Horniman Museum | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Horniman Museum

London, England, United Kingdom

History Hit

24 Nov 2020

About Horniman Museum

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.

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.

Visitors can view a third of a million artefacts covering internationally-recognised collections of natural history, anthropology and musical instruments as well as an acclaimed aquarium. The museum offer 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.

Featured In

Historic Sites in England

Discover the best historic sites in England, from Bodiam Castle to Beaulieu Abbey and more, includes an interactive map of English heritage attractions.

London Historic Sites

Discover the best historic locations in London from the British Museum to the London Mithraeum and more, includes an interactive map of London's cultural landmarks, monuments and museums.