The Coram Family, one of Britain’s oldest children’s charities,
has been plunged into a legal wrangle between government lawyers
and the charity commissioners that has implications for other
The controversy centres on a £17 million art collection
donated to support the Foundling Hospital, now the Coram Family,
established by wealthy seaman Captain Thomas Coram in 1739.
The charity found looking after the collection an increasing
drain on its time and resources. So the governors developed a
scheme, approved by the charity commissioners, whereby it lent the
collection and its building to a newly-created charitable trust for
a 25-year period.
Individual items can be sold off on condition that they remained
in their current home. In this way the collection was maintained,
kept opened to the public and raised funds to support vulnerable
children. To date, £5 million has been pledged, including a
£3 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
But since the scheme began, the charity has spent £100,000
in legal expenses following an objection by one of its
The scheme was even debated in the House of Commons.
Solicitor-general Ross Cranston said that the three options
available were either changing the charity’s objective, letting the
courts decide the matter, or for Coram Family “to do more
As a result of the debate, QCs representing the government and
the charity are due to meet shortly.