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?
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.
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.
Museum of London will also take over a smaller building known as 'The Annexe' across the road.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
What will happen to the old Museum of London building?
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.