London in Focus: Specialist Museums

Re-enactor at The Florence Nightingale Museum

Re-enactor at The Florence Nightingale Museum

Specialist museums where personalities come to life

London has a plethora of museums dedicated to telling the story of individual engineers, scientists, authors, poets and writers, politicians, artists and musicians who lived and worked in the city.

Many are small and are only open on specific days of the week, and may have limited access because of the historic building they are in, but most will organise special visits for groups. Here’s a small selection:

Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum, St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington – learn about how the physician discovered penicillin and see his laboratory restored to its 1928 condition. Tel: 020 3312 6528.

Benjamin Franklin House, Charing Cross – the only home of the American born printer and philsopher to have survived.

Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe, London – telling the Brunel family story and visit the Grand Entrance Hall, where work on the Thames Tunnel began – when it opened in 1843 it claimed to be the world’s most popular visitor attraction! The Hall reopened in 2016 as a performance space. The acquisition in late 2017 of the Thames Tunnel Archive – original working drawings by Marc Brunel – is inspiring a new gallery and museum at the site for their display.

Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas’s hospital – tells the story of the Lady of the Lamp. A new exhibition marking the centenary of the deadliest influenza pandemic in human history: ‘Spanish Flu: Nursing during history’s deadliest pandemic’ will run until 16th June 2019.

Dorich House Museum, Kingston University, near Richmond – the studio home of Russian sculptor Dora Gordine holding the largest collection of her work and an example of an art deco building created to her design.

Dr Johnson’s House, near Fleet Street – a 300-year old town house telling the story of 18th century writer, Samuel Johnson.

Hendrix's bedroom. Copyright: Andy Paradise

Hendrix’s bedroom. Copyright: Andy Paradise

Handel & Hendrix Museums, Brook Street. Separated by a wall and 200 years these two museums tell the story of two musicians who changed the course of music.

Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner – opened in 2016 and showcases the work of artist, illustrator and social commentator William Heath Robinson, who lived in Pinner from 1908–18.

Leighton House Holland Park, Kensington tells the story of Victorian artist, Frederic Lord Leighton and the purpose built studio-house is embellished with intricate mosaics, Islamic tiles and other decorative features and displays works by Leighton and his contemporaries.

Red House, Bexleyheath – the Arts and Crafts home of designer William Morris gives a glimpse into his work, his philosophy and life.

Our ‘London in Focus’ Series