Visit London Blog » museum Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 20 Apr 2015 15:31:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Doctor Who: The Who Shop and Museum in London Wed, 19 Sep 2012 13:00:57 +0000

Upton Park in East London has been invaded by aliens from space. But don’t panic, they’re all safely contained in The Who Shop, London’s only permanent Doctor Who shop and museum.

As well as an extensive range of Doctor Who merchandise for sale, the fun really begins when you step into the TARDIS and visit the treasures in the small museum at the back of the shop.

The room is packed with props and costumes from the TV show. You’ll find yourself face to face with a Cyberman, a Cybermat, K9 and two scary Daleks as well as a host of other characters and objects.

When I visited The Who Shop, the friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner talked us through the collection and even let me try on a Dalek Trooper helmet (not showing you a picture and if you ask I’ll exterminate you.)

If you’re not a Whovian you might be a little mystified, but if you like or love the show, The Who Shop is exciting. It’s the perfect place to visit with your brainy friends, your kids and your Ood butler.

The Who Shop host book signings with Doctor Who stars, welcome fans from round the world and provides a joyful haven of geekery that you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting London.

Read more about exploring the history of Doctor Who in London.

]]> 4
A Tour of Lord’s Cricket Ground Sat, 14 Jan 2012 15:00:51 +0000

Late last year, I was lucky enough to go on a tour of Lord’s Cricket Ground, one of the most historic sporting sites in the whole of London.

We started the tour in the museum, a fantastic two-floor space full of cricketing memorabilia, including bats, balls, kit, photography and some great paintings. I overheard one awestruck Australian teenager stage whisper to his father, “Daad! This is the kind of museum I could spend time in!”

After we’d had a short time to peruse the objects, a guide arrived to take us on the tour. Clearly an expert on his subject, and possessing a fine sense of humour, our guide really enhanced the tour for us. As well as being hugely knowledgeable (answering any questions we had), he also tailored the tour to the group: the day we went, there were four Indian tourists, a host of Australians, some British people, and one Irish guy. Perhaps about 30 people, all with varying knowledge of the game; yet I don’t think anyone was bored by too many simple facts, or left behind because he assumed too much cricketing knowledge.

On the tour, we saw the famous Long Room, designed by Thomas Verity (also responsible for the design of the Royal Albert Hall) lined with portraits of well-known figures from the game; the Committee Room, where all the big issues about the game have been discussed, including the laws of cricket; and the Dressing Rooms, with the fascinating Lord’s Honours Boards on the walls, and balconies offering impressive views of the pitch.

We then left the Grade II*-listed building to watch some Real Tennis being played in the Lord’s Tennis Court (a very confusing game like a cross between tennis and squash, but with very hard balls!); spent some time in the stands, and returned to the museum with our guide. He showed us his museum highlights among the objects on display, including the tiny Ashes urn.

Finally, we headed out to the award-winning J P Morgan Media Centre, an incredible, futuristic building which is gorgeous both inside and out. It was great to be able to sit in the comfy white workspace of sports journalists with such an impeccable view of the ground.

The Lord’s tour took about 1 hour 40 minutes, and I loved every minute. I was struck by how much history and culture you could learn about in one place. Starting with the beautiful Victorian paintings in the Long Room and finishing in the white minimalism of the Media Centre, it felt like we’d been on a journey though history! My husband, more of a cricket fan than a history fan, particularly enjoyed seeing the Lord’s Honours Boards in the Dressing Rooms.

We can’t wait to go back to Lord’s to see the Archery, one of the Olympic sports we were lucky enough to get tickets for. Being part of the London 2012 Olympic Games will just be another incredible chapter in the history of this wonderful venue.

Fancy going and seeing Lord’s Cricket Ground yourself? You can book a Lord’s Tour on I attended this tour at the invitation of Lord’s.

]]> 1
British Museum, Leighton House and V&A in Running for £100,000 Art Fund Prize Wed, 02 Feb 2011 20:00:32 +0000 The list of 10 museums in the running for the prestigious “Museum of the Year” accolade has been announced.

Congratulations to three London museums: the British Museum, Leighton House and the Victoria and Albert Museum, who are all on the list hoping to win the UK’s largest arts prize – the Art Fund Prize 2011.

The Art Fund Prize rewards excellence and innovation in museums and galleries in the UK for a particular project completed or undertaken in 2010. Following a short list of four museums (announced on 19 May), the £100,000 cash prize will be awarded to the “Museum of the Year” at a ceremony on 15 June.

