Plinth at the entrance of Coram’s Fields – Thomas Coram statue
In the 1920s, the Foundling Hospital moved from London a healthier location, eventually settling in the newly built facilities in Berkhamsted in 1935. The statue of Thomas Coram that adorned the entrance of the Foundling Hospital in London moved to Berkhamsted as well. As the Foundling Hospital ceased its operations in the 1950’s, the Berkhamsted buildings were sold to Hertfordshire County Council for use as a school Ashleyn’s School. The Ashleyn’s school informs us that the statue was demolished in 1950’s since it was in a poor state of repair. The original statue was sculpted by William Calder Marshall (wikipedia link). Thus, the plinth at the entrance of Coram’s Fields remains unoccupied to this day, apart from an occasional seed that blooms in spring!
History of Coram’s Fields and the Foundling Hospital
Coram’s Fields and Harmsworth Memorial Playground is intimately related to the history of the Foundling Hospital. Most of the buildings in Coram’s Fields and colonnades remain the original structures of the Foundling Hospital. The main Foundling Hospital building was demolished – it used to stand on the location of current astro-turf football pitches! Importantly, the cultural significance of the location has resonated with later residents. Hence the wide-ranging and energetic action by local residents in 1930’s to save it from the local developers and purchase the site for the benefit of children, in perpetuity!
Timeline of Activities in relation to Coram’s
- Autumn 2010: Campaign against smoking, 84 signatures online: http://www.petition.co.uk/ban-smoking-throughout-coram-fields-playground/comment-page-1/#comments
- CNJ Spring 2011: Camden New Journal raises the issue of non-smoking campaign. CNJ: Class row – smoking
- CNJ 2011: Resident complaint about Christmas tents noise, Coram’s answers that this means we may have to charge kids: Kid’s could be charged in Coram’s
- 2013: Redevelopment of pitches with financing from Sport England and London Marathon Trust: Octavia Holland, then CEO: “The pitches will make a difference to 10.000 children (sic)” see https://www.sportengland.org/media/240593/coram-s-field-london-agp-modernisation.pdf
- Autumn 2013: CF invites tenders to develop a “masterplan” for the future development.
- Oct 2013: Letter written to CEO Octavia Holland by Daniel Zylbersztajn proposing to expand sport facilities and combine youth athletics (track and field) for able bodied and disabled children. Sports England interested. No action taken.
- Spring 2014: Masterplan contract awarded to landscape architecture practice Farrer Associates, who undertake design and so-called consultation process in early 2015. Rejected applicants included design and play professionals drawn from within local community.
- January 2015: Online petition organised by local parents. Over 500 signatures. https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-frank-dobson-mayor-of-camden-return-coram-s-fields-to-children. The campaign was prompted by changes in Coram’s behaviour – increased rental of pitches during key hours – afternoon and weekends, Marquee rental during the Christmas, as well as general poor state of repair. Meetings with Trustees result in no progress.
- Spring 2015: CF advertises for four Non-Exective Directors (new board members). Despite receiving applications from credible candidates within the user community, board appoints four individuals drawn from corporate or charity sectors, with negligible links to local community.
- May 2015. New CEO Stuart Woods reinstates cycling up to age eight, following letters from the group members. Woods declares smoking is now banned (but policy not clearly implemented).
- August 2015: The entire Coram’s Fields is rented on a bank holliday Sunday for a private function. A number of local users are justifiably outraged.
- September 2015: Camden New Journal Letter from a group of concerned parents: What is going on in Coram’s Fields? The complaints relate to Board workings, closed AGM, lack of transparency, rental policy, etc. Letter is followed up by meetings and communication with Trustees and Camden Councillors.
- September 2015: Parents begin to tie knots together and discuss how to proceed in an organised way. An initial drive to listen to parents voices is made and the net result is a User Group Initiative.
- November 2015: Response received from MP Kier Starmer following the letter in the CNJ and contact with the MP.
- 17th November 2015: Parent group spokesman sends a letter to the Coram’s Fields board and CEO, introducing the parents group, seeking official contact.
- December 2015: Coram’s Fields User Group created.