The Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children was the brain-child of Captain Thomas Coram, who was greatly concerned at the number of abandoned, destitute children on London’s streets.
In 1739 he persuaded King George II to grant a royal charter for the establishment of the hospital in Bloomsbury (in the region of the current British Library). Handel, along with his friend William Hogarth, became one of the governors in 1749. It was in that year Handel mounted a performance of his Music for the Royal Fireworks in aid of the hospital, to which the King subscribed £2,000. Handel went on to compose an anthem for the hospital and to donate an organ which he had previously bought for himself. To mark the inauguration of the organ he arranged a performance of Messiah on 1st May 1750. Tickets cost half a guinea (now £150) and were available in fashionable coffee and chocolate bars. Many seats were sold twice, and people were turned away. Handel was much perturbed by this and arranged a second performance for those who had missed out the first time.
The Messiah charity performance was an annual event until Handel’s death nine years later. The performances raised £11,000 (modern equivalent £1,540,000).