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Find Your Niche at These Brilliantly Bizarre London Museums

By / September 7, 2018
   Old Operating Theater
   Old Operating Theater

Fancy getting to grips with some archaic surgical instruments or breezing your way through a collection of vintage fans? Of course you do. Amy Dawson rounds up some of the most brilliantly bizarre museums in London. 

Travel back in time at Dennis Severs House 

Your imagination (and a certain disregard for total historical accuracy) is required at this ‘still life drama’, created by American eccentric Dennis Severs. In a series of tableaus, arranged as if the occupants have literally just upped and left, this Spitalfields townhouse tells the story of a fictional family of Huguenot silk weavers. (And why not, eh?) Each room brings to life a different period in history, from 1725 to 1919, complete with scene-setting smells and noises. 

Spitalfields | Mon, Wed and Fri 5-8pm | £15.

Give yourself a complex at Freud Museum 

Poke your way round the family home of Sigmund Freud, the Godfather of psychoanalysis, who fled from Nazi-occupied Vienna with his family in 1938. Features include his huge collection of antiquities, writing desk, and – of course – that unbelievably famous couch, draped in a richly patterned throw. The whole place gives a quirky, humanising insight into an intellectual colossus. 

Hampstead | Wed – Sun 12pm-5pm | Free-£9.

Freud Museum London Freud Museum London

Find some medical curiosities at The Old Operating Theatre 

Transport yourself – not literally, luckily – back to a time of leaches, sawdust surgery floors and pre-anaesthetic amputations at this small but fascinating museum, housed in the attic of an 18th Century church. It’s the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe, and accessed via a narrow spiral staircase. The ultra atmospheric space frequently hosts mock Victorian surgery demonstrations, and even gigs. 

London Bridge | Mon 2pm-5pm, Tue – Sun 10.30am-5pm | £3.50-£6.50.

Old Operating Theater 1Old Operating Theater

Indulge your inner child at Pollock’s Toy Museum 

Housed in an old Fitzrovia building and run as a family business, this museum is packed to the (slightly ramshackle) rafters with curious and colourful old toys – puppets, painted theatres, toy soldiers and more. By turns nostalgic and slightly unsettling – all those dolls can’t help being a bit creepy – it’s a quirky little alternative to the (brilliant) V&A Museum of Childhood. Bring your smallest family members to marvel – or yawn – at a life before iPads. 

Fitzrovia | Mon – Sat 10am – 5pm | £4-£7.

Keep your cool at The Fan Museum 

Housed in a listed Georgian townhouse and a stone’s throw from the Cutty Sark and the Greenwich riverside, this niche collection of fans is full of surprises, from a fan designed by Salvador Dali to feathery Art Nouveau beauties. There’s also a pretty Orangery covered in murals, which is a good spot for afternoon tea if you’re feeling fancy. 

Greenwich | Tue – Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm | £3-£5.

Vintage Fan at Fan MuseumFan Museum

Take a strong stomach to the Grant Museum of Zoology

Totally enthralling, but not for the faint-hearted, this teaching collection of 68,000 zoological specimens is a warren of skeletons, taxidermy and specimens preserved in fluids. Many of the items are extremely rare and precious. There are bisected heads, dodo bones and the skeleton of a quagga – the zebra subspecies which died out in the 19th Century, and became the first extinct animal to have its DNA analysed in 1984. 

Bloomsbury | Mon to Sat 1pm-5pm | Free.

Explore some late Victoriana at Leighton House Museum 

In the 1860s, artist Frederic Leighton commissioned this red brick house in Holland Park. He filled it with Pre-Raphaelite artwork (including many of his own paintings), decorated it in dazzling style and filled it with the opulent treasures he had collected across the globe – residing all the while in a rather plain, single bedroom. Come for some seriously maximalist interiors. 

Kensington | Weds to Mon 10am-5.30pm. | Free-£9.


Amy Dawson is a freelance culture and lifestyle journalist who lives in London. She’s tried everything from wild river swimming to axe throwing in the name of a good story – and she has the embarrassing photos to prove it.

More articles by Amy Dawson



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