Horniman Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Horniman Museum

London, England, United Kingdom

Frederick John Horniman opened his eponymous museum in Forest Hill, south London in 1901 after inheriting his father’s business.

Lily Johnson

01 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum in London hosts a large collection of artefacts centred on natural history, anthropology, and musical instruments, and provides a fascinating visit for those looking to explore the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it!

Horniman Museum history

Frederick John Horniman was a tea trader, Liberal MP and philanthropist who opened his eponymous museum in 16 landscaped acres of Forest Hill, south London in 1901 after inheriting his father’s business. By 1891 it had become the world’s biggest tea trading company and the money allowed him to dive headfirst into a lifelong passion for collecting.

The museum – originally called the Surrey House Museum – opened on Christmas Eve 1890 with upwards of 30,000 exhibits and it very quickly outgrew its space. In 1898, renowned architect Charles Harrison Townsend designed the new museum, ostensibly in the Arts & Crafts style, and it was opened to the public on 29 June 1901.

The Horniman family continued to donate artefacts, money and land and in 1912, Frederick’s son Emslie donated enough money for a new library and lecture theatre.

Horniman Museum today

Today visitors to the museum can view a over 300,000 artefacts, covering internationally-recognised collections of natural history, anthropology, and musical instruments as well as an acclaimed aquarium. The museum also offers lots of activities for families including a nature trail, workshops, and a hands-on base where kids can get up close and personal with lots of the museum’s artefacts.

The Music Gallery features over 1,300 instruments including exceptionally rare 16th century virginals; the Natural History Gallery is packed full of taxidermy, skeletons and fossils displayed in their original showcases; the Aquarium showcases the world’s aquatic environments from the British coastline to Fijian coral reefs and you can also see tropical butterflies in a living rainforest display with South American fish swimming in the water underneath.

The botanical and wildlife gardens are full of architectural wonders and the Animal Walk is an up-close and personal trip through the enclosures with the alpacas, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens and more.

Getting to the Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum is located in Dulwich, London on the A205, and is best accessed via public transport. Forest Hill train and Overground station is a 5/10 minute walk away, while the 176, 185, 197, 356 and P4 bus services stop directly outside on London Road.

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