & let me know the result.  I will do all I can to help you out.[106]

Mansell was humbled and agreed that emigration was the only means of escape from her own folly:

Mr Brownlow Esq
Sir, I Humbly beg to have the honor to answer your kind note, hoping you will condiscend
[sic] to read these few lines.

Sir, after you had kindly to give [sic] me advice, I am sorry I did not make my determination to do my duty.  I behaved very badly again, if I had tried to keep the angry temper down, I should have done better.  I humbly thank you for your kind advice, & I should very much like to try my fortune in another country.

I shall apoligize [sic] to my Master & Mistress, but I cannot think they will allow me to speak to them, after wearying them, which I now see I have done so long a time they will not keep me long.  I humbly & sincerely beg of you to allow me once more to come & stay in your house until I can be sent out, for I feel I have vexed my Master & Mistress so much that they will send me to prison rather than keep me any longer.  Whatever I have to do I will be truly faithful & serve you with all my heart.  I humbly feel I am not worthy of your kindness.  I see now that I have ruined my Character, which is a very sad thing to think of.  I know I shall repent of my conduct before I die, which my Mistress has told me so often.  I shall suffer for my folly.

I apoligize to you for my wicked conduct & promise you faithfully to be obedient [and] industrious & will do all that lays in my power to please my rulers.

I ask you a very great favour, I know I am not deserving of any kindness.  Instead of you offering me a free country my desert is to go and be a slave…[107]

The General Committee approved of her ‘desire to emigrate to Australia’ and asked Brownlow ‘to take measures for the emigration of Laura Mansel under government agency’.  Brownlow, reporting to the master, clearly welcomed the girl’s ‘very penitential letter’ and wish to emigrate: ‘To send her out will of course be some expense to the Hospital, but if it advances her future interests it will not be thrown away’.  This encouragement to emigrate might be an extreme example of closing the door on troublesome children, but it is possible that Brownlow really was promoting their ‘future interests’.  The master was asked to ‘furnish her with an outfit’ equal to the one she arrived with, but Morgan (‘a blackguard’ – Brownlow), recalling all the ‘wilful destruction’ she had effected, refused to pay a penny.  Days later, Mrs Morgan reported that Mansell had absconded.[108]  The Hospital moved her to another employer, who replied ‘Yes’ to every question in the annual questionnaire in 1855, and commented that her ‘improvement’ had been ‘very pleasing though I have had many difficulties to correct’ – but a different employer, with whom Mansell had been for three months, submitted a positive report (‘civil & obliging’) in March 1856.  In December, her mistress, having fallen ill (‘an Invalid for some months’), did not find the girl ‘equal to the duties that I consequently require of her’ and wanted to return her to the Hospital – but Mansell, who had ‘conducted herself with propriety since she has been with me’, completed her apprenticeship in March 1857 (‘Expired 13 March 1857’ was added at the top of the 1856 questionnaire) and in April 1857, consistent with her chequered history, she was awarded a gratuity of two guineas.[109]

Matilda Burney failed to settle with successive employers.  She initially refused to be apprenticed to Revd. Thomas Hervey but, assured by Mrs Hervey that they would do all they could ‘to make her comfortable & happy’, she relented and went into service in the Herveys’ home in Hampshire.  Hervey expressed unqualified approval of Burney at Easter, 1853 – although it might be significant that he filled in the questionnaire during his wife’s temporary absence – and she went back to the Hospital (‘Come’) to receive her reward.[110]  This trip apparently unsettled the girl, as Hervey explained to Miss Soley on 7 May:

I am sorry I can give but a very indifferent account of Matilda.  Since her visit to London she has been like another girl.  At first she was so wicked as to wish herself ill, then she became very rude, disobedient, negligent & almost wilfully destructive of crockery, [so] that I began to think she was hoping to be sent back, perhaps relying on your regard for her, [expecting] that after a few days confinement & expressing her sorrow all would be forgiven.  I therefore told her that I shd. not consider it necessary to send her back under any circumstances & talked to her very seriously about her whole behaviour.  Since then she has behaved better but I have not much hope of any permanent improvement as long as a continual communication is kept up with the Foundling & her thoughts are always there…[111]

By the end of June, the Herveys, their anxiety far exceeding concern for their crockery, were ‘quite at a loss how to proceed with her.  The chief complaint now against her is her behaviour to the other servants, her temper is so bad & she is so self-willed & disobedient’ that the others said they ‘are made quite uncomfortable & cannot have a meal in peace’.  She ‘will not do anything she is told to do by the Cook’ and ‘tries to annoy her all she can & the Cook says she cannot live with her any longer.’  When the Cook ‘gave her a box on the ear’, Burney ‘uttered a shriek wh. alarmed the whole house then threw herself on the floor, pulled off her cap & let down her hair’; ‘there was quite a scene’.  The Herveys would be ‘only too glad to get rid of her altogether’ – ‘it seems a hopeless case’ – but considered that Burney was deliberately misbehaving in order to gain a transfer, ‘why I know not, unless it be that the country does not suit her tastes & she wd. prefer London’.[112]  Brownlow wrote to warn Burney that if Hervey brought her before a magistrate,

[T]he Indentures would be cancelled and you would be sent to the Parish Workhouse.  I must leave him to pursue this course.  Here you will never be received, except as a deserving and good apprentice, which at present you are not.  No girl knows her duty better than you do, and as you are determined to be perverse and ill-behaved you must take the consequences however terrible they may be.

