One of London’s most thought-provoking venues offered for events is the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square, which explores the work and history of the Foundling Hospital.
This operated as the UK’s first children’s charity, and the UK’s first public art gallery due to the support given by artists, from 1739 when it’s founder Thomas Coram was granted a Royal Charter to take in and care for unwanted children. At the time it was common for babies to be left on London’s streets to die. And the mortality rate for under 5’s was 75%, and 90% in workhouses.
Coram’s Foundling Hospital compassionately provided somewhere babies could be taken and left by their mothers, many of whom had fallen on hard times, to be looked after The acceptance criteria altered over the years, and the tens of thousands of children, but an early stipulation was for the mother to supply with the child some unique token, such as a piece of writing, embroidery or customised coin or locket, so that the children could be identified to mothers who came back at a later date to claim them. Sadly very few did .Another was a later requirement for mothers to write and petition the hospital, supplying reasons why they were deserving of the charity offered, with preference being given to women with no means of support who had been deceived by promises of marriage from men. The museum has a collection of some of the petitions and tokens submitted, which make poignant and affecting viewing.
Well-known and wealthy men who supported the work of the hospital with their patronage, and brought in their rich colleagues and friends, included the composer Handel, and four armchairs in the second-floor Handel Gallery have built-in speakers where today’s visitors can listen to his Messiah and other works. Also very active was the artist Hogarth, whose satirical cartoon Gin Lane drew attention to the common problem of alcoholism.
Today organisers can hire the Court Room, with what is claimed to be one of London’s finest Rococo interiors, and which accommodates up to 40 for a dinner, or the Picture Gallery, hung with valuable paintings, which accommodates up to 100 for a dinner.
Tel 020 7841 3616 Web foundlingmuseum.org.uk