Formerly the residence of Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader and avid collector of curiosities, this free musuem was opened to the public in 1860. Filled to the brim with interesting objects designed to illustrate natural history and world arts and handicrafts there is such much to delight young and old alike. Much enhanced by the introduction of a bijou but brilliant aquarium in the basement and a series of well-crafted and entertaining exhibitions (ticket charge apply for both), the musuem is an excellent day out.
The museum is in wonderful gardens, which are listed separately here: https://www.mummysginfund.co.uk/horniman-gardens/
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
Perhaps I’m biased as I loved the Horniman even before I had children and I still find it surprising that ogling the taxidermy in the main room and marvelling at the hive going about its work is not everyone’s idea of a good date but the place really comes to life when you see it through the eyes of your beloved offspring. We’ve been going regularly since our daughter was 6 months old: initially we loved the quiet serenity of the display rooms mid-week which always encouraged some solid napping, as our little one got more mobile the delightful animals in the gardens and colourful fishes in the aquarium captured her attention. Now, she’s an old pro and can’t wait to see the exhibitions when they first open and the hive when it gets moving for the first time each spring. There’s so much to do that we can easily spend half a day in the place topped up with a lovely wedge of cake in the cafe for all that hard work. As for that cafe, others say it should be avoided at peak times but we’ve never had a probably getting seated or eating any of the scrumptious (if a little pricey) food and, if you’re lucky, looking out on a wedding in the beautiful conservatory certainly beats staring at the kitchen walls whilst you eat your Saturday lunch sarnie (by Sadie Lad).
Butterfly House – lovely and small – you could walk round in a minute! But take time with a toddler pointing out all the butterflies. Careful as they can land on you or the path so need to watch runners carefully! If it’s a busy day you need to book a time slot at the desk in the main museum even if you have a membership card. You have to leave buggies outside (there is a buggy park). Lots of lovely plants and flowers and as you would expect it’s very hot in there (by Laura Goldsmith).
Address: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Playground: No playground of the swings and slides variety but there is an outdoor music area with xylophones and drums to play on. There are also lots of hills to run around and trees to hide behind (you’re not allowed to climb the trees) (Sadie)
Park – just over the road (other side of A205) there is a playground called the Horniman Play Park. Small café with great ice cream! Very large sandpit, slides, climbing frames (for little toddlers and bigger ones) and climbing wall for bigger kids. Great for running off some energy before going to the museum (Laura).
Cafe: Yes, nice clean cafe serving hot and cold fresh food and picnic boxes for children. Lovely ‘Black Vanilla’ icecream and home made cakes. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating but it gets busy so try to avoid the peak times. The cafe opens at 10, half an hour before the museum, so it’s a great place to fill up on caffeine and sugar before hitting the exhibits.
Toilets: Yes, in the gardens – at the bottom of the hill, opposite the ‘Sound Garden’ (the outdoor music equipment). Also several indoors. Clean and accessible with baby change.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: Yes, accessible paths and garden – buggy park in the actual museum and lifts between floors. Some steep hills to push up and down
Parking: No, and driving to the museum is actively discouraged. However, you can park for free in the roads surrounding Horniman Drive – just be careful of blocking drives and make sure your handbrake is on, the hills are VERY steep!
Train: The Horniman is a five to ten minute walk from Forest Hill station and is signposted from the platform 1 exit. Please be aware this walk is uphill, although there are several bus services which stop at both the station and museum.
Bus: 176, 185, 197, 356, P4 – stop outside the Museum and Gardens on London Road; 122 – stops on Dartmouth Road; P13 – stops on Underhill Road; 363 – stops on Sydenham Hill Road
Phone: 0208 699 1872
Email: Online form on their website
If you plan to go frequently then it is worth investing in an annual membership ticket which then gives free entry to the aquarium and exhibitions plus a 10% discount in the excellent shop.
The museum also has excellent education department which runs many interesting events throughout the year. Their ‘hands on’ sessions are especially good as visitors are given the opportunity to touch and ask questions about exhibits.
There has recently been the additional of a free small outdoor animal area which houses goats, rabbits and other similar animals.
The gardens hold 6 display gardens showcasing plants in themes such as ‘The Dye Garden’ and ‘The Materials Garden”.
The gorgeous band stand houses concerts from around the world and its surrounding area is home to a weekly Saturday Farmer’s Market.
Review by Sadie Lad and Laura Goldsmith.