She must ‘turn over a new leaf and entirely alter’ her behaviour.  ‘If you came here at all, it would be to the Reformatory that you might be taught your duty; but this you know already and therefore even the Reformatory would be useless in your case.  The Workhouse is the only place for you, and once there you will never enter these walls again.’[113]  It is interesting that this was written soon after Brownlow’s denunciation of Margaret Sturt (May 1853) and shortly before his unsparing admonition of Fanny Holmes (August); was this a time, the era of the ‘reformatory’, when he was particularly disposed to harshness?[114]  The Secretary’s intervention, Hervey thought, ‘had the desired effect.  With no other alternative before her but the workhouse, she has become very penitent & asked forgiveness of every one in the house.  She promises to do better & I think means it.’[115]  In her apology, a spirit of reconciliation briefly flickered into life:

Dear Sir
I write to tell you I have got pardon from my Master and Mistress and I am not ashamed to ask for yours and Miss Soley’s for I have confessed my faults to God and he will help me to keep my promise and I hope this will be the last time I ever shall have to ask forgiveness of you or any one else.  Dear Sir I am realy
[sic] penitent and sorry for what has past [sic] and I hope you will think [no?] more about it…

Please will you answer this and tell me if you and dear Miss Soley will forgive me for I have given a firm promise that it should never happen again.

Brownlow showed, in response, that his rather menacing onslaught on waywardness was matched by palpable delight in the prodigal daughter’s return to the right path:

Your letter has given me much pleasure.  My greatest delight in this world is to hear of the welfare and good conduct of those who have been brought up in this Hospital, and my greatest pain arises out of their misfortunes and misconduct.  I have no doubt you are sincere in your expression of your sorrow for what has past and your determination to act better in future.  Be firm in your resolution, and you will not only be happy in yourself but will diffuse happiness to those who have your interests at heart.  Both Miss Soley & myself forgive you most freely.  We wish you well & will add our prayers to yours that you may continue in the path of duty.
Believe me your Friend
J. Brownlow

Notwithstanding the preachiness, this, surely, was the letter of a genuine ‘friend’ who cared about the moral welfare, happiness and material interest of the Foundling girls.

In August 1853, Burney sent Miss Soley an emotive message that pulls on the heartstrings of the modern reader, promising to be ‘a good girl’ and ‘a good Christian’ and ‘then I shall be happy to die…  I do not wish to live long on the Earth…  I hope to be happy and contented through the help of God…’[118]  Sadly, this poor, distraught girl also remained ‘careless & self-willed’, Hervey reported, and in September he wished that Brownlow ‘could suggest some other course than that of taking her before a Magistrate, which I have an aversion to do, though I fear nothing short of removing [her] from here altogether will be of any avail.  She might possibly do better elsewhere, but here she seems determined not to mend.’  He went on to give a full and lively account of Burney’s offences:

She gets up in the morning when she likes, an hour or an hour & a half after the other servants, & when she is up she moves about at the rate of a mile an hour & does about 3 hours work in the whole day.  She ought to make 2 servants beds before breakfast, but she purposely made them so bad, that she was relieved of that duty.  So now if she is up in time to open the shutters & lay the breakfast by a quarter past 8 she thinks it sufficient.

She has of late been very rude in her manners to us, & to others in the house her language is most offensive.  She has called her mistress a beast & other names & says her tongue is her own & she  shall say what she likes.  Our children (5 & 7 yrs old) are shocked at what she says to them.

All the forbearance hitherto shewn her seems to have had no other effect than to harden her & make her worse…

I shall be willing to do anything you suggest wh. may relieve us.  We never before had such an unquiet house as we have had since Easter.[119]

On the same day, Burney sent Brownlow a garbled message acknowledging her ‘sinfull ignorance’ and seeking compassion for ‘a poor friendless girl’, but also asking Brownlow to ‘send for me and hear the right’.  Hervey then reported that the new National Schoolmistress had visited and Burney called her ‘a beast’, the word she had also applied to Mrs Hervey.  Miss Soley was sent down to speak with the girl.[120]

