During the first lockdown, I received the beautiful book ‘The Foundling’, written by Stacey Halls. It is a fictional tale all about this beautiful little museum next to Brunswick Square. Reading it opened my eyes to the extraordinary work of the museum, and its fascinating history.

The Foundling Hospital | The history

The philanthropist Thomas Coram set up the Foundling nearly 300 years ago. It was a hospital that took care and educated the most vulnerable children, who were born into poverty and couldn’t be taken care of by their mothers.

The Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square

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.

Instrumental in setting up the Foundling Hospital were the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel. It was their influence among the leading artists of the day to donate work and raise money for the hospital.

The Foundling Museum | Today

The Foundling Museum opened in 2004, at 40 Brunswick Square. It constructed in the 1930s, on the site of the Foundling Hospital. It incorporates many of the architectural features from the original building.

This is the original staircase from the boys wing of the hospital.

Take time to wander through the main gallery that explains the history of the museum, especially the tokens that were left with each child for identification.

The Foundling Museum
The story of the printed playing card and the Hunter twins…

Alongside the wonderful Covid Letters exhibition, The Foundling Museum itself is a beautiful building, and well worth a visit. The top floor is entirely dedicated to Handel, where you can see the organ he donated, and some of his written works.

The Foundling Museum Handels Wooden time line
The wooden timeline of Handels life & what was going on in England at the same time

Covid Letters | What to expect

As we went into the first lockdown earlier this year, every household received a letter from PM Boris Johnson. The letter urged everyone to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Covid Letters

In response, designer Jonny Banger invited children and young people to customise their letter. He encouraged them to articulate their feelings about staying at home, the NHS, or the government’s handling of the crisis. The rules were that had to be under 16 years old, and draw straight onto the letter itself.

Children all cross the UK, from toddlers to teenagers, submitted entries. Using pens, paint, collage and beyond, children took the opportunity have their voices heard, from scribbles supporting the NHS to anti-government graffiti.

Over 200 of these letters are on display in the exhibition gallery at The Founding. Many more are interspersed throughout the museum’s historic collections.

Time Out magazine called this “the rudest and shoutiest art show in London” They weren’t wrong – it is fabulous

Verdict | The Covid Letters

Every piece that I saw in this exhibition was so moving. Many of the entries came from the children and grandchildren of key workers.

Covid Letters at The Foundling Museum
This was a particular favourite of mine

Giving us a new perspective that we may not have encountered before. The range of emotions inscribed in these illustrations was poignant, heartbreaking and truly inspirational. The exhibition brings to life the museum’s 300-year-old story of campaigning for social justice.

Today, the museum continues to support vulnerable children through the Coram charity. Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to support the Christmas food bank, run by Sports Banger & Friends.

The Covid Letters exhibition has been extended to 11th April 2021. Booking essential for timed entry.

There are 800 books of the art on sale. 500 pre-sale copies. Published by Sports Banger Publishing. At £35 it makes a fabulous Christmas gift.

Our recent blog Celebrating Museum shops this Christmas