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The Colour Wheel

Inspired by Colour: The Rainbow Revealed, horticulturist Nick Gadd has devised a planting scheme to recreate a colour wheel using bedding plants in our Sunken Garden. We caught up with him to find out how.

With nature offering so many colourful plants, how did you choose which ones to include?

We had to choose plants to match particular tones of the colour wheel – the challenge is to achieve the right shade of yellow, not just any yellow for instance. We’ve also chosen plants with a long flowering season, or those that flower repeatedly.

  • Colour wheel planting june 2018 cchurcher (9), Connie Churcher
    , Connie Churcher

How did you cope with green? Are there green flowers?

For the green and yellow-green segments we’re using two plants chosen for the colour of the foliage rather than their flowers – Carex comans ‘Phoenix Green’ and Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wizard Golden’.

How many individual plants make up each slice?

Because we’ve applied the colour wheel design on to a rectangular area the segments vary in size. The larger corner segments will take about 590 plants each, while we’ll only need around 340 plants in the smaller segments. It’s about 30 plants per square metre.

How many of them were grown on site?

We’ve had to grow the plants for the two green segments on site as they aren’t conventional bedding plants which means they’re not easily available commercially in the size and quantity we need.

Will all the colours flower at the same time? When will the garden be at its best?

There’ll be a good period when all the flowers will bloom simultaneously – roughly from the end of June once it has had a chance to establish itself and then throughout the summer. Some will flower sooner, so we’ll keep deadheading them to encourage more flowers while we wait for the other plants to ‘catch up’.

  • Colour wheel planting june 2018 cchurcher (4), Connie Churcher
    , Connie Churcher

Thank you to The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association for funding this display.

Refugee Week is turning 20

Refugee Week is turning 20 and at the Horniman we're celebrating

Every year on the 20 June, people around the world celebrate World Refugee Day with a whole week of events meant to recognise the positive contributions of refugees and asylum seekers to our societies.

In the UK, Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages a better understanding between communities. 

At the Horniman, we have a long tradition of working with refugee groups, schools, and our visitors to raise awareness about the problems facing refugees and this year is no different. On the 20 June, to mark the celebration World Refugee Day our volunteers will encourage general visitors to join the national Make Simple Acts campaign to help change the way we see refugees, and ourselves.

Throughout the week school groups in our education centre we will also be shown "Exile in Colour", an exhibition of drawings and paintings produced by adults and children during therapeutic art sessions at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers and Barry House, a local hostel for asylum seekers and refugees, and "Where Do I Come From?", a patchwork tapestry created by visitors during our annual Crossing Borders event in March, a full day of workshops and art and craft activities delivered by local refugee organisations.

Jellyfish husbandry and coral fragging

For volunteers week we spoke to our former Aquarium volunteer, Sophie, about how her experience has helped her forge her own career.

My name is Sophie Palmer and I am a former volunteer at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. I spent a number of years volunteering once a week in the Aquarium working with Jamie Craggs the Aquarium Curator. When I started, Project Coral had not been set up but the Aquarium still housed an impressive coral display.

On my first day, Jamie and James Robson, the former Deputy Curator, walked me through the various stages of jellyfish husbandry, which would become one of my duties over the next few years. I was also taught how to maintain various tanks and displays and specific feeding practices.

In the early days of my volunteering, I was shown husbandry techniques of various animals including tree and dart frogs, giant clams, flamboyant cuttlefish, corals, and of course jellyfish. These practices required a variety of skills, such as maintaining habitats, observing animal behaviour, experimenting with different diets, reading research papers, counting eggs, and fragging (making cuttings of) coral for further growth and research.

It was an exciting time to be working at the Aquarium. Project Coral was set up and as it started to build momentum and gain recognition, the Aquarium acquired sophisticated equipment to maintain the corals, and I was learning more about water chemistry and how the new equipment worked.

Jem, one of the aquarists, showed me how to maintain the live food that was fed to the animals at the Aquarium. These included different types of algae, Artemia, and Mysis.

Michelle Davis, the new Deputy Curator, started to involve me in jellyfish husbandry in more depth and suggested I attend a weekend workshop run at The Deep in Hull. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about breeding and maintaining jellyfish as well as networking with other jellyfish enthusiasts.