Burney was ‘a long time coming to her senses’.[121]  In January 1854, she wrote that Mrs Hervey ‘desires me to tell you that she has found a great improvement in me and she knows that I have tried to do my best’; she hoped that ‘if I continue it will be both a pleasure to myself and everybody else… I am living in full hopes of being better.’[122]  The spidery scrawl and infantile tone of this letter resembled that of a naughty child to an absent parent – but two months later Mrs Hervey offered a cynical explanation, ‘that it was a prospect of the Easter holiday’ at the Hospital ‘which induced this happy alteration in her.  Since that time we have experienced the reverse of all the good wh[ich] we trusted would be permanent & this may be the result of her not succeeding in mollifying you.  She is idle, careless & impertinent & lately I have been more grieved with her than I am now able to tell you.’[123]

After being criticised again in the Easter 1854 questionnaire and refused permission to go to the Hospital, Burney begged Miss Soley to send her a few ‘tender words’; she was ‘still trying’ but feared that if she said  ‘but one word’ about her unhappiness ‘it will be as bad as if I had done the world of evil things, dearest Governess will you help me against this…’[124]  On 21 June, she claimed that she had a ‘great secret’ she could not write about: ‘wait untill I see your face next year and you shall know all.  Dearest Governess I do mean well and am pure…’[125]  The nature of this secret was (and is) a mystery.  Mrs Hervey had ‘not been able to draw a word from Matilda on the subject of her secret troubles’; her ‘conduct in writing to you in this style is wicked and cruel, both to you [Soley] and myself.’[126]  The Easter 1855 report was slightly more positive – ‘I do not think she means to be disrespectful’ – but she then became ever more ‘intolerable’ and threatened to become ‘a runaway’ if she was not moved elsewhere, and in November 1855, charged with being ‘self-willed and disobedient’, she was ‘severely admonished’ by the General Committee.  Prompted by Hervey’s revelation that she had ‘expressed a wish to go to Australia’, which ‘appears the best thing’ she could do, Brownlow told him that, ‘Should she fail after this and you could get her on [sic] to Australia we would not only consent but assist.’[127]  Burney, asking him to ‘pardon my forwardness in writing to you’, told Hervey that ‘if you still hold out your wish for me to go to Australia I will go for it is impossible to go on in this way.  But ‘I must tell you [that] it is not my wish to go’ – and she seemed to imply (the logic is unclear) that she might prefer one of ‘two other ways of getting me off your hands, to go to prison and to go to the workhouse’.  Hervey insisted that it was ‘Matilda’s own idea to go to Australia’.[128]

After returning home in November 1855, Burney wrote a rather sweet letter to Miss Soley, rededicating herself to the right path: ‘I hope I shall become good’ but it was ‘much harder to be good than wicked… the evil spirit that I have to conquer is a hard thing to be done [sic], it will take months perhaps years…’[129]  She was sent to another master, Edward Bateman of Islington, in February 1856, but she was soon back in Brownlow’s bad books:

When will you become a contented and happy Girl?  It is melancholy to read your Letters.  You seem to fancy that everybody is wrong but yourself.  You should question your conscience on this subject, and I think you will find that the great error is your own self-will and untoward temper.  Let me entreat you before it is too late, to mend these and let me also warn you that if you leave your mistress without the consent of the Governors of this Hospital you will forfeit their good opinion and all the advantages of it.  Resolve to please your mistress better, and be sensible enough to tell her so, and then we may hope to see you here next Easter with a good character along with the rest.

Burney did not ‘mend’ her ways.  Four weeks later, her ‘case’ again came before the General Committee, which resolved, ‘That under all circumstances Matilda Burney be returned to the Hospital [by Bateman] until another situation is provided for her.’[131]  She was sent to another post, in Holborn, but her master wrote in March 1857 to say that she was ‘leaving our service with the intention, I believe, of finding another situation for herself.  The reason we are parting with her is [her] extreme impertinence which became at length unbearable.’   Brownlow, asked to send her some money, bristled at the thought of the girl’s continued insolence:  ‘When will you come to your senses?  You have all the capacity to make an efficient Servant, but fail to do so in every place from the same cause.  Unless you mend I see nothing before you but misery.  You are nearly twenty years of age and have not yet made one friend.  What a sad reflection this must be to you.’[132]  Burney’s reply indicated that she was ‘desirous of emigrating to Australia’ and the Committee, considering that ‘it is expedient she should be allowed to do so’, resolved that ‘an outlet be provided for Matilda Burney at the discretion of the Secretary’.  A few weeks later, she went off to Australia (‘Emigrated to Melbourne, May 29 1857’).[133]

If the ‘Dear Matilda’ whom Brownlow addressed in April 1863 was Burney, she was then married and doing well, eliciting a warm response from Brownlow:

I was very glad indeed to receive your letter and am happy to hear of your welfare.  You must think more of the future than of the past.  There is I hope much happiness in store for you.  Your friends here bear you in kind remembrance…  They all think of you…  Give my compliments to your husband and tell him we are obliged to him for taking care of you…[134]


