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Monday, 1 April 2013

A trip to the Museum of London Docklands

We had a lovely day out yesterday at The Museum of London Docklands. It was freezing cold outside and being Easter Day the museum was quieter than I'm sure it is most weekends, but it was still a fantastic place to visit.

I've got to be honest and say that I didn't know that the museum was there until a few weeks ago. I have been to the main Museum of London before and it was whilst visiting their website I discovered that they had a second museum tucked away in the docks.

As I have recently discovered that some of my ancestors lived and worked in the Docks, I was keen to find out about the area's history and the lives that they would have had.

The museum is housed in a grade I listed warehouse in West India Quay (one of the few buildings in the area not to be have been destroyed by the bllitz or regeneration of the area) and is housed over three floors. You start on the third floor and finish on the first floor, and the museum tells the story of the Thames, the docklands and the local area and people from 46AD when it was a small port through it's heyday as the biggest port in the world and on to the areas resurrection as London's financial district.

The most interesting part of the museum for me was "Sailortown" - a full size reconstruction of the streets if Shadwell and Wapping that Patrick Crawley (my 4x great grandfather) would have walked. It was dark, it was smelly and it was very, very easy to imagine the reality of life lived on the streets of East London in the early to mid 19th century.

Also interesting was the London, Sugar & Slavery exhibition, a permanent exhibition which tells "London's untold story" of it's part in the slave trade. I knew very little about slavery, and found it really interesting, as well as shocking.

The museum also has a cafe, shop and restaurant (the appropriately named "Rum & Sugar") and also houses a research centre where you can access port of London records by appointment (so I will be back!).

It is well worth a visit if you want to know more about the East End, the docks and London's past.

Afterwards we got the Docklands Light Railway and as we winded through the tall glass buildings housing financial institutions and luxury apartments worth £2,000,000 plus I couldn't help wondering what old Patrick Crawley and his friends would make of the transformation of the area!

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