Visit London Blog » specialist museums Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 20 Apr 2015 15:31:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Unusual (And Free) Museums in London Fri, 31 Jan 2014 10:00:16 +0000

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 RoomsRoyal 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.

Clockmakers’ Museum

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.

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Mayor of London Opens New Wandsworth Museum Wed, 01 Sep 2010 14:20:49 +0000 The Mayor of London Boris Johnson at the new Wandsworth Museum. Photo By: Jonny Payne Director of the Wandsworth Museum Andrew Leitch explains an exhibit to Boris Johnson Boris Johnson opens the Wandsworth Museum with Jeremy Hunt MP and Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, today opened the new Wandsworth Museum in South London, which houses a fascinating array of exhibits and artefacts from the local area.

The new museum replaces the previous one which was closed in 2007, and it provides a detailed insight into life in Wandsworth from the Stone Age to the modern day.

Along with an impressive collection of objects, there is also a timeline of events telling the story of the cultural and natural landscape of the borough.

Among the exhibits on show is a woolly rhinoceros skull dated to 25,000BC, a telephone exchange, and a diagram of the local Young’s brewery site.

There is also a collection of art depicting John Burns, the former local Member of Parliament and one of the leaders of the London Dock Strike in 1889.

Mr. Johnson told Visit London:

“I think it’s fantastically important to have museums such as this because we live in an age where people are both forgetful of their history but also incredibly excited when they discover about it.

“It’s frightfully important that local kids are able to come here and open a window into the lives of previous generations and inhabitants of Wandsworth.

“This was a very important place in the life of London and the life of the nation as a whole and we’ve now got great exhibits here to tell that story.”

The new Wandsworth Museum opens to the public on 3 Sep (website coming soon).

What’s your favourite local museum in London?

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Darwin Centre Opens at the Natural History Museum Tue, 08 Sep 2009 17:33:13 +0000 Darwin CentreThe spectacular new Darwin Centre opens next week at London’s Natural History Museum.

Dubbed “the cocoon”, the £78m building houses 17 million insects and three million plant specimens.

But the exhibits aren’t the only attraction.

You also get to observe some of the 200 scientists at work in the centre, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet the experts and ask questions.

In the Attenborough Studio, curators give daily talks and demonstrations.

These vary from day to day: you may see a bottle of spiders collected by Charles Darwin, handle fossils, or see live scorpions that glow under ultraviolet light.

Dr Caroline Smith, Curator of Meteorites, and Alan Hart, Head of Mineralogy, are a fascinating double act.

Alan Hart and Dr Caroline Smith show off their specimensIn their presentation, they show off two exhibits:

  • A  460-carat diamond crystal which, at three billion years old, is one of the most ancient things you’re ever likely to see
  • A 1.3 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars called Nakhla, which landed in Egypt in 1911

They ask the audience to vote for the most impressive object. Which would you choose?

All in all, the new Darwin Centre is well worth a visit – for the architecture, the exhibits, and the unique opportunity to interact with scientists working in this interesting field.

The Darwin Centre opens to the public on 15 September. Entrance is free.

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London Sewing Machine Museum Thu, 03 Sep 2009 14:06:42 +0000 London Sewing Machine Museum

One of London’s best kept secrets, the London Sewing Machine Museum in Tooting Bec is open this weekend and you can visit for free! There’s always something thrilling about exploring a small specialist museum.

If you’re obsessed with sewing or machinery or both, you’ll be rubbing your knees with glee when you see this collection. The museum has two rooms packed with vintage machines, funny shaped bobbins, original packaging and sewing machine themed statues. You can see a sewing machine which was presented to Queen Victoria’s daughter as well as one shaped like a clown sitting at a table!

Local sewing machine experts from the sewing machine warehouse downstairs are on hand to tell you fascinating facts about the collection.

The museum is free and open between 2pm and 5pm on the first Saturday of the month. You have to be over 16 years old to visit because there’s lots of machinery about.

If your visit inspires you to get sewing, you can pop downstairs and buy your own machine.

And next door to the museum is a big haberdashery shop where you can pick up yarn, fabric and notions. On my recent visit, the haberdashery shop staff were knowledgeable and friendly, and weren’t even fazed when a customer popped in for craft supplies while walking her ferret on a lead.

For information about the London Sewing Machine Museum and shops, visit

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