The Museum of London, located at the junction of Aldersgate and London Wall streets, is a fascinating and informative way to begin a London visit. Here you will learn about London from prehistoric times to World War 1. The Museum is the world's largest social history museum with 1.1 million objects and Europe's largest archaeological archive. The collections include archaeological material, historic photos, vehicles, costumes, personal possessions, shop front, and items relating to industry and trade.
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The first gallery, London before London covers 450,000 years, from the arrival of the first people in the area until the Roman invasion. Hunters, herders, and farmers lived in the area during these times, and the displays are rich with more than 400 finds from the times. The first part of this gallery details how the land was shaped; this is followed by information on the people who lived on the land. Among other objects on display are a large number of flint tools, mammoth bones, and other animal remains, weapons, and ritual objects. Information on the river Thames and its part in shaping the landscape and settlement is another part of the gallery.
The next gallery is titled Roman London. The Romans first built a city here and occupied the area from AD50 until AD410. In this gallery are craft tools, pottery, and glass vessels from the times. Roman rooms and models have been constructed. An original Roman mosaic floor is on display as are gold coins. A model of the port c.Ad100 shows the first London bridge. Other highlights are marble sculptures from the Temple of Mithras and the sarcophagus of the Spitalfields Roman woman.
Moving on in time is the gallery on Dark Age, Saxon, and Medieval London. This begins in the 5th century and moves onward to 15th century London. There are trade and religious displays. A special find is a Saxon brooch. Also on show are axeheads and a carved tombstone.
From 1066 to 1485 is represented in the Medieval London section. This gallery follows the capital as the grew in size and wealth. Pottery and decorated glassware were imported. Pilgrim badges, a model of St Paul’s, and the story of the Black Death round out the information.
The Tudor and early Stuart London gallery (1485-1666) contains displays of documents and artefacts related to the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII, the civil war, and the execution of Charles I. The Great Fire story is told by means of models and audio-visual effects as is the Royal Exchange story.
Late Stuart London—the 17th century—shows how London was rebuilt after the Great Fire. A reconstruction of a wealthy merchant family’s room, with original wall panelling and carved plaster ceiling, is included. 18th century London was the time when much of what remains today was founded, both in architecture and customs. On view is the Lord Mayor’s coach built in 1757. Silverwork, glass, ceramics, textiles and printed works make up further displays. A startling display contains the Cheapside Hoard, 400 pieces of jewellery.
18th century London is represented by the interior of a grand house, a display of costumes from the period, and the wooden doors of Newgate prison.
World City galleries span the 1789-1914 time period and show how London became the thriving metropolis of today. Artefacts, film-clips, and Victorian shop front streets bring it all to life.
There are interactive computers for those who want to learn more. The museum also has special changing exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Museum of London
150 London Wall
Tel. information line: 020 7001 9844
Web: Museum of London
Open: 10am-6pm, daily; closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan
Insider tip: To fully take in all the museum has to offer, plan on spending three hours. If your schedule is tight, allow at least an hour. The museum is worth it.
Photos courtesy of the Museum of London