Museum of London Docklands review
You have to be seriously into the history of London to enjoy this place. Try the Museum of London first (for the city's history) and then this one after (for the river's history), because it concentrates on the docks. Most of the historic wharves and warehouses around Canary Wharf have long since been bombed and demolished and replaced with skyscrapers and impossibly expensive flats, but they've saved one of the old Georgian sugar stores to tell its story.
The first thing you'll learn about is the building itself: what it was, what it was used for -- it's just a little exhibition of hooks and trolleys and baskets really, not very interesting, but the room is quite atmospheric. You can hear a few creaks and seagulls through the speakers, and they've got some black and white movies projected onto the wooden walls with dirty-faced dockers lugging sacks and bags off the boats.
Then you learn about shipbuilding and wander into a life-size mock up of a quay -- a street scene straight from the 18th-century complete with lantern-lit shops, a custom house, counting house, and a stack of barrels piled up against the wall.
Then comes the East India Company and the British Empire and the inevitable hairshirt about slavery which I always skip straight past. I know it was a terrible tragedy and a travesty and all of that, but it's like being beaten over the head with a history book. The British Empire did actually do some good as well, believe it or not, but all we ever hear about is slavery (something that the traders had in common with practically every empire that ever existed, from the Romans up to the Third Reich). They've even set up a comment wall where we can apologise on our ancestors behalf! Maybe they should set up a bucket of rocks and stocks so we Brits can take turns sitting in it.
Fortunately it cheers up after that with some great paintings of the docks being built. You can see them bristling with ships and it looks like a regatta, or the King's coronation parade -- but this was just a typical working day back then. Imagine the docks filled with sailing ships and warships these days, three deep, four deep, all the way from Greenwich to Tower Bridge. What a spectacle that would be!
The next floor is all about Victorian London and the modern wharves and warehouses that sprang up along the river. The wooden ships start turning into tankers around now, the little workshops start turning into belching industrial factories, and everyone seems to get poor and ill and soon it's all fire, strife and strikes. If that sounds terrible then just wait until you hit the Blitz. They've got the whining air raid sirens and cracks and whistles from the wood in the burning buildings, and the belching chimney smoke turns into choking black fumes as the fire consumes the city. All of those historic buildings that were built up over the centuries -- gone. All of that history that you've been admiring in the previous rooms -- gone. Three centuries of history disappeared in three years.
It's quite a good little wartime exhibit -- they got some unexploded bombs on show, some black bricks and molten metal from the wreckage, mock-ups of the Mansell forts, wartime posters and photos. It will probably bring back quite a few memories if you were old enough to have lived through it the first time (assuming that you actually want to remember it, of course).
What do you think?Please leave a comment
I’ve been here more than once…
Have you seen my London book?
Honest reviews of London’s landmarks and attractions
Money saving tips things to do for free and cheap days out
Useful information with opening times, prices, photos, maps
Fri 18th Aug, 2017Hi, I'm glad you enjoyed the review. Clarence House is going to be closed in October, by the way, if you were... more
Thu 10th Aug, 2017I emailed them to ask, and got this reply back: You are more than welcome to bring your dog on our boat trip. Not only... more
Tue 8th Aug, 2017Cheers Jim, I hope your enjoy your visit. I've been to Sydney a few times so I'm almost an Aussie. Never got... more
Wed 19th Jul, 2017It's a beautiful building to visit and well worth seeing inside, but I agree that the court cases themselves can be... more
Sat 15th Jul, 2017I can not think about your review, I am still laughing ... thanks. I plan to visit the Jewel Tower in August. The... more
Mon 10th Jul, 2017it's funny that you posted your comment today because I've just been thinking about going again (it's... more
Tue 27th Jun, 2017Not sure I can really help with a visa mate, but I hope you enjoy your visit
Tue 20th Jun, 2017I'm in the Top 10 fruitcakes, definitely... maybe the Top 5 on a good day
Tue 30th May, 2017Cheers bob, handy piece of info
Mon 29th May, 2017They're basically just buskers so I wouldn't have a clue, sorry. You could try contacting the Covent Garden... more
Thu 25th May, 2017To be honest I can't remember. You definitely can at St. Paul's because I sat in them myself (but then... more
Wed 24th May, 2017Apparently that's nothing more than a pat on the head, to tell the horse he's done a good job. But it's... more