London certainly as a lot of great museums to visit: The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, The London Museum, and of course The British Museum. However, there are dozens more museums that might get overlooked because they’re not as large, even though they can be just as fascinating. These museums are dedicated to different facets of British culture, from how people lived to things that changed Britain’s destiny. We’ve identified ten of our favorite small museums below, and they represent a wide variety of interests, but if we left something out, you can let us know what your favorites are in the comments.
Magic Circle Museum
The Magic Circle is the premier organization of British magicians and illusionists and exists to promote the magical arts in the United Kingdom. Their headquarters near Euston Station contains a museum that celebrates the history of their profession and including many items from the concert halls of old as well as posters, playbills, and famous items including Harry Houdini’s handcuffs and props used by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, during his induction into the group. The museum is available for pre-booked tours and exists on the first floor of the Magic Circle’s building, the Centre for Magical Arts.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
More dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation than the writer himself, the museum is located at the fictional consulting detective’s famous address of 221B Baker Street. Inside, the museum is made to look like Holmes’ and Watson’s rooms from the stories, littered with objects and artefacts of their many adventures. Of course, there are also items in the museum dedicated to Doyle, The Strand Magazine, and artist Sydney Paget, as well as a nice shop on the ground floor.
Fans of classic cinema houses will want to visit the Cinema Museum in Lambeth. The museum was formed in 1986, and the current building has its own cinema history as Charlie Chaplin lived here when it was a workhouse. Open for pre-booked tours throughout the year, the museum’s collection began with a collection of lobby cards and now includes film and projection equipment, posters, publications, uniforms, and items remaining from now-demolished cinemas from across the United Kingdom. In the days of multiplexes and corporate-owned cinemas, Cinema Museum is a great reminder of days gone by.
Pollock’s Toy Museum
Part museum and part toy shop, Pollock’s Toy Museum is dedicated to the things that helped us learn to play as children. The museum’s collection is comprised of donations and purchases of toys representing many different eras that not only display the evolution of toy technology but how play has evolved for us as a society.
I loved this museum when I visited in 2009, so I can tell you that that the Cartoon Museum is worth the visit once you’re finished at the nearby British Museum. The museum is dedicated to the types of cartoons that grace the newspaper pages as far back as the 18th Century when politically-charged cartoons took a comedic aim at figures in power. The museum shows off the evolution of how these cartoons and comics have developed through time and their power to influence us.
Leighton House Museum
This museum is itself a work of art, and though it may not look like much from the outside, the Orientalist interiors were designed by architect George Atchison for the painter Frederic, Lord Leighton in 1886. Leighton had very specific requirements for the home and often added to it during the thirty years that he lived there, ultimately turning it into his own personal art museum. Even before it opened to the public in 1929, the house had its share of prominent visitors, including Queen Victoria in 1859. Beyond the house’s designs, many of the rooms are galleries displaying Leighton’s works and pieces that he owned.
Museum of Brands
At first glance, a museum of ads may not seem very interesting, but you’d be wrong. The museum has over 12,000 British consumer relics that go from Victorian times to the present day, with each section separated by decade. For a small cost, you can follow the evolution of Guinness, Cadbury, Rimmel Cosmetics, and other classic British items from the iconic to the forgotten. It’s worth a look to see what manufacturers thought would make us buy their products way back when.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Home to the history of what we wear, the Fashion and Textile Museum was founded in 2003 and dedicated to revolutionary fashion, textiles, and jewelry design. Newham College operates the museum that offers fashion-related courses for students and businesses in addition to its exhibits. The café and gift shop are free to enter, but you’ll have to pay to get inside for the to see the rest. The exhibits focus on anything from designers to single articles of clothing and worth a visit for anyone with an interest fashion.
Certainly one of the oddest museums in London, the Hunterian Museum is an anatomist’s dream. Hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons, the museum has one of the largest collections of anatomical specimens in Britain, everything from the smallest animals to human parts. It can be absolutely fascinating to peruse this collection that was once the personal property of Scottish surgeon John Hunter. The museum is closed until 2021 as it renovates, but it hopes to have some other facilities open soon for visitors.
Dennis Severs’ House
Dennis Severs lived here from 1979 to 1999 and slowly converted each room in the house to a time capsule of different eras in London’s history. Each room shows visitors how a family in each period from the 18th to the 20th Centuries lived. During the Christmas holidays, each room is adorned with period-appropriate decorations. It’s a great place to visit to learn the most about what people were like, what they valued, and how they changed over time.