In 2017, two new aquarists started at the aquarium - Chris, who has a strong background in pathology, and Chloe, who is now revamping the flamboyant cuttlefish breeding programme. Having Chris and Chloe there in the last few months of my time volunteering proved invaluable as I was able to shadow two extremely knowledgeable aquarists.

I loved my time volunteering at the Aquarium. It helped me onto the path of a fantastic new career - I now work at an aquarium and seal sanctuary in Northern Ireland - and the team there are really enthusiastic and happy to teach. There is no lack of passion at this Aquarium and it makes all the hard work you put in worth the effort.

"It's lovely to be back at the Horniman"

One of our volunteers, Bobby Ogogo, winner of the Volunteer of the Year award at the Museums + Heritage Awards 2016, talks to our Volunteering Manager, Rhiannon, about why he recently returned to volunteer on the Engage programme.

Hi Bobby, you last volunteered with us in the summer of 2016, what can you remember from then?

We had a leaving picnic on a nice summer’s day. I enjoyed the picnic, and saying goodbye to the old volunteers, like Demelza and Roy. I enjoyed working with my previous support worker Livingstone. I ate sandwiches, crisps and cake. I remember we were supposed to bring music, but we didn’t as it might have been too noisy.

I said to my mum, I want to come back to the Horniman. I remember the happy times.

You went on to study Music and Art at South Thames College, what inspired that choice?

I really love music and painting, especially animals and monsters. I did once paint a ferret.

  • Bobby Volunteer, Top: Bobby (right) on the Touch Desk with his fellow volunteers. Below: Bobby's ferret
    Top: Bobby (right) on the Touch Desk with his fellow volunteers. Below: Bobby's ferret

Have you enjoyed being back at the Horniman?

It’s lovely to be back at the Horniman, I’m getting on with the new volunteers and my new support worker. I’ve enjoyed meeting the new volunteers, they’re all very nice.

I am enjoying the musical instruments. The caxixi and shekere are my favourite because I can shake them and make people jump. I shake the instruments very gently, not loud, and I tell visitors where the instruments are from.

I enjoy exploring objects in the music gallery, and my favourites are the piano and drum kit. I hope these are put on the Touch Table soon.

  • Bobby Volunteer 2, Left: Bobby shaking a shekere on the Touch Table, Right: Bobby playing a drum
    Left: Bobby shaking a shekere on the Touch Table, Right: Bobby playing a drum

Do you have something to say to our visitors?

I would like to say hello and ask you to come and see the objects.

Think Pink

Time for perhaps the most divisive of the colours. We take a look at Pink.

How did pink get its name?

We are used to thinking about pink as a colour in its own right, but it is a paler shade of red and as such is the only hue we’re covering in this series.

The word pink was first used related to colour around the 1680s prompted by a type of Dianthus flower known as pinks. These flowers got their name due to their frilly edges, which was known as pynken in Middle English – finishing an edge of cloth with a patterned, cut or scalloped effect, as is done with pinking shears.

  • Dianthus-plumarius - pinks, Pinks or Dianthus-plumarius, Sten CC BY SA 3.0
    Pinks or Dianthus-plumarius, Sten CC BY SA 3.0

In Europe, pink is often referred to as rose relating it closely to another type of flower, and going back to Homer’s “Rosy-fingered dawn” in the Odyssey.

In nature

Pink is very common in nature, mainly in flowers although lots of other species sport the colour. Bright, vibrant colours attract insects and pollinators which are crucial to plants fertilising, or in the case of fruits like raspberries or strawberries, may offer great opportunities for seed dispersal when eaten. Their pigment comes from anthocyanins which are pigments that can appear to be shades of red, purple or blue.

  • Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Connie Churcher
    Roses in the Horniman Gardens, Connie Churcher

There are lots of pink animals too. From flamingos to dolphins, pigs to moths. Some animals get their colour from a diet rich in carotenoids, which we looked at in our yellow blog. Other animals, like pigs, have been selectively bred this way or use it as part of their rich plumage like hummingbirds.

  • Elephant hawk moth from our collections, An elephant hawk moth from our collections
    An elephant hawk moth from our collections

There are several pink minerals, including rose quartz, rhodochrosite, and pink topaz. There are rare pink beaches, coloured by years of coral erosion, and pink brick or sandstone buildings can be seen from India to Argentina.

