Visit London's Other Transport Museum: Whitewebbs In Enfield

M@
By M@ Last edited 21 months ago
Visit London's Other Transport Museum: Whitewebbs In Enfield

"Would you like to see our well?"

We're caught off guard by this question from the ticket desk. This is Whitewebbs Museum of Transport, the most northerly museum in London. We came here to learn about transport. Not wells. But then Whitewebbs is full of hidden surprises, and you never know what's lurking round the next carburettor.

Imagine a John Soane's Museum themed around transport. Every cleft and inglenook bears the trinkets of conveyance. Here a vintage fender, there a stainless-steel footplate. A teenage school group could find plenty of mileage among the lubricated Wankel engines.

We politely decline the invitation to view the wishing well, eager to get to the good stuff upstairs. The tour begins on the top floor, with the collection's most diminutive vehicles. Thousands of them.

The crowded space is shared with model aeroplanes, children's toys and a small display about Enfield during the world wars. While examining an ancient gas mask we sense a presence at our left shoulder. It is the New Romantic Fire Warden, inscrutable guardian of Whitewebbs upper floors.

More androgynous fun awaits on the floor below, where we find a befrocked Michael Jackson impersonator, skulking behind the bike sheds:

We said a surprise lurks around every corner.

The next room is devoted to motorbikes, including a Holden model from 1898 — thought to be the oldest bike in the country. The display is lovingly arranged. A group of enthusiasts had seemingly adopted the room as a shrine. Overheard conversation suggested that they'd advanced to a level of motorbike knowledge many orders of magnitude above Junior Kickstart grade.

We shuffled into the adjacent cafe. It's lovely and old fashioned. Chatty staff, a cup of tea that costs something like thrupence ha'penny, and our first sighting of a doily since 1982.

The ground floor and rear yard are given over to larger vehicles. Vintage fire engines straight out of Camberwick Green jostle for place with hundred-year-old delivery vans and classic cars. A ye olde train carriage contains a charming miniature railway. Worlds within worlds.

But our reverie is interrupted by a museum volunteer:

"Would you like to see our well?"

"Hmm, OK, go on then." Our apathy just about breached, we follow the gent down some stairs inside the main building. We expect a small water feature, where wishes manifest as pennies. What we find is nothing short of a Balrog's lair:

It's hard to get a sense of scale from that photo. Suffice it to say that the museum perches over a deep, water-filled pit large enough to swallow a double-decker bus. It's a leftover piece of infrastructure from the building's former use, as a water pumping station.

Here's the lesson: if Whitewebbs Museum of Transport asks you, "would you like to see our well?", you say "Yes!".

Whitewebbs Museum of Transport is open every Tuesday, 10am-4pm, and on the final Sunday of every month (including 31 January). Entrance £4. It's half a mile from Crew's Hill station, or you can park in the museum's forecourt for free. We'd recommend combining your visit with a trip to nearby Forty Hall.

Last Updated 28 January 2016

AlanC

A great place to go to. As well as Forty Hall also try Myddleton House & gardens which is close by.