Museum of London Docklands review – Trying to find the past in Canary Wharf

Sugar, sailors, slavery, tea, boats and bridges. And a whole lot more. Trying to get a sense of place amid the modern Canary Wharf development is hard, but the Museum of London Docklands is here to help.
London Bridge model - Museum of London Docklands
London Bridge – The mini city on top of the water once included houses, water wheels a chapel and gatehouses. And the Thames flowing underneath that made London the city it is today.

Trade makes the world go round…

Trade brought much of the prosperity and contacts that made London a rich world city. Two collections of ceramics in the museum show different sides to this. While these 18th-century coffee and chocolate cups were used by those who profited from the new Caribbean plantations and overseas trade another set was produced highlighting the slave labour that underpinned all of this.
Ceramics - Museum of London Docklands
Here a chained female is shown under a palm tree on the front of a sugar bowl with text on the back extolling the virtues of non-slave produced sugar.
East India sugar bowl - Museum of London Docklands
On the reverse: ‘‘East India Sugar not made By Slaves. By Six Families using East India, instead of West India Sugar, one Slave less is required”

Walking the streets of the past…

I can’t get enough of reconstructions, but I know not everyone sees their value. This museum gets it right though with their mix of reconstructed streets, weighing stations and blacksmiths alongside more information based exhibits. A few of my favourites that help set the scene:
Tool Shop

Tool Shop

Boat Yard

Boat Yard

Late Victorian docks sample showcase

Late Victorian docks sample showcase

Rise of the cosmopolitans…

Tea from China was such a hit that wars were started and dirty tricks were engaged in by the British to secure its steady flow. Here it’s interesting to see this Chinese style tea canister and find out that most of these in use in 19th-century grocer stores were actually made in Clerkenwell, London.
Tea canister

Tea canister

17th Century in 20th Century London…

The transformation of the docklands area has been enormous in recent decades and continues today, but the 20th-century photos on display show how 17th and 18th-century buildings survived for hundreds of years before this transformation fully set in.
17th Century houses in Shadwell around 1923

17th Century houses in Shadwell around 1923

18 century

18th Century weather boarded houses and pubs further down the Thames at Grays in Essex, 1934

There is a huge amount of information in the museum and the few parts I’ve highlighted don’t do it justice, but if you still need convincing the food and rum selection in the adjoining bar is also a pretty good excuse to visit too.

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