Wednesday, 24 April 2013

London Then and Now: The Foundling Hospital

The Foundling Hospital -
The word 'hospital' was used in a wider sense than today,
to indicate 'hospitality'.
Those of you who follow my blog will know I like to visit historic sites and compare the appearance of the environs with how it looked in the past. I find this fascinating because a historic building may be perfectly preserved but English Heritage or the Historic Royal Palaces have no control on what goes around it.
This weekend I revisited one of my favourite places, the Foundling Museum, to see an exhibition of tokens (I digress...more in a future post) and on a beautiful sunny day I took a walk around the environs of Brunswick Square to compare 'then and now'.
A scene depicting a queue of children hoping to be admitted to the Foundling Hospital.
Note the rural setting and open countryside.
In 1761 a 56 acre site was purchased in Bloomsbury, London, on which to build the Foundling Hospital. The building was completed in 1752 and general reception of children started in 1756. Bloomsbury was chose since it was on the edge of London and opened onto fields and was therefore beneficial to the health of the foundling children.

This print of the Foundling Hospital (18th century) is notable for the open
space around it.
In the modern day, the noise and bustle of London presses in from all sides, but despite some horrendous architecture some precious patches of green space remain. Directly opposite the Foundling Museum (alas, not the original building) is Brunswick Square.

Foundling Museum (central building) as seen from the
far side of Brunswick Square (behind me is a road)
Although the original building no longer exists, a replacement was built in keeping with the character of the first.
The Foundling Museum - now home to a collection of works of art,
including those by William Hogarth, an 18th century patron.
However, not all neighbouring buildings are so sympathetically designed - take for instance the immediate neighbour (imagine the above photo extending to the left of the tree)

The London School of Pharmacy - adjacent to the Foundling Museum
Just emerging to the left of the London School of Pharmacy, on the other side of the square, is another modern building - a student hall of residence.

The west side of Brunswick Square.
So what about to the rear of the Foundling Museum? I found a delightful patch of green that was once a cemetary, St George's Gardens.

Over the wall and through the trees, is the back of the
Foundling Museum
However, this once peaceful space is even now being hemmed in
by redevelopement.
And as I turned to leave St George's Garden, what did I see but the Post Office Tower (or whatever they call it these days!) A reminder how small London is and how close everything is together.
The Post Office Tower.
Next week: more about the history of foundlings and the hospital.

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