We’re spoilt for choice in Essex when it comes to museums. If you check out our Museums in Essex listing you’ll probably be surprised at just how many there are.
Colchester Museum offers a view into life in Essex two millenia ago, and during the Civil War. Chelmsford Museum hosts the Essex Regiment Museum, giving an insight into the Napoleonic wars and more (and into the Swinging Sixties, and when punk came to Chelmsford!). You’ll find prehistoric artefacts at Saffron Walden Museum. Southend Central Museum gives an insight into more contemporary history. There’s the BATA Shoe Factory museum (which we haven’t been to yet!)
And of course there are the big museums in London not far away. But closer to us than those grand buildings in South Kensingston, there is the Museum of London at Docklands, on the Isle of Dogs, which gives an additional perspective on life in Essex on the estuary.
The museum is based on the West India Dock, easily accessible on the DLR and only a few minutes away from Stratford railway station. It’s in the shadows of the Canary Wharf development, and when we visited there were a range of food stalls nearby servicing the hungry office workers, which set us up nicely for a couple of hours in the museum.
The museum is in an old warehouse on the dockside, and over two very large floors, offers an insight into life in the docks and surrounding area from 1600 to the current day. There are excellent displays on the growth of trade in the early days, the slave trade, and how the area was a key part in the growth of the empire. There’s ‘Sailortown’, a very, very creepy (and dark) recreation of the cobbled streets and narrow alleyways of Wapping.
They have some excellent projected images, cleverly bringing to life what would otherwise be static images. There’s more recent as well history – the Docklands at war, and the post-war decline and regeneration of the area.
Another floor gives you access to the Sainsbury Archive, a collection of more than 16,000 documents, photographs and objects which illustrate the history of today’s supermarket chain. There are posters, uniforms and other displays that give a visual indication of how the supermarket has changed over the last forty years. And on the ground floor there is a restaurant, bar, and the Mudlark’s Children’s Gallery.
Whether you pop there on the train/DLR for a couple of hours, or make it part of a longer day out (the Cutty Sark is only a few DLR stops away – or you go via cable car!), it comes highly recommended by us. More about the museum more details