Popular and powerful

According to a study by Eva Heller in 2009, pink is most closely associated with sensitivity, childhood, femininity, sweetness, and romance, in Europe and the US. The association with pink as feminine stems from just before World War I but didn’t become established until the 1940s and the baby boomer generation. Previously, boys were pictured in pink because red was associated with activity and aggression, and pink was a hue of red, deemed to be a stronger colour compared to blue.

Commerce has had a role to play in pink or blue being associated with gender.

In the past, lots of clothes were white, as these could be bleached easily when stained or dirty, and white was (and still is) associated with innocence, particularly in children's clothes. By pushing consumers towards a new colour code for children, shops could sell more products as you would buy different clothes for boys and girls, rather than reusing clothes multiple times across families or generations. Toys aimed at girls featuring pink packaging is also a more recent trend, coming into prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Gendered toys, An aisle of pink toys, Josh Puetz via CC BY-NC 2.0
    An aisle of pink toys, Josh Puetz via CC BY-NC 2.0

Although is it not uncommon to see men wearing pink, it is still not very popular with men. Only 1% of men would choose it as their favourite and only 7% of women.

In Thailand, pink is associated with the day Tuesday, while in France, a reddish-pink is the colour of medicine in academic dress. In Japan, pink is associated with spring because of the cherry blossoms, but it is also the colour of ‘off-colour’ jokes. In China pink is associated with westernisation, and is considered a foreign colour.

Pink is often used as a symbol of sexuality, particularly in LGBTQIA communities and the original pride flag had a pink stripe to represent sex. Women wore pink pussy hats in the 2017 Women’s March. In Japan, erotic movies are called pink films and recently, Janelle Monáe sang about female sexuality in her song Pynk.

Because of the way the colour has been applied to gender, there is some pink backlash, with campaigns like Pinkstinks opposing the ‘pinkification’ of girlhood. ‘Pink tax’ refers to the higher costs paid by women and girls in products from dry cleaning to bicycle helmets.

Pink in the arts

The phrase ‘in the pink’ means being in good health and dates back to the sixteenth century, meaning to be the very pinnacle of something. It is used by Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet (Act 2, Scene 4):

Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

Pink was most commonly used for flesh tones of white people in European art, and features as the colour of male infant dress. It really got trucking in the 18th century with Madame de Pompadour, who made pink and blue fashionable colours at the French court, and the hue Rose Pompadour is named for her.

  • Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Francois Boucher (via Wikimedia)
    Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, Francois Boucher (via Wikimedia)

In the early twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli created shocking pink and used it across her designs, lending the name to her perfume. Marilyn Monroe wore a now iconic pink dress when singing that Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, Mr. Pink rallied against the name in Reservoir Dogs and Mean Girls wore pink on Wednesdays.

From Kay Thompson to The Pink Panther, The Psychedelic Furs to Nicki Minaj, pink pops up in music just as much as film, fashion, and art. Listen to our playlist of pink-influenced songs.


Learn more about colour in our family-friendly exhibition, Colour: The Rainbow Revealed.

Reef Encounters: Adriana Humanes

As part of International Year of the Reef, we spoke with Adriana Humanes, a marine ecologist, who believes we need to "be more responsible for our actions" to save our coral reefs.

What is your typical day?

My typical day starts with a cup of tea and a good breakfast after which I jump to work, either in the office or the field.

None of my days are identical. Every single day is different and that’s what I love about being a scientist.

I might spend some days reading new papers about corals, while others I might be diving in a beautiful reef.

  • Adriana Humanes, "None of my days are identical. Every single day is different.", Adriana Humanes
    "None of my days are identical. Every single day is different.", Adriana Humanes

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

I realised I wanted to become a marine ecologist after taking a course on animal biology during my undergraduate career.

That was taught by an incredible woman who three years later became my supervisor. Her passion for coral reefs and marine organisms was just contagious and inspired me to discover the fantastic world that lives under the sea.

What inspires you in your work?

Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They’re diverse and complex which allows you to test some really interesting hypotheses.

However, they are really difficult to work with, since it is extremely hard to maintain corals in aquarium conditions and it’s also difficult to conduct research in their natural habitats.

  • Coral Reef, "Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They're diverse and complex.", Adriana Humanes
    "Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They're diverse and complex.", Adriana Humanes

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

Every activity we do has an effect on the environment, and most of them will affect the oceans considering that they cover 71% of the Earth's surface.

Every time you buy something think if it’s indispensable in your life, or if you would be able to continue living without it. We need to stop producing so much waste. Instead, we should reuse and recycle as much as possible.

