The Great Rivers of the World – The Thames, Part Seven



40 Brunswick Square



Above is a statue and below is the portrait of Captain Thomas Coram, 1740, by William Hogarth


The Foundling Hospital was the creation of the 18th-century philanthropist, Captain Thomas Coram. On his return from life at sea, he was horrified at the sight of children abandoned on the streets of London. In 1741 he established the Foundling Hospital for “the education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.”


A charter was granted for a new hospital and between 1745 and 1753 a large complex with a chapel was built in London’s Bloomsbury. It became very quickly London’s most popular charity, attracting the support of some of the most influential men of the day.  William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel were both governors. Handel performed his Messiah in the chapel, while Hogarth designed the children’s uniforms. In addition to Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Francis Hayman all decorated the walls of the hospital with their paintings.


In the 1920s the hospital was relocated to a healthier rural location, 30 miles from London, to Berkhamsted.  The historic hospital buildings were sold to a property developer. Around twenty years later Lord Rothermere launched a successful campaign to buy a new site to erect a new hospital in London. Fortunately, three rooms and some of the most important contents from the original buildings were preserved and were incorporated into the new hospital.


Behind the plain exterior is the original massive oak staircase from the former Boys’ Wing, with heavy handrails and balustrades.


This leads to the Court Room which has a lavish Rococo ceiling, and with charming overmantel of foundling children gainfully employed in husbandry and navigation.

Below are images of the Court Room.




Around the walls is the foundation’s art collection from the former hospital, with large biblical canvases and medallions. In the adjacent picture gallery is another original interior complete with a coloured marble chimneypiece. The sculpture collection includes a terracotta bust of Handel c1739, a reclining baby, and a terracotta group of a girl and foundling c1874.

Below is a portrait of Handel by Thomas Hudson


Below is The Painter and his Pug, a self-portrait by William Hogarth

The Painter and his Pug 1745 by William Hogarth 1697-1764

The recently refurbished Foundling Museum offers a fascinating insight into the work of the former hospital and foundation. Among the most heart-rending artefacts are the distinguishing tokens put on each child by their parents before their permanent separation – coins, trinkets, or simply scraps of cotton or paper.

Below is the ornately decorated hall.


Over the period of 200 years up to the Second World War, the Foundling Hospital took in and educated over 27,000 children, the boys eventually going into the army, the girls into domestic service.

From today’s point of view, perhaps there were among these children some greatly talented whose ability wasn’t detected, but at least they were well looked after and not starving in the gutter. As the famous quote reminds us:

“The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”


West Smithfield


Barts, as St Bartholomew’s Hospital is popularly known, is London’s oldest hospital. It was founded in 1123 by Rahere, who is buried close by in the Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great, but refounded post-Reformation in 1546 by Henry VIII. He was a Anglo-Norman priest and monk, a favourite of King Henry I.  Rahere died in 1144.



The hospital is contained within an outer screen wall. This replaced in 1840 a series of tall tenement houses, which originally screened the hospital from West Smithfield, an early place of public execution.  The entrance to the hospital is through a striking gatehouse erected in 1702 with a central niche containing the only public statue of Henry VIII in London.


The most distinctive feature of the outside is the courtyard, built in separate blocks between 1730 and 1768 to reduce the risk of infection and fire.


Above is the Gibbs Courtyard

The interior of the North Block contains the spectacular Great Hall, which is approached via a grand  cantilevered staircase around a broad well. The walls are painted with two huge canvases  by William Hogarth from 1735 – 7 symbolically representing The Pool of Bethesda and The Good Samaritan. At the base are scenes showing the founding of the hospital, probably painted by a pupil. The paintings are the most outstanding example of the Baroque fashion for decorative painting and trompe-l’oeil initiated by Verrio in the reign of  Charles II. William Hogarth was an accomplished painter of historical and allegorical scenes, like his famous painting A Rake’s Progress of 1723.


At first floor level is the Great Hall, completed in 1783 as a triple cube. The plasterwork ceiling is striking. In the centre of the north wall is a chimneypiece with two carved and painted 17th-century figures of a wounded soldier and sailor.  Opposite is a stained -glass window of 1743 representing Henry VIII giving the hospital its charter. However, the most striking feature of the interior is the collection of framed donor boards with gold lettering which adorn the walls.




