11.1.15

Thrifty London // The Museum of London - A Victoriana Lover's Dream!

January is notoriously the month of frugality. It's also the month of going back to work, taking down the Christmas decorations (still need to do that...), and going on a health kick, which likely involves too much kale and a lifelong hatred of quinoa.

Well, all hope for fun is not lost, if you know where to go! Last weekend, in a bid to avoid high streets or feral Rugby Mum's hunting down discount Barbour in department shops, we headed over to the Museum of London. Located up in The City, it's a little way away from South Kensington where all the big museums are, but this turned out to work EXACTLY in our favour.


The City of London occupies a relatively small space if you're thinking of London as a map, but it's the oldest part and also the wealthiest. Here you'll find the historic 'Pudding Lane' nestled between two global bank HQ's, with The Monument being 'bully circled' next door by a constantly moving ring of black cabs. I've walked to Liverpool Street station many times during the banker lunchtime, and trust me, there's nothing they dislike more than being stuck behind a girl and her giant suitcase - it delays their consumption of sushi you see.

Alas, this means that come the weekend the streets of the City are all but empty. Seriously, it's quite surreal. As Oxford Street starts filling up with tourists and Starbucks everywhere furiously serve teenage girls syrup filled frappacino's, the area from Tower Hill to Chancery Lane resembles a ghost town. Only 7000 people live in the City, but 300,000 commute into it every weekday. Mad isn't it?!


After huddling under an umbrella and grabbing a coffee from a deserted Cafe Nero (the barista's were reading books for lack of something to do), we skirted around St. Paul's (still no one in sight) and arrived at the Museum of London. Claiming to tell all about London and it's origins along with the promise of a Paddington bear exhibit, we eagerly headed in out of the January drizzle.



Point number one goes to the museum for being absolutely free! You are encouraged to donate, of course, but it's a very 'hands off' encouragement. The first section is all about the geology of Britain and it's first nomadic people (sort of interesting), then the various Roman occupations (Ok, I've seen enough pottery pieces to last a lifetime). After that, we got to the good stuff. I'm talking plagues, the Great Fire, pleasure gardens, the rise of Victorian industry, the Suffragettes, the Windrush, oh, it was glorious!

The picture above is of a prison cell, the debtors prison in fact. The cell has been rebuilt piece by piece and contains some chilling graffiti carvings from those who had been locked inside. The beautiful font of 'Edward Burk' repeatedly appears in the cell. The even, practised letters perhaps signifying a poor engraver, locked up as punishment for his bankruptcy. There was even a sunny skyline carved inside, a wooden illusion to a day they could no longer see.


The pleasure gardens featured some beautiful eighteenth century dresses, hats and fans. (We all know I love a good bit of Regency). The (then) famous Vauxhall gardens were simply THE place to show off your numerous bows, frills, and layers and layers of muslin cloth. The millinery business in England was booming at this time, which meant that 'normies', even prostitutes, could get pretty good mock ups of fancy Georgian clothing. Those poor gents, not knowing if they were wooing a Baron's daughter or a Lady of the Night - the scandal that could, and did, ensue!




This section was my absolute favourite - The Victorian Walk. Rows of carefully reconstructed Victorian shops lined an indoor street, free for you to meander through and wish desperately that you could actually go inside. I'll have everything in the 'Fancy Stationer' please!




The section on the Suffragettes was really powerful. As a feminist, I'd never felt so strongly connected to those who had paved the way to equality. Seeing the belts used by women who chained themselves to Buckingham Palace, the hand painted placards and rosettes of supporters, I realised all over again how unfathomably incomprehensible it is to ignore feminism when ensuring a fair and civilised society. 


Here's the royal carriage (or a replica?!) in it's regular home, although the first time I saw it was at the Lord Mayor's Show. Imagine pulling up to your wedding in this golden beauty...

The original idea was to do a 'Museum Crawl', starting at the Museum of London and ending up at the Natural History Museum, then the Science Museum. After eating a rather yummy lunch of dumplings and noodles at Wagamama's, we arrived in South Kensington to a queue that went round the building. Eurgh! Who'd have thought that children want to go and see the dinosaurs on the last day of the Christmas holidays?! We're saving it for another time - I'd like the dinosaur's at least partially to myself!

Just for people watching alone, the trip down Exhibition Road is wonderful. Lights still strung in the trees, carousel still lurching children around in circles, the smell of hot chestnuts wafting through unstable ice skaters - it made for a blissfully wintery scene.

The train home was just long enough for our toes to thaw out, thankfully!

Have you been up to anything this month that's helped beat the January blues?

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