London's Newest Museum Is About A Zany Cartoonist

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 26 months ago
London's Newest Museum Is About A Zany Cartoonist

Never been to Pinner? There's an excellent excuse to do so.

Visit a museum dedicated to the zany cartoonist W Heath Robinson — it's rather brilliant.

'Stout members of the sixth column dislodge an enemy machine gun post on the dome of St Paul's.'

Robinson — who lived in Pinner from 1906-1918 — was the master of crackpot contraptions: machines that punch holes in cheese to make gruyere, oversized bits of kit used to test the integrity of a single false tooth.

Ingeniously daft, these inventions spawned the nickname 'Heath Robinson', for something that is unnecessarily complicated.

The museum is small, but the devil's in the detail.

Unlike most other war propaganda, Robinson's isn't afraid to take potshots at the Brits too. In one scene, a dairy uses melted butter to scupper an enemy tank. In another, British soldiers suffer from stiff necks, after being assaulted with cold air blown from German bellows.

While the man-made inventions form the centrepiece of the artworks, they speak volumes about the genius, vulnerability — and often stupidity — of humankind.

Geoffrey Beare, collection and exhibitions manager

Some of London's most famous landmarks star too. In one setup, Tower Bridge inadvertently kills a butterfly, setting in motion a chain of chaotic events, concluding in a bishop having his corn trodden on.

In Trafalgar Square, meanwhile, would-be German pigeon poisoners are entrapped by bathtubs lowered from Nelson's Column.

It's this kind of detail, the vignettes that thread together, which make Robinson's work so accessible and such a joy to behold. While the museum's not big, you could spend a couple of hours here, as you work out which pulley's doing what, and tracing the various knock-on effects.

It's noticeable that everyone here has a proper grin on their face — the kind of reaction you rarely get at an exhibition of Old Masters.

The museum's also a work of art in its own right; the ceiling in particular looks like it could have been dreamt up by Robinson himself.

To call Robinson a mere cartoonist is to undersell him. He illustrated everything from children's books to Shakespeare tomes, as well as rattling off a number of watercolours. A smattering of these are on display in the permanent collection, along with a jaunty timeline of the artist's life.

Really though, it's his nutty cartoons that will draw in visitors from far and wide.

Once you're done and dusted, stroll into Pinner — a picturesque corner of northwest London, with a beautifully-beamed high street.

The Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner Memorial Park, HA5 1AE is open every Friday-Sunday 11am-4pm. Adults £6 (£6.60 with Gift Aid); children and students £4 (£4.40 with Gift Aid); over 65s £5 (£5.50 with Gift Aid); family tickets £18 (£19.80 with Gift Aid).

Last Updated 13 December 2016