London Museum Challenge 2013: The Wrap-Up

December 31, 2013 § 4 Comments

Dennis Severs' HouseHorniman Museum

(Last and first: Dennis Severs’ House, Horniman Museum)

Well, I did it.

On New Year’s Day 2013, I (rather publicly) set myself a challenge to visit twenty-three museums in Greater London that I had somehow managed to miss in my previous eight years in the city. Nine days ago, I emerged from the last one on my list – the extraordinary Dennis Severs’ House – victorious. As well as dazzled, enlightened, tired, occasionally annoyed and infinitely richer for the experience.

In case any of you are thinking of undertaking something similar for 2014, here are my (very personal and highly biased) final thoughts…

Most enjoyable (in no particular order):

Horniman Museum

Chelsea Physic Garden

Dennis Severs’ House

Eltham Palace

Strawberry Hill

Red House

Most disappointing:

Museum of London

National Maritime Museum

(not least because I had high hopes for both, especially the Museum of London)

Most likely to return:

Horniman Museum

Chelsea Physic Garden

Dennis Severs’ House

Geffrye Museum

Strawberry Hill (after further restoration work)

Red House (ditto)

Syon House (for the garden)

Ben Uri Gallery (depending on exhibitions)

Design Museum (ditto)

Least likely to return:

Apsley House

Banqueting House

Kelmscott House

Museum of London (unless they seriously overhaul the permanent collection displays)

National Maritime Museum (ditto)

Nicest quirky surprises:

De Morgan Foundation

Fan Museum

Linley Sambourne House

Most child-friendly:

Horniman Museum (hands down!)

Most blissfully quiet:

Fenton House

Dr Johnson’s House

Best café:

Chelsea Physic Garden

Honourable mentions: Strawberry Hill and the Garden Museum. And while we’re on the subject, could the National Trust consider changing its scone recipe (or buying all its scones from the Kew Greenhouse, mmmm now there’s an idea)? The scones in all NT cafés are like bricks! (English Heritage, you are also guilty, if the tearoom at Eltham Palace is any indication.)

Best venue for a date:

Chelsea Physic Garden

Dennis Severs’ House (not for a first date – your date would have to be someone you know well enough that you both feel comfortable being completely silent together)

I’ve made some wonderful discoveries over the course of the year, but the less obvious benefit of this undertaking has been that I’ve gotten to know London more deeply – sometimes it’s the odder, more eccentric and out-of-the-way bits that seem to hold an important key to the place.

As for 2014, who knows what it holds? I’ll keep you posted…

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