Misbehaving boys were also castigated by Brownlow.  The ‘insolent’ Edward Griffiths, Thomas Tyler and James Newell (both threatened with being ‘sent to the parish’), ‘foolish’ Jonathan Alston (believed to be ‘keeping company with Harriet Evans’, who subsequently emigrated on the Nimrod with Maria Polden and Jane Symonds), ‘impertinent’ Charles Tennant, ‘ungrateful’ and deceitful Peter Pole, Mark Cutler (prey to an unspecified ‘evil’ which ‘has brought you to your present disgraceful condition’), and Francis Courtney (whose ‘shameful & disgusting’ behaviour included drunkenness) all annoyed Brownlow.[135]  But, except with Courtney, there was less vituperation and outright condemnation than with the girls, and even the despicable Courtney, far from being cut adrift, was encouraged to join the Army as a bandsman.[136]  The possibility that Brownlow had a particularly strong aversion to insubordinate girls has been assessed elsewhere – ‘he seemed not to like many of the girls and allowed this to colour his attitude to the girl foundlings as a whole’[137] – and there was further evidence in the 1850s that he did not value them when he proposed to establish a letter-writing competition for boys (‘I intend giving a prize each quarter of one shilling to the three best Letter writers’).[138]  Girls, too, might have benefited from stretching, educational initiatives.

That said, the fact that a disproportionate amount of Brownlow’s time was spent on the problem of misbehaving girls probably has little to do with his personal feelings.  All of the miscreants identified here entered domestic service and, ill-prepared, they often disappointed their employers: dishing up institutional food for 400 children and the other domestic chores of girls in the Hospital provided poor training for tending to the needs of middle class families, a fact later acknowledged with the establishment of a School of Domestic Economy at Chislehurst.  Above all, domestic service naturally brought girls into direct and personal contact with their masters and mistresses, the latter especially.  Flaws which might have been overlooked in a men’s workshop did not pass unnoticed in the home, where a mere look or gesture could communicate truculence and disrespect.  Unsatisfactory attitudes were detectable as girls worked around their mistresses in the home and the faults reported to Brownlow did dwell largely on attitudinal problems, be they ‘insolence and general incivility’, ‘ungovernable temper’ or ‘perverse & disobedient conduct’.[139]  Brownlow came closest to stressing the domestic context when he told Sophia Foster that ‘bearish and insolent manners cannot be tolerated in any respectable family’.[140]

So, a piece which suggested that Brownlow might be a misogynist ends with the very misogynistic idea that the real cause of the problem was other women, the mistresses who sought to manage and discipline their servants!  They presided in the homes where so many girls failed to settle.  On the other hand, sure that the Foundling girls must know their place, and frequently quick to anger, Brownlow’s response was often fierce and excoriating, or so it seems to the modern ear.  Upright Victorians, especially those in authority, would not have questioned the need for severity, for telling the young that conformity and deference were both duty and necessity.  Brownlow told girls the truth about their vulnerability and dependence.  But these friendless girls looked to their only real father for comfort and assistance and found themselves berated for their ingratitude and insolence.  I began to study this topic after being shocked by Brownlow’s dyspeptic letter to Frances Holmes.  For all that context and the assumptions and standards of the age cannot be overlooked, I am still shocked!

[1] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 25, Brownlow to Holmes, 11 August 1853.  By ‘friends’, Brownlow will have meant persons of standing whose support would assist the young woman.

[2] The Foundling Hospital continues today as the children’s charity Coram (, which owns the Coram Foundling Hospital Archive in London Metropolitan Archives.


[3] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/011, page 194, Brownlow to Harding, 24 April 1851.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/99, Harding to Brownlow, 8, 12 April 1852; ibid., /100, No. 24, Frances Holmes, with Harding to Brownlow, 5 March 1853.

[4] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Harding to Brownlow, 13 December 1853.

Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 82, Brownlow to Harding, 14 December 1853.

[5] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 15; ibid., /102, No. 3.  In both years, 1854 and 1855, she was again not invited to the Hospital (‘No’), occasioning her October 1855 complaint about being overlooked despite receiving, she wrongly believed, ‘a most satisfactory character’ from her master.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/008, Holmes to Brownlow, October 1855.

[6] Ibid., /114/008, Harding to Brownlow, 29 April 1856; ibid., Holmes to Brownlow, n.d..  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 1.  This Register is a very flawed source, with many omissions.

[7] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 63.

[8] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/016, Stanbridge to Brownlow, 27 June 1853.

[9] Ibid., /111/016 and /112/017, Stanbridge to Brownlow, n.d. (2).  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 94, Brownlow to Stanbridge, 16 January 1854.

[10] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/017, Stanbridge to Brownlow, 17 January 1854.

[11] Ibid., /015, Pullen to Soley, 3 March 1854; ibid., /114/001, Ayre to Soley, 6, 26 May, 14, 20 June 1856.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 39; ibid., /103, No. 25, with Hollingworth to Brownlow, n.d. and Ayre to Soley, 23 June 1856.

[12] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/114/013, Pullen to Brownlow, [1856].

