Museum of London


London Wall, EC2Y 5HN


020 7001 9844



Opening times:

Daily 10:00-18:00

How to get there:

Tube: Barbican/St Paul’s/Moorgate

Entry fee:


Additional information:

Café and shop

The Museum of London is a 1976 amalgamation of two collections: that of the London Museum, which opened in 1912 in a part of Kensington Palace, and the much older Guildhall Museum, founded by the Corporation of London in 1826, originally housed at the Guildhall. Both institutions had similar collections, mainly archaeological, with other artefacts relating to the history of London. By the early 20th century one of the chief roles of the Guildhall Museum was the overseeing of archaeological excavation within the City: its collection was especially rich in Roman and medieval artefacts revealed as a result of London’s constant redevelopment. The London Museum, too, had a wide range of material dating from London’s earliest beginnings to modern times. Its inaugural displays included early tools, toys, pictures, torture implements, porcelain, costume, ‘a milk tooth of a Mammoth found in Pall Mall’ and a ‘washing bowl from the Condemned cell, Newgate Prison’. For its brief move to Lancaster House in 1914, models of the 1666 Great Fire and a Frost Fair on the Thames were commissioned, still in the collection today. The decision to unite the two collections was taken in 1961. The awkward new building (Powell & Moya 1968–76), white-tiled above and of black bricks below, occupies a site on the edge of the Barbican complex, in a heavily bombed and bleakly re-planned part of the City. The entrance, not immediately obvious, is on the Aldersgate/London Wall roundabout, either up the spiral stairs to the overhead walkway above the roundabout, or the new entrance at street level. The latter is part of a recent scheme to improve the building, which added a new entrance foyer and exhibition space, and will eventually include extra gallery space. The museum is constructed very close to sections of the old Roman Wall, which once defined the city limits: occasional windows overlook the ancient remains.


The Displays

The museum has over 1.1 million objects pertaining to the physical and social history of London, from its prehistory origins, its Roman, Saxon and Medieval past, through to its more recent history, from Tudor times to the present day. The museum also has a vast archaeological archive, archaeological excavation being an essential part of the museum’s work: the London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre (LAARC) is an independent branch of the museum. The displays, which incorporate salvaged period interiors and interior reconstructions, follow a chronological sequence over two floors, the upper level forming a gallery around the lower.

Prehistory (‘London Before London’) covers the period c. 400,000 bcad 50, with flint hand axes, Mesolithic tools and other items used by the people of the Thames Valley. There is a display of bronze weaponry dredged from the river and a 5,640–5,100 year-old skeleton, with a facial reconstruction alongside it, one of the oldest people to have been discovered in the London area. Roman London explores Londinium, the first city on the site, which bridged the Thames and was the largest city in Roman Britain. Craftsman’s tools and jewellery (including a beautiful emerald necklace with gold links) are shown, as well as items from the museum’s rich collection of Samian pottery, produced in France and shipped to London. A reconstructed interior incorporates a 3rd-century ad mosaic floor discovered in Bucklersbury in 1869, one of over 30 floors excavated from London sites. A mid-2nd-century ad wall painting, with Cupid in a columned architectural setting, from a Roman bath house, was discovered on the site of Winchester Palace, Southwark. The marble sculptures from the Temple of Mithras are major items discovered on the site of Bucklersbury House in 1954. The bust of Mithras himself dates to 180–220 ad; Mercury sitting on his rock to the 2nd century ad. Artefacts from Saxon London include jewellery, glassware and pottery and a hoard of Viking-age weapons discovered close to the site of the Saxon London Bridge. A c. 886 King Alfred the Great silver penny is on show, and a 7th-century brooch of garnets set in gold discovered in a grave in Floral Street, Covent Garden. An 11th-century grave slab, beautifully carved with a lion and serpent in battle and with a Norse runic inscription, was possibly part of a tomb of an individual connected to the court of King Canute.

