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When a man’s tired of London… he probably hasn’t discovered its many weird and wonderful museums. Here are just 10 of London’s most unusual museums to visit – where entrance is free and the displays are distinctly odd…
Battle of Britain Bunker
You’ve probably heard of the Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Royal Air Force Museum… but what about the Battle of Britain Bunker? During the Second World War this dugout at RAF Uxbridge served as the Fighter Command No.11 Group Operations Room. Guided tours (free, but a £3 donation is suggested) take place every weekday but must be booked in advance.
The Ragged School Museum
See what life was like for the poor and destitute of London’s East End during the late 1800s in The Ragged School Museum’s reconstructed Victorian Classroom and Victorian East End Kitchen. The museum is housed in the same warehouse buildings that once formed missionary Thomas Barnado’s largest ‘Ragged’ (or free) School, and has plenty of historic exhibits to see and touch.
It’s about time (sorry, couldn’t help it) you visited the Clockmakers’ Museum. This one-room attraction, located within the Guildhall Library, houses the oldest collection of clocks and watches in the world. The permanent public display has been on show since 1874, and features around 600 English and European watches, 30 clocks and 15 marine timekeepers – with pieces dating as far back as 1600.
Kennel Club Art Gallery
Fluffy dogs, royal dogs, dogs at war… they’re all here at The Kennel Club Art Gallery, which boasts the unusual feat of housing the largest collection of dog paintings in Europe. Current and upcoming exhibitions include The Newfoundland (until 10 Jan), The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (3 Feb-20 Jun) and Toy Spaniels (14 Jul-14 Nov). Admission by appointment only.
White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre
If you love ballet or dream of being the next Darcy Bussell or Carlos Acosta, jeté down to the Grade I listed White Lodge Museum & Ballet Resource Centre to learn all about the history of ballet – and what it’s like to be a student of the Royal Ballet School. Previous special exhibitions have showcased costumes worn by Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and even old school reports from ballet greats. Visits must be booked in advance.
The Anaesthesia Museum
We can’t guarantee it will take your pains away, but a visit to the The Anaesthesia Museum will certainly cure your boredom. This specialist museum charts the history of anaesthesia from 1846 to the present day, featuring unusual and slightly unsettling exhibits such as the Snow Chloroform Inhaler or Third Hand Holder for keeping a syringe in place. Just imagine what it was like before these came along!
British Dental Association Museum
You may dread going to the dentist but a trip to the British Dental Association Museum is considerably less stressful (and you don’t have to talk around objects in your mouth). There are more than 20,000 items to discover, ranging from an advertisement for ‘Prize Medal Teeth’ to false teeth made from walrus ivory. Chew on that.
Grant Museum of Zoology
The only remaining university zoological museum in London, Grant Museum of Zoology is packed full of some 67,000 specimens. See the skeletons of extinct animals like the Tasmanian tiger or Dodo, rare breeds such as the Zebra-like Quagga and an entire collection of preserved brains. Which mammal is the brainiest? Only one way to find out!
London Sewing Machine Museum
Shiny bodies, gleaming wheels, timeless designs… browsing old sewing machines is a bit like going to a classic car show. If you’re more into putting your foot down on the pedal of a Singer than a Chevrolet, head along to the London Sewing Machine Museum. Look out for the machine given to Queen Victoria‘s eldest daughter as a wedding present.
The Museum of Immigration & Diversity
Also known by its address 19 Princelet Street, The Museum of Immigration & Diversity shares stories of the many different immigrants who have lived in the museum’s building, in Spitalfields more widely and across the rest of London over centuries past. It also hosts events and explores issues as varied as race, language and architecture. Open for pre-booked group visits and education trips only.