[13] The testimonials book for 1857 describes her apprenticeship as ‘Expired’.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/104, No. 35 (list).

[14] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/014, page 234, Brownlow to Pullen, 5 April 1864.

[15] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Harvey to Brownlow, n.d..

[16] The other two girls were Ellen Stafford and Mary Attwood, but both remained in service.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, Nos. 31 and 68; ibid., /102, No. 17; ibid., /103, No. 6 (‘Expired 29 August 1856’ – the completion of Attwood’s apprenticeship).

[17] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Haley to Brownlow, 2 April 1853.

[18] Ibid., /019, Williams to Brownlow, 11 November 1852.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/011, page 421, Brownlow to Morgan, 17 January 1853.

[19] A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 19 November 1853.

[20] Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, pp. 2 (Harvey) and 4 (Morgan).

[21] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/011, Morgan to Brownlow, 28 November 1853.

[22] Two other rejected girls, Mary Newbury (deemed ‘unbearably troublesome’) and Martha Bailey (‘violent and insubordinate’), were advised by Brownlow to emigrate; Newbury ‘decline[d] going to Australia’ but Bailey went out with Mary Lambert in June 1854.  Ibid., /012, Newbury to Brownlow, 1 February 1853; ibid., /014, Phillipps to Brownlow, 27 January 1853; ibid., Piper to Brownlow, 10 March 1853; ibid., /112/002, Bailey to Brownlow, 21 June 1854; ibid., /113/110, Lambert (from Southampton) to Soley, June [1854].  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 13, with Brook to Brownlow 18 April 1854.  Bailey and Lambert wrote from Geelong to say that both were well and Bailey fondly remembered ‘enjoying the comforts of childhood … those were happy days’ at the Hospital, but she was anxious to know ‘who my mother was’.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/002, Bailey to Brownlow, 9 March 1855 (misdated 1854); ibid., /010, Lambert to Brownlow, 26 July 1855.

[23] Ibid., /111/014, Piper to Soley, 20 October, 3 November 1852.  These were among the first of almost 20 letters, complaints about girls, that Piper sent to the Hospital in 1852-53.

[24] Ibid., Piper to ‘Madam’, 27 July 1853.  See also ibid., Piper to Brownlow, 10 October 1853: ‘the other day I desired her to open a door for one of the children and because she was in one of her stubborn moods she would not do it and I did it myself… Her deportment is so rude and daring I fear it will have an effect on the manners of my children.’

[25] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 56, Brownlow to Piper, 27 October 1853.  Notwithstanding unqualified approval of Polden six months earlier, in the March questionnaire.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No.53.

[26] A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 29 October 1853.

[27] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/014, Polden to Soley, 1855.

[28] Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, pp. 1 (Symonds) and 6 (Polden).  The Colonial Land and Emigration Office accepted Polden’s application to emigrate on 19 July 1855.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/014, Notice.

[29] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 29, with Polden to Soley, n.d. (September 1855).  Re ‘these four young girls’, Harriet Evans, who had ‘persisted on going on the Town’ and exposing herself to ‘utter ruin & wretchedness’, and Rebecca Cawthorn went out on the same ship, under the auspices of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/005, Thooly to Soley, 11 May 1855.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 33, with Evans to Brownlow, September 1855 (from Southampton).  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, pp. 1, 4, 6.

[30] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 29, with Polden to Soley, 14 September 1855.  See also Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/014, Polden to Soley, September 1855.

[31] Ibid., /111/007, Gabain to Brownlow, 11 July, 11 December 1853.  Symonds’s travails came despite a broadly positive testimonial (recognising ‘an endeavour to reform’) in March 1853.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 18, Rachel Symonds, with Gabain to Brownlow, 8 March 1853

[32] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 86, Brownlow to Gabain, 23 December 1853.

[33] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/017, Symonds to [Soley], July 1854.  £8 was roughly the average wage for the Foundling apprentices in domestic service, but another girl received only £6 per annum, barely enough to keep her ‘in tidy clothes’.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 17, with Burney to Brownlow, 31 March 1857.

[34] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/007, Gabain to Brownlow, 5 April 1855.  A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 26 May 1855.

[35] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/016, Symonds to Soley, 1, 16, 26 July 1855.

[36] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 1, with Symonds to Brownlow, 14 September 1855.

[37] Ibid., /100, No. 46.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/006, Fraser to Brownlow, 20, 26 October 1853.  Fraser’s punctuation has been amended.

[38] Ibid., /019, Wentworth to Brownlow, 9 October 1853.

[39] Ibid., Wentworth to Brownlow, 12 October 1853.

[40] A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 22 October 1853.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/006, Fraser to Brownlow, 14 December 1853.

[41] Ibid., 112/017, Starling to Brownlow, 14 January 1854, enclosing the Statement of Maria Wentworth; ibid., /020, John Springet (on Wentworth’s behalf) to Soley, 16 January 1854.

[42] Ibid..

[43] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 96, Brownlow to Wentworth, 26 January 1854.

