I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I headed to the Foundling Museum. It was a fairly last minute decision to visit – I was staying in a hotel not too far away and had a bit of time to kill and I thought that a museum dedicated to the Foundling Hospital, the first home for abandoned children in the UK, was an interesting premise. The original Foundling Hospital was demolished in 1926, though this current incarnation does include some original interiors from the 1741 hospital.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed. Photography was not allowed inside and I felt the price of £7.50 for an adult ticket was a little expensive for what you got. I’m sure it only took an hour to go around for instance. There are some amazing paintings inside however as the Museum houses the Foundling Arts Collection and was essentially the first art gallery available to the general public; many artists such as Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds donated their works to the hospital. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed if my aim had been merely to visit a gallery, rather than an informative museum.
[I should note here that when I plan these visits my pre-trip research tends to focus on how to get there, price of admission and whether or not I can work out from the website/travel guide if photography is allowed. While I do love the fact that so many websites allow you to go on virtual tours of historic houses and highlight artefacts you’ll be able to see I prefer to be surprised by what I do, or in this case don’t, find.]
The ground floor presents a timeline of the Hospital founded by Thomas Coram (a statue of whom is outside the entrance, tucked away slightly by the car parking area – photo below). The timeline also gives details of two of the major benefactors to the Museum – William Hogarth and Handel; I particularly liked the Hogarth sketches on display.
On the next few floors, as well as the donated paintings, there are collections of tokens that mothers gave when leaving their children, in order to later match mother and child together when the mother returned for her child; in reality this rarely ever happened. On the top floor is the Gerald Coke Handel Exhibition, a small room about Handel’s life, with his music playing in the background.
If you’re interested in the art and view this as an addition to London’s excellent art galleries, then you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for a detailed history of the Foundling Hospital then the price of admission is definitely not worth it.