Art, Charity and the Navy: The Greenwich and Foundling Hospitals

Essential information

Date and time: 
30 October | 9.30am-6pm
£50 | £40 concession and members
Queen's House
Queen's House

Morning at the Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich and the Old Royal Naval College, and afternoon at the Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square.

This day symposium will explore similarities in the origins, artistic involvement and philanthropic purpose of two eighteenth-century charitable hospitals with strong ties to maritime Britain: the Foundling Hospital, the first children’s charity in Britain, founded in 1730s by Captain Thomas Coram, a shipwright in the American colonies, and the Greenwich Royal Hospital for Seamen, established by royal charter in 1694 and from 1712 incorporated a school for the orphans of sailors. Along with presentations and discussion with expert speakers, the day includes: a tour of the Chapel at the Old Royal Naval College, formerly the place of worship for the inhabitants of the Royal Hospital for Seamen; the opportunity to see the Foundling Hospital’s historic Court Room and Picture Gallery, displayed with works of art by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Highmore, Ramsay and many others; a visit to the Basic Instincts: Art, Passion and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore exhibition at the Foundling Museum. 

Cost: £50 (£40 concession). Includes lunch, tea and coffee, and early evening drinks reception. Participants will make their own way between the two sites.

Speakers: Will Palin, Director of Conservation, ORNC, Christine Riding, Head of Arts and Curator of the Queen’s House, Caro Howell, Director of the Foundling Museum and Dr Jacqueline Riding, Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Curator of the Basic Instincts exhibition.

To book a place contact 020 8312 6608, e-mail or visit


9.15-9.45 Registration and Refreshments

9.45-10.00 Welcome and Introduction (Christine Riding)

10.00-10.30 From Royal Residence to Naval Charity: Greenwich Hospital, School and College (Christine Riding)

10.30-11.00 Building an Icon: Christopher Wren and the Royal Hospital at Greenwich (Will Palin)

11.00-11.30 Art, Charity, Nation: The Hospital’s Painted Hall and Naval Gallery of Art (Christine Riding)

11.30-12.30 Visit to the Old Royal Naval College and Chapel (Will Palin, with Christine Riding introducing The Shipwreck of St Paul altarpiece)

12.30-13.30 Lunch in the Orangery, Queen’s House (opportunity to visit the galleries)

13.30-14.30 Travel to the Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square

14.30-15.00 Free time to visit the galleries of the Foundling Museum

15.00-15.30 Usefulness in all Things: Philanthropy, Practicality and the Foundling Hospital mission (Caro Howell)

15.30-16.00 Hogarth’s Captain Thomas Coram, Marine Imagery and the Foundling Hospital (Christine Riding)

16.00-16.30 Break

16.30-17.00 The Foundling’s Courtroom: A Group Portrait of London’s Hospitals (Jacqueline Riding)

17.00-18.00 Drinks Reception and Private View of the Basic Instincts exhibition (Introduction to the exhibition by Jacqueline Riding)

Speakers biographies

Will Palin has been Director of Conservation at the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) since 2014. Previously he was Curator at the Sir John Soane’s Museum and was Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, where he led campaigns to ensure that historic buildings were not simply preserved, but brought back into life. He took forward the rescue of Castle House in Bridgewater, Somerset and a major group of Regency houses in the former Naval Dockyard at Sheerness, Kent, as well as supervising a series of successful legal challenges to demolitions of historic buildings. He is also involved with the Georgian Group, the Ancient Monuments Society and other conservation organisations. Will is currently overseeing the landmark conservation work on the Painted Hall and Undercroft at the ORNC.

Christine Riding is Head of Arts and Curator of the Queen’s House at the Royal Museums Greenwich. She was Curator of the Turner & the Sea exhibition (2013) at Greenwich and Co-author of the accompanying catalogue, published by Thames & Hudson. She was the Lead Curator of the recent refurbishment of the Queen’s House (2016) and the acquisition of Kangaroo and Dingo by George Stubbs and the Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I. From 1999-2011, she was Curator of Eighteenth and Nineteenth-century British Art at Tate Britain and co-curated numerous exhibitions including William Blake (2000, Tate Britain), Hogarth (2007, Tate Britain) and Gauguin: Maker of Myth (2010, Tate Modern). She was Deputy Editor of Art History (The Journal for the Association for Art History) and is currently serving as Chair of the Association for Art History.

Caro Howell has been the Director of the Foundling Museum since 2012. Previously she was Head of Education and Public Events at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2005-11), where she oversaw the construction and programming of major new education spaces and project galleries as part of the Gallery’s expansion, including a series of artists’ commissions and residencies. She has worked as an independent museum education consultant in the UK and abroad, developing projects that explore issues of advocacy, interpretation and access to the arts. She was ten years at Tate, joining Tate Modern’s set-up team in 1997 where she formulated its access and audience development strategy. She has an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck College, University of London (1994) and a BA in Theatre Studies from Warwick University (1988).

Jacqueline Riding specialises in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British history and art. She read History and Art History at the universities of Leicester, London and York, and has over twenty-five years’ experience working as a curator and consultant within a broad range of museums, galleries and historic buildings, including Wilton's Music Hall, Tate Britain and Historic Royal Palaces. From 1993-1999 she was Assistant Curator at the Palace of Westminster and then founding Director of the Handel House Museum, London. Her recent publications include Jacobites: A New History of the '45 Rebellion (2016), and Basic Instincts: Love, Passion and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore (2017) which accompanies her exhibition at the Foundling Museum (29 Sept 2017 - 7 Jan 2018). She is currently writing a book on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, followed by a major new biography of William Hogarth. She was the consultant historian and art historian on Mike Leigh's award-winning Mr. Turner (2014) and is the historian on his next feature film, Peterloo.