[44] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/016, Starling to Brownlow, 26 March 1855.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 23, with Starling to Brownlow, 29 March 1855.

[45] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/019, Wentworth to Brownlow, 5 May, 1 June 1855.

[46] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 11, with Starling to Brownlow, 14 March 1856.

[47] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 345, Brownlow to Starling, 18 March 1856.

[48] A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 30 May 1857.  This came after the Halls had sung the ‘greatly improved’ girl’s praises to Brownlow and Wentworth had a short holiday at the Hospital.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 11, with Hall to Brownlow, 9, 15 April 1857.  There is a separate record of a five shillings payment to Wentworth.  A/FH/B/03/046/002, payment stubs, 15 April 1857.

[49] At Easter 1854, it was noted that Mary Radnor was ‘now in the reformatory waiting for another place’.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010//101, No. 8.  Also, in September 1855, Maria Polden wrote that Harriet Evans, set to be her companion on the journey to Australia, had left something ‘in one of the cupboards in the reformatory and would be very much obliged’ if Miss Soley would send it down to Southampton. Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/014, Polden to Soley, September 1855.

[50] Ibid., /111/004, Dawes to Brownlow, January 1853, 5 January 1853, enclosing note from Abigail Evans.

[51] Ibid., Dawes to Brownlow, 7 March 1853.  Dawes, unable to answer ‘the Questions’ about Evans ‘satisfactorily’, he left them ‘unanswered’.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 21, with Dawes to Brownlow, 9 March 1853.

[52] Ibid., /101, No. 12, with Dawes to Brownlow, 9 April 1854.  This letter accompanied the questionnaire, in which Evans was roundly criticised:  ‘Honest? By no means’  ‘Sober? Perfectly’  ‘Truthful? Quite the reverse’  ‘Obedient? Sometimes’  ‘Industrious? Not at all’  ‘Respectful? Never’.

[53] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 133, Brownlow to Evans, 24 April 1854.

[54] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, Dawes to Brownlow, 22 September 1854, enclosing Evans to Brownlow, n.d..

[55] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 170, Brownlow to Evans, 25 September 1854.

[56] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/004, Dawes to Brownlow, 13 October 1854.

[57] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 2.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/004, Dawes to Brownlow, 21 June 1855 (‘bad Girl’).

[58] Ibid., /114/005, Evans to Brownlow, n.d..  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 419, Brownlow to Evans, 24 February 1857.

[59] Ibid., /111/010, Lucy to Brownlow, 29 March 1853; ibid., Lucy to Soley, 20 April 1853; ibid., /112/020, Ward to Soley, n.d..  A/FH/K/02/052, Minutes of the General Committee, 30 July 1853.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 38, Charlotte Adams (1853) and No. 60, Sarah James (1853); ibid.,  /101, No. 29, Adams, with Ward to Brownlow, 8 April 1854, and No. 51, James, with Ward to Soley, n.d. (1854).

[60] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, pp 134-35, Brownlow to Ward, 24 April 1854 (2).  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/020, Ward to Brownlow, n.d..  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 36, with Lemon to Soley, 1 April 1855; ibid., /103, No. 22 (awarded 10 shillings in 1856).

[61] A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 9 May 1857.

[62] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 14, General Observations, with Mrs Short to Brownlow, 29 April 1854.  Mrs Short deprecated Nowell’s ‘giddy & thoughtless character’ and asked if the Hospital would take her back.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/017, Short to Brownlow, 26 May 1854.

[63] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 14, with Southwell to Brownlow, 31 May 1855 and n.d..

[64] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 263, Brownlow to Southwell, 1 June 1855.  Nowell was twenty on 29 August 1855.

[65] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/012, Nowell to Soley, 5 June 1855.

[66] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 323, Brownlow to Franklin, 14 December 1855.  The relationship had previously been very good.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 46 (1854); ibid., /102, No. 31 (1855).

[67] Ibid., /103, No. 18, General Observations; ibid., /104, No. 4.  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 7.  A/FH/K/02/055, Minutes of the General Committee, 5 June 1858.  Strictly speaking, Mary Wentworth had ceased to be an apprentice and received an ex gratia payment, not a gratuity under the apprenticeship system.  Laura Mansell, awarded two guineas in 1857 (below), was the first.

[68] The Easter questionnaire had been less damning (‘improving’ but ‘exceedingly sullen and very careless’). Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 39.  See also Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/016, Synott to Soley, 1855 (2); ibid., /114/015, Synott to Brownlow, 1856 (5); ibid., /015, Synott to Soley, 1856.

[69] Ibid., /006, Foster to Soley, n.d..

[70] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, pp. 352, 382, Brownlow (‘your wellwisher and friend’) to Foster, 14 April, 23 October 1856.

[71] A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 21 March 1857; ibid., /055, 24 April 1858.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/104, No. 34; ibid., /105, No. 6, with Crozier to Hospital, 19 March 1858.

