The Foundling Museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery.
The Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment. Instrumental in helping Coram realise his vision were the artist William Hogarth and the composer George Frideric Handel. Their creative generosity set the template for the ways in which the arts can support philanthropy.
Through a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events the Museum celebrates the ways in which artists of all disciplines have helped improve children’s lives for over 275 years.
Britain’s first children’s charity
After 17 years of tireless campaigning, Thomas Coram finally received a Royal Charter from King George II in 1739, enabling him to establish his Foundling Hospital.
From 1741 when the first babies were admitted, to 1954 when the last pupil was placed in foster care, the Foundling Hospital cared for and educated around 25,000 children.
Today, Coram now helps a million children and young people every year. Coram helps children and young people develop their skills and emotional health, finds adoptive parents and upholds children’s rights, creating a change that lasts a lifetime.
Britain’ first public art gallery
Hogarth encouraged the leading artists of the day to donate work, thereby establishing the UK’s first public art gallery. Handel donated an organ and conducted annual benefit concerts of Messiah in the Hospital’s chapel.
The Museum celebrates their vision by enabling today’s artists, musicians and writers to work alongside vulnerable young people and to cast new light on the Foundling Hospital story.
The Foundling Museum opened in 2004. The building at 40 Brunswick Square was constructed in the 1930s on the site of the Foundling Hospital, and incorporates many architectural features from the original eighteenth-century Hospital building.