If you want your children and grandchildren to be able to see the beauty of coral reefs as we know them today, we need to change our consumption behaviour and be more responsible for our actions.

What's your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes. Also, I like the fact that they are not attached to the substrate and move across the reef and that some species are able to change sex according to the environmental conditions.

  • Mushroom Coral, "I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes.", Jonathan Zander (CC BY-SA 3.0)
    "I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes.", Jonathan Zander (CC BY-SA 3.0)

What's the oddest thing you've seen at sea?

Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual. They have such dramatic colours and it’s home to coral colonies with the strangest growth forms I have ever seen.

In those reefs it’s also common to see trees in the slope of the reef since the forest develops just above the water, so when trees fall they land on the reef.

  • Palau Reefs, "Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual.", Adriana Humanes
    "Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual.", Adriana Humanes

What kit do you use when taking photos?

I don’t stick to a single camera since usually I use the camera available in the laboratory. We now have an Olympus TG5 and GoPro Hero 4.

I think that the gear is not as important as the eye of the photographer. If you understand how the camera works you can get amazing pictures with basic equipment.

What's the next big thing for your work?

We are currently trying to find a method to improve the survivability of coral produced in laboratories.

It may sound simple but it's a really challenging task. It is a real bottleneck and is preventing us from developing successful restoration techniques for coral reefs.

  • Adriana Humanes, "Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero. Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team", Adriana Humanes
    "Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero. Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team", Adriana Humanes

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero.

Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team, since women, in addition, need to fight against gender inequality in STEM.

For me, Sylvia Earle, Nicole Webster, Sheila Marques Pauls, Carolina Bastidas, Katharina Fabricius, Barbara Brown, Betty Willis have been important role models shaping my career.

I love mentoring the next generation of marine ecologists and I consider myself an advocate for diversity and gender equality in STEM. 

The 2018 Artquest research residency

Artquest, in partnership with the Horniman, are offering a research residency for one London based artist to focus on our collections.

  • The Horniman Bandstand, The Horniman Bandstand in our Gardens
    The Horniman Bandstand in our Gardens

The residency includes:

  • An award of £3000 to engage with the work and collections of the museum
  • An additional award of £850 towards a public facing event showcasing the thinking and research undertaken during the residency
  • Privileged access to museum’s music collection objects and curators

For the 2018 residency we are interested in hearing from applicants to engage with any of our collections (Anthropology, Aquarium and Animal Walk, Archive, Butterfly House, Natural History, Gardens or Musical Instruments) and we particularly welcomes applications from artists with a participatory or socially engaged practice.

Please note, that this is not a studio residency and applicants are expected to have their own studio / workspace to complete any work.

Find out if you are eligible for the residency and apply on Artquest by 10am on Monday 13 August 2018.

Farmers' Market Focus: Route 66

We caught up with the folks from Route 66 to learn about how they make their authentic So-Cal street food.

Hi, can you introduce yourself?

We’re Route 66 and we sell homemade southern Californian street food. We’re based in Forest Hill and it’s a true family run business. Wayne and I design the menus, cook, and prep, and our kids help with serving and setting up.

  • Street 66 Stall, Sophia Spring
    , Sophia Spring

What do you sell at the Horniman Farmers' Market?

Our chicken and chorizo burritos are very popular but we’re best known for our breakfast burrito. We’ve developed this over the years with the aid of a few trips back to California to find the best possible combination of flavours.

  • Route 66 streetfood, Route 66
    , Route 66

What’s happening in your kitchen currently?

Today, we’re making our own habanero sauce - we make all our own sauces and this one is a favourite of those who like it hot.

How long have you been creating street food? How has your business changed over the years?

This is our eighth year of making street food, we have maintained our core menu as it is based on authentic So-Cal street food, but we bring new menu items as a special every now and again - like our fish tacos, breakfast quesadillas, or carne asada.

There are lots of places to get burritos in London now, there were very few when we started. However, nobody else offers our unique range of Southern Californian that is both home-made and authentic.

Renee lived in San Ysidro, right on the Mexican border, and grew up with the local street food, and the Mexican home cooking of her friends’ families.

  • Route 66 streetfood, Route 66
    , Route 66

What makes trading at the Horniman special for you? 

We love the Horniman views, gardens, festive events, the people who work there, and our customers.

Do you still eat So-Cal food at home? 

