BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

BBC Homepage
Inside Out
East Midlands
North East
North West
South East
South West
West Midlands
Yorks & Lincs
Go to BBC1 programmes page (image: BBC1 logo)

Contact Us

   Inside Out - North East: Monday 3rd February, 2003


Shirley Stocks in a phone box
FOUNDLINGS | Shirley Stocks was abandoned at birth in this phone box

Abandoned at birth... find out how one child left in a phone box tried to track down the mother who discarded her in a phone box in County Durham.

Imagine being abandoned in the street as a baby by your own mother. It's a terrible way to come into this world, but for many abandoned newborn babies, it's a stark reality.

Shirley Stocks is a 'foundling' - she was abandoned as a baby in a phone box in Darlington more than 50 years ago.

Despite massive publicity at the time, her mother never came forward. It's something that has haunted Shirley for her whole life. Now she's trying to track down the mother who left her.

Abandoned in a phone box

Shirley Stocks is a 51 year old grandmother, but part of her identity is missing. The only records of her early life are a few newspaper cuttings.

Shirley Stocks
Shirley Stocks wants to know the answers to many questions about her mum

After Shirley was abandoned as a child, she was transferred to Greenbank Maternity Hospital in Darlington.

After that, she was taken into foster care, and was later adopted.

Shirley always knew she was an adopted child, but it was only after a routine medical check six years ago that she discovered that there were no records of her parents.

The search for her real mum began in earnest.

Where are you mum?

For Shirley Stocks, tracing the mother who discarded her opens up deep wounds. It's an emotional journey that will take her back to the telephone box where she was left as a baby - the only clue to a 50 year mystery.

DNA laboratory
Will DNA tests help to establish the identity of Shirley's real mum?

"It's strange. I still get this picture of her putting me there and sort of sneaking away into the early hours of the morning," says Shirley.

Shirley has tried to trace her mum by sticking posters in the area where she was left all those years ago.

Her hopes were raised when a woman called Lynn came forward, suggesting that they might be half sisters.

Both women decided to undertake a DNA test to establish beyond doubt whether they could have shared the same mum. Although Lynn's mother is now dead, Shirley is very hopeful that the test might solve the mystery.

"If it's negative, I'm back to square one. It's been a long and emotional journey," says Shirley.


Shirley isn't alone. About 60 babies are abandoned by their mums every year in the UK, and the figures are rising.

Many mothers are never traced, leaving their offspring with no name, no parents and no knowledge of their parents.

So why do so many mothers feel unable to cope with their newly born babies?

Why do mothers abandon their babies?

Reasons why mothers abandon their babies at birth include:

  • fear of rejection from a boyfriend or husband
  • feelings of denial - common in adolescent mothers. Very young mums are often terrified of telling their own parents
  • domestic violence
  • social taboos
  • lack of money and support
  • fear of being unable to cope
  • post-natal depression

Some psychiatrists believe that young mothers can become overwhelmed by the presence of something that they denied for nine months.

When the baby is born, the distressed mother can lose contact with reality for a brief period of time, and may abandon her child.

Shirley isn't angry with her real mum for what abandoning her. despite the heartache it's caused her.

"I've never felt angry, that's the strange part of it," says Shirley.

"I just get this gut feeling that she was a very frightened girl."

"She must have been going through quite a lot of different emotions when she did it."

Help to find the mystery mum ...

Do you remember Brinkburn Road in Darlington where Shirley Stocks was abandoned in 1951?

Perhaps you can remember a pregnant woman who lived in the area who might have given up her child? Could it have been Shirley?

Maybe you are Shirley's real mum, and you'd like to meet your daughter?

If you think you may have information which could help to trace Shirley Stocks' mother, email Inside Out using the form below.

Watch out for updates on the DNA results and the search for Shirley's mum on the Inside Out website.

See also ...

History of Foundlings
Abandoned babies

On the rest of the web
NORCAP Foundling Group
ABC News: Abandoned Babies
Adoption Net

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

This week's stories

The Pilgrims' Way
Take a journey on one of the South East's most historic routes.

Cornish tea
Inside Out goes behind the scenes at Cornwall's tea plantation.

Storm chasers
Join the storm chasers in search of Yorkshire's worst weather..

More from Inside Out

Inside Out: North East
View the archive to see stories you may have missed.

BBC Where I Live

Find local news, entertainment, debate and more ...


Meet your
Inside Out
Go to our profile of Chris Jackson (image: Chris Jackson)

Chris Jackson
your local Inside Out presenter.

Contact us
Contact the North East team with the issues that affect you.

Free email updates

Keep in touch and receive your free and informative Inside Out updates.


Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Anne Beattie
I was abandoned as a 7 month old baby 41 years ago in a railway station. It has had a profound effect on my life and I would so much like to be able to talk to other people who were also abandoned babies and see if we share the same feelings.

Any help you could give on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Anne.

Inside Out Webteam in response to Anne Beattie:

For advice, help and support, you can call the NORCAP Foundling Group on 01865 875000 Weekdays 10am - 4pm. Or visit their website for more information:

I'm so sorry for what you had to carry with you you're whole life.I can not say I know how you feel, me as a mother could't do such a unforgiveable thing. Just think of it like this what make's you who you are not some stranger this make's you strong not what someone can tell you.

As a foundling, I feel it only fair to point out, that not all of us feel badly about being left as babies. Personaly I dont care at all.

I am ME. Okay, I'd like to now where my coloured hair and big nose came from, would enjoy knowing if my musical ability is inherited or just my own quirk.

Otherwise, I just feel oh so sorry that my birth Mother felt she didnt have any alternative to what she did with me. But did she HAVE to leave me outside a busy pub!!!! couldnt it have been a hospital or nursing home.

Miss Inez Walsh
I feel really sorry for this lady but whether you are abandoned or adopted like I am it is still important to find out who you are and where you came from.

I was born and adopted in Ireland and am finding it very frustrating trying to obtain information.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy