The Foundling Museum
The Foundling Museum - London, England
Art historian, Rose Balston, writes about the unique Foundling Museum:
The Foundling Museum is one of the most underestimated museums in London.
Mid 18th century England was woefully lacking in any type of welfare system. Desperate women who might have given birth illegitimately, been raped or were simply too poor to bring up another child, would find themselves driven to the extreme by abandoning their children to the elements. Children would be left to die in doorways, grave yards or even rubbish heaps. This was the London that the dogged sea-captain turned philanthropist Thomas Coram was determined to put firmly in the past. After an extraordinary seventeen years of petitioning for a charter Coram opened the Foundling Hospital in 1741 - a home, school and haven for forsaken children.
Demand for such an institution was astoundingly high and the great philanthropists of the age stepped in to lend a helping hand. Amongst them were two of London’s biggest personalities: William Hogarth and George Frederic Handel. Both artist and musician donated works to the Hospital, where performances and exhibitions would be opened up to the paying public. The Museum still holds these ground-breaking works today.
With a lovely café to start off your exploration, this museum is one of the great hidden gems of London. Although the hospital no longer exists, three rooms were taken brick by brick and re-assembled into the museum. There are also countless relics, mementoes and paintings that honour Coram, Handel and Hogarth and the thousands of children they helped save. On your way out don't miss the tiny pink mitten seemingly tossed from a pram by a child on to an outdoor railing. Exploring the idea of separation, this bronze is a little-known Tracey Emin.