London’s Canals

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.


Handel and Hendrix

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

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).

Up on the Roof

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.

Treasures of the Courtauld

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.

Celebrating British Gardens and Gardening

The history behind London’s Garden Museum dates from the humble beginnings of a noted botanist to the present day. Its contemporary history begins in 1977, when the museum was founded to rescue the abandoned church, St. Mary-at-Lambeth, the burial site of 17th century royal gardener John Tradescant and his son. Born in obscurity, Tradescant became a royal gardener for King Charles I, exchanged specimens and stories with the great botanists of his day and sailed across the earth to collect new plants. In 1629 he came to live at Lambeth, close to where the museum now stands, and planted a botanical garden. Celebrating the uniquely British love affair with gardens, the facility’s permanent collection of 6,000 items includes tools, paintings, ephemera and artifacts. The site is next to Lambeth Palace, a 10-minute walk from Vauxhall, Waterloo and Victoria stations.

A Garden’s Episcopal Past

Just a 10-minute walk from the Putney Bridge Underground, Fulham Palace  was acquired by Bishop Waldhere around the year 700 and served as a residence for the Bishop of London for over 12 centuries. Its stunning gardens boast a history no less episcopal. The most celebrated gardening bishop was Henry Compton (1632-1713), who developed a famous collection of hardy and exotic plants that gave the garden world significance. The first magnolia in Europe was grown at the palace, and other species were planted such as the cork oak, the black walnut and maples. But the most famous inhabitant (a Great Tree of London approximately 500 years old) is an evergreen oak purportedly planted in the 16th century by Bishop Grindal. The surviving layout is mainly 19th century with an earlier walled garden and some 18th century landscaping.