5 Alternative London Museums | Beyond Roehampton

London is well known for its museums. Some of the world’s leading cultural institutions can be found here such as the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Imperial War Museum.

But as a student, you may want to step off the beaten track and get away from the tourists. Here are a few of London’s lesser known gems!

1. The Grant Museum of Zoology

The Grant Museum – part of UCL – is jam packed full of environmental oddities. Think skeletons, butterflies rendered immobile with pins and jars of things that shouldn’t really be in jars. A highlight of your visit will be The Micrarium, a backlit room adorned with over 2000 microscope slides of tiny things. If you’ve ever wondered what a slice of a beetle or a 2mm squid look like, well you’re in luck!

2. Keats House

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy The Northern Line to Hampstead Heath

Walk in the footsteps of John Keats, a Londoner and one of the greatest poets who ever lived. John lived here until his untimely death at only 25 years old (and rather a nice house it is too). Once you have had your fill of poetry, why not take a stroll around nearby Hampstead Heath and take in the astonishing view of our glorious city from Parliament Hill.

3. The Ragged School Museum

Mile End is one of the most up and coming areas of London. A space now shared by Bangladeshi families and artistic young professionals was once a place of extreme poverty and home to the most destitute of Londoners. Taking a trip to the Ragged School Museum is like taking a trip back to Victorian times. Every month, actors in period clothing will put you through your paces in the Victorian classroom and give you a jolly good telling off if you step out of line.

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Built quite late as far as warehouses are concerned, (sometime in the 1850s), these buildings stored goods brought by narrowboat up the Regents Canal from the London docks. However, by 1870s Thomas Barnardo had requisitioned the buildings and started what was the first of many Ragged Schools in the East End. Dr Barnardo set up basic schools to teach the desperately poor children with an education as well as clothing and a trade to earn a living. School children were brought from the surrounding area by parents who could no longer support them on the minimal wages they earned. The schools were very basically furnished with desks, blackboards, bare floorboards and chocolate brown painted brick walls. However, just forty years after becoming a school it reverted back to being a warehouse, where it stayed until the dereliction of the docks in the late 70s. Since then, it's been abandoned until quite recently when it became a Museum and Victorian School again helping explain the massive achievement Dr Barnardo brought to the East End. A wonderful building with a glorious history… #RaggedSchoolMuseum #DrBarnardo #MileEnd #Limehouse

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4. The Geffrye Museum

Ever wondered what a living room looked like in 1695? Or a drawing room in 1890? The Geffrye Museum has you covered! Stroll from room to room as if you were walking back and forwards through time and space, with examples of British period housing from 1600 to the present day. Not content with only displaying interiors, the Geffrye Museum has period gardens to match.

5. The Museum of Freemasonry

If you’re not quite sure what a Freemason actually is, maybe a  free tour of the Grand Temple and ‘ceremonial areas’ would be a good place to start. Who knows, you may even leave with a secret handshake to practice…

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