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Group visit to the Foundling Museum

Wednesday 23rd February 2022

A group of 40 Pilgrims went to visit the Fighting Talk: One Boy's Journey from Abandonment to Trafalgar exhibition about George King (10 June 1787– 31 July 1857) who was child number 18,053 at the Foundling Hospital, where he was taught to read and write – a rare skill for working-class people in the eighteenth century. His autobiography, and this exhibition, shared the story of a boy growing up in the eighteenth century.

Originally apprenticed to a confectioner in London, George ran away and was press-ganged into the Navy in 1804 with his journeys taking him across the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, Brazil and Argentina. His memoir provides us with both a humorous and harrowing account of life below deck, on shore, and in the thick of battle, including his account of the Battle of Trafalgar where he fought aboard HMS Polyphemus, which took 200 French prisoners and towed HMS Victory, bearing Nelson’s body back to Gibraltar.

After 24 years in the Navy and with his health starting to decline, George travelled to Charleston in recently independent America, where he worked as a teacher before returning to England on a ship leaden with cotton. In England, having tried dock work, haymaking, hop-picking and being a policeman, he fell on hard times, but was lucky enough to gain a place at the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich where he died on 31 July 1857.