What?: A museum dedicated to the memory of a place where people just like me (unmarried mothers) were forced to give up children just like mine (‘illegitimate’ firstborns) feels like a bit of a weird one as far as fun days out with your toddler go. The history of the Foundling Hospital is, obviously, a particularly sad one. While the hospital (not actually a hospital but more of a school) saved thousands of children from destitution and an early grave, the vast majority of the museum’s exhibits are pretty hard to digest, from the tales of child-trafficking and abuse that befell its pupils both pre- and post-residency to the display of foundling tokens given by mothers leaving their babies. It’s also really hard to concentrate when you have a toddler hanging from your sleeve demanding a gingerbread man and there’s a lot to take in here so I’d definitely recommend returning sans-child – or just bringing another adult who doesn’t mind chasing after them – so you can properly assimilate all the information on display.
That said – as Londoners I feel it’s important to learn about these things, so try not to let the sad subject matter put you off visiting. Harrowing exhibits aside, the museum is pretty well-equipped for under-fives, with plenty of crawl space for babies (although watch out for the stairs), a dressing-up rail stocked with foundling uniforms on the upper floors, and opportunities to build a model of the Foundling Hospital, personalise a bed for a foundling and design a new building in the ground floor’s Introductory Gallery. It might be a small museum but there’s lots to see and you probably won’t have time to read everything you want to before your child breaks and needs to be set free, but luckily seven-acre playground of dreams and site of the original Foundling Hospital Coram’s Fields is waiting on the doorstep for that eventuality – just be sure to bring your own snacks since there’s no cafe and the Coram’s Field’s kiosk is torturously unreliable.
Where?: The museum is located at 40 Brunswick Square and is a five-minute walk from Russell Square, 14 from King’s Cross and 15 from Euston.
Best Bits: Well geared towards children with its hands-on activities and conveniently placed next door to Coram’s Fields.
Worst Bits: The lack of cafe is kind of a bummer.
Facilities: Step-free access, buggy parking.
Cost: £11 with Gift Aid, £7.50 without and free for children.
Would We Come Back?: It’s a small museum and it’s not free so we won’t be rushing back next week but we’d definitely come again.
Bab plays dress-up at The Foundling Museum, Bloomsbury.