Sailors, slavery and so much more: the Museum of London Docklands

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The history of London is varied, diverse and always fascinating – and, being the globally significant city it’s been for so many centuries – often of major importance to the world at large. Take, for instance, the role the docks of the East End once played. Indeed, if you’re planning to come to the UK capital soon and curious of the place’s past, then the Museum of London Docklands is somewhere you should certainly consider visiting.

Docklands Museum
Housed inside a 200-year-old building that was once one of the famed docks’ warehouses, this attraction charges itself with revealing the ins and outs of the capital’s history, through several different eras, as one of the busiest, most thriving ports on the face of the planet, which made it a magnet for commerce, a beacon for migration and a centre of worldwide trade.

Educating through artefacts

By stepping through the museum’s doors you’ll discover a multitude of artefacts spread across its various rooms and galleries, one of which – ‘Sailortown’ – offers a senses-assaulting recreation of the docks of the 19th Century, while another – ‘London, Sugar & Slavery’ – takes a look at the capital’s (admittedly) less than admirable role in the transatlantic slave trade.

With its dedication to showcasing so many hidden gems of the London docks, this museum – too often overlooked amidst the city’s more famous historical attractions – might be said to be something of a hidden gem itself. Plus, if you’re staying in the vicinity (for instance, at one of the many fine hotels in the area like London City Suites or The Montcalm Brewery hotel on Chiswell Street London), it’s also a very easy venue to reach for an educational and – just as importantly – fun day out for all the family.

Fascinating contrast

And, as noted, if you’ve made this area of the city the base for your stay, then there’s a good chance you’ll be constantly observing and absorbing all its modern life and commerce; but what of its past? What was it like then? The truth, of course, is that it was teeming with just as much energy, urgency and diversity – yet it takes a visit to a museum such as this to discover it.

As pointed out, it attempts to cover the whole gamut of life to be found in the London docks; chronologically too, from their establishment right up to the present day. Specifically, it gives visitors a terrific insight into all the different sorts of vessels that called into the docks, what cargoes they carried and were loaded with and the often grimy and grisly reality for those that worked there – including the slaves for whom the docks were their entrance into Britain.

To say then this attraction gives a vivid contrast to the gleaming steel and concrete urbanity of the upmarket City and the nearby Canary Wharf area is putting it mildly. You might even say, for the purposes of context, it’s important to give this place and its exhibits a go so you gain a well-rounded understanding and appreciation of this part of London. It’s an experience you’re unlikely to regret!

Address: West India Quay E14 4AL

Website: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands

Nearest stations: West India Quay (DLR), Canary Wharf (Tube) and Canary Wharf Pier (river taxi)