The Horniman Museum was founded by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman and originally contained his collection of natural history, cultural artefacts and musical instruments. The museum also contains the CUE (Centre for Understanding the Environment) building, which opened in 1996 and has a grass roof. It was constructed from sustainable materials and includes a passive ventilation system.
The Horniman Museum specialises in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments and has a collection of 350,000 objects. The ethnography and music collections have Designated status. It is famous for its large collection of stuffed animals.
Part natural history museum, part musical instrument museum. Some highly original building design (Arts and Crafts movement) and acres of cultivated parkland, with menagerie, bandstand, banana plantations, Victorian conservatory and extensive views of the city.
The natural history exhibits At the Horniman can seem ghoulish to modern sensitivities, where birds and dogs heads appear to grow out of the wall, but there's no doubt they're a resounding hit with children, from toddlers upwards. There are plenty of interactive displays to keep things interesting, with rotating exhibitions and a shop selling wind-up insects and original books. The cafeteria serves amongst the best coffee around (which you can enjoy in the listed conservatory) and the food is good quality and reasonably priced. After some learning, honest fun and a bite to eat, you can take a turn around the gardens to burn off the calories.
It can't compete with the West End museums, in terms of inventory or sheer scale, but it compensates by being intimate and well organised, with a healthy blend of indoor and outdoor fun. If you're a visitor to London from the UK, or further abroad, try a brief detour away from the centre. The Horniman Museum is in a typically multicultural neighbourhood of London, feels authentic, and has the added benefit of nearby East Dulwich (further north, along Lordship Lane) with it's excellent shops, bars and restaurants.
Horniman Museum & Gardens, 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ.
Call: 020 8699 1872
Nearest Tube: Forest Hill Rail