Tag Archives: London museums

Shelling out for Easter-I

[E]aster is nearly upon us and there you are with the kids at home and trying to decide how to amuse them. Shopping? Oxford Street will be like a rugby scrum. Sport? It will soon be wall to wall coverage of the Olympics. A museum? Last time you went to the British Museum they were bored out of their brains, there’s only so many dusty artifacts a teenager can take.

Well you are in luck, London is probably the most off-beat, quirky and eccentric city in the world, and where the Capital really shines is in those quiet nooks and secret haunts where few mainstream tourists tread.

In this first part of Easter treats here are five hidden eggs:

Thomas Crapper

Pimlico Plumbers museum of sanitary ware

This small museum pays homage to the essential part that sanitation plays in our lives, brought to you from London’s most famous plumbers. There are examples from Thomas Crapper’s invention to Art Deco the only thing missing is an original garderobe. Just don’t use the facilities.
Pimlico House, 1 Sail Street, Lambeth SE11 6NQ
Open at reasonable hours. Admission free


The Cartoon Museum

If you loved the comics of childhood: The Beano, The Dandy and Topper you are sure to enjoy Bloomsbury’s Cartoon Museum. Opened in 2006 by The Duke of Edinburgh (who loves the cartoonist art so much, he has his loo decorated with cartoons depicting himself), this small museum is dedicated to preserving British cartoons, comics and animation from early Punch to current favourites like Giles and Ronald Searle. With due deference to the Queen’s diamond jubilee, ‘Her Maj’ currently celebrates 60 years of her reign.
35 Little Russell Street, Bloomsbury WC1A 2HH
Tuesday to Saturday 10.30-5.30; Sunday 12-5.30

Kirkaldy Museum

Kirkaldy Testing Museum

One of London’s stranger museums is a must for anyone with a love of machines and engineering. This small museum houses David Kirkaldy’s 350-ton ‘All Purpose Testing Machine’, once used to test the strength of everything from bricks to concrete. If your offspring have the ambition to invent ‘stuff’ this is for you.
99 Southwark Street, Southwark SE1 0JF
Open on the first Sunday of each month. Admission free


Sherlock Holmes Museum

Only in London would you get a museum devoted to a fictional character. With the excellent recent television adaption a visit might prove popular. Housed in a Grade II listed lodging house in – where else – Baker Street which has been furnished as the apartment of Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective and his friend Doctor Watson. The museum features waxworks, Victorian ephemera and a gift shop selling Sherlock Holmes collectibles.
221b Baker Street NW1 6XE
Every day 9.30-6

Magic Circle

Magic Circle Museum

Sawing the fair damsel in half or the never-ending coloured handkerchiefs, see some of the magic world’s most important memorabilia. As if by magic you can see the handcuffs used by Harry Houdini, the props used by Prince Charles during his induction into the mysterious Magic Circle and the largest collection of magic books in Europe. You will have to pull the rabbit out of a hat to enter, it is by appointment only.

12 Stephenson Way, Euston NW1 2HD
To book a visit: 0844 006 2500

Museums of medical matters


[L]ondon is full of wonderfully eccentric museums and bizarre historic collections, these unique places off the tourist trail offer an insight into the progress of medical science over the past 300 years and are an ideal way to discover lesser-known artefacts, learn more about the history of the stranger sides of London, and delve into some the city’s quirkier corners. For a full list and description visit London Museums of Health & Medicine.

Are you feeling drowsy?
The Anaesthesia Museum
21 Portland Place W1
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10-4
Admission Free

You’ll be knocked out by the 2,000 objects related to anaesthesia at the Anaesthesia Heritage Museum. Whether you’re an anaesthetist or just curious, the collection dating from 1774 to the present day provides an absorbing story and historical account of advancements in medicine and pain relief. See the display on the misuse of anaesthesia, Cox’s horse mask or Dr D. Willatts chloroform dropper

Pay attention at the back
The Old Operating Theatre
9a St. Thomas Street SE1
Monday to Saturday 10.30-5
Admission adults £4.95/children £2.95

In 1815 the government of the day passed the Apothecaries Act requiring apprentice apothecaries to watch operations at public hospital before embarking on a career of butchery. The rich of the day usually were operated in the privacy of their own home (Samuel Pepys recounts in his diary of having a bladder stone removed on 26th March 1658 in the bedroom of his own house), this meant that only the poor were the subjects to provide a demonstration in surgery on their bodies all carried out without anaesthetic.

This, the oldest surviving operating theatre in the country, was only rediscovered in 1957 during repairs on the eaves of St. Thomas Church, the original site of St. Thomas Hospital.

Here in the shadow of the Shard you can see a collection of terrifying instruments used for cupping, bleeding and trepanning, I get a headache just thinking about it. You can watch demonstrations of surgical techniques and volunteer to be ‘operated on’, with the smells emanating from the herb garret (originally used to store and cure medicinal herbs) just add to the atmosphere.

Open wide please
The British Dental Association Museum
64 Wimpole Street W1
Tuesday and Thursday 1-4
Admission free

Incredibly it’s only in the last 90 years that dentists have been regulated, before that anybody could have a prod around inside your mouth. This little museum an annex to the library of The British Dental Association displays some of the fearsome tools once used in orthodontics. Dental drills adapted from carpentry tools, replacement teeth made from hippo or walrus ivory and numerous devices for tooth extraction, their use usually resulting in a broken jaw.

The exhibition is primarily for dental students but concessions have been made for the layman. A series of dental health films which can be hilarious and terrifying in equal measure: ‘No toothache for Eskimos’ or ‘Oral Surgery Part II 1948’ should put you off your next dental check up.

Strangely enough there isn’t a shop selling souvenirs of your visit or boiled sweets.

Read the card from the top
The British Optical Association Museum
42 Craven Street WC2
Open by appointment Monday-Friday 9.30-5
Admission free £5 for a tour of meeting rooms

This little museum seeks to inform and entertain the visitor with a personal guided tour from the curator Neil Handley. It contains over 11,000 objects relating to the history of optometry. Ronnie Corbett’s glasses along with 2,000 other pairs. Leonardo DiCaprio’s contact lenses. Spectacles with windscreen wipers, opera glasses with secret snuff compartments, Victorian self-testing machine with a religious text testing vision as well as morals. Draws containing deformed eyes dating from 1880 await your inspection. ‘Jealousy glasses’ with concealed side lenses to keep an eye on your lover, and yes rose-tinted sunglasses. For a fee a tour of the meeting rooms with its portraits of bespectacled sitters and cartoons about optical matters.