Museum Of London Is Moving - Here's What We Know So Far

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 6 months ago
Museum Of London Is Moving - Here's What We Know So Far
Artist impression of interior of new Museum of London in Smithfield, looking down on shop from mezzanine level
The latest designs, revealed in summer 2019. Image: Museum of London

We've known for a few years that the excellent Museum of London will be leaving its home on London Wall and moving to a new location in Smithfield. Here's what we know about the relocation so far.

When does Museum of London move to its new home?

In a video published in 2016, an opening date of 2021 was mooted for the new Museum of London, but that's no longer viable. At time of writing, 2024 is being given as a projected opening date, with a planning application submitted by the museum in January 2020. So you've still got plenty of time to visit the old site yet.

Where is Museum of London moving to?

View over the rooftops of new Museum of London home in Smithfield Market buildings, looking north-east.
Looking across the new Museum of London. Image: Museum of London/Secchi Smith

Museum of London's new home will be in the Market Buildings in West Smithfield, parts of which have been empty and derelict for about 30 years.

According to plans on the website, the museum will take over both the General Market and Poultry Market Buildings. The General Market Building is the domed structure at the western end of the market buildings, located between Farringdon Street to the west and Poultry Avenue to the east.

Cross section diagram of General Market and Poultry Market buildings in Smithfield, showing the layout of new Museum of London across several floors.
Image: museum.london

The Poultry Market building is the green-roofed building located between West Poultry Avenue and East Poultry Avenue. Street-facing shops will be installed around the perimeter of these buildings.

In 2017, we went behind the scenes on some of the renovations taking place:

The Meat Market Building between East Poultry Avenue and Lindsey Street will not be part of the new museum, but it is expected to form part of a new cultural quarter, with shops and event spaces.

View over the stalls and shops of the Poultry Market Building in Smithfield Market, soon to be used as a new home for Museum of London
Inside the Poultry Market in 2014. Photo: Matt Brown

Museum of London will also take over a smaller building known as 'The Annexe' across the road.

Redbrick frontage of 'the annexe' building of Smithfield Market, soon to be part of the new Museum of London
The Annexe. Photo: Londonist

The new location is only half a mile from the museum's current space at 150 London Wall, but has been chosen for the area's history, creativity and good transport links. The Elizabeth line will run through Farringdon station, just a few minutes' walk away — although it's looking increasingly likely that the new museum will be up and running long before Farringdon gets so much as a sniff of a Crossrail train.

Where is Smithfield Meat Market moving to?

Deserted corridor of Smithfield Meat Market, with closed meat shops on either side. Soon to be home to the new Museum of London.
Inside the current Smithfield Meat Market

There's been a livestock market in Smithfield for 800 years, and Smithfield Market has existed in its current incarnation since Victorian times... but that will all be ending soon.

Dagenham Docks is currently being suggested at the location for a new mega-market, merging the meat market with New Spitalfields fruit and veg market and Billingsgate fish market. However, many traders oppose the move, saying it's too far for their customers to travel.

Why is Museum of London moving?

Hoardings outside new Museum of London building in Smithfield, saying 'Museum of Londoners' and giving details about the building's renovation.

According to Museum Director Sharon Ament "we're bursting at the seams" and "we're not connected". It's hoped that the new location will give the museum more space to display its impressive collection of more than seven million objects, and offer the capacity for two million visitors a year. As for connectivity — there's the aforementioned Crossrail, and plans for several street-level entrances are likely to make the museum more inviting and easier to find than its current highwalk entrance on London Wall.

What will the new Museum of London look like?

Artist's impression of new Museum of London building in Smithfield at night, with a neon sign on the roof and a crowd queuing to get in.
One of the latest design images, revealed in summer 2019

We've seen several plans of what the new museum could look like in recent years, from the outlandish (Lord Mayor's Coach stuck to the side of the building?) to the beautiful. Plans have had to change as preliminary work has been carried out, not least due to the discovery of an unknown warren of cellars beneath the building.

Artist's impression of inside the new Museum of London building in Smithfield, with visitors walking about the museum exhibitions
What the interior could look like, according to the latest plans

In summer 2019, a new set of plans were revealed, with mock-ups and artists' impressions of the interior and exterior of the building by architectural team Stanton Williams and Asif Khan with Julian Harrap Architects.

The plans show the existing metal girders and beams left in situ, with banners and other artefacts being displayed on them, while the high ceilings make for a light and airy space.

Will a railway run through the middle of the new Museum of London?

Artist's impression inside new Museum of London buildings in Smithfield, with glass windows showing a train going past in the Thameslink tunnel
That Thameslink viewing wall is unlikely to happen.

One of the potential designs for the new museum showed glass walls offering an insight into the Thameslink tracks, with trains running through in full sight of museum visitors. While it's true that the Thameslink tunnels run directly beneath the museum (see diagram above), this hasn't made it into the final plans, and was mostly likely more of an attention grabber than a viable option.

What is the Culture Mile?

Ah yes, you may have heard the phrase 'Culture Mile' being chucked about in relation to the new museum, though the idea has been around for much longer. It refers to a collection of arts, cultural and educational institutions within the Square Mile, running from St Paul's Cathedral in the south to LSO St Luke's in the north, and Farringdon in the east to Moorgate in the west, centring on Barbican. Of course, Museum of London is already a part of it in its current location, and will remain so in its new one.

Find out more about the Culture Mile.

What will happen to the old Museum of London building?

Plans for a Centre for Music concert hall on the Museum of London site on London Wall. A twisted pyramid building, several storeys high.
What the new Centre for Music could look like. Concept Design: External view. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Museum of London's current home is likely to be redeveloped into a Centre for Music, a joint project between the nearby Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama, housing performance, rehearsal and education spaces.

Preliminary designs for the state-of-the-art concert hall, by designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro, show a twisting tower of timber and glass. It's certainly different to the roundabout rotunda currently located on London Wall.

No plans have been confirmed at time of writing, as the move and redevelopment are still a few years away.

Is Museum of London Docklands moving?

No, Museum of London's eastern outpost Museum of London Docklands has no plans to move from its Canary Wharf home — and rightly so, for where should a Docklands museum be, but in the Docklands.


Find out more about Museum of London's relocation and keep up to date with the latest news on the museum's website and on museum.london.

Last Updated 21 January 2020

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