Saturday 14 November 2015

The Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square WC1

The face of Thomas Coram dominates the streetscape outside the Foundling Museum and the headquarters of the children's charity that bears his name, and so it should for the old sea captain changed the way Britain treated children. In the 18th century, illegitimate children were being killed at birth in alarming numbers and those that survived could expect a lifetime living under the stigma.
Coram established the Foundling Hospital (primarily a place of hospitality rather than a medical facility, though it soon became involved in treating diseases of childhood) to receive babies no questions asked. At one point a basket was hung outside the door where women could leave newborns they could not bring up.
In the 1920s it was decided to relocate the Hospital to the countryside, in Hertfordshire, and the magnficent Georgian buildings were demolished. A new headquarters for the charity was built in its place, designed in a restrained neo-Georgian style by JM Sheppard and Partners.
A bust of a young-looking Coram is set over the front door, sculpted by David Evans, who presumably also supplied the charming plaques of cherubs.
The building now contains the Foundling Museum which charts the history of the charity and displays the amazing works donated by the artists who supported it, including Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds. The charity, now called simply Coram, has a new building next door, with a 1963 statue of the great man in front.The sculptor, William MacMillan, has more or less recreated the Hogarth portrait in bronze, showing him seated, wearing a greatcoat, holding the Hospital's charter in his right hand and a pair of gloves in his left, as if he was just off on another of his relentless fund-raising expeditions.

1 comment:

Hels said...

The Foundling Museum is a lot of fun, especially the votive offerings. Also because of Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds, but mainly because the treatment of unwanted babies and children is the measure of a just society. Thomas Coram was a gutsy man - he was going against church teaching, "encouraging" single women to have sex and letting them get away unpunished.