5 most unusual museums in London
Yes, you can have a look at the Egyptian mummies at the British Museum, or the skeletons of extinct dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History, or the sculptures of the Renaissance in the Victoria & Albert Museum. And rest assured they are all fantastic. But sometimes you want something a little different, a tad more eccentric than the ones you’ll see in most travel guides. And London has these unique experiences as well.
1. Dennis Severs’ House
18 Folgate St, London E1 6BX
On Folgate Street is an old mansion where nobody has lived for a very long time, despite the spicy smell of tobacco in the air and the half eaten English breakfast on the table; could it be that the inhabitants of this strange house are hiding from prying eyes?
In fact, there is no mystery; the house of Dennis Severs, found at 18 Folgate Street, is a still life drama and an exact recreation of what life would have been like for a family of French immigrants from the eighteenth century, the Jervis family. In 1979, Dennis Severs purchased the house and refurbished each room to sate his own curiosity, only opening it as a museum in 1999 after his death.
The lighted candelabra and the homemade cakes keep up the illusion of the imaginary journey to another time, and it is up to you if you go along with that or not. You either see it or you don’t, as the motto goes. Take note that the museum is only open on Sunday afternoons.
2. Old Operating Theatre Museum
9a St. Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Before famous dramas such as “Grey’s Anatomy” popularised the act of practising medicine, audiences could go and watch real operations with bated breath with, and sometimes without, anaesthesia! A spectacle that is quite frankly not for the faint of heart, the audiences were usually made up of a specific type of people: medical students and assistant pharmacists were the ones made privy to the medical operations.
The training took place in the attic of the Church of St. Thomas in Southwark, which also housed the operating room for a time, where novice physicians closely followed the work of experienced surgeons.
Blinding lights, creaking wooden seats, herbs and remedies, steely scalpels, hammers and pliers; medicine has come a long way and much has changed, including the harrowing screams of unfortunate patients. How lucky we are nowadays!
3. The Geffrye Museum
Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA
A Victorian living room, complete with vintage furniture, antique trinkets, hi-tech and modern minimalism; this strange collection contains the entire history of the English style from the seventeenth century to the present day. At Christmas, each room is decorated in the fashion of its corresponding era, so any winter visitors could do far worse than visit the Geffrye Museum. There’s also a shop where you can buy interesting books on interior design, as well as the usual trinkets and souvenirs.
4. Pollock’s Toy Museum
44 The Market, London WC2E 8RF
If your kids aren’t finding the museums to their taste, it just means they haven’t yet visited this magical place! Board games, teddy bears, toy cars and doll houses in vintage twin houses, packed with an assortment of extraordinary things for you and your children to enjoy. Porcelain dolls and folk toys are just some of the Victorian surprises you’ll see adorning its interior; some of the exhibits are more than one hundred years old! The museum takes special pride in its collection of puppet theatre created by Jackson Pollock.
It may be difficult to get the kids out of here once they’ve entered, and even more difficult to leave without buying something! But their happiness and your interest will most certainly be worth it.
5. Twinings Museum
216 Strand, London WC2R 1AP
Leaving London without any traditional English tea would just not be right, so for the very best of the best, don’t look further than the legendary Twinings on Strand Street. You’ll know what to look for when you get there; a building with a golden lion atop it will immediately catch the eye.
Inside is the most varied collection of tea you could ever dream of seeing, and behind it a small museum of the history of tea. Here, you will learn all the secrets of the English tea industry and you’ll also be able to see the magnificent collections of tea sets from different eras. I’m sure connoisseurs of the national drink of Great Britain will find it tea-riffic!