The 10 UK museums have been long listed for the following projects:

  • British Museum, London, A History of the World
  • Hertford Museum, Hertfordshire, Hertford Museum’s Development Project
  • Leighton House, London, Closer To Home: The Restoration and Reopening of Leighton House Museum
  • Mostyn, Llandudno, Wales, Refurbishment and extension of Mostyn gallery
  • People’s History Museum, Manchester, The new People’s History Museum 2010
  • Polar Museum, University of Cambridge, Promoting Britain’s Polar Heritage
  • The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Scotland
  • Roman Baths Museum, Bath, Roman Baths Development
  • V&A, London, Ceramics Study Galleries
  • Yorkshire Museum, York, Letting in the Light – Revitalising the Yorkshire Museum for the 21st century

While the final decision will be made by an expert panel of judges, you’re invited to get involved in the debate as to who should win too. Visit and tell the judges which is your favourite museum. You can also keep up-to-date with the debate on twitter @artfundprize.

Who do you think should win? Let us know in the comments below!

]]> 0
Win! Day 15: V&A Membership and a Grace Kelly Style Book Wed, 15 Dec 2010 10:00:55 +0000

How do you fancy winning a year’s membership to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum?

That’s the Christmas prize we’ve got up for grabs for one lucky winner today. Membership entitles you to all kinds of benefits, including:

  • Members’ previews
  • an amazing programme of special events
  • the V&A Magazine delivered direct to your door
  • special offers, discounts and more

And to whet your appetite, here’s a list of some of the fantastic shows taking place at the V&A next year:

In addition, you can also get a copy of Grace Kelly Style: Fashion for a Hollywood Princess, the beautiful book that accompanied the V&A’s sell-out Grace Kelly exhibition earlier this year.

Enter today’s competition to win a year’s V&A membership plus a copy of Grace Kelly Style here

]]> 1
High Society at the Wellcome Collection Thu, 11 Nov 2010 15:00:12 +0000

Today a new exhibition opens at the Wellcome Collection looking at drugs. High Society is a typical show for the Wellcome: attending a preview yesterday, I found the idiosyncratic splicing of art, literature, medicine, social history and anthropology I’ve come to expect from the institution.

High Society’s claim is that every society is a high society: your early morning coffee is no different to drinking kava in the Pacific, chewing betel nuts in Asia, or coca leaves in the Andes. Time and geography produce different substances, but the use of drugs in society is universal, everyday, and stretches back through history.

And the very first display case sets the scene perfectly. Alongside a crude 21st-century crack pipe is an intricately carved pair of betel nut cutters from 19th-century India, and Chilean trays for hallucinogenic snuff dating back as far as 400AD.

Later, you can see an opium ball, about the same size as a baby’s head, from the 19th century; Mervyn Peake’s Caterpillar illustration from “Alice in Wonderland”; and bronze crack-pipe sculptures by Keith Coventry. There’s syringes, laudanum bottles, photos of magic mushrooms, NHS pamphlets for parents worried about drugs. And work by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the original manuscripts of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey, a note on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes craving “mental exultation” and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.

Highlights for me included the incredibly modern-looking lithograph “Morphinomane” from 1897 by Eugène Grasset: pain and anguish stretch through the girl’s face as she drives a needle into her thigh. Delightfully silly is a coloured aquatint entitled “Doctor and Mrs Syntax with a party of friends, experimenting with laughing gas”. Tracey Moffat’s hauntingly bleak “Laudanum” series of big, black and white photographs certainly make an impression. And the Joshua Light Show by Joshua White makes for a delightfully trippy museum moment.

Altering one’s mental state is a universal impulse, the exhibition suggests. The following sections, dedicated to Apothecary to Laboratory (tracing the history of early folk remedies to the garden shed where Alexander Shulgin made MDMA, or ecstasy), Collective Intoxication (looking at communal drug taking), and The Drugs Trade (mainly examining the Opium Wars) seeks to gently alter your state of mind about drugs as a whole.

Later, placing Prohibition posters alongside what modern society deems to be “harder” or “illegal” drugs poses many questions. The final section, called  A sin, a crime, a vice or a disease? after a quote by the British doctor Norman Kerr in 1884, doesn’t seek to find answers, and you’re sure to leave this thought-provoking exhibition with the issues High Society raises whirling in your mind.