Items from Medieval London underline the cultural flowering of the capital and its extensive overseas mercantile links. Pilgrim badges are on show, mementoes brought back from holy shrines, the most popular being that of St Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. The leather shoes with long pointed toes, the points kept stiff with stuffing, were fashionable in London in the 1380s. The Tudor and Early Stuart display includes early views of London: a c. 1559 copper plate map, the earliest known of the city, and a painting showing London’s myriad church spires, the skyline dominated by the mass of old St Paul’s. The palace buildings of Henry VIII–Charles I are explored; there is a reconstruction of a Jacobean bedchamber; and a model of the Rose Theatre. The remarkable Cheapside Hoard is a collection of over 230 pieces of jewellery recovered in 1912 from the site of Wakefield House, probably part of a goldsmith’s trade stock. The Tangye collection of items relating to Oliver Cromwell includes his Bible, funeral escutcheon and death mask. Dirck Stoop’s important painting shows Charles II’s processional route through the City following his triumphal Restoration in 1660. Mortality bills from the time of the 1665 Great Plague can be seen, as well as paintings of the Great Fire which raged through the City in 1666. The Great Fire Experience combines models, lighting effects and sound, including a voice-over of Samuel Pepys’ first-hand account of events.

The displays continue on the lower level with Late Stuart London and the modern city that rose from the 1666 ashes, directed by the great Sir Christopher Wren, architect of the new St Paul’s Cathedral and several of the City churches. The City became home to wealthy merchants and financiers, made rich through the great trading companies and the emerging financial market: the interior from Poyle Park, with its painted allegorical ceiling and carved panelling, indicates the degree of comfort such families enjoyed. Abraham Hondius’ 1677 painting shows the frozen Thames, a common occurrence in the 17th century and an opportunity for Frost Fairs, when booths and stalls were set up on the ice.

Eighteenth-Century London concentrates on the cosmopolitan nature of the city. It was a centre for luxury trades, such as silk weaving centred on Spitalfields. Period costumes are on show, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and dresses, such as that made for Ann Fanshawe c. 1752–53 when her father was Lord Mayor of London. Items relating to the social side of polite society are on display (tea drinking; the theatre) as well as the harsher side of life in the capital. Carved panelling from Wellclose Square prison is on show, with inscriptions scored by its inmates. The elaborate Lord Mayor’s Coach, with Rococo carving and painted allegorical scenes on its doors attributed to Cipriani (who also decorated the Gold State Coach), was commissioned in 1757 and is still used for the annual Lord Mayor’s Procession.

London as a World City covers the period 1789–1914, a period which witnessed unprecedented growth (London’s population rose from one to seven million) and the capital’s expansion into the world’s first metropolis. Personal items of Britain’s great heroes are on show: Wellington’s boots and hat, and Nelson’s jewel-encrusted sword. Paintings capture scenes of London life, such as George Elgar Hicks’ The General Post Office: One Minute to Six (1860), showing the rush of customers before closing time, and George William Joy’s well known Bayswater Omnibus (1895). Items from the Great Exhibition are on show, as are theatre bills, music hall programmes and items relating to the Suffragette movement, such as a 1914 photograph of Sylvia Pankhurst being arrested. The Victorian Walk is a succession of salvaged shop fronts and signs, and reconstructed interiors include Barings Bank c. 1853. The seedier side of the city, and social reform, is explored, including photographs and paintings of poverty and hardship, such as Gustave Doré’s A Poor House (c. 1869). Items from the museum’s large photography collection and sound archive are shown throughout the displays.

The museum’s London story currently ends in 1914, although a new 20th-century gallery is planned, which will show the extensive collection of 20th-century material: images and objects relating to London’s experience of wartime; its post-war recovery, including a model of the 1951 South Bank Exhibition site, part of the Festival of Britain; London’s printing trade, formerly concentrated on Fleet Street; and items relating to the rise of shopping: an Art Deco lift from Selfridges and a mid-20th-century Woolworth’s counter.

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Update from Museum of London

The Museum of London overlooks the Roman remains of the City wall near St Paul’s Cathedral and tells the story of the world’s greatest city and its people from prehistoric and Roman times through to medieval, Tudor and 18th century expansion, all the way through to the bustling multicultural London of today.

