If you're with your children, it's worth to go to the East End - V&A Museum of Childhood is a real gem that a lot of people overlook. At first glance, the museum building reminds one of an old station or market pavilion and seems at odds with the proletarian aesthetic of the neighbourhood. It's actually a strange implant brought about almost by accident; the proceeds from the Great Exhibition of 1851 were used to acquire land in South Kensington. Prince Albert had plans to develop a sort of village of museums. The early bird was the Museum of Ornamental Art, which later became the Victoria and Albert Museum. A temporary building was built to house the new institution, with a metal skeleton, iron columns and a glass roof. The architecture was similar to that of the Crystal Palace where the Great Exhibition took place. Locals dubbed it the Brompton Boilers, as the metal structure and the shape of the roofs reminded of boilers. A more solid building was needed for the museum, however, and the "three boilers" were divided and offered to London's boroughs at cost, for the creation of new museums. Only Bethnal Green responded to the offer, however, and the huge structure was brought eastward in 1866. The metal walls were later covered with red brick - the brick "clothing" designed by James Wild, a prominent architect in the Victorian era. The marble floor at ground level was made by female prisoners at Woking Prison. At first there was a lack of clarity about what to display in the museum. The earliest exhibits were devoted to sustenance and the animal world. The site became the Museum of Childhood only in 1974. The museum was recently wholly renovated; the iron structure is completely preserved in the interior and is quite impressive, the effect like a cross between a railway station and a cathedral. New, modern display cases are mixed with older and historic elements, and the two storeys hold a unique collection of toys and other items related to childhood, the oldest examples being from 1600 and the newest contemporary. The museum also features special exhibits, and the museum shop is amazing (even if it can be a drain on parents' pockets...).
Cambridge Heath Road
Keywords: museum, London