High Society is at the Wellcome Collection until 27 February. Look out for the brilliant-sounding High Society Events Programme. More exhibits from the show can be see on The Guardian website.

]]> 1
Threads of Feeling at the Foundling Museum Thu, 14 Oct 2010 10:17:48 +0000

The Foundling Museum has embraced heartache and hope in their latest exhibition, Threads of Feeling. The show displays some of the tiny tokens that mothers left with their babies when they gave them up to London’s Foundling Hospital in the 1700s.

The hospital was founded by Thomas Coram who wanted to give abandoned children a decent life. Children were accepted anonymously so women were not publicly shamed into abandoning their babies elsewhere, but mothers were encouraged to leave a small token which was then added to the admission books with the details of the child.

The tokens on display include ribbons, fabric scraps and baby clothes. The scraps range from plain rough worsted to the occasional piece of fancy silk brocade, indicating the mothers came from all levels of society. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the fashions of the period.

Although there are about 5000 textile tokens in the archives, there is only room to display a small number of them in this exhibition and it really left me wanting to see more.

One of the most touching pieces is a crudely embroidered felt heart which indicates how reluctant the mother was to give up her child. The exhibition and the museum are both incredibly moving. I felt quite emotional on the train home, and will be reflecting on my visit for a long time.

When you’ve seen Threads of Feeling, head upstairs and explore the main collection to find out what life was like in the hospital, and what happened to the children after they left. You’ll also find out about the work of the Coram charity who still support and bring hope to disadvantaged children today.

To link the theme of threads throughout the building, VV Rouleaux‘s Annabel Lewis has created a waterfall of ribbons and bows which cascades down through the stairwell of the grand staircase and looks absolutely stunning.

Threads of Feeling at the Foundling Museum 14 October – 6 March. Adults £7.50, concessions £5, under 16s free.

]]> 7
The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 Tue, 14 Sep 2010 14:30:46 +0000 Albert Moore, cartoon for Peacock Frieze for Front Drawing Room, No 15 Berkeley Square, for F Lehmann Esq, 1872-3. © V&A Images. Frederic, Lord Leighton, Pavonia, 1858-59. © Private Collection c/o Christie’s Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, 1882 © National Portrait Gallery, London Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A, The Sluggard, 1885 Plaster, 190.0 x 94.0 x 61.0 cms Credit: Royal Academy of Arts, London Edward Burne-Jones, Laus Veneris, 1873-78  © LaingArtGallery, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums George Aitcheson, design for the interior decoration of the front drawing room at 15 Berkeley Square, London, for F Lehmann Esq, 1873. © RIBA LIBRARY DRAWINGS COLLECTION Arthur Silver for Liberty & Co., ‘Peacock Feathers’ furnishing fabric, 1887. © V&A Images Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, armchair, c. 1884-6. © V&A Images William Morris, design for fruit wallpaper, 1862. © V&A Images

A remarkable array of work from the Aesthetic Movement will be exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London this spring, including work from some of the most celebrated artists of the late 19th-century.

I was lucky enough to attend the press launch today at the magnificent Leighton House Museum, a fitting venue filled with aesthetic artefacts in the house of one of the period’s greatest artists, Frederic Lord Leighton.

The aesthetic movement centres on “art as art’s sake”, in other words: creating art for its beauty, not for symbolism or anecdotes.

Stephen Calloway, the V&A curator explained:

“The Aesthetic Movement was born out of a cacophony of conflicting ideas, theories and experiments in art. Perhaps the one clear message was that people hoped to escape from what was seen to be the ugliness and increasing commerciality of the 1860s to 1870s.”

He added: “The artists and designers that we feature in the exhibition all tried in their various ways to completely revolutionise the fields in which they work – whether it’s painting, sculpture or the creation of furniture and the decoration of houses.”

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 will include work by famous artists and designers such as William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as Oscar Wilde – a great conveyor of the Aesthetic Movement.

Among the 250 pieces on display will be a peacock frieze on display for the first time and the only known examples of E W Godwin’s ceramics.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 at the V&A from 2 April until 17 July 2011

]]> 3
Florence Nightingale Museum and St Paul’s Cathedral Joint Ticket Deal Thu, 12 Aug 2010 09:00:04 +0000 To mark the centenary of Florence Nightingale’s death, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Florence Nightingale Museum are offering a joint ticket deal.

