5 years, 11 months ago
The V&A, the British Museum, the Natural History and the Science Museum. They may be the royalty of London‘s museum scene and worthy monarchs, we grudgingly admit, but can they offer you Winston Churchill’s dentures, your own blend of gin and more sewing machines than an All Saints shop front? No, they cannot. But these weird and wonderful museums of London can.
HMS Belfast. By Stuart Chalmers.
The imagination-capturing “Lovett Collection of London Superstitions” can be found inside the Cuming Museum, an equally captivating museum built around the collection of items preserved – i.e. hoarded – by two generations of the Cuming family in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Victorian City banker Edward Lovett donated his private collection of observations about superstitions occupying the busy minds of Londoners at the turn of the 20th century, which includes some seriously odd good luck charms like a string of acorns – believed to cure diarrhoea – and a dead mole – thought to keep danger at bay. Obviously.
Containing four centuries’ worth of surgical “memorabilia” – if you can call jars of pickled limbs and preserved internal organs memorabilia – the Hunterian Museum inside the Royal College of Surgeons is a must for anyone with a lust for slightly odd, gruesome things chopped off or extracted from bodies. While for some the experience is akin to watching a B grade horror movie, there is no denying that it’s a fascinating collection of documenting medical history. It’s here’s where you’ll find Winston Churchill’s dentures.
Huntarian Museum. By Sumlin.
South of the river on Balham High Road is the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company, which proudly houses the London Sewing Machine Museum. Step inside – when it’s open which is sadly only between 2pm and 5pm on the first Saturday of every month – and be prepared to be overwhelmed by the history of over 700 sewing machines of all different shapes and sizes including one owned by Charlie Chaplin and another bought by Queen Victoria for her daughter.
Sewing Machine Museum. By technokitten.
Tick, tock, tick, tock. Time flies by when you’re having fun in London and it is also the subject of much history in the capital city. The Clockmaker’s Museum not only documents this but also hosts the oldest collection of watches and clocks in the world. Learn about the innovative processes – yes, innovative! – involved in watch and clock making over the centuries and feel somewhat sad that the beauty of telling time has now largely been replaced by smartphones. Admission is free.
“Please Sir can I have some more?” Find your inner Oliver with a trip to the Ragged School Museum in east London which does its best to recapture what being educated in the first free schools set up by charities for “destitute” Victorian children in London was like. This museum is in the building of a school opened in 1877 by the now famous Dr Thomas Barnado and it offers your little ragged ones the chance to don typical Victorian clothes and sit in an authentic classroom where a schoolmaster will tell them what’s what. Oh and did we mention that the building is haunted too?
Technically it’s not a museum, more a trendy Notting Hill bar, but The Ginstitute takes you on a journey back in time to experience what London’s Victorian gin palaces were like. While there is much history and information to be shared by the resident gin expert – what a job! – he will also take you through the steps you need to follow to make your own gin. In fact they promise you’ll never have to buy the stuff from the supermarket again.
Too often ignored by the average visitor to London, the London Canal Museum does its best to highlight how the waterways weaving across the city were once a crucial part of its transport network. Now they can be one of the easiest ways to escape London’s busy traffic and overflowing streets. Because the museum is housed in the former warehouse-style factory for Carlo Gatti’s famous ice cream you can also find out how the “ice industry” in London is so intricately linked to the waterways.
London Canal Museum. From Wikipedia.
Dennis Severs House is not your average museum. In fact, it’s not a museum at all more a “still life drama” with each of the 10 rooms in this house at 18 Folgate Street being used to recreate different stages in what London would have been like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became the life’s work of Californian artist Dennis Severs from 1979 until his death in 1999 aged 51. Weird but wonderful, the Spitalfields Trust now offer a number of different experiences to visitors.
Dennis Severs’ House. By Kotomicreations.
So you didn’t think there were enough animal skeletons in the Hunterian Museum? Well, try UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology which is stuffed full of dead animal bones. Literally, cupboards of them. It’s probably one of the only places in the country where you can see the famously extinct Dodo, in skeletal form of course.
Grant Museum of Zoology. By Catfunt.
While the London Transport Museum is brilliant and we encourage you visit, Acton Depot is where you can expect your eyes to pop out at how much transport memorabilia has been preserved. Here you can find over 7000 old tube posters, a number of old guard uniforms as well as old train carriages and double-decker red buses to experience what commuter life used to be like in times gone by. Yeah, we bet there were still delays then too. The museum is not open to the public all year round, however, though their open days are worth the wait with hands-on activities and tours. The first open weekends are due to happen in April 2013. All aboard!
LT Depot, Acton. By STML.
Featured image: Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms. By chriswatkins.