London Travel

Foundling Museum

Foundling Museum is a relatively new museum, opened in 2004; it was the first home for children at risk of abandonment. As one can easily imagine, visiting the museum can be emotional. All those children abandoned because their mothers could not care for them. A plaque mentions that women who could not leave their children at the hospital were more distraught than the ones who could. Being admitted to the Foundling Hospital meant that kids had a future ahead of them, they would be cared for, educated, and jobs would be found for them. There were lots of reasons for women to give up their babies, such as poverty, widowhood, and father’s desertion. Illegitimacy was also common.

Foundling Museum - exterior

The Hospital opened in 1741. From 1756 to 1760 a staggering 15,000 children were accepted, a requirement so they could receive a government grant, all the children brought to their doors had to be admitted. Baby trafficking was happening too and many died en route to the hospital.

For the readers who do not know what baby trafficking is, in the 18th and 19th century, mothers would pay usually an older woman to take the child in their care or to take the child to a hospital or orphanage. Some of the women in charge of the babies would take the money and kill the babies or neglect them.

From 1801 the hospital only accepted illegitimate children of previously respectable mothers.




A picture of Thomas Coram can be seen on the left. He was the one who opened the Foundling Hospital. Coram is still a foundation who cares for children, which is a lovely tribute to such a special man.

Conditions for inmates

Tokens from parents

The tokens are heartbreaking to see. Each of this tokens were left by a mother who abandoned her child. They were recorded so mother and child could be reunited, if possible. Initially a piece of fabric was given. These were kept safe, but that meant the children never got to see their tokens.
There are over 18,000 tokens, some left even after the system was changed to receipts.

Lists of names

On the walls are the list of names of the children who were baptised in there. All the children would get new names upon admission. The list is from the first 3,000 children admitted in the 18th century.

The new names include: Bartholomew Smith, Augustus Caesar, William Shakespeare, Eunice Coram, Emma Plantagenet, Columbus Bridgetown, and Catherine Parr.

Exhibit from the museum


Artwork was important as many artists donated a piece or more to the museum for raising funds.

 The founder, Thomas Coram

This is an oil painting from 1740 with Captain Thomas Coram. Coram campaigned for almost two decades to create a foundling hospital in London. This is the first painting given to the hospital.

Court Room

This was the Court Room, where the governors had their committees and entertained important guests.

Court Room ceiling

Bust of Handel

The terracotta bust of George Frideric Handel dates back to 1739. This is a model for the marble bust which was made in 1739 and given to George III, now at Windsor Castle.

Handel was a keen supporter of the hospital. He gave concerts which raised over £7,000. For his evolvement he became a Hospital Governor in 1750. There is a special room dedicated to Handel at the upper floor and his will is on display there too.

Foundling Museum is on 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ. Entry fee is £9.50 for adults, with free entry for 21 & under and also for Foundling Friends & National Art Pass holders. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

5 Comment

  1. This could be both a profoundly moving and deeply upsetting museum but it certainly is fascinating. The building is beautiful but you have to wonder what it would be like for those kids who lived there.

  2. What an interesting museum! I was not familiar with that definition of child trafficking and I never cease to be amazed at the lengths to which some people will go for personal gain. I can see how this could be a very emotional place to visit.
    Kelly recently posted…More hummusMy Profile

    1. It is incredible what these women did. Most of them were women and they would get a lot of babies and ignore them, babies would starve to death. Some would even kill the babies. I saw mentions of these practices in other museums, like a Courthouse.

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