London Canal Museum tells the story of London's colourful canal system, from the early days of the waterways to today's leisure uses. It is on two floors, in a building constructed in the 1860s as an ice warehouse. Visitors can peer down at a uniquely preserved ice well, one of two beneath the floor.
The museum's ground floor introduces visitors to the context of canals in England and goes on to explore the social history of the people who used to crew the boats and live on board. For 150 years whole families lived in a tiny cabin and visitors can go inside one and imagine what it must have been like. There is an area outside where the museum's tug Bantan IV is normally moored, and a good view of Battlebridge Basin can be seen.The basin is now full of residential boats, and is something of an urban beauty spot.
The huge ice well that you can see on the ground floor is one of two. Ice was imported from Norway to fill these wells, where it was stored for distribution to caterers, food merchants, and the makers of ice cream. An exhibition explains the ice trade and you can have a "chat" with Carlo Gatti, 19th century entrepreneur of the ice trade, using a computer interactive. There are also displays of the traditional folk art of the canals, known as "roses and castles" on this floor.
Upstairs the museum features an exhibition about the role of horses on the streets and the canals in 19th century London, where they were an essential part of the transport system. This first floor was converted into a stables in 1904-6 and the exhibition includes a reproduction of one of the stable stalls. There is a display of model boats and a fascinating archive film show. Regular temporary exhibitions are staged on this floor.
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