London has some of the most famous sights in the world from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral. However, there are hundreds of less well known, hidden treasures in London so this blog starts an occasional series which will bring these gems to you.
This week I’m featuring: The Museum of Brands and 19 Princelet Street.
The Museum of Brands may not be the most exciting name but it is a treasure trove of memorabilia. It has grown from one man’s passion for collecting to a museum with 12,000 original items housed in a Notting Hill mews. You follow a chronological path through the decades of consumer culture from the 1890s to the point where every visitor will exclaim ‘I don’t believe it – I had one of those’!
The cabinets are arranged by decade so it’s a bit of a history lesson as well as chance to see hundreds of brands, the ones that have come and gone and the ones that have stood the test of time with only a few changes. They have a fun shop where you can take home all kinds of retro souvenirs. I must admit to having taken a few sneaky photos so here’s are a few – through glass cabinets, unfortunately!
Some hidden treasures are short-lived and Dalston House is one of those which is sadly now closed but was so amazing it’s worth a mention and shows the rich fun to be had in London! This art installation was by Leandro Erlich, an Argentinian artist famous for his 3-D visual illusions. This work was the front of a Victorian house, a bit like a theatre set, with windows and window sills, built on the ground with a huge curved mirror overhead. Visitors crawled all over the horizontal house and then saw, up in the mirror, a reflection which looked like they were hanging off the windows – amazing and really hard to describe so here are some photos of yours truly, and others, in action:
My last hidden treasure for today is a very important building in Spitalfields – 19 Princelet Street. This historic house is a time capsule which takes you through 4 centuries through the fabric of the building. It is rarely open and I was lucky enough to have a guided tour by the curator and her dedicated band of volunteers who speak with such passion that you get swept along with it all. They put their energies into the preservation of this fragile grade 11 listed building but have very little funding so the building defined as being ‘at risk’ and is shored up with areas inaccessible because of the danger.
Behind its shabby front door you enter a lost world from 1719, when it was first built, through the changes the building has undergone from its first residents who were Huguenot silk weavers escaping persecution in France, through Irish families to the Jewish residents who moved in and built a synagogue in the back garden in 1869! In its time it was a haven for Jews escaping the Nazis and was used as a place of worship until the 1960s.
It is Europe’s first Museum of Diversity and Immigration and traces the journeys and experiences of those who have come to this area over the centuries from many lands and in different circumstances. You are encouraged to quietly immerse yourself into the lives of the previous occupants and other immigrants.
No photos are allowed inside but you can read more about this amazing places here: 19 Princelet Street
More hidden gems in a few weeks but next week I’ll be bringing you the Mayor’s Thames Festival..
Bye for now