Inventory Site Record

Coram's Fields * (Camden)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

This is on part of the site of the Foundling Hospital established by Captain Thomas Coram in 1739 as a home for destitute and abandoned children. 56 acres in Lamb's Conduit Fields were purchased and developed as the Foundling Estate to provide ground rents to support the Hospital but also retain the open situation. In 1926 when the Hospital sold up and moved out of London, the main buildings were demolished apart from its single-storey colonnaded forecourt buildings. Following a public campaign to save the site, it was purchased for London's first public children's playground. It opened as Coram's Fields in 1936 with the Memorial Pavilion in the centre commemorating Harold Vyvyan and Vere Harmsworth. The basic layout of the gardens is similar to that of the C18th.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
The Foundling Hospital
Site location:
93 Guilford Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
Daily 9am-dusk (winter), 9am-7pm (summer). Closed 25/26 December
Special conditions:
Children under 16. Adults only admitted if accompanied by a child or if part of a sports team. No dogs. No alcohol
Play equipment for different ages, paddling pool, sandpits, pets corner, café, children's toilets, accessible toilets and changing areas. Colonnades Under 5s drop-in, Peacocks Under 3s drop-in, Coram's Fields Nursery (2-5s). Halls and sports facilities for hire: Winter football and hockey. All year basketball & netball (2 courts).
After school and holiday playschemes, dance and sports coaching programme. Youth Centre. Pets’ corner home to goats, sheep, rabbits and other small animals.
Public transport:
Rail: Euston, King's Cross St Pancras.Tube: Holborn (Central), Russell Sq (Piccadilly). Bus: 59,68,91,168,188 (Russell Sq) 19,38,55,243 (Theobalds Rd) 17,45,46 (Gray's Inn Rd).
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.coramsfields.org.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

This is the site of the Foundling Hospital established by Captain Thomas Coram in the 1739 to provide a home for destitute and abandoned children. The Trustees of the Foundling Hospital purchased 56 acres in Lamb's Conduit Fields from Lord Salisbury for £6,500 and planned to develop the surrounding estate to provide ground rents to support the hospital and also to retain the open situation. The Foundling Hospital was built in the centre of the land in c.1742-53 by Theodore Jacobsen with later alterations and additions. The original building had a large forecourt with a broad walk flanked by lawns. Gardens were laid out north of the Hospital extending to St George's Burial Grounds. Two early benefactors of the Hospital, which was instantly successful, were Handel and Hogarth, and Dickens regularly attended services in the hospital chapel. Samuel Pepys Cockerell was appointed to develop the area surrounding the Hospital and his plan of 1790 included two squares on either side of the Hospital, which became Brunswick Square on the west and Mecklenburgh Square to the east (q.q.v). The main hospital buildings were demolished in 1926 when the Hospital sold its London property and moved out of London. The forecourt buildings were retained.

A new headquarters for the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children was built at 40 Brunswick Square on the site of the Hospital gardens. Coram's Fields was bought by money raised by public subscription to be preserved as a children's playground in perpetuity. The site is owned and managed by an independent charitable Trust. Single-storey colonnaded Georgian buildings enclose the play ground. The Memorial Pavilion in the centre was built as a playground shelter in 1936 in memory of Harold Vyvyan and Vere Harmsworth, designed by L H Bucknell, a brick building with copper roof. It has a relief of children at play and a clock and weathervane on the roof. The basic layout of the playground is similar to that of the C18th with a grand sweep hard surface path up the middle of the site and extensive lawns on either side enclosed by an inner and outer circle of mature London plane trees, which are some of the best examples of free-growing planes in central London. The playground was set out in 1936 by LCC architects. Substantial refurbishment took place in the 1950s to repair the war damage to the colonnades at which time the decision was also taken to enclose the south end of the east and west colonnades to create more indoor space for children’s activities. Substantial improvements to the listed building and landscape of the park have been completed since 2000 with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other major Trusts.

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); E Beresford Chancellor 'The History of the Squares of London: Topographical and Historical', London 1907; Survey of London; John Summerson, 'Georgian London' 1978; D J Olsen, 'Town Planning in London' (1984 ed.); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ304823 (530495,182331)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Coram's Fields & the Harmsworth Memorial Playground
Site management:
Coram's Fields & the Harmsworth Memorial Playground; Friends of Coram's Fields
1742-53; 1930s
Listed structures:
LBII: Former Foundling Hospital forecourt buildings, gates and railings; Memorial Pavilion; east and west side gates and railings to playground
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Central London Area
Other LA designation:
Private Open Space. Strategic View Corridor (part)

Coram's Fields *

Coram's Fields Playground with Memorial Pavilion, May 2002. Photo: S Williams.

Coram's Fields Playground, May 2002. Photo: S Williams.
Hanslip Fletcher, 'Playground of the Foundling Hospital, now Coram's Field' from 'Changing London, A Book of Sketches by Hanslip Fletcher', 1926.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
Children in the rain, Foundling Hospital, photograph n.d.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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