Eight days a week! Our quesadillas are a real hit with kids, and mum and dad!

Surprising Facts About the Horniman

Do you love the Horniman? Then you might be interested in a few of these curious facts about us.

1. The first wedding at the Horniman happened 130 years ago when our founders’ son Emslie Horniman married his sweetheart Laura Isabel Plomer. Laura’s parents didn’t approve of the match however and locked Laura in her room. Determined to keep in touch with Emslie, Laura cut and sold her hair so that she could afford stamps to send him love letters.

2. The Horniman family still have close ties to the Museum and Gardens, not only as benefactors but more recently Frederick Horniman’s great, great, great granddaughter got married here too in 2014.

  • Emslie and Laura Horniman, A photograph of Laura Horniman stepping out of a carriage with her husband Emslie Horniman holding the door. Underneath is signed 'Laura J. Horniman' 'Emslie J. Horniman. MP 1906-1910'. The original photograph was digitally reproduced by the Horniman Museum with the kind permission of Michael Horniman.
    A photograph of Laura Horniman stepping out of a carriage with her husband Emslie Horniman holding the door. Underneath is signed 'Laura J. Horniman' 'Emslie J. Horniman. MP 1906-1910'. The original photograph was digitally reproduced by the Horniman Museum with the kind permission of Michael Horniman.

3. One of our Victorian collectors was a dustman and “cunning man” of St Neots, Alfred William Rowlett. He was the collector behind a large number of our charms collection and is still remembered in St Neots as a healer. The community referred to him as "Doc Rowlett".

4. Staff in our Animal Walk have created their own mini-allotment from recycled materials, where they grow fresh food for the animals.

5. We have the figurehead of a ship that saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar. It belonged to HMS Mars which was built at Deptford.

6. Some of the paving slabs in our Sunken Gardens seem to be gravestones.

  • Summer bedding in the Sunken Garden, Connie Churcher
    , Connie Churcher

7. The Horniman helped to inspire the making of Siouxsie and the Banshee's album 'Juju'. Featured prominently on the album's cover is an African statue that was once displayed at the Horniman, and Steven Severin of the band says the statue was the "starting point for a lot of the imagery" behind the album.

8. The Conservatory came from the Horniman family home at Coombe Cliff in Croydon and is based on the Crystal Palace.

  • Crystal_Palace_General_view_from_Water_Temple, The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Originally it was to be found in Hyde Park but was later relocated to Crystal Palace Park., Philip Henry Delamotte, 1854. Smithsonian Libraries via wikicommons
    The Crystal Palace was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Originally it was to be found in Hyde Park but was later relocated to Crystal Palace Park., Philip Henry Delamotte, 1854. Smithsonian Libraries via wikicommons

9. Our founder, Frederick John Horniman, is buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery and our staff still maintain his grave.

10. We used to have a lot more large taxidermy, including a polar bear and a moose, as you can see below. Unfortunately, these were sold in the 1940s and now only the walrus remains. We've been trying to track down the polar bear, so tell us if you have had any sightings.

  • The North Hall in past days, The Natural History Gallery in past days
    The Natural History Gallery in past days

11. Each year around 187,000 litres of water from the Aquarium is reused for watering the Gardens. This water is a waste product which can no longer be used in the Aquarium due to impurities and the sensitivities of the fish and corals. It is, however, perfect for the plants.

12. This may be more Horniman folklore than fact. We used to have a vivarium alongside our Aquarium back when the Horniman first opened, which included reptiles, amphibians and even a caiman. According to some, the space for the caimen did not afford it much exercise, so one of the gallery attendants had the job of walking the caimen around the Natural History Gallery after members of the public had gone home.

  • Our vivarium, The Horniman vivarium from our early days
    The Horniman vivarium from our early days

Horniman History: Charles Harrison Townsend

As we celebrate what would have been Charles Harrison Townsend's birthday this weekend, we took a look at the life and work of the architect behind the Horniman's unique style.

For over a century, the Horniman Museum and Gardens has proudly stood atop Forest Hill welcoming visitors through our doors. Over the years millions of visitors have been amazed by our collections and exhibitions, as well as the incredible buildings that house them.

The Horniman owes our existence and vision to our founder Frederick Horniman, but the building’s unique and distinctive style that has made the Horniman a landmark is owed to the mind of the architect Charles Harrison Townsend.

