The London Canal Museum allows you to re-live the lives of the people who worked the city’s waterways, learn about the cargos they carried, and see some modern-day barges and houseboats in the marina at the back.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
Did you know that London used to buy its ice from Norway? That sounds a bit daft doesn’t it, but apparently we did. (I thought that was what Scotland was for?) We used to sail it into the docks and then ship it down the Regent’s Canal in big barges so Londoners could eat their ice cream in the summer.
And here’s something else that’s quite interesting: Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci invented the gates that we still use today in Camden Lock? (And that’s true!)
These are just two of the many amazing facts that you can learn at the London Canal Museum.
It’s only a little place with two big rooms, but it’s okay if you’ve got forty minutes to waste. I don’t mind these little museums… I call them ‘homemade museums’, built by interested locals rather than professionals (you can tell by the state of the exhibits). As long as you don’t go inside expecting too much then you can usually find a couple of things worth looking at.
The museum is all about the birth of the Regent’s Canal, and all the other canals that radiated out from London, and how the boatmen plied their trade up and down them. You’ll learn a bit about the barges, the workers, and some interesting bits and bobs about the docks as well, using old black-and-white photos of London in the mid-20th century.
Upstairs they go into more detail about the design of the canal boats, and all the cargos they carried.
I don’t mind looking at all of this stuff myself, because I quite like perusing old photos of London, but I’m not sure that it will interest a tourist. (Actually, let me re-phrase that: it definitely won’t interest a tourist.)
The big surprise is out the back, because they let you onto a dock where a couple of barges are moored up. It’s not the prettiest dock in the world (it might even be the ugliest), and you can’t go inside any of the barges (because they’re working boats that belong to other people), but I must admit that I was surprised to find an actual dock at the museum.
> Read Craig’s latest review of the London Canal Museum “Canals. That’s one of those words that sits alongside caravans, cottages and sheds as a waypoint towards old age. There comes a point in everybody’s life when they swap cocktails in a nightclub for a freeze-box filled with French bread and coleslaw on the banks of a canal. They stretch their legs out in the tall wispy grass and watch the houseboats chugging by, maybe waving at an old couple onboard as if they’ve known them for years. (You always have to wave at strangers on a boat – that’s one of the rules of the riverbank.) Then they go home and watch Songs of Praise on the telly… continued.”
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If you’re interested in canals then how about catching Jason’s canal boat to Camden? You might like to look around Little Venice as well. Craig has designed a walk down the Regent’s Canal which you might like to try, which ends up at Camden Town. You can find a bit more information about London’s canals at the Museum of London Docklands.
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