I have a deep love for BBC period dramas! I recently started watching the Lark Rise to Candleford series, which I am thoroughly enjoying. In season 1 episode 9, I learned about a most wonderful custom! Miss Ellison (the Reverend Ellison's daughter) delivers the parish Baby Basket to an expectant mother in Lark Rise. Apparently, the ladies of the church donate all sorts of baby items to a communal basket which is loaned out to a family while their baby is in need of such things. What a brilliant idea! And back then, when everything had to be handmade I imagine it would have been quite an undertaking to prepare for a baby without hand-me-downs.
Mrs. Arless, the recipient, moaned that nearly every butt that walked down the road had worn the nappies in the basket! But isn't that a grand plan? Since babies are rarely in the same size long enough to wear out clothing and such (you only have to go to garage sales to know that) they would pass them on and on. Nowadays, I would hardly think this idea would fly, though. People are so obsessed with hygiene and germs, but I thought this was a really lovely idea.
I tried researching the custom but I can barely scratch up a mention if it. Maybe I don't know the correct term, they just called it the baby box on the show. I found one mention of the "parish baby basket" in the book The Rise and Fall of Art Needlework: Its Socio-Economic and Cultural Aspects by Linda Cluckie. She mentions that it is a charitable purpose that ladies might embroider for. I wonder how widespread the practice was.