As local museums go this was a bit unexpected, with a modern, clean and almost minimalist design and relatively few objects on display. A timeline along all four walls takes you through the history, with local artefacts embedded along the way including a pretty amazing Anglo-Saxon shield and the usual collections of stone tools, Roman coins and war medals.
In the middle of the room are cases of carefully chosen and well labelled objects, with two of my favourites being:
– A cute little book with sketches and a poem by a local resident as a child, which both brings to life and is brought to life, by the accompanying photograph of the girl and her sisters. Alongside this is her school text book and together they make a nice little look at someone’s childhood.
– A badge and indenture from a school for the children of watermen. I have a bit of a thing for watermen – the taxi drivers and chauffeurs of their day ferrying people along and across the river and so I was particularly drawn to this little exhibit.
But possibly my favourite object on display was the ‘Putney Debates’ of 1647. Parliamentary leaders and dissidents used to meet in a church in Putney and this book records these debates and how they saw the country being run after the Civil War was over – with religious tolerance, votes for all men and, of course, no monarchy.
I liked this museum a lot, but it also left me a little confused. I couldn’t say I would recommend anyone to go out of their way to see it in its own right, even though it’s a good example of a small museum. Maybe it lacked the soul and quirkyness of local museums that I love; the possibility of finding a hidden gem in the next over-stocked exhibition case, or the bit in the corner that’s not changed since the museum opened in 1912 (for example).
But as Wandsworth Museum moved on to this site only recently and has taken a more modern approach to displaying local history, any reference to the museum’s own history has been lost, which is a bit of a shame. Other small museums that have taken a modern approach, such as the Florence Nightingale Museum have worked really well, but I guess I just felt there was something missing that I value in local museums – local character.
But do make the effort to visit in combination with the De Morgan Centre, which is on the same site and together they make a lovely trip. And I’ll definitely make the effort to go back to look at future temporary exhibitions as I’m sure they will be worth it (and there’s a cafe too…).
£4 entry (£7 in combination with De Morgan Centre)
Mondays to Fridays 10:00 – 17:00
Saturdays 11:00 – 17:00
Closed on Sundays & Bank Holidays