Horniman Museum

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Horniman Museum and Gardens
Horniman Museum.jpg
Established 1901; 118 years ago (1901)
Location 100 London Road
Forest Hill, London
England SE23
United Kingdom
Public transit access Forest Hill National Rail London Overground
Website Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum is a British museum in Forest Hill, London, England. Commissioned in 1898, it opened in 1901 and was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Arts and Crafts style.[1]

It is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is constituted as a company and registered charity under English law.[2]


The museum's Natural History gallery showing the distribution of modern humans.

The museum was founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman. Frederick had inherited his father's Horniman's Tea business, which by 1891 had become the world's biggest tea trading business.[3]

The cash from the business allowed Horniman to indulge his lifelong passion for collecting, and which after travelling extensively had some 30,000 items in his various collections, ranging from natural history, cultural artefacts and musical instruments.

In 1911, an additional building to the west of the main building, originally containing a lecture hall and library, was donated by Frederick Horniman's son Emslie Horniman. This was also designed by Townsend.


The Horniman specialises in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments[4] and has a collection of 350,000 objects. The ethnography and music collections have Designated status. One of its most famous exhibits is the large collection of stuffed animals. It also has an aquarium noted for its unique layout[clarify].

Floor directory

1st Floor Ground Floor Lower Ground Floor Basement Floor
Cmbox content.png Access from Lower Ground Floor only
Under 5s Book Zone
Natural History Balcony

Horniman Highlight Objects
3 Apostle Clock, England
Main Entrance
CUE Building
Education Centre
Hands On Base
Natural History Gallery
Balcony Gallery
Environment Room
Textile Display

Horniman Highlight Objects
1 Sand Painting, America
2 Walrus, Canada
Temporary Exhibition Gallery
Music Gallery
Centenary Gallery
African Worlds Gallery
Gallery Square
Security Reception from London Road

Horniman Highlight Objects
4 French Horn, England
5 Carlton Drum Kit, England
6 Torture Chair, Unknown
7 Kali with Shiva Figure, India
8 Benin Plaques, Nigeria
9 Ijele Mask, Nigeria
10 Coffin Lid, Egypt
New Aquarium

Transport connections

Service Station/Stop Lines/Routes served Distance from
Horniman Museum
London Buses London Buses Horniman Museum Handicapped/disabled access 176, 185, 197, 356, P4
Horniman Park Handicapped/disabled access 363 260-metre walk[5]
London Overground London Overground Forest Hill Handicapped/disabled access East London Line 650-metre walk[6]
National Rail National Rail Southern


The bandstand overlooking the London skyline

The museum is set in 16 acres (65,000 m²) of gardens, which include the following features:

  • A Grade II listed conservatory from 1894 which was moved from Horniman's family house in Croydon to the present site in the 1980s.
  • A bandstand from 1912
  • An enclosure for small animals
  • A nature trail
  • An ornamental garden
  • Plants for materials; medicines; foods and dyes
  • A sound garden with large musical instruments for playing
  • A new building, the Pavilion, for working on materials that are outside of the collections, such as from the gardens.


Humanity in the House of Circumstance

On the London Road wall of the main building is a neoclassical mosaic mural entitled Humanity in the House of Circumstance, designed by Robert Anning Bell and assembled by a group of young women over the course of 210 days. Composed of more than 117,000 individual tesserae, it measures 10 feet by 32 feet and symbolises personal aspirations and limitations.[7]

The three figures on the far left represent Art, Poetry and Music, standing by a doorway symbolising birth, while the armed figure represents Endurance. The two kneeling figures represent Love and Hope, while the central figure symbolises Humanity. Charity stands to the right bearing figs and wine, followed by white-haired Wisdom holding a staff, and a seated figure representing Meditation. Finally, a figure symbolising Resignation stands by the right-hand doorway, which represents death.[8]

Totem pole

The totem pole

A 20-foot (6.1 m) red cedar totem pole stands outside the museum's main entrance. It was carved in 1985 as part of the American Arts Festival by Nathan Jackson, a Tlingit native Alaskan. The carvings on the pole depict figures from Alaskan legend of a girl who married a bear, with an eagle (Jackson's clan crest) at the top.[9] The pole is one of only a handful of totem poles in the United Kingdom, others being on display at the British Museum, Windsor Great Park, Bushy Park, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and at Alsford's Wharf in Berkhamsted.[10] There is also a totem pole in the Royal Albert Memorial museum in Exeter. It is displayed in their World Cultures galleries.

CUE building

The Horniman Museum contains the CUE (Centre for Understanding the Environment) building. This opened in 1996 and was designed by local architects Archetype using methods developed by Walter Segal. The building has a grass roof and was constructed from sustainable materials. It also incorporates passive ventilation.

Internet filter problems

In 2004 the museum encountered problems receiving web traffic and sending and receiving emails due to the modern connotations of its name confusing pornography filters.[11][12]


  1. Horniman Museum and Gardens accessed 02/01/08
  2. Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust, Registered Charity no. 802725 at the Charity Commission
  3. "Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Horniman Museum". Time Out London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Walking directions to '''Horniman Museum''' from '''Horniman Park''' bus stop". Maps.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-06-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Walking directions to '''Horniman Museum''' from '''Forest Hill''' railway station". Maps.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-06-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "FAQs – Horniman Museum". Saatchi Gallery. Retrieved 2013-03-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Jacqueline Banerjee. "The Horniman Museum by Charles Harrison Townsend". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 2013-03-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Main entrance". Horniman Museum. Retrieved 18 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Tearle, John (1998). The Berkhamsted Totem Pole. Lillydown House. ISBN 978-0-9528131-1-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> p.3
  11. Lester Haines (2004-10-08). "Porn filters have a field day on Horniman Museum". The Register. Retrieved 2013-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Maev Kennedy (2004-10-16). "Online censor says no to the Horniman | Technology". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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