Spectacular collections, immersive spaces and interactive exhibits transport you through the capital's tumultuous history, rich with drama, triumph and near disaster. London’s history is presented through a variety of permanent galleries and temporary exhibition spaces. The permanent galleries at the Museum of London are:

London before London
This gallery explores the prehistoric story of the Thames Valley from 450,000 BC to the arrival of the Romans in AD 50. Beginning when London was a wilderness and the local population would fit on a double-decker bus, London before London explores the relationship between humans and their surroundings. Don't miss an impressive skull of an extinct auroch (wild ox) which inhabited London during 245,000-186,000 BC and the remains of the Shepperton woman, one of the oldest people to have been found in the London region. The skeleton is between 5,640 and 5,100 years old and is displayed alongside a facial reconstruction

Roman London
Roman London explores the history of Londinium from its founding to AD 410. Reconstructed rooms and models, an original mosaic floor and an extensive collection of tools, pots, human remains, armour, shoes and other everyday objects reveal the way Roman Londoners lived and worked. Don’t miss marble sculptures from the Temple of Mithras, among the finest works of art ever found in Roman Britain and a rare limestone sarcophagus which contained the remains of a 4th century woman who came to London from the south west of the Roman Empire.

Medieval London
Medieval London takes you from early Saxon settlements to the bustling Tudor capital. During this eventful period London was destroyed by invaders, wracked by plague and dominated by religious and political controversy. Learn about Anglo-Saxon life, sit in a recreated Saxon house and consider the lives of rich and poor people in Tudor times. London's story is illustrated by over 1300 exhibits, which include children's toys, fraudulent dice and a gold crucifix containing what purported to be a fragment of the True Cross. Many items come from recent archaeological digs, where deep waterlogged deposits along the Thames have preserved England's finest surviving collection of medieval leatherwork

War, Plague & Fire: 1550s–1660s
The War, Plague and Fire gallery tells the story of London from Elizabethan times, through the ravages of the English Civil Wars and the cataclysmic disasters of the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666.
Rich displays of artefacts and documents bring to life the key events of this period from the execution of King Charles I to the 100,000 deaths of the Great Plague and the destruction of the Great Fire, which razed a third of the city. Examine the copperplate map of 16th century London, a model of the Rose Theatre and Oliver Cromwell’s death mask

Expanding City: 1660s–1850s
This gallery explores London’s rapid growth after 1666. The centrepiece is a 240 year old printing press that spills news stories across the gallery in an innovative collision of new and old technologies. Admire museum treasures, including Nelson's sword, an original door from Newgate Prison and the extraordinary aerial view of the 1806 Rhinebeck Panorama, as you walk over cases embedded underfoot. London was the capital of a vast empire and this global influence was seen in the goods that Londoners could buy, from Indian cashmere to fans from China. Similarly, immigrants brought new skills that benefited the business and cultural life of the city. In size and population, wealth and power, there had never been a city like it.

Victorian Walk
Wander through atmospheric recreated Victorian streets featuring original shop fronts and merchandise. Peer into the windows of a toy shop, grocer's, milliner's and pawnbroker's, and visit a public house.

People's City: 1850s–1950s
By the 1850s, London was the world’s wealthiest city but success came at a price. Population growth created a divided city, with Londoners living in separate worlds of rich and poor. This was a time of conflict when workers united to fight for their rights, imprisoned Suffragettes went on hunger strike and communist and fascist groups emerged as the nation moved closer to war. It was also a time of wealth and glamour. The social divide is reflected in the galleries. A room wallpapered with Charles Booth’s poverty maps sits alongside a stunning art deco lift from Selfridges, a glamorous symbol of the emerging West End. As you leave the dazzling lights of the theatres and restaurants, enter a dark and immersive war room decorated starkly with a suspended bomb, showing a blitzed city unsure of its survival.

World City: 1950s–today
Discover how London became truly multicultural. Watch Bill and Ben on TV, play with toys from the 1950s and explore the fashions of the 20th century. See the impact of new technology in London homes and explore the issues London faces today. As well as looking back, we face up to London’s future. One enormous image imagines what London will look like in years to come while a flowing interactive river lets you debate the issues affecting London today, from burial space to climate change.

City Gallery
The centrepiece of our City Gallery is the magnificent Lord Mayor’s Coach, which is now more than 250 years old. Iconic and beautifully crafted, it was commissioned in 1757 for that year’s Lord Mayor's Show, which it still leaves the Museum every November to participate in.

The London 2012 Cauldron: designing a moment
This specially created home for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Cauldron tells the story of this iconic symbol of the Olympic and Paralympic games.

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Update from Museum of London

The museum has a new gallery:
London 2012 Olympic Cauldron: Designing a moment

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Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum




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