At the time of the British Empire, Docklands was the epicentre of global trade. Museum of Docklands tells the fascinating story of the port of London from Roman times until today. Hidden away from the main tourist route, this is a treasure for families visiting London with children.
Why the docks were built
The history of the London docks starts in the late 18th century. The capital had seen tremendous growth in trade, with more than 10 000 vessels arriving and departing every year. Ships anchored up in the Thames, with smaller barges helping unload goods over to wharves and warehouses along the river. It was simply no more capacity left with the river crammed full of ships and the handling of cargo taking too much time.
The docks helped London continue the expansion in trade providing large, secure and sheltered anchorage increasing the capacity of the port. Museum of Docklands is located in an old warehouse from 1802 by the side of West India Docks. This is one of the first docks that was built at the beginning of the 19th century to support the lucrative sugar trade from the West Indies.
Museum of London’s Mudlark Gallery
The Mudlark Gallery in Docklands Museum is definitely a lot of fun for kids! And certainly, a lot more fun than it was back in the days when the original mudlarks were sifting through filth along the Thames foreshore to try to find something of value… Sessions are free but need to be reserved either on-site or through their webpage. If not visiting during weekends or holidays we normally just show up and there are tickets still available.
This is one of our regular spots and we like it because it’s highly interactive and engaging for younger kids. Living by the Thames it’s great for us parents to learn more about the rich history of the Docklands. The gallery is divided into different zones all playing on a maritime theme. Note the soft play area is for children who are under 1 metre tall. Our favourite activity here is probably loading cargo and playing with the boats in the water area.
Here you can get a feel for how a typical street would look like in the docks back in Victorian London. Our daughter loves dressing up in costumes and visiting during Christmas we got some nice shots. On the same floor, you can also find lots of other interactive elements, our toddler enjoying the wooden railway most of course!
Also, make sure to check out the adventure bag that you can pick one up for free from the front desk when you arrive (£5 refundable deposit). In addition there are word games, activity sheets and trails to be explored. Also, make sure to check their website for events being organised.
Getting to the Museum of Docklands
Address: 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, No, Hertsmere Rd, London E14 4AL
If your kids like animals, Mudchute Farm is not very far away. Also, Greenwich is just on the other side of the river where you can find plenty of child-friendly attractions such as the Maritime Museum and the Greenwich Park Playground. Thames Path is great for kids shielded as it is from traffic, whether it is for walking, cycling or scooting.
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