As you know, my London Correspondent is my sister, Judy. I also mentioned that she loves the unusual, and today she certainly has some interesting museums for us to look through. So come on the tour with me…..
1. Museum at the Royal Chelsea Hospital
The Royal Chelsea Hospital is a marvellous place, situated on the banks of the Thames at Chelsea. It was established at the time of Charles I to provide a home for disabled war veterans, and still today provides a home for old soldiers. They are all enlisted men, not officers, and without dependents. There is a lovely museum there which tells the history of the facility and even has a recreation of one of the little cabins they sleep in. If you are lucky you will see one of the red-coated pensioners strolling the grounds. They are all incredibly helpful and friendly, and it is also possible to see the chapel and the dining room if they are not in use.
2. The Ragged School Museum
This amazing museum in Copperfield, London, close to Mile End and Limehouse, is a fascinating place. It is in the original building of one of the schools founded by Dr Barnardo to teach poor children of the East End, and is the only ragged school building left, according to the very helpful and extremely informative volunteer guides. The old warehouse building backs onto Regent Canal, and it provides a very authentic view into life of the children who came here, ragged, dirty, poor and hungry. The photos they have of these poor waifs and the houses in which they lived are very moving.
The museum is set up with a display area on the ground floor, a classroom on the first floor and a space set up as an old kitchen. During the term school, groups come to the classroom, where they are met by a very strict teacher, (an actor in wolf’s clothing) who stands no nonsense, and often terrifies the little ones. The museum aims to show what life was like for the poor in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The museum is free, and well worth a visit.
You might remember that John Lewis’ rooftop garden Judy showed us last time was supporting Barnardo’s
3. The Museum of London at Docklands
This museum is connected with the Museum of London at the Barbican, which is also worth a visit. The Museum at Docklands at Canary Wharf is housed in the original warehouse building of the West India Docks, and has exhibitions relating to all things connected with the docks and the Thames. I was particularly interested in the West India Dock, the slave trade and sugar coming from the West Indies, which was as important in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as oil is today. There are very interesting exhibitions ranging from the original Romans to the fate of the docks during World War Two and the damaged that was suffered, and subsequent years. The recreation of sailors’ town from the early years is very evocative of the cramped and squalid conditions in which people lived.