From the British Museum to the Tate, the Natural History Museum to the V&A, London is home to some of the greatest museums anywhere on earth. Yet there’s much more to London’s museum landscape than just these big hitters – the city is also home to a wealth of wonderful smaller museum collections. Every month we’ll be highlighting one of our favourite lesser-known museums within easy reach of Strand Palace Hotel.
This month… Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Sir John Soane was the pre-eminent English architect of the 19th century, known for his neoclassical designs for buildings across London, from the Bank of England to the Dulwich Picture Gallery. However, perhaps his greatest architectural achievement was his own home. From the turn of the 1800s, Soane purchased three neighbouring houses on the northern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and proceeded to transform them into his own personal architectural experiment, using various techniques to create beautiful, spacious and slightly unorthodox interiors. One of these houses, which he began renovating in 1808, is now open as a museum.
Interestingly, this museum doesn’t just focus on the architectural quirks of the house, but also what’s inside it. During his lifetime, Soane filled his home with a weird and wonderful collection of artefacts from across the world, inadvertently creating perhaps the most diverse private collection in the UK. Today’s visitors will find items ranging from architectural blueprints, models and casts to a collection of art masterpieces by the likes of Turner, Canaletto and Hogarth, displayed in panels that fold into the wall. Then there are even more random oddities like bronzes from Pompeii, sets of Peruvian pottery and the sarcophagus of Pharoah Seti I!
How to visit
Upon his death in 1837, Soane bequeathed his home and its contents to the nation, but while locals have been visiting ever since, it is only with expensive restorations in recent years that the property has been returned to its original glory. Sir John Soane’s Museum, which is just a 10-minute walk from Strand Palace Hotel, is now free to visit from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm (last entry 4.30pm). On the first Tuesday of every month, it is also open during the evening (from 6pm to 9pm), when it is atmospherically candlelit. If you plan to visit then, prepare for a scramble; tickets are only issued to the first 200 people in the queue.
Strand Palace Hotel is not only a hotel near to Sir John Saone’s Museum – it’s convenient for many of the capital’s best lesser-known museums. Next month we shall feature another: London Transport Museum.
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