diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 26, 2005

Local attraction 3: London Canal Museum
Yes, there really is a London Canal Museum, though you've probably never heard of it. It's not easy to find either, but if you follow the brown pedestrian signs from Kings Cross station you should find it lurking up an insignificant sidestreet next to Battlebridge Basin, just north of Wharfdale Road. I can best describe the museum as 'refreshingly amateur'. A few well-chosen barge-related exhibits fill this old canalside building, which is staffed (and, one suspects, stocked) by a merry band of keen pipe-smoking volunteers. There's half a narrowboat downstairs, a series of small exhibitions upstairs, and a long ramp connecting the two floors down which stabled horses were once led. This was originally a warehouse for the storage of ice, owned by Swiss Italian entrepreneur Carlo Gatti. Back in the mid 19th century he imported huge blocks of ice from Norway and stored them in two giant wells in the cellar before chopping them up and selling them on to the well-to-do of London. The museum tells his story too. I enjoyed the video playback of two old public information films depicting everyday life along the Regent's Canal, one of them from the slightly jerky era of the silent movie. The museum's well worth 30 minutes of your time... but if you can manage the full hour then you're probably the sort of person they'd like as a volunteer.
by tube: King's Cross St Pancrasby bus: 17, 91, 259, 274

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