Results 1-3of 3 Reviews
London, England, United Kingdom
April 13, 2012
From journal England 2012
London, United Kingdom
June 27, 2009
From journal Musings on London's Museums
February 1, 2005
If the Museum in Docklands were in Central London, rather than off the tourist radar in Canary Wharf, it would undoubtedly attract throngs of visitors. However, I practically had the place to myself one afternoon after strolling among the gleaming modern buildings of Canary Wharf. The old West India Dock warehouses are a poignant reminder that the mercantile torch has been passed--the sailors and dock workers now replaced by merchant bankers and stock brokers.
Canary Wharf near the Docklands Museum
Throughout the museum, I never lost the sense of being in a warehouse–-the pitch pine timbers and weathered brick were left intact wherever possible. I could imagine what the place had been like in its heyday, rich with the scent of tea and molasses. Everywhere, gleaming wood display cases and brass fittings lent a distinctly maritime feel.
The first few galleries explore the ancient Roman settlements that sprang up along the Thames and trace the growth of the city through medieval times. I found the model of medieval London Bridge of special interest–-for centuries the sole structure spanning the Thames.
There are 16 galleries in the museum, and if pressed I’d have to say that the section devoted to the fate of the East End and dock areas during World War II impressed me most. Footage from the Imperial War Museum of the burning of the docks during the Blitz was one of the most affecting things I’ve ever seen. The ferocity of the fires seemed almost incomprehensible even compared to recent apocalypses.
More peaceably, there are any number of wonderful artifacts to contemplate – wooden ships’ figureheads (including a particularly fine one representing Pocahontas), models of famous clipper ships, maps and panoramas, and all the fascinating paraphernalia of the maritime life. "Sailortown," a reconstruction of a late 18th century Billingsgate area, takes visitors through a series of dark alleys ringing with the sounds of the docks; it’s an artful piece of historical legerdemain.
The last few galleries trace the renaissance of the Docklands. I was impressed by how clearly the exhibits depicted the area’s downward spiral and rocky recovery. It filled in any number of gaps in my understanding of modern eastern London, especially the political strife that accompanied the reshaping of the Docklands.
Before leaving I peeked into the lively "Mudlarks Gallery," sure to be a hit with any visitor under the age of 12. I left at closing, wishing I’d come earlier. This museum was an unexpected pleasure.
From journal Sweet Thames, Flow Softly