Gone and almost forgotten

It would seem that Londoners and London visitors love museums and art galleries, in fact, Tate Modern, pre-pandemic, was welcoming over six million a year. The capital is chock-full of these repositories of the past, with new ones opening all the time. But what about those which have closed down?

Which ones did you visit willingly or reluctantly as a child which now no longer exist? Here are some you may have visited, do you have memories of others?.

Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum

With more coffee shops than you could shake a stick at, you’d think that the Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum in Southwark Street would be popular. When Edward Bramah tea expert and founder died, the museum in Southwark struggled on telling the story of tea and coffee in this country. Braham’s collection of teapots, coffee ephemera and historic labels from brands such as Horniman’s and Lipton’s were eventually packed up during the last decade.

London Toy and Model Museum

You would have thought, located at Craven Hill near Paddington between 1982 and 1999 this collection of games, over 7,000 toys, dolls, penny arcade machines and a Paddington Bear was given by Shirley Clarkson to her young son Jeremy (yes, that Jeremy Clarkson), would never close. Oh! Did I mention the miniature steam train, which ran on the rooftop, weather permitting?

The Newsroom

For anyone remotely interested in journalism, the Guardian and Observer newspapers’ museum, located opposite the company’s previous office in Farringdon was an essential location to visit. Founded in 2002 as a way to record the newspapers’ history, it featured notebooks, sketches and photos donated by Guardian journalists, also displaying temporary exhibitions of major news stories. The Newsroom didn’t make the move to King’s Cross in its previous format, much of the back catalogue is now available online.

The Britain at War Experience

Subtitled The Blitz Experience this interactive venue was located on Tooley Street. The redevelopment of the station was probably the reason for the museum’s closure, in which one could sit in a mock Anderson shelter while Blitz-style bombings were simulated overhead, a bizarre childhood experience. Documents, photos and video footage explored several aspects, from shopping during rationing, to evacuated children, and clubs where GIs were entertained, which incidentally is the subject for September’s test your knowledge quiz.

Prince Henry’s Room

This was a point to be discovered on The Knowledge, which has experienced a checkered life from when it was used by Henry VIII’s son. In 1975, the Samuel Pepys Society opened an exhibition in the room, dedicated to the famous diarist who was born around the corner and visited the building during its time as the Fountain Inn. It closed around 2006.

The Cuming Museum

The folly of having a place of learning in Walworth is exemplified by the Cuming Museum. Beginning life as the personal collection of Richard and Henry Cuming, focusing on fossils, coins, medals and local history, the collection was displayed at Walworth Town Hall. In 2013 the building went up in flames, luckily much of the Cuming collection was saved although objects were later stolen.

National Museum of the Performing Arts

Next door to the Royal Opera House, the Theatre Museum displayed documents, costumes, designs, manuscripts, books, and video recordings relating to the theatre, from the 16th century onwards. Ultimately, a lack of funds caused the curtain to come down on the museum, and its collections were transferred to the V&A.

The Planetarium

A personal favourite. Built on the former site of a cinema destroyed in the Blitz, it opened in 1958, offering a view of the night sky, as seen from Earth. Later 3D imaging equipment was used to immerse audiences in space. It closed in 2006 to make room for dummies to view a collection of dummies.

Royal Artillery Museum

Sited in Woolwich, Firepower closed in 2016, one of the world’s oldest military museums having existed in the area in some form since the 1820s, displaying all manner of military artillery equipment including guns, carriages and cannons.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

When Ripley first displayed his collection to the public at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, it was labelled Ripley’s Odditorium and attracted over two million visitors during the run of the fair. Having such an illustrious history and now being located around the world, it must have come as a surprise that the world’s largest in London lasted barely 9 years. Open every day including Christmas Day, displaying such bizarre items as a portrait of JFK made from dead butterflies.

BT Museum

If you haven’t had enough of dealing with this behemoth in communications, their museum held artefacts and exhibits on the history of telecommunications in the United Kingdom and was based in Baynard House, Blackfriars. Clearly, the public had had enough of BT as the museum closed in 1997 after 15 years.

London Gas Museum

If ever a museum was destined for closure, situated in Twelvetrees Crescent this was it. Exhibiting a gas-powered radio, and an assortment of survey maps for gas companies. Riveting.

3 thoughts on “Gone and almost forgotten”

  1. I have been to the Planetarium, and was also taken to The Royal Artillery Museum when I was young. That was always going to happen, as my dad was in the R.A. from 1936-1947 as a regular soldier, and came out as R.S.M..
    Best wishes, Pete.

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