The Foundling Hospital was established in 1739 by Thomas Coram, a shipwright and sailor, in reponse to the numbers of abandoned children on the streets of London. Little welfare existed for these 'foundlings' or their mothers who, due to poverty or society's strong disapproval of illegitimacy, were unable to care for them. Coram's charity provided the children with accomodation, food and clothes, religious instruction and education. It was funded by philanthropic individuals, including members of royalty and the nobility.
This romanticised scene, produced as a print in 1749, depicts foundlings playing happily outside the Hospital's gates, surrounded by philanthropic gentlefolk. It is inscribed to the Duke of Bedford, possibly a patron, from Margrett Granville. The inscription reads:
These Mansions rais'd by Patrons kind & great,
Where Babes deserted find a safe Retreat.
Tho Frenchmen sneer; Their boasted first Design,
Brittish Benevolence shall far outshine.