The murals and Great Hall express 18th century philantropic ideas, where all sections of society came together to act for the relief of the poor and sick. Mural painting and iconography were deployed for charitable purposes. Accordingly, all painters donated their services to the hospital free of charge.



Stable Yard
St James’s


Lancaster House has been described as “the only true private palace ever built in London.” Originally known as York House (1825-7), subsequently as Stafford House (1827-1914), and now as Lambert House, it has had a chequered history.

Construction began in 1825 for the Duke of York and Albany. When the spendthrift duke died in a sea of debt in 1827, the unfinished shell of the house was sold to one of the wealthiest men in England, the Marquess of Stafford, later the 1st Duke of Sutherland.  His eldest son finished his father’s work.

Below is the spendthrift Duke of York and Albany

Brown, Mather, 1761-1831; Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), Duke of York

Below is the First Duke of Sutherland

unknown artist; George Granville (1758-1833), 2nd Marquis of Stafford, 1st Duke of Sutherland

Below is the Second Duke of Sutherland

Corden II, William, c.1820-1900; George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (1786-1861), 2nd Duke of Sutherland, KG, DCL

Situated in a large private garden adjacent to Green Park and facing St James’s Park, externally it looks understated but the magnificence of the interiors is such that Queen Victoria was prompted to remark on arriving: “I have come from my house to your palace.” The house is lavishly designed in the style of Louis XIV. The colossal entrance hall and the staircase are lit by an oblong lantern, lined in yellow and black. There is an intricate cast-iron staircase balustrade. At first floor level, the Music Room has a circle-coffered ceiling with borders derived from Palmyra. Beyond is the vast Picture Gallery, which once held the Sutherlands’ magnificent art collection. It included works by the great European masters: Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, and Murillo.



Between two recesses is a green marble chimneypiece, lavishly ornamented with gold, and bearing a sumptuous French clock. On the other side, there is a fine 16th-century painting of the Three Graces attributed to Battista Zelotti. Another superb chimneypiece, c1837, with children representing winter and autumn, can be found in the Green Room. There are more elegant staterooms at ground floor level, including the splendid State Dining Room, c1828-9.





As liberals and patrons of arts, the Sutherlands received many 19th-century celebrities at the house, including the social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, the anti-slavery campaigner Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose stay in April 1864 is commemorated by a roundel by Luigi Fabbrucci unveiled 20 years later.

Below is Lord Shaftesbury


Below is Harriet Beecher Stowe


Below is Giuseppe Garibaldi


In 1912 the house was purchased by Sir William Lever, the soap magnate who promptly presented it to the nation. Between the wars, it was the home of the London Museum, but in 1950 it was taken over by the Foreign Office for receptions and international conferences.





Above is shown a recreation of the Banqueting Table at Lancaster House for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen’s coronation banquet was held here in 1953. Subsequently, it was a venue for several conferences to settle the future of various colonies of the British Empire including Malaya in 1956, Nigeria in 1957-8, Kenya in 1960, 1962 -63, and, most famously, the independence of Southern Rhodesia as Zimbabwe, through the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. What a history for one house!


14 Gordon  Square


Dr Williams’s Library is an important research library with a wealth of manuscripts, books, and polemical works embracing theology, mysticism, language, and literature. It was created by a leading London Presbyterian minister,  Dr Williams as an English Protestant Non-conformity library.



Dr Daniel Williams was born in 1643 and died in 1716 and most of his estate was bequeathed for charitable purposes, including the foundation of a public library. After being moved a few times it was finally settled into its present building in 1890.



Among its 300,000 titles and major manuscript collections are Wycliffite New Testament, a psalter made for Philippa of Hainault, the wife of Edward III, and the papers of eminent 17th-century Non-conformists.


There is an extensive collection of correspondence from Wordsworth, Lamb, Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, and Harriet Martineau, which provides a precious resource for scholars.

Below is William Wordsworth


Below is Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1802, the year his daughter, Sara, was born.

