WEIRD GALLERY SIGHTINGS IN LONDON
February 22, 20190
We all know the big museums of London – the V&A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the National Gallery – so I want to share with you smaller ones that you might not know about.
My selection is based on the most eccentric museums you can visit in the Big Smoke so you’re bound to have a memorable visit. Though, it’s still worth saying, some of these museums are very niche so you might find them either incredibly fascinating or incredibly dull depending on whether you find the subject matter interesting. Either way, there should be something in this list that appeals to you!
Pollock’s Toy Museum
The space is a treasure-chest of old, beady-eyed dolls that could be considered somewhat creepy, and that’s half the fun of visiting Pollock’s Toy Museum. Despite the juvenile subject matter this museum is possibly better suited to adults who want to be swept up in nostalgia than parents who want to provide their kids with distraction. Be prepared to encounter many toys from your childhood as well as many that hail from as far back as the Victorian period. By the end of your visit, a part of you will be mourning the disappearance of many of these charming toys with the advent of digital technology.
Address: 1 Scala St, Bloomsbury, London W1T 2HL
The world’s only Fan Museum resides in the leafy borough of Greenwich. Housed in a Grade II-listed building that dates from the 18th century, the museum holds a collection of over 3,500 fans. Predominantly antique rather than modern, some of those on display date from 11th century. Most casual visitors will be satisfied with just one trip but lovers of fashion and design have good reason to return – temporary exhibitions change every few months and the museum also offers an affordable afternoon tea in a very attractive orangery.
Address: 12 Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ER
The Crime Museum, New Scotland Yard
London has plenty of macabre museums, but perhaps the most morbid is The Crime Museum, better known as The Black Museum, at New Scotland Yard. Housing an extensive number of weapons which have been used to commit murders or serious assaults in London, its collection includes items used by Jack the Ripper and Charlie Peace. The cases referenced remain shocking and emotive now as it did then. Despite a brief exhibition between 2015 – 2016 this museum is sadly off limits to the general public, however, that is, unless you are a UK police officer, an that case you are granted visitation by prior appointment.
The Grant Museum of Zoology
It might be small, but the Grant Museum of Zoology is a labyrinth of animal oddities, crammed with skeletons, species preserved in vials and extinct specimens. Founded in 1828 by Professor Robert Grant and housed within UCL, the walls are cladded head to toe with wooden cabinets in a very Hogwarts fashion. As well as its permanent display, there are some temporary exhibition and the museum occasionally holds scientific talks and debates. To help support the museum you can even adopt one of the specimens, since it seems like a fabulous thing to do, I adopted the Loris Monkey preserved inside one of the cabinets that I found myself fascinated by! Sadly the adoption only lasts for a year, so it’s not longer my baby, alas.
Address: Rockefeller Building, 21 University St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6DE
The Sherlock Holmes Museum
A must-see for fans of the world’s greatest detective, this historic Georgian townhouse was built back in 1815, and it’s interior has been refurbished to look exactly like how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described Holmes and Watson’s home in the original books. Explore the building’s four stories filled with antiquities, curiosities, and Holmes memorabilia, and pay tribute to one of the most influential characters in all of western fiction. The popularity of the character seems to be ever-growing thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the character in the famous BBC series, Sherlock. The movie Holmes & Watson, featuring the comedic talents of both Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, is the latest screen adaptation. Yet, the character has also gone far beyond the page and screen, and can be found on all sorts of mediums. There are now games dedicated to the famous sleuth on Slingo, in the form of Holmes and the Stolen Stones and Sherlock Holmes: The Hunt For Blackwood.
Address: 221b Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 6XE
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History
Although only opening in 2104, The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is known for its recreation of the classic 17th century Wunderkabinett – calibrated to 21st century sensibilities. Also known as The Last Tuesday Society’s Shop of Horrors after the organisation that established and maintains it, the museum openly admits that its intent is not to educate, but to simply display strange artefacts, disarming sculptures, anatomical anomalies, and other curios solely for the purposes of entertainment. From two-headed kittens to occultist paintings to dodo bones to a shrunken head, you’ll find a minefield of unusual objects. Vadim Kosmos who manages the shop explains the appeal of the museum in today’s internet-saturated generation. “Curiosity shops provide a sense of wonder. You can look anything up on the internet these days, but you can’t touch it.”
Address: 11 Mare St, London E8 4RP
The Horse Hospital
This historic Grade II listed former horse hospital was built back in the late 1700s. It is now home to a curatorial practice focused on outsider art, counter-cultural histories, and sub-cultures. Features include talks with organisations like the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, underground film screenings, and subversive works from London’s most provocative artist-activists. A great way to start off your journey into curated eccentricity.
Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
Clowns Gallery Museum
No eccentric-museums-of-London-list would be complete without at least mentioning the one that’s dedicated to clowns. Located at the Holy Trinity Church – also known as the Clowns’ Church – the Clowns Gallery-Museum houses a collection of props, costumes, and other artefacts from famous British clowns. The museum is run by actual clowns so if you suffer from Coulrophobia (a phobia of clowns) you really ought to avoid stepping inside! Whilst this place is incredibly niche, it’s also one the least visited museums on this list because it only opens on the first Friday of each month.
Address: 2 Cumberland Cl, London E8 3TF
Arguably saving the best for last, the Hunterian Museum is filled with anatomical oddities to satisfy even the most macabre amongst us. The museum houses one of Europe’s oldest and largest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens available for public viewing, and is the brainchild of John Hunter, an 18th century surgeon fanatical about medical study. Among the thousands of specimens on display are preparations to illustrate healthy human anatomy and diseased specimens. One of the most famous artefacts is the skeleton of the 7’ 7” giant Charles Byrne, while other bizarre additions include Winston Churchill’s dentures and the tooth of an extinct giant sloth.
Address: 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE