London's best unsung museums

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  • New_04 MXXXX Hunter_crop.jpg
    Hunterian Museum

    Hunterian Museum

    FREE

    Wandering among this collection of thousands of medical specimens and cases of surgical instruments is fascinating. Much of it was amassed by eighteenth-century surgeon, anatomist and dentist John Hunter, although it has since been added to. It’s not gruesome, though. The museum is located within the dignified HQ of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The space is super-stylish, with the clearly labelled glass specimen jars displayed neatly along clean glass shelves.
    Best exhibits
    Pickled organs from soldiers who fought in the Battle of Waterloo, Winston Churchill’s dentures and the skeleton of Charles Byrne, the ‘Irish giant’. Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3PE (7869 6560/ www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums). Holborn tube. Kew Bridge Steam MuseumFor genuine steam enthusiasts this museum hosts Cornish engines (in their original engine housings) and rotative engines (collected from pumping stations around the country). On selected days, there’s also a chance to ride on London’s only steam railway.Best exhibit The Cornish engines. They use so much steam that they’re only run occasionally.Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, TW8 (8568 4757/www.kbsm.org). Kew Bridge rail.

     
     

    Library and Museum of Freemasonry

    FREE

    Freemasonry is trying to shed its slightly sinister image and welcomes all visitors to its fascinating museum, which includes all sorts of masonic clothing and literature. Worth a gander, if only to see the inside a beautiful building. Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen St, WC2B 5AZ (7395 9257/www.freemasonry.london.museum). Covent Garden tube.Linley Sambourne House Victorian house owned by cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne that still has most of the original furnishings and fittings intact: a fascinating glimpse of daily life in bygone London. Linley Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH (7602 3316/www.rbkc.gov.uk/linleysambournehouse). High St Kensington.

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    London Canal Museum

    London Canal Museum
    The London Canal Museum is housed in a former nineteenth-century ice warehouse used by Carlo Gatti for his famous ice cream, and it includes an exhibit on the history of the ice trade and ice cream. This is the most interesting part of the exhibition as the collection looking at the history of the waterways and those who lived and worked on them is rather sparse.
    Best exhibit The barges outside; walk along the towpath from the museum to Camden Town.
    London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Rd (off Wharfedale Rd), N1 7713 0836/www.canalmuseum.org.uk). King’s Cross tube/rail.

    London Fire Brigade Museum
    It was the Great Fire of 1666 that defined the Capital as we see it today. With assorted fire-fighting paraphernalia, the most interesting element of thos museum is seeing how the equipment has advanced over the centuries. If you are planning to visit, remember to call them up first as they only open up if you book in advance. Also, you might want to leave the kids at home for this one – the tour lasts roughly two hours.
    Best exhibit You can occasionally watch new recruits training with modern kit.
    London Fire Brigade Museum, Winchester House, 94a Southwark Bridge Rd, SE1 (8555 1200 ext 39894/www.london-fire.gov.uk/ourmuseum.asp) Southwark tube. Tours by appointment only.

    London Sewing Machine Museum

    FREE

    Dedicated to Thomas Albert Rushton, founder of the Wimbledom Sewing Machine Company, this museum contains a collection of antique sewing machines, including 600 domestic and industrial sewing machines, dating from the 1850s to the 1950s. A replica of the first Wimbledon Sewing Machine Shop, originally built in Merton Road can also be visited within the museum. Best exhibit A unique sewing machine, given as a wedding present to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa. London Sewing Machine Museum, 292-312 Balham High Rd, SW17 (8767 4724/www.sewantique.com). Tooting Bec tube.

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