great places to visit off the beaten path.
A little known collection of 18th and 19th Century paintings, sculpture, furniture and memorabilia that arose from the humanistic motivations of a wealthy sea captain, Thomas Coram. When Coram returned to London to find many children in poverty he established The Foundling Hospital (a place to provide care and support mainly to needy or abandoned children, more so than the modern definition of a hospital). He made supporting the hospital a ‘celebrity cause’ and engaged the support of people such as Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds and Handel. In fact Handel performed his Messiah annually in the hospital from 1750 onwards as a fund raiser. The core of the art collection began in 1740, when William Hogarth donated his magnificent portrait of Captain Thomas Coram. This painting commemorated George II signing the Charter for the Hospital’s establishment. Hogarth and other contemporary artists donated artworks to support the hospital. The collection generally stayed intact and few items were sold. In 1857 the Hospital Governors decided to create a designated ‘Picture Room’ to best display and preserve the Hospital’s Art Collection. In 1998, the Foundling Museum charity purchased the art collection from the hospital (now known as Coram, a charity that continues to support needy children) and it is working to raise the funds to pay for it over time.
Although the original Hospital building was torn down in the 1920s, the new building housing the museum contains many elements of the original interiors. These include the fully restored Court Room with its glorious rococo plasterwork; recreations of the Committee Room and the Picture Gallery; the oak staircase from the Hospital’s West Wing and two altarpieces, the font and pews from the Hospital’s Chapel. Integral to the Court Room’s design are four large scale biblical paintings by Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore and James Wills and between them, roundels depicting topographical scenes of London Hospitals by artists including Gainsborough, Samuel Wale and Richard Wilson. Although women were not involved in the governance of the Hospital until the twentieth century, the Collection also holds works by the Victorian artists, Emma Brownlow and Sophia Anderson, which depict everyday life at the Hospital. In addition, relics of the hospital are on display including a collection of ‘tokens’ that were attached to the children admitted to the hospital made by their parents so that there identities would not be lost or confused.
Open Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00-17:00, and Sunday: 11:00-17:00. Admission fees apply. There is also a well regarded cafe on site. Special events also held periodically. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/
Located at: 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ
Closest tube: Russell Square