May 05, 2016
If you’re taking a trip to London, the British Museum and the V&A should definitely be on your list. But there are hundreds of lesser known museums where you can get a real feel for the intriguing history of this fascinating and complex city. Here are a few places to add to your list.
A stone’s throw from The British Museum, there are three main galleries here housing original artwork from British cartoons and comics, past and present. Find everything from social and political satire through the centuries to comic book heroes such as Dan Dare and Minnie the Minx.
35 Little Russell Street WC1; cartoonmuseum.org
Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
In 1956, a researcher decided to have a look in the attic at the old St Thomas’s hospital and uncovered the original 1822 ER, which was thought to have been separated from the wards to provide a measure of soundproofing. The large skylights provided light for the surgeons’ work, which largely involved non-sterile amputations.
9a St Thomas Street SE1
This stunning regency villa in Hampstead was once home to Romantic poet John Keats and is now given over to his manuscripts and artefacts. Trace the story of his love affair with neighbour Fanny Brawne until his demise from TB aged just 25 in 1821.
10 Keats Grove NW3
Sherlock Holmes Museum
According to the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, detective Sherlock Holmes lived at 221b Baker Street between 1881 and 1904, with his loyal friend and colleague Dr Watson. The museum showcases life as he might have lived it and sports a blue plaque on the wall outside celebrating his residence. It’s alarmingly easy to forget Holmes is a work of fiction.
221b Baker Street NW1; sherlock-holmes.co.uk
The Geffrye Museum
Take a trip through 11 living rooms of middle-class England from 1600 to the present. Painstakingly detailed, it’s like walking back in time through someone else’s house, as if the occupants have just popped out and they might come back and catch you at any minute.
136 Kingsland Road E2; geffrye-museum.org.uk
Jack the Ripper Museum
Off to a controversial start when it opened last year, here, visitors can explore the 1888 story of the man who committed a series of East End murders that shocked the world. Despite hundreds of theories, some more plausible than others, the crimes remain unsolved. There’s also a guided walk of his ‘patch’ – the surrounding streets.
12 Cable Street E1; jacktherippermuseum.com
Golden Hinde II
Sir Francis Drake famously circumnavigated the globe in the late 16th century and no, this isn’t his boat, but it’s an exact replica, moored a 10-minute stroll downriver from the Tate Modern. Take a tour led by one of the in-character guides and get a real feel for the conditions experienced by Tudor sailors. Not one for the claustrophobic.
1 Pickfords Wharf, Clink Street SE1; goldenhinde.com
Churchill War Rooms
Located directly underneath the Treasury building in Westminster, Churchill’s ‘secret bunker’ was dug out so government business could continue through the air raids of WW11. Abandoned the moment the Japanese surrendered, it’s now part of the Imperial War Museum and has been faithfully recreated using original artefacts from the War Rooms and Churchill’s personal suite.
Clive Steps, King Charles Street SW1; iwm.org.uk
MCC Museum at Lord’s
This comprehensive collection at the Marylebone Cricket Club is a must for cricket fans. Peruse the history of the game through exhibits dating back to 1864 including, most famously, the original Ashes urn – the tiny, fragile and precious artefact that rarely leaves Lord’s. The Museum is part of the wider Lord’s Tour and is also open during matches to anyone with a ticket for that day's play.
Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood Road NW8; lords.org
Museum of Immigration and Diversity
Billed as ‘a monument to diversity’ this unassuming and thought-provoking museum in Spitalfields explores the history of immigration and the experiences of those who have sought out a new life in the UK. Due to the fragility of the building, the museum is only open for private group bookings (30-40 preferred) and a few open days each year.
19 Princelet Street, E1; 19princeletstreet.org.uk
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