London: Three lesser-known museums with free admission

Posted in: London Sights


Sir John Soane Museum
Classical forms for free at the Sir John Soane Museum. Photo: StuSmith_UK

By Lara Kavanagh in London—

London is full to bursting with museums and galleries. Here are three small and unusual choices, none of which charges a penny to enter.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP
Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry 4.30 p.m.)
Free entry
Tel: 020 7405 2107
Web site

Set in the architect’s former residence, a stately brick townhouse, Sir John Soane’s Museum displays his fascinating collection of artifacts and personal effects, gathered from the 1780s to the 1830s. Exhibits range from Egyptian antiquities and Greek and Roman pieces, to medieval domestic objects and various sculpture, ceramics and stained-glass items. Architecture fans will also find much to delight in the assemblage of architectural prints and models.

The Geffrye Museum

Kingsland Road, E2 8EA
Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays and bank holidays noon to 5 p.m.
Free entry
Tel: 020 7739 9893
Web site

Geffrye Museum interior

Period interiors at the Geffrye. Photo: Kake Pugh

Sited in an elegant row of eighteenth-century almshouses with beautifully tended gardens, the Geffrye Museum is a great stop-off if you’re in the Shoreditch or Dalston area.

Touting itself as a “museum of living rooms,” the collection of furniture, textiles and decorative arts, arranged into decade-specific spaces, provides a fascinating insight into middle-class lifestyles from the seventeenth to late twentieth centuries. Background information is given on the circumstances of the day, allowing visitors to travel through the decades and witness the imprint of different fashions and tastes on the central room of the home.

Ragged School Museum

46-50 Copperfield Road, E3 4RR
Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., first Sunday of the month 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Free entry
Tel: 020 8980 6405
Web site

Visit Dr. Barnardo’s former Ragged School in Mile End and discover how he managed to educate and feed multitudes of poor East End children in these canalside premises. The top-floor exhibits offer a glimpse into Victorian living, while the ground floor rooms give a detailed and absorbing history of the East End in general.

Best of all are the interactive sessions in the first-floor classroom, where “pupils” of all ages sit at old-fashioned wooden desks, complete with chalk and slate, while a stern Victorian-style “teacher” puts them through their paces.

About the author

Lara Kavanagh

About the author: Lara Kavanagh is a travel editor and freelance writer based in London, and has also had the great pleasure of living in and writing about Paris. Top vintage shopping, great food and quirky nightlife are her favourite things about London.

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