Friday, June 24, 2022

Day 16 – The Foundling Museum

There was a Tube strike on Tuesday, and while their dispute over pensions and job cuts is probably legitimate I can only imagine the negative economic impact of the strike during high tourist season, not to mention lost productivity as workers come in late or not at all.
We did not have any library visits scheduled so Desiree, Amanda, Alesha and I went to breakfast at Bill’s on Baker Street. They were planning to go to high tea in the afternoon, which sounded fun, but I went to the Victoria Coach Station to investigate tickets for Saturday and that took so long I gave up on trying to meet them and went to the Foundling Museum instead. The combination of the warm day and overcrowded buses was putting everyone in a very bad mood. It took hours longer to get there than it should have and when I arrived and found they didn’t even have a water fountain, I nearly collapsed. Now I know why some people always carry water bottles!
In 1739, a Foundling Hospital was established to care for orphans because philanthropist Thomas Coram was appalled by the conditions babies and illegitimate children faced in London. To assist with the funding, artist William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel were recruited to help to make the Hospital into a sort of public gallery and performance space. Hogarth encouraged leading artists to donate their work and Handel held benefit concerts of Messiah in the Hospital’s chapel. It became a place for fashionable members of society to see and be seen. The museum is on the grounds of the old hospital at 40 Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury. The Duchess of Cambridge is its patron and visited in 2017 and 2019.
A sampler of the Hospital by a child from the area
On May 27, 1749 Handel gave his first benefit concert for the Foundling Hospital, an event so successful that he repeated it with an annual performance of Messiah for the rest of his life. He raised almost £7,000 in all – over a million in today’s money.

Gerald Coke (1907-1990) created an extensive Handel collection over sixty years and donated it to the Foundling Museum, where it has its own floor and locked storage area. This includes more than 14,000 items from the eighteenth century to the present, ranging from Handel’s will to manuscript and printed music and documents, books, journals, libretti, sound recordings, artworks and artifacts, and performance ephemera relating to Handel and his circle. His collection includes my grandfather’s book on Handel although it is not sold in the gift shop (which I will point out in due time to the management).
I enjoyed the Museum, although it does not pretend these children received more than the bare necessities, and the Handel area provided an interesting contrast to the Handel & Jimi Hendrix Museum in Mayfair my mother and I visited four years ago.  I 
would have stayed longer if I hadn’t been so thirsty (which I may also point out to them). I found water next door to Skoob Books, a second-hand bookstore in the area I had always wanted to visit. It had some interesting things but not the book I wanted, Rich Desserts and Captain's Thin by Margaret Forster. Next, I went to the Waterstone’s on Gower Street, across the street from the hotel I stayed at on my last visit (my current dorm room is small but not as claustrophobic as the Arosfa). This bookstore has the best mystery section of any place I have visited since the demise of my beloved Black Orchid in New York. I was very tempted but managed to buy just one book before repairing to the ground floor for tea. I ordered a Raspberry and Almond Bakewell bar and the café staff gave me two – I must have looked as if I’d had a bad day!
Soon it was time to find a bus back to the West End. I went to Tavistock Square with plenty of time but due to the strike all the buses were full of angry rush hour commuters and they kept going past my bus stop. Finally, I just got on the first bus that stopped for passengers and was lucky that it took me to the Duchess Theatre for The Play That Goes Wrong. I had tried to interest others in my group to join me as £23 seemed very reasonable. The premise is that an amateur drama society is putting on a 1920s murder mystery but, as the title suggests, everything goes wrong from props to missed lines to the collapse of the sets. I don’t care for slapstick humor but the perfectly timed comic delivery of the cast made it very enjoyable. The cast also appreciated that it hadn’t been easy to get there and thanked us at the end. And I got a 139 bus right home!
Miles walked: 4.9 
Books acquired: just one

1 comment:

Jeannike said...

Many years ago, my husband and I left our young children in the Coram's Fields playground - an enclosed secure space 'for children only' - and we went to the Dickens Museum.