The Museum of London is a well known cultural attraction which explores the history of Britain’s capital from the prehistoric times up to the 21st century.  It is strategically located next to the remains of the Roman city wall within the south west corner of the Barbican complex.  The museum is composed of nine permanent chronological galleries from prehistoric, Roman and Medieval London way up to the People and World City, as well as a few temporary exhibitions.  It offers the visitor a great history lesson with some 7,000 original artefacts, painting and sculptures as well as numerous interactivities and videos.

The Museum of London has the following permanent galleries:

  1. London before London: 450,000BC to AD50
  2. Roman London : AD 50-410
  3. Medieval London: 410 to 1558
  4. War, Plague & Fire: 1550s-1660s
  5. Expanding City: 1666-1850s
  6. People’s City: 1850s-1940s
  7. World City: 1950s-today
  8. The City Gallery: Showcasing our most iconic treasure
  9. Museum of London images

London before London: 450,000BC to AD50

When London was a wilderness

The first gallery of the London Museum, right next to the entrance discovers the Thames Valley in prehistoric time, roughly from hundreds of thousands of year ago way up to the Roman conquest.  A time when the World’s greatest city was only a wilderness and the whole population could fit into a double-decker bus.

Must see:

  1. Prehistoric story of the Thames Valley: when London was a wilderness
  2. Flint Hand Axes: thousands of those cutting tools discovered
  3. Wild ox skull : extinct auroch inhabited London during 245,000-186,000 BC
  4. Western Alps Axehead:  6000 year old ceremonial tool made from jadeite
  5. Shepperton woman skeleton: 5,640  year old remains of the oldest person in London

Roman London: AD 50-410

When Londinium was a key port of the Roman Empire

The beginning of London as a city is often associated with the Roman invasion which started in 50AD.  The Roman built the city on the ground of the current City of London and called it Londinium.  The port was a strategic destination, linking Britannia to the rest of the Empire and importing and exporting a variety of goods.

Must see:

  1. Marble sculptures:  some of the best art works discovered in Britain from the Temple of Mithras
  2. Limestone sarcophagus: contained remains of a 4th century woman
  3. Roman City: largest in Britannia
  4. City port: linking Britannia to the rest of the Empire
  5. Roman home interior: from the kitchen to the living room
  6. A Roman leather bikini

Medieval London: 410 to 1558

When London became one of Europe’s largest and most important cities

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the dark ages took over London.  It’s during those times that the city experienced a bit of bad fortune, torn apart with famine, fire, diseases and invasions.  It somehow managed to become one of Europe’s largest and most important cities.  The medieval gallery covers over 1000 years of history from the Anglo-Saxon settlements and Viking raids to the Reformation of the church in England, passing by the Black Death, one of the city’s darker memories.  The medieval section offers over 1300 artefacts including religious statues, crosses and children’s toys, as well as some impressive medieval leatherwork.

The key themes of the Medieval London gallery include:

  1. Anglo-Saxon settlement
  2. Viking raids
  3. Black Death and its aftermath
  4. The importance of the River Thames to medieval London
  5. Daily life of medieval Londoners:  eating, drinking, fashion and entertainment
  6. Death and disease
  7. Medieval Government & politics
  8. Medieval Religion
  9. Medieval Language
  10. Craft, trade and industry

War, Plague & Fire: 1550s-1666s

When London was cut between disasters and great expansion

The War, Plague and Fire gallery explore one of the darkest times in London History where various disasters afflicted the expanding city which claimed a total of over a 100,000 deaths.  Despite all those terrible devastation, it was during those Elizabethan times that London moved outside the original city limits and started its ascension as one of the world’s most influential cities.

Must see:

  1. Great fire experience:  video and model recreating the event
  2. Rose Theatre: detailed model of where Shakespeare performed
  3. Death mask of Oliver Cromwell
  4. Fire fighting tools: including a 1600s fireman’s helmet
  5. Arundel Stone
  6. Copperplate map

Expanding City: 1666-1850s

When London became the World’s greatest city

The “Expanding City” gallery explores London’s phenomenon growth after the infamous Great Fire of 1666.  It was a time of expansion with London the capital of England but of its vast British empire.  Luxury goods where imported from all over the globe from Chinese porcelain to Indian cashmere.  A new wave of immigration brought to London their own culture and new skills, which had a positive impact on the city cultural and commercial life. The London of the second half of the 18th century was an unparalleled city and one of the world’s greatest both in terms of wealth and power, as well as size and population.

Must see:

  1. Printing press: 240 year old tool showcasing news stories combining old and new technologies
  2. Nelson’s sword: one of the museum most admired treasures
  3. Newgate Prison door: original gate from one of London’s most notorious prison
  4. Fanshawe dress:  made by French Huguenots from Spitalfields silk in 1752
  5. Original Prison cell: Wellclose Square 18th century prison cell with remains of prisoners’ engraved graffiti
  6. 18th century luxury items and china
  7. Pleasure Gardens:  a large scale reconstruction of an 18th century pleasure gardens with plenty of masks, hats and costumes

People’s City: 1850s-1940s

How London’s rapid expansion created a wealthy but divided city.

The People’s City gallery goes from the mid-19th century into the end of the Second World War, where it explores some of the most challenging times in the city’s history including wars, various communist and fascist groups and Suffragettes hunger strikes and imprisonment.  It is also during those times that London became the world’s wealthiest city symbolized by the Selfridges spectacular art deco liftIt was a time of great wealth and glamour for some, but misery for others as reflected by the Charles Booth’s poverty maps about social divide.  From the remarkable Victorian Walk filled with boutiques and speciality shops to the much darker war room of the blitzed city, the People’s City gallery truly showcases the life of Londoners during that period.

Must see:

  1. Map of Poverty: Charles Booth’s Map from 1887-9 displaying various levels of poverty in Victorian London
  1. Victorian Walk: various London shops, post office and local pub
  2. Hunger strike medal: Suffragettes struggle for women rights
  3. War room: during London’s World War Two Blitz

World City: 1950s-today

When London became a truly international and multicultural city

The World City gallery explores the remaining history of London from the rebuilding 50s to the 21st century passing by the swinging 60s, punk rock 70s, disco 80s and technological 90s.  It shows the evolution of this great city from the hard beginnings after the end of the war to a truly multicultural and vibrant modern city.  It is today one of the most important global city often at the forefront of international arts, sports and finance, attracting investment and skilled forced from all over the world.

Must see:

  1. Swinging London Fashion
  2. Vespa scooter: popular bike during London swinging sixties
  3. First Apple Mac: revolutionize home computing
  4. History Painting: John Bartlett’s painting about Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square on March 1990
  5. The Ghetto: 1994 photosculpture about lives of East End squatters
  6. Interactive displays: understanding issues affecting London

Museum of London images

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Museum of  London
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Museum of  London
Museum of  London
Museum of  London