I was enjoying one of my regular visits to Belfast this weekend, and we took some time out earlier today to visit the transport section of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, just a few miles northeast of Belfast City Centre.
Located a few minutes from the local railway station (which is incredibly run down – very uninviting when you consider that this is the gateway to Belfast’s largest museums and one of its premium 5 star hotels) the Transport Museum’s main building houses the Irish railway collection, where you’ll find huge steam trains and their carriages, along with mocked up platforms and tableaus (one of which includes nuns!) and even a reconstructed station tea room. A section of the building is also dedicated to other forms of public transport, including trams, trolleys and buses that have been lovingly restored and feature working vehicles from Belfast and further afield in Ireland. An adjoining annex explores the history of cars and motorcycles, with the centrepiece of course being the iconic DeLorean motorcar with its characteristic brushed steel frame and gullwing doors, which was manufactured in the early 80s at the Dunmurry car plant just on the outskirts of Belfast.
A walk down the hill through some pleasantly landscaped gardens, bursting with huge rhododendrons, brings you to the general transport galleries which focus on earlier forms of transport including carts, stage coaches and even shanks’ pony. Here you’ll also find the air transport gallery (complete with flight simulator) and a dedicated exhibition tracing the history of the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic, which like the DeLorean has local connections, having been built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the edge of Belfast’s city centre.…
Secreted in the centre of the University College London campus, and up a rather unassuming flight of stairs, you’ll find one of the city’s best kept secrets – the Petrie Musuem of Egyptian Archaelogy.
Much like its sister museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology, the Petrie represents the University’s earliest forays into this area of study. Amelie Edwards, the Victorian novelist and explorer left her collection of Egyptian artifacts (and a considerable sum of money) to the University so that they could establish an academic position to further study this ancient civilisation – its interesting to note that she chose this institution because at that time it was only the University in the UK to award academic degrees to women. The first professor appointed as a result of her bequest was William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1892.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology contains over 80,000 artifacts encompasssing the entire breadth of the Egyptian civilsation, from prehistory right through the reign of the Pharaohs to about 1000 AD – representing about 6000 years of history. What I found particularly impressive was the cabinet after cabinet containing the most incredibly decorated domestic pottery, from a time when we were just figuring out how to erect Stonehenge. There are also areas focusing on jewellery and adornment, the complexities of Egyptian sacred ceremony (there are examples of daggers, canopic jars, shantis and the like) and several large cabinets contain fragments of pictograms and heiroglyphs, some of which even retain their original pigments. For those whose visit to an Egyptian museum wouldn’t be complete without a ‘mummy’, you will find an ornate sarchophagus amongst the objects!
Visits to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology are free, however because it is part of the University complex visiting times are a little protracted – opening hours are 1pm to 5pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays. A visit to the museum is a magical experience – it’s far more intimate than the British Museum. Pick the right time and it could be just you and the Pharaohs in the room… You can find more images from my visit…
Over in Walthamstow Village, the area’s historic centre, you’ll find the Vestry House Museum, the borough’s main museum and home to the Waltham Forest Archives and a Local Studies Library which has a wealth of material on the history of the area since Roman times.
The Vestry House Museum buildings
The museum, which occupies a network of connected buildings just across the street from the parish church, has a lot of interesting displays that explore various aspects of Walthamstow’s past, including information on the museum buildings, which had previous uses as a post office and the local police station (there’s even a reconstructed Victorian cell in one of the gallery spaces on the ground floor). You’ll also find displays dedicated to Walthamstow’s industrial heritage – did you know, for example, that Walthamstow had it’s own camera manufacturing company for 50 years, the Ensign company, and that as far back as the 1930s they produced popular camera models in a range of colours? I had always thought that was rather a recent development, but clearly not! There’s also an area dedicated to the world’s first ‘horseless carriage’, which was manufactured in Walthamstow. The museum also has a pleasant formal garden with raised beds of flowers at the rear of the building if you want to take a break from local history for a few minutes.
A William Morris wallpaper pattern
One gallery at the museum currently contains a small selection of material from the William Morris Gallery over on Forest Road, while that building undergoes a multi-million pound refurbishment until its reopening in July 2012 to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics. You can find out more information about the project at this link on the Waltham Forest website.
Entry to the museum is of course free, and it is open from 10am until 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday each week. The museum also lays on various special events and activities throughout the year, which you can find out about here.…
There are two interesting events come up, organised by the London Transport Museum, that you might be interested in hearing about.
On both Monday 13 and 20 June, there will talks taking place at the London Transport Museum focusing on Boris’s new bus for London. Stuart Wood from Heatherwick Studio, who won the competition to design the bus, will be on hand to talk to visitors about how it updates the traditional routemaster design with some new features. Visitors will also have a rare opportunity to investigate the interior of the mocked-up bus that sits on the ground floor of the museum, taking a look at the wrap-around glass windows on the top deck and seeing how they’ve managed to modernise the much-missed open rear platform that was the iconic feature of the old London bus. Talks take place from 6:30pm on both days, with tickets priced at £12 for adults, £10 concessions and £6 for students. You can book tickets online here.
On Sunday 19 June, London Transport Museum are running one of their occasional heritage train services for Father’s Day. A beautifully restored 1938 tube train will be returned to service for one trip only, going from Northfields on the Piccadilly Line all the way to Heathrow. Apart from the vintage rolling stock what makes this trip particularly interesting is the fact that at High Street Kensington the train will actually switch over onto the District Line before returning to the Piccadilly Line at Acton Town. Not only that but the train will visit Heathrow 4 and then 1,2, 3 and 5 – a route that normal service trains never take. One can only imagine what tourists waiting for the service into central London will make of it as it passes through the stations! Tickets for this trip, which lasts approximately 2 hours, are priced at £25 for adults and £15 for children. It sounds like it will make for a very special occasion for the travel-obsessed dads out there.…