Horniman Museum and Gardens
Horniman Museum is located in London Borough of Lewisham
Horniman Museum
Location within London Borough of Lewisham
Established1901; 123 years ago (1901)
Location100 London Road, Forest Hill
London, SE23 3PQ
United Kingdom
Visitors952,954 (2019)[1]
Public transit access
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official nameHorniman Museum
Designated12 March 1973
Reference no.1079996

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a museum in Forest Hill, London, England. Commissioned in 1898, it opened in 1901 and was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Modern Style.[2] It has displays of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments, and is known for its large collection of taxidermied animals. The building is Grade II* listed.[3]

It is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and is constituted as a company and registered charity under English law.[4] In 2022 the museum won Museum of the Year, an award made by the Art Fund.


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.[5]

The proceeds 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, covering 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. A new extension, opened in 2002, was designed by Allies and Morrison.[6]

The museum won the Art Fund's Museum of the Year award in 2022.[7] In November 2022, the museum returned a collection of 72 items that were stolen from the Kingdom of Benin, including Benin Bronzes, to Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.[8]


The Horniman specialises in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments[9] 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].

The Horniman housed some of the Benin Bronzes until 28 November 2022, when they were signed back unconditionally to Nigeria, from where the pieces were looted in 1897 by British troops.[10][11]

Floor directory

1st Floor Ground Floor Lower Ground Floor Basement Floor
Access by stairs and lift
Under 5s Book Zone
Natural History Balcony

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

Horniman Highlight Objects
1 Sand Painting, America
2 Walrus, Canada
World Gallery

Temporary Exhibition Gallery
Music Gallery
Gallery Square
Security Reception from London Road One Gallery closed for redevelopment

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


Transport connections

Service Station/Stop Lines/Routes served Distance from
Horniman Museum
London Buses London Buses Horniman Museum Disabled access 176, 185, 197, 356, P4
Horniman Park Disabled access 363 260 m (850 ft) walk[12]
London Overground London Overground Forest Hill Disabled access East London line 650 m (2,130 ft) walk[13]
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:

The gardens are also Grade II listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.[14]


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 ft × 32 ft (3.0 m × 9.8 m) and symbolises personal aspirations and limitations.[15]

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.[16]

Totem pole

The totem pole

A 20 ft (6.1 m) totem pole, carved from red cedar, 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.[17] The pole is one of only a handful of totem poles in the United Kingdom, others being on display at the British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Windsor Great Park, Bushy Park, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, and at Alsford's Wharf in Berkhamsted.[18] 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.


See also


  1. ^ "ALVA – Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". www.alva.org.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  2. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (2000). Pioneros del diseño moderno : de William Morris a Walter Gropius (4 ed.). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Infinito. p. 149. ISBN 9789879393031. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  3. ^ Historic England (12 March 1973). "Horniman Museum (Grade II*) (1079996)". National Heritage List for England.
  4. ^ "Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust, registered charity no. 802725". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  5. ^ "Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust – GOV.UK". www.gov.uk.
  6. ^ "RIBA Find an Architect".
  7. ^ Iorizzo, Ellie; Parkel, Inga (15 July 2022). "London museum wins world's largest museum prize". The Independent. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Benin Bronzes: Nigeria hails 'great day' as London museum signs over looted objects". BBC News. 28 November 2022. Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  9. ^ "Horniman Museum". Time Out London.
  10. ^ Nzerem, Keme (28 November 2022). "London Horniman museum to hand back stolen Benin bronzes to Nigeria". Channel 4. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  11. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (28 November 2022). "London museum returns looted Benin City artefacts to Nigeria". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Walking directions to Horniman Museum from Horniman Park bus stop". Google Maps. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Walking directions to Horniman Museum from Forest Hill railway station". Google Maps. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  14. ^ Historic England, "Horniman Gardens (1000813)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 27 May 2017
  15. ^ "FAQs – Horniman Museum". Saatchi Gallery. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  16. ^ Jacqueline Banerjee. "The Horniman Museum by Charles Harrison Townsend". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  17. ^ "Main entrance". Horniman Museum. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
  18. ^ Tearle, John (1998). The Berkhamsted Totem Pole. Lillydown House. ISBN 978-0-9528131-1-8. p.3

51°26′26″N 0°03′39″W / 51.44056°N 0.06083°W / 51.44056; -0.06083