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Ten weird and fascinating things every Londoner needs to see at... the Victoria & Albert Museum

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

 

The V&A is full of cool and exotic treasures – but it's also got a ton of weird stuff that will leave you screaming 'Jesus H Christ'. Although it appears far more chilled out than its neighbours, the world's leading art and design museum currently contains a mind-blowing 2,320,267 magnificent artworks, curios and artefacts, which include plenty of zany things like cursed cups, petrified brains and scary possessed chairs. Now that Halloween's here, dress up in your finest ghoulish frocks, grab a crucifix and go and see these ten spooky, fascinating and other-worldly pieces for yourself. 

1. Tippoo's Tiger

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This almost life-size wooden model of a tiger attacking an unfortunate European soldier was made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, India in the 1790s. A mechanical organ is concealed inside the tiger's belly, which imitates the beast's growls and the man's screams as he is slowly devoured alive when you turn the handle – how delightful. 

Where to see it: Stalk out the Shere Khan of the V&A in the South Asia gallery. 

 

2. The luck of Edenhall

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This luxurious glass beaker was made in Egypt or Syria in the mid-1400s. By the fifteenth century, this fab little cup made it to the shores of England. Here, it was given a finely decorated leather case and a couple of charms to protect it from damage. Eventually, the cup fell into the hands of the Musgraves of Edenhall, a la-di-dah family from Cumbria who added a few more charms to it, thus sealing its talismanic fate forever. Centuries later, local antiquarians took an interest in the cup and recorded all the weird legends and folk tales associated with it over the years. The most popular myth is that the cup was left behind by a group of fairies who, after being disturbed by us humans, fled and cried, 'If this cup should break or fall/Farewell the luck of Edenhall.' 

Where to see it: Be seduced by its bewitching power in the Medieval and Renaissance Gallery.  

3. Henry Cole's dog memorials

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As a dog-loving nation, we can all relate to Sir Henry Cole's grief when his 'faithful' besties flew up to doggy heaven. To show us all just how awesome Tycho and Jim were, Cole had the museum install plaques commemorating them in the John Madejski Garden.  

4. The Liberator 3D-printed gun 

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The 'Liberator' was the world’s first 3D-printed gun and was fired on May 6 2013 by Texan law student Cody Wilson. Wilson controversially created designs for guns and gun components that could easily be downloaded by anyone anywhere in the world just by printing one out on a 3D printer. The invention sparked a lot of drama – watch 'The Good Wife' season six, episode 15 for the condensed version. After being downloaded 100,000 times, the files were eventually seized by the US government and Wilson was ordered to remove them from his website. 

Where to see it: See it for yourself in the Rapid Response gallery.  

5. The Statue of David's modesty leaf (Fig Leaf for David)

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Queen Victoria's crew were a weird lot, especially when it came to the subject of exposed penises. To protect the dignity of innocent lords and ladies, Queen V had this 'suitably proportioned' modesty leaf custom made to cover up a full-size plaster cast of David's junk on Michelangelo's sculpture. Up close, you'll notice Dave's pretty big, so big in fact it was said that the Queen was shocked by the sight of it. The leaf was hung on the figure using a pair of hooks and was only used when dignitaries and other highborns visited. As you'll see below, the leaf is no longer used today:

 

A photo posted by Kelland Fairweather (@kdesign7) on

 

Where to find it: See David in all his glory in the Weston Cast Court. 

6. The 'haunted' Green Chair

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

According to self-confessed gallery nerd Rosa, this unsuspecting electric green Bergére (a fancy French word for a winged chair) is haunted by the ghost of English actor David Garrick's wife Eva Marie Veigel. As you can see from the picture above, the cushion is firm and plump. Mysteriously, however, it deflates numerous times a day as though someone or something has sat on it. 'It's so Eva,' says Rosa.  

Luke Abrahams

Where to find it: See the mystery for yourself in the British Galleries, room 118a. 

7. Head of an Ox Statue

 

A photo posted by @xoexun on

 

This wide-eyed ox contains a rather unusual curiosity. In the centre of the ox's head rests a very large, very heavy osteoma (a posh medical word for a piece of bone growing on top of another). Originally thought to be the fossilised brain of an ox, the Natural History Museum confirmed that the osteoma was in fact an organic tumour and was likely to be from a piece of diseased bone originating from another large animal like an elephant or whale. 

Where to see it: Have a look in the Europe 1600-1815 gallery, room six. 

8. The Gloucester Candlestick 

 

A photo posted by Marta (@martamzz) on

 

Forged from a staggering nine different metals, the Gloucester Candlestick is considered a masterpiece of English metalwork. Legend has it that the candlestick could have been forged from a stash of gold coins. The extremely dense decoration is composed of fabulous images of apes interspersed between thick and intertwining shoots of dazzling foliage – oh, and apparently it's haunted, too. 

Where to find it: Stare at its majesty in the Medieval and Renaissance Gallery, room eight.  

9. Mantua

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The mantua is basically a massive dress consisting of a large bodice with a long train attached at the back. It was popular with the ladies who attended court in England back in the early eighteenth century but eventually went out of fashion 100 or so years later. This particular mantua is almost eight feet wide and is made from luxurious ivory silk brocaded in a pattern of highly stylised flowers and leaves. Sadly you won't find any on the high street. 

Where to see it: Go try it on (not literally, you'll be arrested) in the Fashion Gallery.

10. The Great Bed of Ware 

 

A photo posted by fatema124 (@fatema124) on

The Great Bed of Ware is our little island's most famous bed. Made in the 1590s, it's a whopping 11 feet long and 10 feet wide and was immortalised in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'. Supposedly haunted, the bed got plenty of action on the night of King William III's coronation when it played host to '26 butchers and their wives'. Saucy. 

Where to see it: Read between the sheets in the British Galleries, room 57. 

Check out ten weird and fascinating things every Londoner needs to see at... the Natural History Museum.

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