The Royal London Hospital Museum is located in the former crypt of St Philip’s Church at Newark Street. Once Britain’s largest hospital, it counts amongst its legendary patients Joseph Merrick (the “Elephant Man”). Given its location in the heart of Whitechapel, it’s no wonder that the museum showcases original material on the Jack the Ripper murders. There’s also a tribute to Edith Cavell, a nurse who worked tirelessly to improve healthcare standards whilst training nurses in London and abroad. She cared for soldiers in Belgium during the First World War and ultimately was executed for helping some escape occupation. Admission to the museum is free but donations are welcome.
Freemasonry began in medieval Europe as a guild for stonemasons who built the great castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Today it is one of the largest fraternal and charitable organizations in the world. The United Grand Lodge of England at Great Queen Street in London, over 300 years old, boasts The Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Open to the public, it’s located on the first floor of Freemasons’ Hall, where guided tours of the Grand Temple and ceremonial areas are provided when the hall is not in use. The free museum displays one of the world’s largest collections associated with Freemasonry, including pottery and porcelain, glassware, silver, furniture, clocks, jewels, regalia and items belonging to famous Freemasons like Winston Churchill and King George IV (the first Royal Grand Master). The closest tube stations are Holborn, Covent Garden and Leicester Square.
The only London museum related to inland waterways, London Canal Museum explores not only how canals came to be built but also teaches about the lives of the workers, the cargoes, horses and how canals work. Situated at King’s Cross, this unique waterways museum is housed in a former ice warehouse built around 1862 for Carlo Gatti, the famous ice cream maker, and features the history of the ice trade and ice cream as well as the canals. Consider adding a guided towpath walk to your visit via a free audio walking guide that starts from Camden Town and guides you to the museum.
A wall and 200 years. Baroque and blues. That’s all that separates two musical geniuses on a single street in London. In the heart of the West End is where you’ll find Brook Street and the homes of Handel and Hendrix. Baroque composer Handel moved into what is now 25 Brook Street in 1723, a convenient location for his official duties at St. James’s Palace and his opera career at Haymarket. At 23 Brook Street, rock, blues, jazz and soul legend Jimi Hendrix enjoyed what he called his first real home, a flat purchased in 1968 by his girlfriend. The museum boasts a fine collection of Handel’s books, scores and manuscripts, and a permanent exhibition introduces Hendrix’s place in the musical and social world of 1960s London.
London’s first cartoon museum is dedicated to showing the best British cartoons, caricatures, comic strips and animation. It has a library of over 5,000 books and 4,000 comics, boasting a collection covering the 18th century to the present. Located on Little Russell Street, it has three main galleries. The upstairs gallery in particular displays original artwork by some of the founding fathers of British comics, such as David Law (Dennis the Menace, Beryl the Peril), Leo Baxendale (Bash St. Kids, Minnie the Minx), and Frank Hampson (Dan Dare).
Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre is located in the attic of an 18th century church, St. Thomas. The church is the oldest surviving part of St. Thomas’ Hospital’s Southwark site. The parish of St. Thomas’s Church was restricted to the hospital and grounds so there was a close relationship between the two institutions. When the number of students attending operations became too much for the ward to cope with a special operating theatre had to be built. Because the women’s surgical ward adjoined the church garret that had long been used by the hospital as an herb apothecary, it became the obvious place to build an operating theatre. The original shell of the theatre is surrounded by period furniture acquired from London hospitals. Located just south of London Bridge, the museum is a minute’s walk from London Bridge Underground.
The Courtauld Gallery, open to the public daily, is famous for its iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, as well as numerous other important paintings and works of art from the Renaissance through to the 20th century. Patrons also enjoy the added bonus of lunchtime gallery talks, public lectures, short courses and summer school. One of the first art history institutions, Samuel Courtauld formed The Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932, with Sir Robert Witt and Viscount Lee of Fareham. The gallery is located at The Strand entrance of Somerset House.