The Thames, Britain’s Great River – Part Seven


“April Come She Will” by Simon and Garfunkel (piano cover, courtesy of Dan Kastrul):

“Seek the wisdom of the ages
but look at the world
through the eyes of a child.”
Ron Wild

“Sumiregusa (Wild Violet)” by Enya (courtesy of MrMarrs):


We begin this week’s guide of highlights in London and around the Thames with a visit to:

40 Brunswick Square

Courtesy of Coram:



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


The story of Thomas Coram (courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum):

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.

“Anthem for the Foundling Hospital” by Handel (courtesy of Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford – Topic):



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.


Courtesy Of HENI Talks:

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.”

The making of their book “Captain Coram Champion for Children” is discussed by creative duo Robin Ollington and Albany Wiseman (courtesy of Coram):


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.



Courtesy of Barts Health NHS Trust:

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 philanthropic 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.


Allegretto from “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins (courtesy of Alex Ward):


Stable Yard
St James’s


Courtesy of Londisland:


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 then 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.



“Prelude and Fugue 13 in F-sharp Major” by Johann Sebastian Bach (courtesy of Bach Idealized):


Throgmorton Avenue

Courtesy of broadcastprbusiness:



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!

As this post has an underlying theme of altruism, I would like to mention a book written by the creators of Aspiring Blog. It is a book everyone should have to hand as the extraordinary and inspiring stories renew our hope for humanity, especially after watching the present news. The book is called “UNFOLD THE STORIES OF UNSUNG HEROES” – Series 1.

One story is called “ The Nest Man of India – Rakesh Khatri.”

“When was the last time you spotted a house sparrow on your window?” Rakesh Khatri asks this question in every workshop he does. Despite being the state bird of Delhi, today they are rare species in the capital. No one exactly knows when they last spotted these little birds chirping outside their home.

House sparrows have always co-existed with humans even after the forest was cut down and the cities built. Unlike any other birds, they like to live with humans

In their home. They make their nests on balconies or any other liveable place around the home.

 Rakesh Khatri, a resident of Delhi, spent his childhood in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. The Indian households built there are of old architectural designs and have enough spaces for sparrows to come and build their nests there.

 He recalls that we were told by elders not to run ceiling fans too fast because of fear of getting them injured.

He spent his entire childhood with his winged friends, feeding them grains when he returned from school and playing with them.

 Later, Rakesh moved to Ashok Vihar, a developing part of Delhi. After moving to his new home, he realised that his feathered friends disappeared.  They haven’t been able to keep up with the new architecture and lifestyle changes.  Now people became intolerant towards the supposed “nuisance” that birds create.

Rakesh Khatri was a photographer and filmmaker of short films by profession; he worked for the media industry. In 2008, seeing that the number of sparrows was rapidly declining, he decided to quit his job and save the birds from becoming a rare species by building nests.

He got the idea of using the waste green coconut shells for making the nests. Green coconuts come in abundance from South India and people throw the shells away after drinking. He collected 12 shells and with a group of helpers filled each shell with newspapers, then widened its opening, covered the shell with and around it with grass used in coolers. Then, tied all together, placed as Azadirachta Indica stick near the opening for the bird to sit, and then hung it on the tree.

They kept an eye on the nest for several days but unfortunately, not a single bird came. Also, the nests become completely dry.

 People mocked him, saying, “Why would sparrows stay in your nests? They will build their own!”

 All this didn’t stop Rakesh Khatri from doing what he believed was important.

After several trial and error methods and research, he made a nest from thin sticks used in chick-blinds/window blinds by turning it into a globe shape and wrapping it with a jute roll.

 He placed the nest on the tree and waited for the birds to come.  Every day he sat there with the camera in his hand to capture the moment.  On the fourth day, he saw a male sparrow examining the nest; later he brought his female partner to the nest.

They adopted the nest.

After that people asked Rakesh to build the same nests for them too, as they wanted to place the nests on balconies or in front of their houses.

Rakesh and his friends made 20 nests and hung them everywhere in the neighbourhood. Within a week all those were adopted not only by the house sparrows but also by different types of birds.  Rakesh would stroll around his locality and city to identify different places where these birds were still flying in large numbers and then make several nests for them to hang on the trees.

Courtesy of The Better India:


Four years later in 2012, he founded Eco Roots Foundation to promote its mission and raise awareness. He always says: “Sparrows are my childhood friends, how could I leave them to die?“

 After that, he started doing various workshops and worked with schools and residential and corporate associations. His mission includes teaching children and the young generation how to build the nests, and to bring them close to nature. He has conducted over 3 lakhs workshops and worked with over 4000 schools to teach children about environmental preservation. Until now he has taught around 300,000 children, adults how to build birdhouses from jute bags, bamboo sticks, grass, and threads.

