London Boroughs Without Their Own Museum

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 17 months ago
London Boroughs Without Their Own Museum

Most London boroughs have their own museum dedicated to local history. Some are named after the borough, so you can't miss them. Others are historic houses that operate either officially or unofficially as a borough's museum.

Six boroughs, though, are lacking an adequate borough museum altogether. Here, we explore what these museums could be about, were they to one day exist.

Hampstead Ponds, the source of the River Fleet. Photo: Jon Dickins

Camden

Camden doesn't have its own museum; strange, as it's the borough with the most museums in London. Indeed this borough has an embarrassment of riches... perhaps the problem is finding a space to contain it all.

If they were to build a Camden museum, we'd suggest the River Fleet gets a good airing. It's one of London's great lost rivers, almost entirely confined to Camden before slipping into the Thames. They nearly named the borough after it, before it was reasoned that the River Fleet is now little more than a sewer.

In this video, we tracked what you can still see of the Fleet today:

The public would alp up displays about the legends of sewer pigs, while little ones could have a go at culverting a mini Fleet.

Hammersmith & Fulham

You can count the number of museums in Hammersmith and Fulham on one hand, and none of its four museums is dedicated to the borough.

When/if that museum happens, it has to include a hefty section on the famous Hammersmith Palais. The legendary music venue lent its name to one of The Clash's biggest hits and was one of Ian Dury's reasons to be cheerful.

The rear of the former Palais as seen from Hammersmith station. Photo: shadow_in_the_water

The Palais was closed in 2007, demolished in 2012 and nowadays student halls sit upon the site. Maybe we can transform the halls into a new museum.

Hillingdon

We see you sniggering back there: "why should Hillingdon get its own museum?" This borough's actually filled with fascinating spots, including the Battle of Britain Bunker, RAF Northolt and West Drayton — the terminating spot of London's ghost train.

Even excluding all those, Hillingdon needs a museum for one reason alone: lidos. The borough contains two of London's best: Hillingdon Lido and Ruislip Lido (with its miniature railway). So maybe a museum dedicated to water and steam then? Oh damn, Brentford got there first.

Kensington & Chelsea

Kensington & Chelsea is another borough packed with fine museums. To name a few: the Science Museum, the V&A and the Natural History Museum. You know, the big guns.

To make up for their lack of a physical borough museum, Kensington & Chelsea went a different route: a virtual museum. From the looks of things the website is a little out of date — nothing's been posted since 2008.

Still the museum covers a diverse range of topics: from the cowboys at Earl's Court to Kensington High Street's secret slums. Five out of 10 for effort, K&C.

Notting Hill Carnival. Photo: Dee McIntosh

If we were to put a physical museum in the borough, we'd want to see a whole section dedicated to the Notting Hill Carnival — covering everything from the 1976 riots to a gallery of policemen slightly gauchely joining in with the festivities.

Lambeth

Clapham Common. Photo: Carlos Dario Perez

Looking at a map of Lambeth, you'll notice that it bisects Clapham Common. Splitting and dividing a common is a perfect jumping off point for an exhibition looking at the history of south London's common land. Trust us Lambeth, build it and they will come.

Lewisham

When it comes to museums, Lewisham teeters on a being barren wasteland. There is the wonderful Horniman  — famous for its overstuffed walrus and torture chair — but that's almost the end of the line. Lewisham, then, is probably the borough that most desperately needs a museum.

The old Catford Dogs Stadium. Photo: FJC37

About what exactly? We'd like to see a tribute to Catford Dogs Stadium. It closed without warning — faithful punters never getting their chance to say an emotional farewell. It's now well on its way to becoming housing, so there isn't even a site for its dedicated to make a pilgrimage too. And for the kids: an interactive feature where they can race a hare. That should keep them occupied.

What do you think these hypothetical museums should feature? Play curator and tell us in the comments.

Last Updated 29 March 2017