The Foundling Museum | Attraction Guides | History Hit

The Foundling Museum

London, England, United Kingdom

About The Foundling Museum

Located within the site of London’s first home for abandoned children, the Foundling Museum tells the story of this institution and explores the history of the children who lived here.

As well as collections, artefacts and photos looking at the stories of the children themselves, the Foundling Museum also contains a startling collection of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and prints, donated by the many artists who were patrons of the institution.

The museum is known for housing a large collection of Hogarth paintings after the artist became a significant backer of the charity, Hogarth encouraged his fellow artists to also donate, and this led to the foundling hospital becoming England’s first public art gallery. Works that can be found within the collection include those from artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore, Thomas Hudson, Allan Ramsay and John Michael Rysbrack.

However, among the most poignant of the collections within the museum is actually that of the foundling tokens. Upon the admission of a child, mothers would pin tokens (often everyday objects, such as buttons) so that their children would be recognised as their own if the mothers ever went to pick them up. While the practice of admitting children with tokens ceased in the late 19th century following a more sophisticated system of admission (such as issuing the mothers with receipts), a large collection of these original tokens can still be viewed.

The museum holds a number of events throughout the year, such as talks on the women that were forced to go to the hospital for help, as well as talks on the items that the museum holds. A perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Contributed by Victoria Haughton