London is literally teeming with museums; it’s an ancient city and one where culture, history and the arts are important. As a result, history is cosseted here, it has been well funded and the outer suburbs offer some amazing little museums which are unforgettable as well as fascinating.
The Wallace Collection:
The Wallace Collection is tucked away in a quieter street not too far from Oxford Street Tube. Even closer though is Baker Street and Marylebone Village. The museum itself was once the home of the avid collector Richard Seymour Conley who left the house and its contents to his son Sir Richard Wallace. Sir Wallace’s wife left the entire estate to the nation to enjoy and it is certainly an enjoyable experience to visit this elegant building with its vast and impressive collections.
Housing some of the world’s most famous paintings and a huge collection of Sevres porcelain not to mention innumerable suits of armour to name but a few attractions, this lovely place makes a good afternoon. Don’t forget to pop into the impressive shop once you’ve perused the 25 galleries!
The Garden Museum:
The lovely little Garden Museum is quite literally the next door neighbour of Lambeth Palace. Situated in on Lambeth Walk it is surprisingly easy to get to as it is very close to the Thames and sits directly opposite the Tate Gallery on the other side of the river. You can wander down the embankment and turn left to get to the museum or take a train to Vauxhall, Waterloo or Victoria. Housed in what was once St Mary’s Church (You can see Captain Bligh of the Bounty’s tomb in the gardens!), it was saved from a desperate fate when locals noticed how much history was apparent there.
The church had fallen into disrepair and the grave of John Tradescant, who was Britain’s first major plant collector was under threat of being lost forever as the whole place sank into disrepute. Years of dedication have seen this once neglected gem transformed and today it houses a collection of historical gardening tools and ephemera as well as a marvellous café and shop. There are exhibitions held at the museum three times a year to explore the making of British gardens.
The Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green:
As its name suggests, this museum is dedicated to all things childlike. It is the history of the child in this country and houses a vast and beautiful collection of toys, clothing, ephemera and other items. This museum is one where a whole day can pass in an instant because it is so packed full of delightful collections. Bethnal Green is the closest station to this museum and there are also a number of buses from the centre of London.
The Grant Museum of Zoology:
This somewhat murky museum is home to vast quantities of animals in jars. Preserved in formaldehyde, specimens of many creatures may be viewed here…not for the faint of heart! The Grant Museum of Zoology is the only zoological museum in London and its closest tube station is Euston Square.
Dennis Severs House Spitalfields:
This beautiful and haunting museum is more of a living testament to history than a cold museum display. The house at 18 Folgate Street was created by the artist Dennis Severs who faithfully reconstructed the house to be an exact replica of those of the Huguenot silk weavers who lived in the area in the 18th century. Each room is a faithful copy of how it might have looked when occupied by hard working weavers who populated Spitalfields. Entry prices vary and there are occasional special events held here. The nearest tube is Liverpool Street.
London is one of those cities where surprises wait around almost every corner. Houses which have remained the same for centuries sit minutes from the most modern of buildings; the best way to explore London and it’s museums is to set aside a couple of days and to meander between sites on foot and public transport.