First up, an honest admission: I didn’t get the DLR to the museum. Weekend engineering, you see. If I had gone all circuitous on the transport front, I’d have been even later to meet Rowan, my companion for the afternoon. After a false start, largely involving her being at Canary Wharf station and me being on the bridge outside the museum, we made it inside.
Museum of London Docklands, from the footbridge over West India Quay
The Museum of London Docklands is sister of the Museum of London, a place I’ve banged on about at length. Like its sibling, the Museum of London Docklands is free to visit. Be sure to pick up one of the rather good map booklets from the reception area before heading up to the third floor to start the tour.
If you’re more of an anthropologist than archaeologist (and I certainly am), you’ll quickly tire of the Tony Robinson videos and pictures of rocks and quickly move on to something more interesting. In this case, it’ll be the London Sugar & Slavery gallery. It’s a helpful reminder about what a bunch of bastards the English were.
Sugar & Slavery, Rakish Rowan
Things are a bit less grim downstairs. There’s a rather spooky gallery called ‘Sailortown’, much like the Victorian village at the Museum of London. It’s a replica of London’s docklands in the mid-19th century, replete with shops, alleyways and a hostelry. There’s plenty of dark corners for adventurous youngsters to have a cheeky canoodle, too. Not that either of us spotted (or condone) such activities, you understand.
Aye aye, Sailor
A couple of galleries explore London’s docks at their peak. ‘Warehouse of the World’ exhibits the types and quantities of the goods that came in and out of the city, as well as the development of bigger and better docking and storage facilities out to the east. Enterprising and ruthless businessmen aren’t a 20th century innovation; there were plenty of takeovers, mergers and strange goings on. Plenty of robberies, too. And strikes, headed up by the enterprising Ernest Bevin – first head of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
Teas in the WAREHOUSE OF THE WORLD!
After an hour or two of walking about, we went off for a Pret. Evidently tiring of my company, Rowan decided to head off – leaving me to learn all about the war and the area’s regeneration on my own. The latter is particularly interesting and diverse; everything from the rise of Canada Square to the News International strikes. Anyone who has a slight interest in marketing or advertising will relish the plethora of posters, pamphlets and general paraphernalia of the London Docklands Development Corporation. It’s wonderfully early 90s.
I left by DLR, happy in the knowledge the Docklands museum is just as brilliant as its big sister.