London's best unsung museums
Ragged School Museum
Museum of Rugby
You can almost smell embrocation in the air as you wander round this evocative and interactive collection of oval-ball artefacts and memorabilia. Permanent exhibits show how the sport has spread around the world from its roots in English public schools, and trophies, tickets, caps, kit and commentaries evoke great games of the past. The excellent stadium tour includes a peek in the England changing room, while would-be Jonny Wilkinsons will prickle with goosebumps as they walk down the players’ tunnel on to the turf.
Best exhibit Get hands-on and test your strength on a scrum machine.
Museum of Rugby, Rugby Rd, Twickenham, TW1 1DZ (0870 405 2001/www.rfu.com/microsites/museum). Twickenham rail.
Museum of St Bart’s Hospital
FREEAfter a short video explaining the history of Bart’s and its founding in 1123, this museum offers a crash course in the changing face of London hospitals. Displays explain how Bart’s developed, while offering plenty of mean-looking instruments and bottles marked ‘POISON’ to gawp at. There are also two Hogarth murals to admire, plus a great book full of illustrations of injuries, ruptures, lesions and pus. Best exhibit The old wooden skull used to practise drilling and football skills. Museum of St Bart’s Hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1 (7601 8152/ www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk) St Paul’s tube.
FREEPredictably, weapons feature prominently in here: the 2,500 edged weapons, 200 pole arms and 1,850 firearms should keep bloodthirsty teenagers interested. But it’s the human side of the exhibits that make the National Army Museum work, including oral histories from World War I veterans, and the order that launched the Charge of the Light Brigade. Best exhibits Florence Nightingale’s lamp, and Lord Raglan’s Crimean telescope. National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 (7881 2455/www.national-army-museum.ac.uk). Sloane Square tube.New London Architecture
FREEA museum in the broader sense, this has regular exhibitions about the future of architecture and planning in London. Includes an incredible scale model of London in its lobby. New London Architecture , The Building Centre, 26 Store St, WC1E 7BT (7636 4044/www.newlondonarchitecture.org). Goodge St tube.
Old Operating Theatre Museum
This is the oldest operating theatre in Britain, complete with wooden spectator galleries, lodged up in the roof of a baroque church. St Thomas’s Hospital is long gone from this site but its hair-raising collection of pre-anaesthetic surgical instruments survives.
Best exhibit The saws, of course!
Old Operating Theatre Museum, 9a St Thomas St, SE1 (7188 2679/www.thegarret.org.uk). London Bridge tube/rail.
FREEThere’s a scholarly air here, but don’t let that put you off. With its 80,000 exhibits, the Petrie (pronounced pee-tree) is bursting at its seams with items from the Nile valley dating back 5,000 years. Unlike Howard Carter, who excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb and was taught by Petrie, Petrie was more interested in everyday Egyptian objects, and there are pots, bowls, jewellery, combs, tiles and so on on display. Best exhibits Mummified head, with hair. Petrie Museum, University College London, Malet Place, WC1 (7679 2884/www.petrie.ucl.ac.uk). Goodge St tube.Ragged School Museum
FREEThe canalside warehouses that housed Dr Barnardo's Ragged Day School during the late Victorian period are now home to a museum of the East End which examines the experiences of the children who attended the school.Ragged School Museum, 46-50 Copperfield Rd, E3 (8980 6405/www.raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk). Mile End tube.
FREEThe academy’s museum boasts hundreds of different musical instruments. Royal Academy of Music Museum , Marylebone Rd, NW1 5HT (7873 7373/www.ram.ac.uk/facilitiesandcollections). Regent's Park tube. Royal Air Force Museum
FREEFancy a career as a pilot? In the interactive Aeronauts Gallery you can take a pilot aptitude test to discover whether you are, or not, the ‘right stuff’, plus there’s a simulator (extra charge) to help you identify if you’d be able to keep your lunch down. Other attractions include 80 aircraft and a multimedia account of the Battle of Britain. Best exhibit ‘Milestones of Flight’: some of the most important RAF aircraft along with classics from the US, Germany, Japan and France. Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, NW9 (8205 2266/www.rafmuseum.org.uk). Colindale or Broadway rail.
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