Housed in a grade I listed early 19th century sugar warehouse, the Museum of London Docklands charts the history of the River Thames and London’s ports. Entry to the museum is free, and there’s plenty to see here across the eleven permanent galleries.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
This is a great alternative to the chaos and crowds of some of the bigger Central London museums, and perfect for a rainy day. It’s really easy to get to on the DLR – only 25 mins from Lewisham – and we love to bag a seat at the front so we can pretend we’re driving the train. At West India Quay, there are lifts down to the docks and from there it’s only a five minute stroll to the museum. Start in the excellent Mudlarks gallery so the kids can let off some steam, then head up to the more grown-up exhibits where there’s plenty of space for young ones to roam around. We love to visit ‘Sailortown’ along the way too and pretend we’ve gone back in time! Everything you need for a pitstop is on the ground floor, including a small cafe. The Museum is fully wheelchair and buggy accessible too. So all round, it’s a really easy and fun place to visit for all the family. And if you fancy making a day of it, there’s a Cineworld nearby at West India Quay.
Address: No. 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London, E14 4AL
Cafe: Yes, it sells a nice range of sandwiches, cakes and drinks, though it’s on the pricier side (about £4.00 for a sandwich). You can also buy pirate themed lunchboxes for the kids for a fiver (including a sandwich, fruit/chocolate, vegetable sticks and a water/fruit juice). It’s fairly small, but is open plan so it’s reasonably easy to get a buggy in, and some highchairs are also available. Toilets and baby changing facilities are very close by. Head to the Rum & Sugar restaurant for more choice, hot food and children’s menus (also a fiver).
Toilets: Yes, fully accessible and with baby change.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: The museum says: ‘There is full physical access to all public areas of the museum, including galleries, classrooms, shop, café and theatre. If you have any requirements, please ask the Visitor Hosts at the Information Desk on arrival’. More information can be found here: www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/visiting-us/access-and-facilities-visitors-impairments
Parking: Vinci pay and display car park behind the museum on Hertsmere Road.
DLR: West India Quay DLR
Tube: Canary Wharf Tube
Phone: 020 7001 9844
The exhibits tell the story throughout centuries – from the early Roman settlements, to creation of the docks under the British Empire, their near destruction during the Blitz and regeneration in the 1980s. One of the most popular galleries is Sailortown – a full size reconstruction of a dark and dangerous street in 1840s Wapping, which includes an alehouse, sailors’ lodgings and wild animal emporium. Although most of the galleries are geared towards adults, the Museum also caters well for families and younger children.
The interactive Mudlarks gallery is a dedicated areas for the under 5s. Pre-schoolers can drive a DLR train in the small soft play area, have a go at damming a river in the water play zone, and load cargo on to a ship. It’s free, though timed tickets must be either booked online from 7pm the evening before, or collected from the main desk on the day. For safety reasons, children must be 1 metre tall or under. It’s open from 2pm-5.30pm during term time, and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.
The museum also runs free sessions for under 5s (and babies) on Mondays and Thursdays during term time, including ranging music and movement, storytime and Mini Mudlarks. Check the website for details. Themed Explorer Bags with fun activities to help explore the museum are also available for 2-5 year olds from the information desk (free, though a small deposit is needed).
Review by Rachel Smith