Below is Sir Walter Scott


In the Reading Room, there are laid out the original reference catalogues with copper-plate, handwritten entries in ancient leather-bound volumes. Over the past 120 years, little has changed. The muted interior, suffused with watery light filtered through stained-glass windows remains an extraordinary time capsule, and one of London’s little-known treasures. An atmosphere of quiet, scholarly repose permeates the entire building, broken only by the measured ticking of the 18th-century clock.




Throgmorton Avenue



The Draper’s Company, which received its first royal charter in 1364, was the earliest corporate body in England to receive a grant of arms in 1439.
The company’s motto: Unto God Only Be Honour And Glory.


The company acquired its present site from Henry VIII. The Hall was ravaged twice by fire, first in the Great Fire in 1666, and the second time in 1772, after which the rebuilt Hall was altered twice. The end result is a spectacular interior, the finest Victorian livery hall with a suite of rooms so grand that Buckingham Palace seems homely. Indeed the Hall and Drawing Room have been used as an alternative to the Palace in various films, including The King’s Speech.



A long oak-panelled corridor is lit by stained glass containing the arms of Drake, Nelson, Earl St Vincent, and Raleigh,  and leads to a grand marble and alabaster staircase that rises to a spacious first-floor landing. The walls are lined with Greek cipollini marble, the arcades of Ionic columns in Breccia marble, and the doorcases in Emperor’s Red marble. Between the columns are busts of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and Frederick, Duke of York, together with Egyptian-style bronzes.


Beyond is the Court Room incorporating earlier 18th-century works with magnificent Gobelin tapestries and portraits of Wellington and Nelson.



The Livery Hall is a vision of breathtaking opulence. Marble Corinthian columns surround the entire room, paired in the apse, with each bay containing full-length royal portraits. The columns support a gallery and lunettes pained in a rather dashing lavender hue.


The vast ceiling, painted by the artist Herbert Draper, depicts scenes from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with allegorical depictions of history, science, ethics, and literature at each end. At the buffet end are two niches with 19th century statues of Hypatia and Venus



An oak-panelled corridor leads to Drawing Room decorated in green and gold with a massive Victorian marble chimneypiece with a clock within a ram’s head garland. On the wall is Herbert Draper’s The Gates of Dawn, painted to mark the dawn of the 20th century.


The last is the Court Dining Room, a remnant of the 1667-71 reconstruction following the Great Fire, but renovated in 1869 with a ceiling painting of Jason and the Golden Fleece and a great coved cornice with the coats of arms of members of the Court. Two more Louis XV Gobelin tapestries depict the legend of the Golden Fleece.

Below is the ceiling painting of Jason and the Golden Fleece.




See you next week for more fascinating unknown places in London!





12 thoughts on “The Great Rivers of the World – The Thames, Part Seven

  1. Didn’t know about the Foundling Hospital. What a wonderful service for so many kids. Not perfect, but as someone said, “Perfect is the enemy of good”.

    I like the quote about the past, too.


  2. Thank you, Jacqui. I don’t know if anyone ever tried to find traces of these children’s lives. I am just reading The Voices Of The Mayflower by Richard Holledge. I mention this book because, among many interesting details, it tells where from descended many American grand families.


  3. Thank you again. By the way, the quote is from L P Hartley’s Go-Between.


  4. Thank you again. The quote is from L P Hartley Go-Betweeners.


  5. It is my laptop again going mad!


  6. I must say ‘great work done’. You have compiled a pile of historical pictures in an artistic manner. I love reading your articles. Please keep it up.
    Dr. Raziq

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Dr. Razik. I love your dedication to scientifically proving the greatness of the creatures of the desert, the camels. As promised, I will soon write about your work.
    Thank you again.


  8. I knew I should have joined one of the Livery Companies when I worked in London; Taylor’s or Clothworker’s Company! Too late now!


  9. You know what? I absolutely love how you put this in words Gaby. This buildings are so beautiful and the details are pretty mesmerising.

    Interesting to see that some meetings concerning my nation Nigeria were held in those rooms.

    It’s definitely a place I want to visit in London.


  10. Thank you so much for your kind comment. London definitely is worth visiting after the pandemic is over. Thank you.

    Joanna (Gaby was a little creature I bonded with and dedicated my blog too.)


  11. Many thanks again.


    Liked by 1 person

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