Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, Museum of London Docklands

I spent a few days down in Kent recently for my Dad's birthday celebrations (which were lovely by the way) on the way down to Kent we spent a night in London and so I got to spend a touristy day there. I pretty much made up my mind before we left Edinburgh that I'd go to one of London's many museums and also try and get to one I'd not been to. I had a few on my list, sadly one of them I decided to remove after discovering there was a quite considerable entry charge just for the regular exhibits. This did come with the caveat that the ticket could then be used as much as you wanted for the next year but when you don't live in the city I wasn't really convinced I'd get my money's worth or if I'd even want to go back there again and again. Although I got used to paying entry fees for museums in Singapore I'm far more used to the free entry with the option to make a donation that is pretty much the norm in the UK at most museums and only specifically paying for special exhibitions, so I confess I was a bit put off by this.

Browsing my Facebook feed whilst waiting for our flight down to London I noticed that one of my friends had posted about a recent visit to see the archaeological items that had been dug up as a result of Crossrail. I'd previously thought I'd like to see it so this pretty much made up my mind then to go there. Given this is just a temporary exhibit I fully expected and was prepared to pay but very surprisingly it is free, they just ask for a donation towards the upkeep of the museum. You don't even need to reserve a time slot, as you do with some temporary exhibits you can literally just turn up! Decision definitely made, I was going.


A small part of the Crossrail route

I'd been to the Museum of London at the Docklands many years previously and recalled going on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to get there so after a quick check hopped on to the tube and made my way to Bank to change for the DLR. The closest station to the museum is West India Quay, however something to note if you're travelling from Bank is that you actually have to travel to the next DLR stop, Canary Wharf and then change for a DLR back one stop to West India Quay. Travelling back to Bank after your visit to the museum you can get straight on at West India Quay and it's not a massive problem doing this little detour on the way there but is just something to be aware of. This is the person who didn't read the little note next to the Bank DLR stop on the tube map until the train didn't stop where I was expecting it to and I was briefly a bit confused, so take note!

Once I did get there though it's just a short walk from the station to the museum. In that short walk you'll find a load of restaurant options as well as a number of pop up food trucks etc. which were clearly very popular with the lunchtime crowd from the nearby offices. There is also a café in the museum itself so plenty of options for lunch or something afterwards whilst you're there.

As I mentioned above the Crossrail exhibition is free, though they obviously welcome donations so after a bit of lunch I made my way in. For anyone who doesn't know Crossrail, or the Elizabeth line as it will be called, is the railway line currently being built across London from East to West or West to East depending on where you are. Work on the rail project began in 2009 and services are set to start running in 2018.

It's been a  massive project and naturally has allowed archaeologists the opportunity to excavate sites across London ahead of the building of the tunnels and stations meaning a lot of historically important discoveries being unearthed. As you can probably appreciate opportunities to explore London's history in this way don't come along very often and it's great that what they've discovered has been shared for everyone to see and in such an interesting way. I won't spoil it for anyone contemplating a visit but this project has discovered fascinating artifacts from right across London's long history right up to relatively recent times. Some personal favourites for me were the interesting skeletons from mass burial sites of plague victims and a fascinating and unknown (to me anyway) insight into the Crosse and Blackwell factory, but there's a whole lot of other interesting things for you to explore too. If you're in London and have an interest in its history I'd definitely recommend this exhibit to you.

Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail is on at the Museum of London Docklands now until 3 September 2017 and is free to enter. Donations to the museum are always very welcome!

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