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Horniman Museum

What an excellent place the Horniman Museum is! Described in a London guide as "delightfully idiosyncratic" it's not just interesting (fascinating) but also eclectic (diverse).

Frederick Horniman was a Victorian tea trader, (see Horniman's Tea ), and he collected all sorts of interesting stuff from around the world. After a while this had built up to such an extent that he opened his house to the public, and people would visit and marvel at the extraordinary exhibits. Then later he had a museum built (1901) and presented it to the council on the understanding that it would be free for the public to visit. Just to make sure it was kept free, he had "HORNIMAN FREE MUSEUM" built into the stonework on the front of the building!

In the Horniman Museum you can see a wide range of ethnology, anthropology, all sorts of fascinating cultural artifacts from some very diverse cultures around the world. Natural History, stuffed animals, including some types of critters which it might seem hard to believe exist. Hands-on experience centre, the "have a go" style of museum. Monster Creepy Crawlies, Musical Instruments Collection, and an Aquarium Gallery where strange and wonderful fish still think they are living in their natural habitat. And in the darker parts of the ancient collection, some really spooky and unnerving things. Meanwhile in the gardens and grounds, there are picnic areas and a variety of live animals are on show. (Don't knock it - the only time most people in London get to see a turkey it's at Christmas, and they fail to see what a bizarre creature it is!). There's a bandstand and a conservatory, and there are multi-cultural Tea Parties, and the whole thing gives the impression of being otherworldly or surreal, hints of Portmeirion, as if eccentric Victorian imaginings of Utopia had been conjured into reality.

Well I'm impressed! But being "delightfully idiosyncratic" myself I can appreciate the finesse of all this and feel a considerable empathy with the whole business. I too am eccentric and collect huge amounts of interesting stuff, and I have this Zyra.org.uk website which is eclectic and has links around the world. (see index).

So I'm very much in favour of supporting the Horniman Museum. To visit the place in physical space, take the train from London Bridge to Forest Hill. The address is: The Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ. Phone +44 (0) 208 699 1872. And to visit the website, it's...


Other points of note: If you go by car, you may even be able to PARK! FREE! (This is very rare in London). Wheelchair access throughout the museum and grounds. Photography is allowed anywhere, but you mustn't use a flash in the aquarium as it frightens the fish.