Foundling Museum

The Foundling Museum occupies a historic site in charming Bloomsbury where one of the world’s first children’s charities got its start during the early decades of the eighteenth century. The attraction routinely organizes special temporary exhibitions, live music concerts, and contemporary art shows, while highlights of its permanent collection include multiple paintings by William Hogarth, George Frideric Handel’s will, and a remarkable array of tokens that once belonged to the children cared for under the roof of the historic Foundling Hospital.

Money Saving Tip! Foundling Museum is included on the London Pass and London Explorer Pass. If you are sightseeing in London, then you can save a lot of money with the pass.

History of the Foundling Museum

The history of the contemporary Foundling Museum can be traced back to the work of eighteenth-century philanthropist Thomas Coram, who campaigned tirelessly for the establishment of a hospital for foundlings—babies or infants abandoned by their parents. In 1739, Coram’s efforts paid off when he received a royal charter from King George II permitting him to do just that. In the years to come he would be assisted by two famous figures: the prominent artist William Hogarth, who would donate several paintings to the hospital while encouraging other notable artists of the time to follow suit—in doing so, he helped found England’s first public art gallery; and the composer George Frideric Handel, who organized benefit concerts in honor of the charity.

Coram’s Foundling Hospital operated for over two centuries; during that time, it cared for some 25,000 children in need. In 2004, the Foundling Museum opened its doors to the public on the site where this important hospital once stood; in 2019, Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales became an official patron of the attraction.

Foundling Museum Highlights

The permanent collection of the Foundling Museum contains a diverse assortment of artifacts, artworks, and more anchored by two primary collections: the Foundling Collection and the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. The Foundling Collection features a variety of “tokens”—everyday items like thimbles, jewelry, coins, and textiles left with babies as identifying markers by mothers who someday wished to return to the hospital and reclaim their child—as well as striking portraits by legendary eighteenth-century painters like William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds. The Gerald Coke Handel Collection encompasses roughly 15,000 items spanning three centuries and is highlighted by books, journals, printed music, and Handel’s will.

The Foundling Museum also possesses a suite of historic rooms. These include a recreation of the hospital’s original Picture Gallery, the Committee Room where the hospital’s leader (known as “the secretary”) would work, and the beautifully appointed Court Room; this elegant space was where the Foundling Hospital’s Board of Governors would hold their regular meetings, as well as special holiday events.

Guests planning a trip to the Foundling Museum will want to pay attention to the attraction’s upcoming calendar of events in advance of their visit, as the Foundling Museum regularly hosts live music, recitals, and art workshops. The museum also sponsors temporary exhibitions throughout the year, with recent shows devoted to themes as varied as the history of the eighteenth-century concert series known as the “Concert of Antient Music” and selections of artwork by contemporary female artists drawn from the Ursula Hauser Collection.

More to See and Do at the Foundling Museum

Keep reading for additional information on more things to see and do at or near the Foundling Museum.

*The Foundling Museum shop sells a nice selection of souvenirs and gifts suitable for both kids and adults. Highlights of the gift store here include books, jewelry, home-décor items, and a fine assortment of art prints, many of which are limited-run special editions.

*While the Foundling Museum doesn’t have its own on-site café or restaurant, they do have an arrangement with several local businesses that provides museum visitors discounts on food or drink at participating establishments. For more information, check out the museum’s “Local Area” webpage.

*The Foundling Museum is located next to lovely Brunswick Square and Coram’s Fields. Either one of these inviting green spaces makes for a terrific place to enjoy a picnic lunch or catch your breath before heading out to another one of London’s fantastic tourist attractions.

*Speaking of fantastic tourist attractions, the Foundling Museum is located adjacent to numerous other popular London museums, parks, and historic places. Nearby attractions of note include the Charles Dickens Museum, the Postal Museum, the British Museum, and Sir John Sloane’s Museum, as well as Russell Square and the British Library.

*The Foundling Museum has a limited number of storage lockers suitable for small bags and coats. However, it recently closed its cloakroom; as a result, it’s best to visit here without your luggage or any type of large bag in tow. If you absolutely must, the attraction kindly requests you contact them in advance to see if they can accommodate you. Strollers are permitted throughout the museum’s galleries.

*The Foundling Museum is serviced by multiple bus routes, while the nearest Underground station is Russell Square. Visitors desiring to arrive via car will find the closest parking option approximately two blocks away at Brunswick Shopping Centre.

Why the Foundling Museum Should Be on Your Must-See List

The Foundling Museum will be a hit with any visitor who’s a fan of the artwork of the painter and engraver William Hogarth or the music of composer George Frideric Handel. This unique attraction explores an often-overlooked aspect of England’s history, providing guests with a fascinating glimpse into eighteenth-century life in London. The Foundling Museum is also prominently located at the center of Bloomsbury and King’s Cross; as a result, it’s a great fit as part of an itinerary that includes attractions like the London Canal Museum, the Cartoon Museum, and more.