Saturday 1 February 2014

The Charles Dickens Museum, The Foundling Museum & The Museum of London

I managed to squeeze in a second Nice Day Out last week, which was rather lovely! I have to say that the prospect of a nice day out doing interesting things is proving to be an excellent incentive for me to knuckle down and get certain projects finished (hello accounts, I am talking about you).

For this day out, I decided to make use of my Art Pass and picked out a couple of free-with-your-Art-Pass places from the London section of the guide.

I got the Tube to Russell Square and had a little wander round the area, looking at the architecture and taking a few snaps from the shelter of my umbrella.


I totally fell in love with this awesome modernist / brutalist housing complex (The Brunswick). I know buildings like this are not everyone's cup of tea but I really adore them.


First stop for the day was the Charles Dickens Museum. This is, as you have probably guessed, a museum about Charles Dickens! (He wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby while living here)

The house is set up to look how it might have looked when he lived there, as if the family have just popped out - the dining table is laid for a dinner party, there's food being prepared in the kitchen, etc, and lots of the furniture in the house was once owned by Dickens.

There's lots of Dickens memorabilia dotted throughout the rooms (pictures and documents on the walls, special objects displayed in cabinets), everything from his will and a flower that was placed on his grave (rather moving), to the window frame from a house he lived in as a child and a lemon squeezer he is known to have used (slightly bonkers).

There are little booklets (handed out by friendly volunteers) that tell you about how the things in each room relate to his life and work, how families of the time lived and how Dickens' life experiences (like his father's imprisonment and the death of a young relative) can be seen in his writing.

Oh and there's also a lovely cafe which sells some seriously tasty cake. Om nom nom.

I really enjoyed my visit to this museum - I came away with a much more full sense of Dickens as a person, and a rather strong urge to re-read some of his books!

Next up was the Foundling Museum, which is just a couple of streets away. The Foundling Hospital was a home for abandoned children, which opened its doors in the 1700s.

The museum tells the story of the Hospital, its founders, and the children who lived there. There are also some fancy interiors transplanted from the original Hospital building, galleries of paintings donated to the hospital (many of which depict scenes from the Hospital's life, like children at prayer) and a collection of Handel manuscripts and memorablia (the composer was a Governor & benefactor of the Foundling Hospital and many of his works were performed as benefit concerts for the Hospital).

The displays about the history of the Hospital were fascinating, although rather sad - the display of tokens left by parents (so they could identify their child if they were able to return for them) is especially touching.

I didn't think I'd be at all interested in the Handel collection but it was fascinating to learn about his connection with the Foundling Hospital and I loved the way that his music is included in the room where the collection is displayed: there are armchairs with speakers at ear-height so you can sit and relax and listen to bits of his music. 

Finally I hopped on the Tube & headed to the Museum of London for lunch and a look round the modern galleries (I only got up to the Great Fire of London on my earlier visit).

I love the Museum of London. There's a ton of really interesting stuff to see, with lots of interactive elements (games to play, objects to touch, even smells to smell) that complement the display cases full of objects. There are also some great displays that bring historical objects to life by showing them "in situ", like the Victorian Walk (with lots of shops) and the rooms that show how Roman Londoners would have lived. And it's free to visit, which is always awesome.

I met up with Katie from What Katie Does & What Katie Sews for a cuppa in the cafe and then we wandered round looking at the displays. It was lovely to meet Katie after enjoying her blog posts, to have a good chat about stuff like blogging, and to have some company while exploring the museum.

Three museums in one day = a long and busy day! But a very nice one :)


Charlotte said...

sounds fab!
I'd be up for a wander around a museum one day if you like :-)

Jacqui Wise said...

Looks like another fascinating but very tiring day out! I must return to the Museum of London one day - haven't been there for years and it's probably changed quite a bit. Funny that you mention the modernist/brutalist building you saw. Have you been watching 'The Renovation Challenge' on tv the past few weeks? Last night they renovated some rooms in a 'brutalist' building in Tower Hamlets.

Manu said...

I LOVE Dickens novels and I LOVE Händel music, so this trip really sounds like the perfect day to me! I enjoy reading all of your nice-day-out posts and as I said on Facebook they still make me sooo jealous (in a good way though) ^_^

Unknown said...

I love your posts about days out in London as they always make me want to visit where you've been, especially as they're all so close by! I LOVE Dickens, and we're analyzing 'Great Expectations' next week for one of my English modules at uni. Definitely going to be checking this previously unheard of museum out!

What's your favourite Dickens novel? xx

onegirlandtheworld said...

You'd love my uni (UEA)we're basically all artistic concrete but you really learn to love it! Also I have not been to the Museum of London in forever! We used to go quite a bit when I was little and we lived in London. I can even remember writing a story about having to spend the night and sleeping in the Lord Mayors Carriage there when I got left behind on a school trip! I used to know ALL of their exhibits pretty much off by heart I think! Plus I'm sure it was there we did some awesome themed days where we dressed up as Romans and took it in turns being servants and rich people. Though I remember not really liking the food! You've reminded me that I must go back and the other two sound really interesting as well! :D Thanks for sharing :D

http://thankfullga447 said...

Your posts are such a joy I was in Russell Sq. a few years back and they were renovated CD museum. I love the color of the doors. I must put Museum of London on my list.

Papercraft Post said...

The Brunswick Centre was used as a location for Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" film!

bairozan said...

I didn't know that about Handel, so thanks for this :) What a great idea to meet a fellow blogger on such an occasion!

Bugs and Fishes said...

Charlotte - that would be lovely! I will email you :)

Jacqui - oh that's cool, I'll check that out on the iPlayer!

Manu - haha, I'm glad it's in a good way! I'm also hoping to go to the Handel House Museum sometime soon, it looks very interesting.

Susanna - I hope you'll enjoy your visit! My favourite Dickens novel is definitely Great Expectations. I wrote an essay on it for my degree and fell more in love with it the deeper I dug into the text.

Niamh - we just had a couple of concrete buildings at my Uni and they really divided opinion, everyone either totally loved or loathed them. What a great museum to have nearby when you were little! I hope you'll enjoy your return visit :)

ga447 - yes, apparently the Charles Dickens museum is very different post-renovation! The doors & those black tiles = quite lush.

SNJ - cool!

bairozan - he seems to have been a very philanthropic guy! He was one of the founder members of a charity to help impoverished musicians, too:

It's been really lovely to meet up with people after years of knowing each other (online) through work & blogging :)

Lily said...

One heroic outing,Laura, thanks for taking us with you! :) How much a big city and a capital contains and offers can be overwhelming! Glad to learn something unexpected today :)

Jacqui Wise said...

The modernist/brutalist building was actually featured on The Great Interior Design Challenge and not The Renovation Challenge as I said in an earlier comment. Sorry for my confusion! It's an age thing!

Bugs and Fishes said...

Lily - yes, there is sooo much to see and do in London!

Jacqui - no worries, I figured it out :)