[72] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/013, page 22, Brownlow to Seares, 17 May 1858.  This was in response to her mistress’s complaint that Seares was ‘disrespectful and insolent’; ‘her conduct is such that we cannot put up with her any longer’.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/105, No. 26, with Mills to Brownlow, 15, 19 May 1858.

[73] Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 14.  A/FH/K/02/055, Minutes of the General Committee, 4 December 1858, 1 January 1859.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/013, page 468, Brownlow to Seares, 11 July 1862; ibid., /014, page 157, Brownlow to Seares, 24 September 1863.

[74] Ibid., /013, page 38, Brownlow to Ford, 25 June 1858.  A/FH/K/02/052, Minutes of the General Committee, 27 November 1852, Hastings.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/105, No. 24.

[75] In the opinion of a former teacher.

[76] Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 14.  The others were Sarah James and Rachael Symonds, but it is not clear that Symonds received the awarded gratuity before she emigrated; the Apprenticeship Register, an incomplete record, lists neither James nor Symonds as recipients.  Ibid., 1, 5.

[77] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/002, Best to Brownlow, 29 September 1854.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 173, Brownlow to Best, 2 October 1854.  The mistress was Jenkins’s aunt and the Hospital permitted her to send the girl to her mother in Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).  Ibid., Best to Brownlow, 12 [December?] 1854.  A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 7, 20 October 1854.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 65 (‘Gone to her mother in Van Dieman’s Land’).

[78] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/007, Gill to Brownlow, 3 May, 18 August 1853.

[79] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/011, page 479, Brownlow to Sturt, 4 May 1853.

[80] Ibid., page 480, Brownlow to Gill, 5 May 1853.

[81] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/007, Gill to Brownlow, 18, 23, 26 August 1853.

[82] Ibid., /016, Sturt to Brownlow, n.d..

[83] Ibid., /007, Gill to Brownlow, 3 May 1853.

[84] Ibid., /004, Dean (for Gill) to [Soley?], 4 September 1853.

[85] Ibid., /112/004, Dalrymple to Soley, 9 January 1854.

[86] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 53, with Dalrymple to Soley, 20 April 1854.

[87] Ibid., /103, No. 24, with Freeman to Brownlow, 19 July 1856.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 368, Brownlow to Freeman, 21 July 1856.

[88] Sturt’s apprenticeship was listed as ‘Expired’ in the testimonials book for 1857.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/104, No. 35 (list).  A/FH/K/02/055, Minutes of the General Committee, 5 June 1858.  Seventeen received the full five guineas; three received three guineas, including Jane Franklin (above).

[89] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/014, Piper to Soley, 20 October 1852.  A/FH/K/02/052, Minutes of the General Committee, 19 March, 20 August 1853.  The Apprenticeship Register is far from complete with regard to Fisher, noticing only one of her several employers.  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 7.

[90] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 49; ibid., /104, No. 35 (list).  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/013, page 80, Brownlow to Fisher, 2 November 1858.  The Hospital had given Fisher five shillings on 13 January 1858.  A/FH/B/03/046/002, payment stubs.

[91] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/013, page 90, Brownlow to Wright, 1 December 1858.  For the mistress’s complaint, see Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/105, No. 29, with Munn to Brownlow, n.d..

[92] Ibid., /100, No. 56 (1853); ibid., /101, No. 47 (1854).

[93] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 171, Brownlow to Winter, 27 September 1854.

[94] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/002, Bradley to Brownlow, 4 November 1854.

[95] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 298, Brownlow to Winter, 7 September 1855.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 32, with Winter to Brownlow, 29 March 1855.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/113/019, Winter to Brownlow, 25 July, 6 September, 9, 11, 14 December 1855.  Winter was described as ‘on her own hands’ at Easter 1856 and was not awarded a final gratuity.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 19.  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 3.

[96] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 11, Sarah Tamlyn, with Cuffe to Brownlow, 27 March 1854.

[97] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 169, Brownlow to Corsellis, 18 September 1854.  Tamlyn was 19½ when this was written.

[98] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/005, Edwards to Soley, 9 November 1854.

[99] Ibid., /114/016, Hamber to Brownlow, 6 February 1856.

[100] Ibid., Tamlyn to Soley, 22, 28 March, 21 April 1856.  Tamlyn turned twenty-one in April 1856, so this last place was probably a normal job, not an apprenticeship.

[101] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/014, page 111, Brownlow to Tamlyn, 8 June 1863.

[102] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/011, Morgan to Brownlow, 23 February 1853; ibid., Morgan to Soley,7 March 1853, punctuation amended.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 64.

[103] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/011, Morgan to Soley, 21 June 1853.

[104] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 55, with Morgan to Brownlow, 6 April 1854.

[105] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/012, Morgan to Brownlow, 17 October 1854.

[106] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 177, Brownlow to Morgan, 23 October 1854; ibid., page 178, Brownlow to Mansell, 23 October 1854.  A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 21 October 1854.

