Discover The Capital's Hidden Treasures This London Weekend

By Corinne Field | 20 May 2004
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Shows a photograph of the exterior of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

Photo: Theatre Museum, Covent Garden

It’s London Weekend and the capital’s Smaller Museums and Galleries are staging some top events to mark the occasion.

Not only that, but, for this weekend only, visitors following the newly launched Discover London Trails will receive give aways at many of the museums and galleries along the route.

"This is a good time to explore something new and different by using the new Discover London Trails which include some familiar landmarks as well as lesser known museums and galleries," said Loyd Grossman, Chairman of the Campaign for Museums, who launched the trails as part of Museums and Galleries Month 2004.

Shows a photograph of the exterior of the Museum in Docklands. There is a statue on a plinth on the right of the picture.

Photo: Museum in Docklands, West India Quay

So just what is on offer at London’s museums and galleries between May 21 and May 23?

If you follow the Leicester Square and Covent Garden Trail you will discover some of London’s greatest cultural triumphs – theatre, opera, impressionist art and contemporary photography.

Find out all about travelling theatre in the days before the car at the Theatre Musuem and pick up your free Theatre Museum tie or postcard. Before you take on the madness of Covent Garden, and if you’re feeling in need of sustenance, the Photographer’s Gallery are offering a free drink when you buy any cake or sandwich.

Trail two is a tour of Southwark and Bankside which takes you through 400 years of living history. Explore the 18th century tea gardens at Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee and pick up your free postcard.

Why not try a spot of wine tasting at Vinopolis. The Five Wines Blind Tasting Challenge is free to visitors following this trail.

The trail ends at the Museum of Garden History based at the restored church of St Mary, Lambeth, next to Lambeth Palace. They are staging an exhibition celebrating the achievements of Sir Joseph Paxton, the architect and designer behind Crystal Palace whose bicentenery was celebrated in 2003. Visitors following the trail who stop off here will receive a mystery gift.

The Docklands and Brunel trail is a chance to explore Canary Wharf and London’s Docklands and find out about engineer extraordinaire, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Don’t forget to pick up your free postcard of the Banquet to Trail Walkers released for sale this week at the Brunel Engine House.

Make sure you take a friend when you go to the Museum in Docklands because as a special trail treat it’s two tickets for the price of one.

Shows a photograph of the exterior of Brunel's Engine House.

Photo: Brunel Engine House, Rotherhithe

Take a boat to historic Greenwich and spend a few hours exploring this internationally recognised World Heritage Site. Home to the Prime Meridian where Greenwich Meantime was first calculated, it boasts such treasures as the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum and the Fan Museum. Trail users visiting the Fan Musuem can take advantage of a two for the price of one offer.

The fifth trail is a tour of London’s vibrant East End. Check out Suitcases and Sanctuary – Leave to Remain created by primary school children from Tower Hamlets at the Museum of Immigration and Diversity where they are offering visitors a chance to select a rare postcard.

At the Geffrye Museum, which specialises in English domestic interiors from 1600 to the present day, they are offering a free Home and Garden exhibition poster.

Trail six, The City and City Fringes, starts and finishes in Georgian London and is a chance to explore London’s business and financial district. At Dr Johnson’s House children will be allowed to try on one of the precious exhibits, the literary titan’s great travel coat.

If you’re someone who works in London but lives outside I’m sure you’ll have a lot to say at the Museum of London’s discussion on commuting. Entitled A Life Sentence?, it takes place in the Terrace Room on May 20 at 7pm – don’t forget to pick up your free postcard.

Shows a photograph of the exterior of the RAF Museum in Hendon. In the foreground are two old planes, the museum building is in the background.

Photo: Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon

Why not spend a half-day wandering round North London’s Hendon, famous for its aviation connections. The RAF Museum is based here and they are offering anyone who shows a copy of the trail a free simulator ride. To celebrate London Weekend, the museum is putting on a drawing and colouring weekend, a chance for kids to create their own masterpieces inspired by the museum’s exhibits.

It’s all about architecture, art and Freud on the Hampstead trail! From the neo-classic mansion Kenwood House, the star of many a period drama, to the Grade I-listed Burgh House, which houses Hampstead Museum and where you can pick up a free small print guide, there are five historic houses on this trail.

Six if you count the Freud Museum, the old home of Sigmund Freud, which houses his remarkable collection of antiques as well as his famous psychoanalyst's couch.

Shows a photograph of the exterior of Kenwood House, a neo-classic mansion.

Photo: Kenwood House, Hampstead

Trail nine explores the Upper Thames. Richmond and Kew are some of London’s classier locations. Take a stroll round the Royal Botanic Gardens or how about a visit to Kew Bridge Steam Museum – a must this year as 2004 marks the 200th anniversary of steam - where you can pick up two tickets for the price of one.

The tenth and final trail is a tour of Wimbledon. As well as a temple and a working windmill you can visit Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. On the Move, taking place during London Weekend is a chance to travel back to 1922 as The Championships prepare to move to a new ground in Church Road. Meet the Head Groundsman in the 1920s and learn about the mysteries of Centre Court grass, the pony roller and horse boots.

If you can’t make it to London this weekend, there’s still a week left of Museum and Galleries Month. Click on this link to visit the official website and find out about events taking place near you.

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