Buy a ticket to the Florence Nightingale Museum, and if you present the ticket at St Paul’s, you’ll receive a £2 discount on the price of an adult entry ticket to the cathedral. Once inside, you’ll be able to visit Florence Nightingale’s memorial in the crypt.

If you buy a ticket to St Paul’s Cathedral first, present your ticket at the Florence Nightingale Museum and receive a £1 discount on the price of an adult entry ticket.

This special offer is valid from tomorrow (13 August) until 31 December 2010.

Read about the recently revamped Florence Nightingale Museum

]]> 1
Overground Uncovered at the London Transport Museum Thu, 24 Jun 2010 10:30:57 +0000

Did you know:

  • The name Croydon comes from the Anglo Saxon words for crocus (croh) valley (denu)?
  • And a possible derivation of Sydenham is the Anglo-Saxon “Cippas’ settlement” – meaning drunkard’s settlement?
  • Or that the guys with the task of building Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s mammoth Thames Tunnel were paid in beer?

These were just some of the fascinating titbits Lettice and I picked up at Overground Uncovered at the London Transport Museum last night.

We had an early preview of the new exhibition along with many of the people responsible for the completion of the exciting new London Overground line, which currently runs from Dalston Junction to West Croydon.

The new exhibition reflects the line’s colouring (lots of orange) and tells the stories of the people and places that have now been firmly pulled into London’s ever-fascinating transport system.

The exhibition contains three sections:

  1. Connecting Communities: graphic art from the museum’s archive combined with modern photographs and personal stories from the people who live there
  2. The Thames Tunnel: the story behind Brunel’s incredible feat of engineering, which also became a tourist attraction!
  3. A new train set for London: time-lapse videos and photos showing the construction of the new trains and the line, plus there’s a Top Trumps game compares the new trains with the old steam locomotives of the 1870s

It’s not a huge exhibit, but it makes a really nice, bang-up-to-date addition to the already brilliant London Transport Musuem’s collection.

Overground Uncovered runs at the London Transport Museum from 29 June until 31 March 2011.

]]> 0
Silent Night at Dennis Severs’ House Thu, 24 Dec 2009 10:00:27 +0000 Inside Denis Severs' House. Photo: Alan Williams

A work Christmas party where no one’s allowed to talk is rather odd, even for the most dysfunctional of offices. And yet, the digital team at VL towers chose to attend Silent Night at Dennis Severs House as part of our end-of-year celebrations.

On a frosty evening in mid-December, we congregated on the cobblestones, not quite knowing what to expect. After a rowdy table football tournament at Bar Kick, entering the hushed, candlelit environs of Dennis Severs’ house was rather a shock. But that’s exactly how they want you to feel. The house has been set up as a museum-cum-“experience”, where you get to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of 18th-century London.

The VL digital team outside Dennis Sever's House. Merry Xmas!

The guide who lets you in requests you maintain a strict silence while in the house. It takes about 45 minutes to make your way from basement to attic as you take in the house’s five floors and 10 different rooms. The quiet is punctuated only by other visitors’ footsteps, clocks chiming, and a few recordings to evoke a bygone era such as horses clopping by in the street. This, coupled with the home’s only light of flickering candles, immediately puts you in a more receptive state of mind.

There are a few descriptive notes dotted about, but they’re not particularly detailed, and you’re encouraged to let your mind wander and be open to the idea that perhaps the past, and the people who dwelled there, are closer than you think. In fact, they may even be in the next room! Each time you enter a different area of the house, it seems like the original inhabitants have just departed, leaving unmade beds, half-eaten mince pies and hastily-scribbled notes behind.

You go on a journey of the senses and, to some extent, the emotions. I felt a warm satisfaction in the ground floor dining room, where the table was groaning with a Christmas feast. The first floor sitting rooms were also convivial – one a blokey, Hogarth-style drinking den, the other an elegant ladies’ parlour that wouldn’t be out of place in an Austen novel. Another floor up, the family bedrooms were cosy and crammed with bits and bibelots. But the garret rooms, where the servants slept, were shabby, draughty and cold, with straw stuffed into the cracks in the rafters and ragged clothing strung sadly out to dry. It was a relief to return to the warmth below.

I really enjoyed my tour of the house. It was an interesting experience to learn a lot without reading it or being told verbally. This is also one fantastic East London attraction that really comes into its own in winter.  Dennis Severs Christmas Season Silent Night tours are sold out, but after 6 January normal service will resume. Visit the Dennis Severs’ House website for bookings and more information.

]]> 1