There are many museums in the world devoted to the history of this or that city, but the Museum of London stands out among them. Firstly, because it is one of the world’s largest city museums. Secondly, because it is interactive and geared towards children.
Here you can see what the cups of the Celts looked like, the personal belongings of Roman legionnaires from a shoulder bag or children’s toys of the Tudor dynasty; what shoes a graduate of an orphanage in the Victorian era had to wear and how long the world’s first “mini” created by fashion designer Mary Quint actually was.
History of Creation
The Museum of London was created in 1964 by the merger of two large collections: Kensington Royal Palace and Guildhall (the seat of the local government of the City of London’s oldest district). What the British monarchy is capable of in terms of collecting is probably not necessary to explain, but the Guildhall collection is interesting.
The fact is that the oldest part of London is the City, and until the 16th century it was the City, then surrounded by the city wall, that was London proper. The nobility lived in the royal court – that is, in the Tower – and the city was populated by all kinds of workers: blacksmiths, bakers, seamstresses, etc., who formed professional guilds.
The City Corporation governed the City, the oldest still functioning elected administration in the world, elected every few years by popular vote from candidates nominated by the guilds. The King ruled the country, so the opportunity to have your own local administration was a special and very serious privilege, which the monarch granted as a special favor. Now the City is still governed by the Corporation, and Guildhall has been its seat for over six hundred years.
Accordingly, the two collections merged at the Museum of London, and then something else was added.
The Kensington Palace collection consists mainly of items used by monarchs or aristocracy: you might find a Tudor court dress, a 17th-century royal wine goblet or the apron of a palace maid of the same era.
The Guildhall collection is much more interesting. It consists of items of permanent use by the people who inhabited the City and samples of the goods they produced. It was these people who made up London, so this is the largest (and most interesting) part of the current collection.
The next stage of adding to the museum’s collection was the archaeological excavations. Most of the finds from the City end up here, and since the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, you find a lot of stuff: prehistoric stone axes, Roman swords, arrows from the era of William the Conqueror, knights’ armor, bottles straight out of the Middle Ages (some still corked), 18th century glass, Victorian looms, fragments of Nazi bombs and much more.
You’ve also got cultural stuff (from Roman legionnaires’ armor to punk shirts and klech pants like hippies), London movements (suffragettes, colony liberators, etc.), historical stuff (medicine, medieval law, etc.), and innovative machinery, machines, tools, and much, much more.
The basis of this museum is the everyday life of ordinary people who lived in London and the things that surrounded them every day – in the street, at work or at home.
You can see what a Celtic teacup looked like, the personal effects of a Roman legionary in a knapsack or the jewelry of the Anglo-Saxons, the sword of a city guard in the 12th century, and the toys of Tudor children, What shirt a scribe wore in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the shoes an orphanage leaver had to wear during Victorian rule, the words on punk clothes, and the actual length of the world’s first “mini” designed by fashion designer Mary Quint.
You can find out how bread was baked, clothes were made or metal was worked in the 12th, 15th or 17th centuries, what the craftsman was wearing, what tools he used, how much he paid his assistant and what he ended up with.
There is a separate large exposition of documents and photographs. Documents are from the Middle Ages, photos from the invention of photography. The contract to hire a maid, register a baby dropped at the door, buy grain for the bakery, register a marriage, a permit to trade – everyday life included all kinds of documents, and you can see them all.
If you choose to visit the museum, it’s a very good choice, because there are many items that have been preserved in the world in general and not preserved at all in Russia: Russian history has not helped preserve shirts, clogs, glass bottles, and other things. You can still find royal dresses in Russia, but a standard 17th century artisan’s jacket is unlikely. All in all, it’s a very good, bright, unusual museum.
The museum is interactive and completely child-friendly – it was created not only as a museum, but also as an educational center. There are group classes for children from 1 year old and up – for all ages. In such a group lesson, a child will be allowed to hold a Roman, knightly or medieval sword (a reconstruction, of course, but an exact copy of the real thing), try on a powdered court wig or try to make their own copy of a Celtic plate out of clay. All this is free, the only problem is there are no classes in Russian.
Admission to this museum is free for all and it’s open daily from 10:00 to 18:00.
It’s easy to get here by subway, Barbican and St. Paul stations, St. Paul is closer, walking about 10 minutes.
The address is London EC2Y 5HN, 150 London Wall, Museum of London.
Around the museum – the Barbican and the London Wall
The museum was built as part of the famous pioneering residential complex “Barbican”, so after visiting the museum you can see it as well. Also part of the museum is the London Wall – London Wall.
London (that is, the City) was surrounded by a city wall, the last remnants of which were torn down in the mid-18th century – because the practical need for it was no longer, the city had long outgrown it, and the wall hindered the movement of traffic. But when after World War II they started to clear away the rubble in the destroyed City, it turned out that in one place, in the middle of the sea of ruins, there was an impressively thick wall that had survived the bombing. There were buildings attached to it, all of which had collapsed, but not the wall. Archaeologists checked and it turned out that it was the remainder of the city wall, and its oldest parts were still Roman.
The wall has been cleared and preserved as a landmark and is considered part of the museum. A walkway along the wall – London Wall Walk – starts from London Wall Street right in front of the museum, you only have to cross the street to see it.
- Monday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Tuesday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Wednesday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Thursday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Friday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Saturday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
- Sunday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM