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Museum of London Docklands
When we were in London we decided to find somewhere interesting to visit whih was away from the very centre, and this place seemed to fit the bill.
The museum was quite tricky to find even with the satnav but once we found it there was plenty of pay and display parking As well as by car it can also be accessed via boat bus or tube (West India Quay), so plenty of options.
After having spent a couple of days seeing sights in the centre of London, this was an oasis of calm, with boats moored on the river, warehouses housing shops and houses, and plenty of restaurants.
The museum itself is housed in a large revamped warehouse and once inside the warehouse theme continues with it being very large bright and airy with huge windows exposed brickwork and high ceilings. On the ground floor there is a café which sells food and drinks which can also be eaten at the tables and chairs outside the building.
We had paid a small fee for entry into the Captain Kidd exhibition which was on at the time of our visit. This was at the top of the building accessed via a lift. The exhibition had plenty of artefacts, information interactive displays and a dressing up area so plenty for children to get involved with.
There are 11 permanent galleries which tell the stories of London's Docklands, the River Thames, and London's past. These exhibitions are situated over several floors starting at the top and working their way down to round floor. The access from floor to floor can be via lift or as we did it down winding stairs which makes the whole story flow seamlessly. The exhibitions start with a story of the building itself, Number 1 Warehouse and moves on to Thames Highway through Docklands at War, Slavery, Trade and Modern Day. There are plenty of interesting displays with just the right amount of information and with reconstructions of offices and weighing places, where visitors can smell and weigh spices and coffee.
One of our favourite exhibitions was the Sailor town gallery which is a full size reconstruction of the dark, winding streets of Victorian Wapping. Here is is all dark and quite creepy with winding streets, dead ends and even a boat in one of the alley ways.
Admission is free although any special exhibitions are subject to a ticket fee.
Monday to Sunday: 10am-6pm
Closed: 24 to 26 December
Address: No1 Warehouse London E14 4AL
Tel: 020 7001 9844
Fax: 020 7001 9801
We had a really enjoyable afternoon at the museum. The exhibitions are interesting enough to hold an adult's attentions and interactive enough so that the museum doesn't become "stuffy". There are life size exhibits such as an air raid shelter, ice cream van, carts, boats, etc. The majority of these are not roped off but rather are available for visitors to touch and experience.
The gift shop is somewhat better than a lot of museum gift shops, and seems to stock more educational products especially those which are historically based.
All in all I would recommend this museum to anyone in the area- smaller than some of the better known museums but for me much better.
Thanks for reading
The regeneration of London's Docklands has been a huge success. Derelict warehouses have been converted into swanky bars and restaurant, shipping companies have been superseded by financial institutions housed in shimmering ultra modern sky scrapers and traditional worker's houses have been replaced by Legoland waterfront apartments. Its a fascinating area but I find it a bit soulless and toy town especially with the DLR gliding along like a model rail. During a recent visits to docklands I decided to visits the Museum in the Docklands to explore the area's past, present and future.
The Museum in Docklands is a branch of one of my favourite museums in London, the Museum of London. I love the Museum of London as it is like a huge local museum with all the same collections such as pottery, skeletons etc. but it is presented in a better and more interesting way. The Museum in the Docklands uses the same format to tell the story of the Port of London and the Thames from the Roman era to the present. It is quite easy to find. You can either get the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and walk five minutes or you can get the DLR to West India Quay. It is housed in an old warehouse at the en of a row of various bars and restaurants.
Unlike its parent museum there is an entrance fee for the Museum in the Docklands. Adults are £5 but this is for an annual pass, so it is very good value for money especially if you intend to visit for special exhibitions. Concessions are £3 whilst NUS card holders, under 16s and carers are free. I got in free of charge, since I work in the same sector I took along my staff pass and cheekily asked to get in free and to my surprise they granted my request (I had let one of their member's of staff in for free so the motto of the story is one good turn deserves another). I found the staff that I encountered to be friendly and helpful although I had minimum contact with them.
The museum is spread out on five floors with the main exhibition areas chronologically arranged on the top two floors. There's a learning centre on the first floor and an education centre in the basement neither of which I visited. So with the free map in hand I made my way by lift up to the third floor to begin my journey back in time. I arrived in AD 43 just in time for the Romans to found the city of Londinium. I found this the least interesting part of the museum as it consisted mostly of archaeological remains in glass cases and very well written and thought out interpretation boards. I did like the short films by Tony Robinson explaining the development of the various Ports of London through Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman London. There were plenty of nice touches on the first floor that covered he history of the Port of London up until the 18th century. I liked the large model of London Bridge in the 15th and 17th centuries and I thought the huge jawbone of a whale being used for the entrance to an exhibition on Greenland Dock and the whaling trade to be a nice touch. At the end of the level there was an exhibition on sugar and the slave trade. I tliked the huge interpretation board containing the records of the slave ships to be extremely powerful and effective.
The second floor carries on where the third floor left off with the history of the docks in the 19th 20th and 21st centuries. Here we got industry, strikes, social condition and the ubiquitous Second World War leading onto the regeneration and redevelopment of the current Docklands and the coming of the Jubilee Line and DLR. The museum is very information rich and I think I spent a good couple of hours in the gallerias. By the end I found myself getting a bit restless and would certainly return to concentrate on the latter half of the second floor.
The museum uses a number of methods of interpretation to present their artefacts including reconstructions of areas of the docks such as the Justice Quays on the top floor and a19th century Sailortown and an air raid shelter on the second floor. They also used overhead audio sound effects to create more of an atmosphere. These can be good but in a fairly open plan museum like this they often get jumbled up to create a bit of a cacophony. Sailortown was particularity effective as the ceilings were low to represent the winding narrow alleys. What was not so effective was the use of smell which is that unpleasant one used to signify bad sanitation and rotting rubbish in the street used everywhere from Yorvik Viking Centre to the London Dungeon.
I visited the museum on a Monday lunchtime and it was extremely quiet. It is slightly off the beaten track and unknown compared to larger museums such as the Natural History Museum, the British Museum or the V and A. I'm not sure how child friendly it would be. There are touch screens but these are more adult orientated and there is a lack of dressing up clothes or activities in the main galleries, although there was a tin hat in the air raid shelter. On the ground floor there is an area for the under 12 called Mudlarks, which I did not visit. There seemed to be a lot of yummy mummies and their pre schoolers there, so I deduced it must be the place to go on the Docklands. On closer inspection of the website the number of toddlers was due to a free play session every Monday.
After wandering round the galleries I was feeling a little peckish so headed down to the Ground floor where all the facilities are. You can not fault ease of location for the toilets (an important one for families I know), as they are located to the right of the reception desk and the symbols are enormous. At the front of the museum is the shop which is quite small and sells mostly books themed around water and London alongside little African drums (to tie in with the Sugar and slavery exhibition I suppose).
Food wise the Museum in the Docklands caters for various budgets in its two eateries. The 1802 is a more formal restaurant, which also has a separate outside entrance which is open until 11pm on weekday evenings to cater for the business market. I had a quick look at the menu which looked good using the best of British but I did not want a full meal and it was too pricy for what I wanted. Instead I went to the cafe which sold a nice range of sandwiches drinks and light meals. I thought the prices were extremely reasonable for a museum cafe. I had a mug of Mocha for £1.50, which was nice but it could have been slightly stringer and more chocolatey. To eat I had rustic chips, which cost £2.50. It was advertised as rustic chips with aeoli (in layman's terms garlic mayonnaise) however mine arrived with a nice dollop of tomato ketchup to dip them in. The chips arrive in a decent sized bowl and they certainly were rustic as each chip must have been a quarter of a potato at least. No skinny French fries here. They were delicious and finished off a nice couple of hours at the Museum in the Docklands.
Museum of London Docklands
West India Quay
London E14 4AL
What was once a sugar warehouse now reveals the long history of London as a port through stories of trade, migration and commerce.