After visiting Old St Pancras I wandered down to Brunswick Square and the Foundling Museum.
As its website explains:
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.It also claims to be Britain's first children's charity and its first public art gallery.
The image above shows the original building, with its girls' wing, boys' wing and chapel in between them, which demolished in 1928. The current building, once the headquarters of the charity, was put up in 1937.
When I went round last week their was an exhibition of children's book illustrations in the basement, a cafe and heartbreaking exhibitions about the charity's history on the ground floor, and exhibitions of art by the institution's 18th-century patrons on the floors above.
It was an odd combination, but somehow a compelling one.
When the Hospital closed in 1926, the children were moved first to Surrey and then to a new building at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire.
An account of its later days (it closed in 1954) shows it was one of the barrack-like institutions that children's charities insisted on running early in the 20th century. Their disappearance after the second world war marked a long stride forward.
I did, however, come across one fact about the Foundling Hospital's history that may be of interest to someone I know.
It seems that fashionable London would flock to see the children (or at least the girls) eating their Sunday lunch.
I shall suggest this to Lord Bonkers as a nice little earner for the Home for Well-Behaved Orphans.