Museum of London Docklands review (Jun 2015)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
I've known about this place for a while but I could never be bothered to get the train to Canary Wharf (I'm very lazy). But today I thought what the hell and I gave it a go.
I wish I'd come here before now, because it's really good. I think you have to be a bit of a London history buff to appreciate it though, because there's not a lot for tourists. There's not all that much for kids either. But I'm not saying any of that to put you off: because I actually found it really interesting.
The museum is all about life along the River Thames and especially the Docklands area, and starts off with a bit about the Roman and Viking settlements. You can see how it was built up and burnt down, and built up and burnt down, and built up and burnt down some more, and then you come to the first good bit: a huge model of the Old London Bridge.
Another good display is a life-size reconstruction of a quay. You can walk through a dark and dingy street past the stacked-up barrels and counting house, with the sounds of the sea and seagulls piped in through the speakers. Try and imagine the kind of place that Jack the Ripper stalked at midnight — that's the kind of place it is.
They talk a lot about the docks and merchants after that, and the cargos they brought back from the Caribbean. There is a big exhibition about the slave trade too. To be honest my eyes always glaze over when it comes to stuff about the colonies because it feels like I'm being preached too (apparently slavery was bad), but they certainly give it a thorough discussion if that is your interest.
After that we move on to the building of the new bridges and the really huge docks in Queen Victoria's day. They've got a nice little model of St. Katherine Docks too, which doesn't seem to have changed much over the years (apart from the Starbucks in the middle).
They've got another walk through street after that which is even better than the first one, and even darker and scarier too — it's almost pitch black! (It's like something from the London Dungeon). You can peer into the chandlers and supply merchants and see your shadow growing on the sooty arch as you pass by the pub and printsellers. The noises they've got playing out of the speakers greatly add to the atmosphere with sea shanties and old hags shouting and clock bells in the fog — it really is good and I almost wish I had a time machine so I could travel back and experience it for real.
Next we come to the Industrial Age with bits about shipbuilding and the big old steamships. Then you watch it all go up in flames when you learn about the Blitz and the firestorms that swept across the East End. There are lots of photos in this section of the devastation and bombed-out buildings, and crackling fire and air-raid sirens playing out the speakers.
Finally you come to the fifties and beyond, when they start to build the modern-day docks and DLR. They've got some nice information about Canary Wharf too and how they built it up as a rival to The City.
So, to sum it all up... I definitely recommend this for locals but I'm not sure it will be much fun for tourists. If you like London history then it's a good place to visit after the Museum of London, because it covers completely different ground.
Guest – How long should be planned for the Museum of London Dockland?
Admin – I would say 1 and a half hours is plenty, but it depends whether you a reader. If you don't bother to stop and read the info boards then you can probably do it quicker. they've got a little cafe in there too
I’ve been here before…
Events at Museum of London Docklands…
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