If you haven’t already been this is a must see museum in the east end of London, in the shadow of Canary Wharf. Based in one of the renovated warehouses in West India Quay which make up the very few industrial buildings which survived the blitz.
Far smaller than the likes of London’s Science Museum and Natural History Museum yet it’s up there as a place to go and if you’re a parent; certainly a place to take your children. As you can imagine, being based at one of the key ports for trade this place is steeped in history.
It plays on all your senses too. So much to see, items to smell, you can watch and hear stories, walk through a simulated Victorian street scene and get to touch a whole array of items.
From the third floor that was newly opened in 2016, having already been given a huge investment thanks to the German Olympic team who used the museum during the 2012 Olympics, you’ll learn about the working life of the thousands that worked in the London’s docks and warehouses. You’ll learn about trade and industry, and the infrastructure that supports it.
West India Docks in the heyday was one of the busiest and largest docks in the world, accommodating over 600 vessels at a time.
You’ll get to see some of the goods that were brought over from places like the West Indies (hence the name) such as tobacco, spices, timber and wine.
But it’s not all uplifting. There’s the more serious side reflecting on the slave trade and the two world war’s. Both of which are incredibly well curated.
On the lower floor you’ll find the exhibition space, a great space for toddlers and babies, and a small cafe.
Mudlarks, as it’s called, is again free and available for children up to 8 years old as well as their parents and carers. There is a dedicated soft play area for children up to 1m and an interactive space where kids can build towers from soft construction material, play with a loading area in a wooden crafted dock space, learn the weights and measures with (child) life sized cargo loading. You have to order your ticket beforehand to get your slot. This can be done online or when you arrive.
There is so much to see, and read, and learn.
Throughout the year the museum will lay on events as well as host children’s school holiday activities.
Open daily from 10am till 6pm
Admission free. Donation optional.
At Christmas they have a wonderful Santa’s grotto set in the historic streets of Sailor town. The kids get to meet Santa, before heading to the pub to get given an old fashioned toy as a gift. It’s far more traditional and special than the commercial venture that you find in most shopping malls.
They offer a nighttime sleepover on certain weekends of the year.