[107] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 55, with Mansell to Brownlow, 25 October 1854.

[108] A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 28 October 1854.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 178, Brownlow to Simpson, 20 November 1854 (‘blackguard’); ibid., page 181, Brownlow to Morgan, 30 October, 2 November 1854.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/012, Morgan to Brownlow, 30 October 1854; ibid., Mrs Morgan to Brownlow, 3 November 1854.

[109] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 40; ibid., /103, No. 26, with Tilby to Brownlow, 25 March 1856.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/114/011, Pearson to Soley, n.d., 14 December 1856.  A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 18 April 1857.

[110] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Mrs Hervey to Soley, 3 December 1852.  Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/100, No. 54, with Hervey to Brownlow, 7 March 1853, ‘Matilda Burney does very well for her years, perhaps better than might be expected.’  See also Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Hervey to Brownlow, 22 March [and ‘Tuesday’ in April] 1853 and Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/011, page 460, Brownlow to Hervey, 23 March 1853.

[111] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Hervey to Soley, 7 May 1853.

[112] Ibid., Hervey to Brownlow, 30 June 1853.

[113] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 10, Brownlow to Burney, 2 July 1853.

[114] Also at this time, Brownlow threatened the badly-behaved Rebecca Nugent with the workhouse.  Ibid., 17, Brownlow to Nugent, 27 July 1853.

[115] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/008, Hervey to Brownlow, 5 July 1853.

[116] Ibid., /002, Burney to Brownlow, 4 July 1853.

[117] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 13, Brownlow to Burney, 7 July 1853.

[118] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/111/002, Burney to Soley, 26 August 1853.

[119] Ibid., /008, Hervey to Brownlow, 30 September 1853.

[120] Ibid., /002, Burney (‘your most unworthy servant’) to Brownlow, 30 September 1853; ibid., /008, Hervey to Brownlow, 2, 4 October 1853.

[121] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 197, Brownlow to Hervey, 1 January 1855.

[122] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/002, Burney to Soley, 9 January 1854.

[123] Ibid., /008, Hervey to Soley, 14 March [1854].

[124] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/101, No. 45, with Burney to Soley, 1854.

[125] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/002, Burney to Soley, 21 June 1854.

[126] Ibid., /008, Hervey to Soley, 23 June 1854 and n.d. (‘Wednesday’).

[127] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/102, No. 30, General Observations by George Hervey, with Hervey to Brownlow, 16 October 1855.  Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/112/002, Burney to Brownlow, 30 October 1855 (‘runaway’); ibid., /113/008, Hervey to Brownlow, 29 October 1855.  A/FH/K/02/053, Minutes of the General Committee, 3 November 1855.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page, 315, Brownlow to Hervey, 5 November 1855.

[128] Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/114/008, Burney to Hervey, n.d.; ibid., Hervey to Brownlow, 4 January 1856, with copy of Hervey to Burney, 4 January 1856.

[129] Ibid., /112/002, Burney to Soley, 5 November 1855.

[130] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 361, Brownlow to Burney, 10 June 1856.  On Burney’s passing from Hervey to Bateman, see Secretary’s Correspondence, A/FH/A/06/001/114/008, Hervey to Brownlow, 12 February 1856.

[131] A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 5 July 1856.

[132] Testimonials, A/FH/A/12/010/103, No. 17, with Atkins to Brownlow, 30 March 1857 and Burney to Brownlow, 31 March 1857.  Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 442, Brownlow to Burney, 2 April 1857.

[133] A/FH/K/02/054, Minutes of the General Committee, 11 April 1857.  Apprenticeship Register, A/FH/A/12/003/003, page 6.

[134] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/014, page 89, Brownlow to Clapham Cook, 14 April 1863.

[135] Ibid., /012, page 55, Brownlow to Griffiths, 27 October 1853; ibid., 144, Brownlow to Tyler, 23 May 1854; ibid., 145, Brownlow to Alston, 23 May 1854; ibid., 161, Brownlow to Cooper, 7 August 1854; ibid., 346, Brownlow to Pole, 31 March 1856; ibid., 464, 500, Brownlow to Newell, 15 June, 30 October 1857; ibid., 510, Brownlow to Courtney, n.d. [1857]; ibid., /013, 140, Brownlow to Cutler, 16 September 1859

[136] Ibid., page 59, Brownlow to Courtney, 18 August 1858.

[137] ‘John Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital’, this website.

[138] Letterbook, A/FH/A/06/002/012, page 110, Brownlow to Reine, 24 February 1854.

[139] The weightiest allegation made at this time, going beyond attitudinal issues, was that of theft, but it may be significant that Brownlow later (in 1863) accused another girl of being ‘the only one against whom such a charge has been made’.  ‘All our Girls have hitherto been honest.’   Ibid., /014, page 164, Brownlow to Richardson, 21 October 1863.

[140] Ibid., /012, page 382, Brownlow to Foster, 23 October 1856.