London Canal Museum tells the story of the capital´s man-made waterways, which were once the superhighways of their day linking London with the industrial midlands and north of England. The museum is housed in a waterside former ice warehouse built in the 1860s for famous ice entrepreneur Carlo Gatti. Two vast ice wells lie beneath the floor and visitors can peer down into this unique part of London´s heritage, and see an exhibition about how natural ice, imported from Norway by sea, was stored here and distributed by horse and cart to keep Victorian London cool.
The exhibitions tell the story of the London canals, their construction, people, and horses, and the cargoes they carried. Visitors can go inside a narrowboat cabin and listen to a dramatisation about the lives of people living on boats in incredibly cramped conditions.
There are exhibitions about the well-known "roses and castles" art form and the motive power of both the canals and the ice carts - the horse. The Horse Power exhibition reminds us that there were once 300,000 horses working in London, and reminds us about the infrastructure that supported them, including the museum building, which became a stables after 1906.
Open Tuesdays to Sundays 1000-1630, plus bank holiday Mondays, and open late to 1930 on the first Thursday of the month. Last entry 45 minutes before closing. Closed 24-27 and 31st December. Small admission charge.
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This might sound about as fun as The Museum of Watching Paint Dry, but give it a chance and you’ll be won over. First of all, all canals are great – the Suez, the Panama, the Regent’s – there’re loads of them. Second, this museum is interesting. Who doesn’t want to hear about the history of the waterways, the lives of the workers and the horses that dragged the boats? Take a chance - heritage is huge right now.