 In every workshop, he says, “It is the biggest blessing when someone resides in the home you built with your hands.”

He also said in one of his workshops,  “There have been times when people destroyed the nests built by my foundation but that has not stopped me. If they destroy one, I will build another five!”

Today Rakesh is a renowned environmentalist and has been awarded several times for his extraordinary mission and dedication towards saving sparrows.

He and his team made it into the Limca Books of records twice for the highest number of workshops and the largest theatre event on climate change.

He has been recognized by the names, “The Sparrow Man” and “The Nest Man of India”.  He’s been also awarded by International Green Apple Award in the House of Commons in London (2008) for the best practice on sparrow conservation in India.  Also, there is a dedicated chapter based on Rakesh Khatri’s work included in the ICSC English textbook for the 4th standard.

Recently, his name was recognised by the London World Book of Records for creating 125,000 nests using jute and tetra packs.

Now, he and his NGO have the vision to build birdhouses throughout the country and are involved in water conservation and various other missions to sustain environmental ecosystems.

His story is truly inspiring. The future generation might not be able to see the need as clearly as Rakish Khatri does, who knows how to make noise before it’s too late.

Can we join him, and prevent the unnatural extinction of the innocent species? 

“Sparrow” by Simon and Garfunkel (courtesy of angelgirls1980):





56 thoughts on “The Thames, Britain’s Great River – Part Seven

  1. So much history and photos to bring it alive again. I didn’t know any of this. I found St Barthomelews very interesting, as well as Rakesh Khatri.

    How long do you spend researching and writing a piece? How long to gather all the photos ? You put a massive effort into your work. Impressive


  2. Thank you, Bella, for your generous comments. It takes quite a long time to bring everything together, although, each post is done within a week, as I publish on Friday. If you like what you read then look at the other parts, please, as there are all informative. I am glad that you liked Rakesh Khatri’s story because his philosophy of saving nature and compassion should be thought at each primary school to become universal.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Speaking of Thomas Coram, the Latin adverb coram meant ‘in person, face to face, personally, publicly, openly, by word of mouth.’ The word could well apply to the personal view you’ve provided in this post. One website says that early spellings of the family name Coram included Corham and Coreham, so the resemblance of the final form Coram to the Latin word was nothing more than a coincidence.

    “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” is the opening line from L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between. Wikipedia notes that the opening sentence “had first been used by Hartley’s friend Lord David Cecil in his inaugural lecture as Goldsmiths’ Professor in 1949.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Steve, for your erudite additions to my post, but after studying Literature and medicine, I know Latin.

    Due to the short time, you had to read my post you didn’t notice that it wasn’t about the etymology of Coram’s name but his work. You mentioned in your post the need for the education of children, and my post would provide them with an interesting lesson in compassion and altruism.



  5. Hi Joanna,
    I’m still catching up with the backlog of your blog posts.
    Thomas Coran was unknown to me prior to reading your Thames R. part VII., so I am thanking you for the introduction. As a practitioner of the healing arts and seeing many cases of animal abuse I often thought about the sometimes contradiction between Human and Humane. Many animals are more humane than some humans. Not all humans are humane and the victims of abusers can be children, pets, food animals or work animals. Additionally, some humans who possess wealth or power choose to abuse or oppress females, BIPOC individuals, the impoverished or just those who are “different”.

    To be completely forthcoming, I was wondering if your artistic presentation was a comment on these times we live in: world poverty, mass migration, a plutocrat’s invasion of Ukraine or U.S. Politics in decline. Perhaps this was your benign, indirect way of sending your readers a message that there is another more positive approach. If not, it was certainly thought provoking. Fortunately, there is a diverse population on this planet which also includes those who pursue life with the opposite sentiment – a true humanity or just a random act of kindness. I was especially moved by the video of Carol Howell, director of the Foundling Museum who provided great insight into the creative way they were able to solicit donations from wealthy art lovers.

    And, as seems to be your M.O., the blog has a message – this time about altruism. I have already ordered “Unsung Heroes…” to take with me when I next travel. It is true that the English House Sparrow is seen where there is greater human density along with nest building materials. Sometimes the large presence of this bird makes it unpopular with avid birder. It is a perky individual. Rakesh Khatri has favored this little bird which is found worldwide.

    Again thanks for your thoughtful writing. Stewart


  6. Thank you, Stewart, for your analytical comments. Apologies for the delay in my reply but we have here a serious problem as our government is collapsing and I don’t know if we will have PR Minister next week. I greatly appreciate your kind words.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close