Off The Beaten Track - London's Smaller Museums
Discover the wacky, gory and the niche corners of British history at London's smaller museums.
Don't let the Natural History Museum and British Museum hog the limelight - there's more to see at some of London's smaller museums. With everything from intricate historical artefacts to plain bizarre exhibits, everything is grounds for a museum in a city as eclectic as England's capital.
Music legends Jimi Hendrix and George Frideric Handel may seem an unlikely pairing, but they both happened to be neighbours in Mayfair (give or take a good two hundred years). See how these musicians lived and visit Handel's practice rooms, where he changed the face of Baroque music, forever tinkling on harpsichords, and then slip upstairs to Hendrix's eclectic 1960s flat to see the first place the guitarist ever really called home.
This little-known museum is one of the more unexpected ones in London, dedicated entirely to beautifully designed handmade fans. With over 3500 fans in its collection, it charts the long and changing history of the accessory and delves into the development of the artisan craft across the years. Tucked away in a couple of 1720s grade II listed buildings in the charming Greenwich district, enjoy a quintessential afternoon tea in the Orangery overlooking their peaceful Japanese Garden.
Beware the faint of heart - this grisly museum is dedicated to the gory history of medicine in Britain and is host to the oldest operating theatre in Britain. Located just a stone's throw away from London Bridge, visitors can see the room where surgeries took place on a wooden table before an audience and see an exhibition of equipment used by doctors three hundred years ago. There's a reason this unnerving site has been featured in so many creepy TV shows and movies, after all.
You're never too old to enjoy a good cartoon and this wide-ranging museum has over 5000 books and 4000 comics for you to comb over. Started by cartoon enthusiasts in the 1980s, there's a varied exhibit with over nine hundred selected works dating all the way back to the 18th century covering everything from satire to animation. Perfect for the whole family, keep an eye out for any touring collections and hone your own skills at one of their many master classes.
Discover the story of Florence Nightingale, the greatest icon of modern nursing, at this special museum in St Thomas' Hospital. With a wide collection that follows her through her early years through to her time serving throughout the Crimean War, her accomplishments in modern medicine and legacy are preserved in a thoughtful exhibit including over 800 of her letters and personal book collection.
Image via TodayIFoundOut.com
Put your thinking cap on and chart a course for Baker Street, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional super sleuth continues to capture imaginations at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. While the museum doesn't have the same address as Sherlock, it does proudly display a 221B plaque regardless on its front door and has faithfully recreated scenes from the stories including Sherlock's study and Watson's bedroom. Avid lovers of the books will be able to pick up memorabilia from the souvenir store on the way out.
The Brits are known for their dry wit and distinctive sense of humour, so it's no surprise that there's an interactive museum dedicated to British comedy. See over 6000 real props and artefacts from the funniest comedians in history at their permanent exhibition, including Charlie Chaplin's cane and Bill Bailey's crazy 6-neck guitar. No celebration of British comedy would be complete without a performance space and sketch artists, stand-ups and more funny people frequently perform there.