Faqs - Horniman Museum

Entrance charges
Entrance to the Museum and Gardens is FREE. A charge is made for some temporary exhibitions.

Events and activities
To find out about current events and activities, visit the events pages.

The sixteen acres of Horniman Gardens were part of the original bequest from Frederick Horniman, and were first opened to the public in 1895. Both the Gardens and the Museum are owned by the Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Charitable Trust.

The mosaic on the London Road elevation of the original building was designed by Robert Anning Bell and created over 210 days by a team of (mostly) young women during the construction period (1898-1901). The neo-classical design "Humanity in the house of circumstance" symbolises personal limitations, and the fruit and flowers glimpsed beyond it, personal aspirations. The gates at either end are birth and death, and the figures represent Arts, Poetry, Music, Endurance, Humanity, Love, Hope, Charity, Wisdom, Meditation, and Resignation. There are more than 117,000 tesserae in the panel which is 10' high and 32' long.

Museum origins
The Horniman Museum was founded by Victorian tea trader, Member of Parliament and philanthropist Frederick John Horniman (1835-1906). Son of John Horniman who founded the well known Horniman tea business, Frederick Horniman worked industriously for the family company while starting the collections in the 1860s. In 1884, the collections were made available to view by the public by appointment at Horniman's residence Surrey House (on the site of the current Museum) and the first public opening was in 1888. The Horniman family moved to Surrey Mount which stood on the top of the hill in the gardens in 1890, and Surrey House was wholly given over to the museum and opened on a regular basis, initially for two days a week. In 1898, Surrey House was demolished to be replaced by a new museum designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. In June 1901, Horniman gave the museum and the adjoining the gardens (originally opened to the public in 1895) to London County Council on behalf of the people of London as a free gift for their "recreation, instruction and enjoyment".

Objects in the collections
To find out about the Horniman collections, visit the collections pages.

Objects not on display
The Museum has over 300,000 objects in its collections including 250,000 natural history specimens, 7,000 musical instruments, and 60,000 ethnographic objects. Most objects not on display are kept at the museum's Study Collection Centre in Greenwich, which is available to visit for research purposes. Some objects are also loaned out to other museums for temporary exhibitions. The museum endeavours to increase public access to its collections through a regular programme of temporary exhibitions and changing displays.

Original building
The original building incorporating the landmark Horniman clocktower is made of Doulting stone (shelly granular limestone as used in Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey), and was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. It was built from 1898-1901 at a cost of about £40,000 as a purpose built museum with an area of 16,485 sq ft. The building opened to the public in June 1901 and now has grade 2* listed status. The adjoining Emslie Horniman building, also designed by Harrison Townsend, was opened in 1912 to house a Library and Lecture Theatre. It has grade 2 listed status. Other well known examples of Harrison Townsend's work include Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, E1 and Bishopsgate Institute, London, EC2.

Totem pole
The totem pole facing out onto London Road (A205) was London's first Alaskan totem pole, carved by Nathan Jackson, a Tlingit from Alaska, at the Museum of Mankind from 15.5.1985-15.6.1985. The 20 feet high structure of carved red cedar, painted with specially imported "ranch paint", was unveiled in its present position on 29.6.1985. An eagle, Nathan Jackson's main clan crest, is at the top of the pole and beneath are a girl with a bag and a grizzly bear, illustrating a legend from the North West Coast of America of a girl who married a bear.

The Museum typically receives around 250,000 visitors a year.

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