The Museum of London Docklands occupies a restored sugar warehouse that dates to the year 1802, and within these historic walls visitors can learn all about the growth and development of London’s docks. Across several permanent galleries of interactive displays and historic artifacts, visitors will hear the story of how British merchants dealing in spice, tea, silk, and enslaved people built an empire that spanned the world and how the impact of those enterprises still reverberates today. The museum also has a shop, café, and hosts special temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
History of Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London Docklands is located in what was once known as No. 1 Warehouse of the West India Docks, which comprised London’s first enclosed dock system. Located on West India Quay, not far from Canary Wharf, the West India Docks were in their day the world’s largest dock complex. From here merchants conducted business with countries, businesses, and individuals all across the world; these commercial affairs would indelibly shape the history of both England and the world, for better and for worse.
The Museum of London Docklands is affiliated with the Museum of London group, an organization that was born of a merger of the collections of the Guildhall Museum and the London Museum in 1976. The Museum of London opened its second site—the Museum of London Docklands—in 2003.
Museum of London Docklands Highlights
The Museum of London Docklands is home to a number of permanent galleries. These include the museum’s introductory gallery, No. 1 Warehouse, dedicated to the history of the site’s historic building; Trade Expansion: 1600-1800, which explores the lucrative spice, tea, and silk trades London merchants established with China and India; and London, Sugar, and Slavery, a powerful exhibit that relates how the transatlantic slave trade built modern London.
Other permanent galleries of note here are City and River: 1800-1840, which contains artifacts connected to the massive expansion of London’s docklands during the nineteenth century; New Port, New City: 1945-Present, a fascinating presentation on how London’s decaying ports were reimagined for a new age; and Mudlarks, an interactive gallery where parents and kids under the age of eight years old can play, learn, and have a fabulous time.
The Museum of London Docklands is also well-known for the quality of its temporary exhibitions. At any given time throughout the year, the museum can be showing multiple special exhibits on a range of topics. Recent temporary exhibitions of note at Museum of London Docklands have included Fashion City, which profiles a 1960s London fashion scene headlined by world-famous rock stars; and Indo + Caribbean: The Creation of a Culture, highlighting multiple centuries of cultural connections between England, India, and the Caribbean.
More to See and Do at Museum of London Docklands
Keep reading for even more things to see and do at the Museum of London Docklands.
*The Museum of London Docklands shop sells both attraction-related souvenirs as well as London-centric toys, posters, prints, and a variety of terrific gift ideas.
*The Museum of London Docklands café is situated next to the attraction’s entrance. Very proud of its kid-healthy food options, the museum serves an assortment of drinks, snacks, and light meals. You can also bring your own lunch into the museum; simply inquire at the front desk when you arrive and they’ll guide you to an indoor seating area where outside food and drink is permitted.
*There’s always something new and different taking place at Museum of London Docklands. For more information on the sort of special event that might be taking place when you’re scheduled to visit, check out the “What’s On” page on the museum’s official website.
*The Museum of London Docklands is one of London’s more accessible attractions. Visitors requiring any type of accommodation need only inquire upon arrival at the Information Desk to receive appropriate assistance from one of the site’s “Visitor Hosts.”
Why Museum of London Docklands Should Be on Your Must-See List
Don’t let the museum’s location well to the east of London’s most popular attractions dissuade you from giving this outstanding museum a chance: the Museum of London Docklands covers a lot of territory across its ten permanent galleries and multiple temporary exhibitions, ensuring that there’s a little bit of something here that’ll educate, entertain, and intrigue just about anyone.