Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Morning in the Museum of London

Sunday 24 November 2013. We left the hotel after breakfast and hopped onto a London bus heading for St Paul's. We had decided to have a look at one of London's many museums, but one I had never visited before.

The Museum of London is behind St Paul's Cathedral (assuming wrongly that the side facing the Thames is the front!) and is approached over a walkway from the first floor level of a building on St Martin's Le Grand St on the corner of London Wall.

There's not a great deal of London's original city wall left, but here's a good view of it from within the museum itself.

The museum has a huge collection of items from prehistoric to modern times. The auroch's skull from a huge bison-like animal is awesome and there's a large collection of stone clubs, hammers and knives, before the days of metal. Which itself is well represented by a staggering collection of long pointy prodding things and a display of skulls with holes to prove how well they worked...

The photo is from a slightly later collection of clothes in a display recreating the old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which existed in the early 19th century on the southern side of the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge.

This is a pair of virginals - yes, a strange term given that there's only one, but that's how they were described. This was a 17th century stringed instrument played on a keyboard. A bit like a harpsichord in that the strings are plucked, not hit by hammers, but they are plucked near the centre of the string not at one end like a harpsichord. This makes for a smoother less harsh sound. They were immensely popular and Samuel Pepys noted how many of them were to be seen in boats during the Great Fire of 1666. They were not heavy and were expensive, so a good thing to save from a doomed house! This one was made in 1656 by James White. It, like many other exhibits, is displayed in subdued lighting, but the camera has dealt with the low lighting resulting in being able to see it clearly here.

This looks like the granddaddy of all grandfather clocks and I've positioned a passing waif to give some idea of scale. [THUMP!] Ahem... I mean I asked the scrumptious Miss Franny to pose next to it...

There's a street of shop fronts with window and sometimes internal displays of the goods they sold. The toy store had a set of picture cubes. Described as a Victorian toy, these simple forerunners of jigsaws for very young children lasted until the 1960s. I remember having one myself and, unless my memory is playing tricks, the pictures look very familiar too... Each side of every cube had a part of a different picture, so you could make six different pictures altogether.

This was gorgeous. A bronze art deco lift from Selfridges store on Oxford Street. It dates from 1928 and apparently the uniformed girls who operated them were as great a novelty as the lifts themselves! I fell into a conversation with one of the museum's staff about it.

So much so that I had to catch up with Miss Franny who was ready for a sit down in the museum cafe. This was a fun place to be also due to a large video wall that showed different scenes of London with greatly speeded up video. Cars and buses zoomed about and crowds of people weaved in and out of each other at bewildering but hypnotic speeds. I came out of there without a thirst but with a crick in my neck! Brilliant!

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