Seven ends of the world, 2003 by Tobias Rehberger. 222 glass lamps. Venice Biennale, 2003. Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Tobias Rehberger, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 10 September - 14 November 2004.
The ten Discover London Trails were developed by London’s Smaller Museums and Galleries Group with support from ALM London (Archives Libraries and Museums London). Covering different regions of the capital, they link smaller museums and galleries with other attractions of interest in half and full day trails.
The museums on this trail can be visited in half a day; however, if you visit on a Sunday you could easily spend longer as there are three excellent Sunday markets in the area.
You begin at the Whitechapel Art Gallery next to Aldgate East Underground station. From here, walk up the Whitechapel Road taking a right into Castle Street to the Women’s Library, a unique centre that documents and explores women’s lives in Britain.
Courtesy of the Women's Library
Walk through the renowned East End Petticoat Lane market on your way to Brick Lane where the Sunday market offers a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, clothes and household goods. In Princelet Street, you will find the Museum of Immigration and Diversity, which celebrates the contribution of immigrants – appropriately located as this area has been home to Huguenots, Jews and Bengalis – among others – over the centuries.
Detail of 1930s flat (1930-1940). Courtesy of the Geffrye Museum
Visit the vibrant Spitalfields Market on you way to Bishopsgate for a bus to the Geffrye Museum with fully furnished rooms dating from 1600 to the 1990s. Back down to Liverpool Street, you go one stop on the Central Line to Bethnal Green for the Museum of Childhood with one of the largest and most fascinating collections of children’s toys in the country.
Finally, the next stop on the Central Line takes you to the Ragged School Museum with photographs, documents and many other artefacts connected to the lives of the children who attended Dr Barnardo’s ragged day school in the late 1800s.
Spacehopper © Ragged School Museum
Dump, 1997/98 by Paul Noble. Courtesy Maureen Paley Interim Art.
Paul Noble, Whitechapel Gallery, 10 September - 14 November 2004
The Trail in Detail
Begin at Aldgate East Underground station, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, founded in 1901 as an independent gallery with an international reputation. The light airy gallery, with its striking art nouveau façade, displays shows of contemporary artists as well as exhibitions reflecting the origins of local people. Works by great artists including Picasso, Pollock, Caro and Hockney have hung at the gallery.
Night Shift, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002 by Tobias Rehberger. Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin
Tobias Rehberger, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 10 September - 14 November 2004
Turn right outside the Gallery along Whitechapel High Street before turning right again into Old Castle Street. At the end on the left hand side is the Women’s Library, part of the London Metropolitan University. This is a unique centre with a reading groom, exhibition hall, education facilities and a café.
Originally established in 1926, the Women’s Library documents and explores women’s lives in Britain, in the past, now and in the future. Inspiring learning and debate, it is an international resource for women’s history research.
Courtesy of the Women's Library
Published materials include over 60,000 books and pamphlets, including first editions and rare items, and 2,400 periodical titles, ranging from popular magazines to academic quarterlies.
Special collections consist of 350 archival collections, including diverse personal papers, records of societies and associations, and research and oral history projects. There are also rich holdings of photographs, posters, postcards and other visual materials.
Entertaining the crowds waiting to visit 19 Princelet Street,Sarwar E-alam and Tarana Rouf Kanta of Tower Hamlets based Sitar Fusion on OPEN HOUSE weekend 2003. Photograph: Anna Watson/19 Princelet Street
Turning left out of the library you soon arrive at the centre of Petticoat Lane Market, renowned for its clothing and leather goods. Turning left into Commercial Street for a few minutes and right into Fournier Street, with its splendid 18th century houses; then left again and you will come to the predominantly Bangladeshi community of Brick Lane, renowned for its curry restaurants, with a large market on Sundays.
Another left and left again and you are in Princelet Street for the Museum of Immigration and Diversity. The 1719 home of a Hugenot silk merchant and the site of a concealed synagogue from 1869, the Grade II-listed building itself is steeped in Britain’s rich history of immigration. Due to the fragility of the building, this museum is only open on scheduled open days or by appointment for groups.
The Geffrye Museum
While in Princelet Street, and if it's a Wednesday or Friday afternoon, you might like to visit The Gallery set in an early Georgian House and 19th century studio at number five. It has regular displays of paintings and photographs from contemporary British, French, German and American artists.
A left and immediate right at the end of Princelet Street takes you back into Commercial Street where you see the entrance to Spitalfields Market. Open every day this is a lively arts and antique/collectibles market, lined with cafes with an international flavour and organic food stalls.
This electric illuminating tablecloth, a novelty item from the early 1900s, was donated to the Geffrye Museum by a man from Worthing who used it to brighten up the table at Christmas until very recently.
A short walk now takes you into Bishopsgate and a further ten minutes to the right will bring you to the Geffrye Museum (alternatively there are several buses that will take you up Kingsland Road to the Museum).
The displays lead the visitor on a walk through time, from the 17th century with oak furniture and panelling, past the refined splendour of the Georgian period. Then to the high style of the Victorians, on to 20th century modernity as seen in a 1930s flat, a mid-century room in 'contemporary style' and a late-20th century living space in a converted warehouse.
The museum is set in elegant 18th century almshouses, with a contemporary wing surrounded by attractive gardens. Visit the award-winning walled herb garden and a series of period-style gardens.
Nuremberg Dolls' House, 1673. Courtesy of the Museum of Childhood
Going back now to Liverpool Street, take the Central Line to Bethnal Green, with the Museum of Childhood close by. This Museum began life as a local museum for the East End in 1872, only becoming the Museum of Childhood in 1974.
An offshoot of the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is an enticing display of delightful playthings including dolls, puppets, teddy bears, model trains, toy soldiers and games, dating form the 17th century to the present day.
Ragged School Children, 1909 © Ragged School Museum
If you find yourself in the area on a Sunday between 8am and 2pm, take a small detour to the colourful Columbia Road Flower Market.
One stop further on the Central Line to Mile End and a pleasant walk through the park to Copperfield Road, brings you to the award winning Ragged School Museum, the final museum on your trail. The museum was opened in 1990 in three Victorian canal warehouses which, between 1877 and 1908, were home to London’s largest ragged (free) school set up by Dr Barnardo.
Dr Barnardo © Ragged School Museum
In a recreated classroom of the period, you can experience how Victorian children were taught. There are also fascinating displays on local history, industry and life in the East End and a varied programme of temporary exhibitions.
From here, walk back to Mile End Underground station or in the opposite direction to Limehouse for the Docklands Light Railway.
The Discover London Trails were created by the Campaign for Museums and supported by ALM London.