Townsend was born on 13 May 1851 in Birkenhead across the River Mersey from Liverpool on the Wirral Peninsula. He was educated at the Birkenhead School, which opened in 1860 and during Townsend’s time there only had 30 pupils.

  • Birkenhead, By the middle of the 19th century, Birkenhead was developing into an important shipbuilding centre and saw a flourishing of public works such as Birkenhead Park, the first civic funded park in the world.
    By the middle of the 19th century, Birkenhead was developing into an important shipbuilding centre and saw a flourishing of public works such as Birkenhead Park, the first civic funded park in the world.

Townsend's career as an architect began in 1870 when he found himself training under the tutelage of Walter Scott, an architect based in Liverpool. Within a few years, Townsend was working as a draughtsman in the office of Charles Barry, the architect behind the modern Palace of Westminster, the remodelling of Trafalgar Square and Highclere Castle, before he joining E.R. Robson at the London School Board to design hundreds of state-funded schools across London.

  • London School Board School, The London School Board were responsible for the construction of hundreds of new schools in the latter half of the 19th century and many of their designs will be familiar sights for Londoners, Stephen Craven (cc-by-sa/2.0)
    The London School Board were responsible for the construction of hundreds of new schools in the latter half of the 19th century and many of their designs will be familiar sights for Londoners, Stephen Craven (cc-by-sa/2.0)

By 1877, Townsend had struck out on his own and in 1888 he joined the Royal Institute of British Architects as a Fellow. That same year Townsend would also become a member of the Art Worker’s Guild, a group associated with the ideas of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement that would have a huge impact on both Townsend’s personal and professional life.

As a member of the Guild, Townsend designed furniture and wallpaper alongside his work as an architect, and developed an interest in mosaics which no doubt influenced the inclusion of Robert Anning Bell’s "Humanity in the house of circumstance" on the façade of the Horniman. It likely helped that Bell was also a member of the Guild and a close friend of Townsend.

Throughout the 1890s, Townsend was busy designing houses and churches in nearby Blackheath but at the end of the decade, he would receive the three commissions that would cement his legacy as an architect.

  • Bishopsgate Institute, Although the city around it has radically altered the Bishopsgate Institute remains, Ewan Munro (cc-by-sa/2.0)
    Although the city around it has radically altered the Bishopsgate Institute remains, Ewan Munro (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The first commission was to design the Bishopsgate Institute, which opened to the public in 1895. The Institute was built by Reverend William Rogers, the rector of the parish of St Boloph’s using funds the parish had been raising for over five centuries. Rogers was an educational reformer and a champion of public libraries, and he brought Townsend on board to design the Institute as a centre for culture and learning in London’s East End.

The Institute remains standing today continuing its mission and, even as the city around it has changed beyond recognition, Townsend’s original design including a sprawling tree relief and Romanesque archway remains unchanged.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, Although the Whitechapel Gallery has had a number of extensions over the year, the initial design by Charles Townsend still shines brightly on Whitechapel High Steet, G Jackson/Arcaid  (cc-by-sa/3.0)
    Although the Whitechapel Gallery has had a number of extensions over the year, the initial design by Charles Townsend still shines brightly on Whitechapel High Steet, G Jackson/Arcaid (cc-by-sa/3.0)

As the 19th century came to a close, Townsend was approached to design two more public buildings. Frederick Horniman was looking to build an entirely new museum to house his ever-growing collections and the Whitechapel Gallery sought to bring a publicly funded art gallery to the East End. Townsend accepted both commissions, both buildings would open in 1901, and both have remarkably similar designs.

  • Horniman Museum building, The Horniman is a Grade II listed building highlighting the importance and uniqueness of Townsend's design, James Veysey
    The Horniman is a Grade II listed building highlighting the importance and uniqueness of Townsend's design, James Veysey

The Horniman was built from 1898-1901 at a cost of about £40,000, using Doulting stone as used in the construction of Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey. As with the Bishopsgate Institute, both the Horniman and the Whitechapel Gallery incorporate a tree motif and Romanesque arches, but unique to the Horniman is Bell’s mosaic and our wonderful Clocktower.

With its rounded edges, the clock tower is meant to evoke the natural world to reflect Frederick Horniman’s desire that the Horniman’s collections, Gardens and buildings be unified in one theme.

Most importantly though, its unique style has made the Horniman a landmark in South London, so thanks for that Charles.

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