I am forced to admit that the Soane Museum, based on the collection of architect Sir John Soane (1753 – 1837), is not for the fainthearted toddler mamas out there.
Housed in a perfectly ordinary London townhouse and the two either side Sir John bought when his collection of architectural knickknacks started getting out of hand, it is both cramped and stuffed very full of really fragile objects. A bit like the British Museum, but on a less national scale. Or Papa’s loft, but with fewer amplifiers, turntables and many many cables and more bits of cornicing, gargoyles, stone urns, sarcophaguses and busts of random strangers. It is, in fact, very much the sort of place where people whose first instinct is to run around with outstretched sticky hands and whose second is to find anything breakable within reach are not particularly welcome. And it is not pushchair friendly, not pushchair friendly at all.
So Mama was quite smug that she had anticipated all of this and turned up without my Amazing Big Brother and with me in a sling, forethought that had the museum authorities direct a distinct look of approval at my immovable status. They still made Mama leave her big bag at the door, only permitting her to take her valuables round in a clear plastic bag held strictly in front of her to prevent, I suppose, accidental brushings up against precariously perched bits of statuary. Mama’s usual habit of feeding me rice cakes to keep me quiet was also vetoed – no food and drink of any kind inside the house. Or stilettos. I don’t know what they are, but they sound like fun. Mama says not though. Be warned. Plan accordingly.
As for the museum, Soane’s special interest being something my Mama knows nothing about, she really should have bought the guide book, particularly as this is a museum somewhat lacking in explanatory labelling or any apparent logical order to the items on display. The attendants are happy to chat about the rooms, however, and what Mama did glean is that while Sir John was pretty successful as an architect, most of the money used to buy the collection came from an unexpected but massive inheritance by his wife. Acquiring the collection dented this so little that Sir John left such a vast amount of money in his will that it was only relatively recently that the museum has really had to work hard to search out more funding.
Did the man not have anything better to do with his (wife’s) money, I hear you cry? Well, he quarrelled badly with his two sons, and seems to have set up the museum as a way of keeping them from getting any (more) money out of him. Mama remains rather worried about the sons, despite the evidence they were extremely unsatisfactory offspring. She is a sucker for put upon children stories these days. I blame hormones.
Of course, Mama is also prone to saying things like, shame the wife didn’t get to choose what to spend her own money on.
Still, Mama thoroughly enjoyed poking around all the rooms, a total lack of intellectual understanding of what she was seeing notwithstanding, because it is such a glorious monument to rampant eccentricity. She says. And they have lots of pictures by Hogarth, which Mama, the former historian with an early modern bent, finds absolutely thrilling, and who seems to have had a sharp sense of humour for the ages.
I’m not sure what this picture is all about, but it looks like fun. Mama says yes.
Obviously in such a small space they don’t have room for frivolities like a coffee shop (although they do have a souvenir shop) so when the call of the cool tactile objects became to much we repaired to Lincoln’s Inn Fields opposite the museum. Surprisingly, it isn’t a field. It’s a large London public garden with plenty of space to run round and have something to eat. We’d bought a picnic, but there’s a café, which looked nice. Mama thought. She does like her coffee. I got to hang out with two dance students casually trading moves on the bandstand, much to Mama’s delight. She thinks my dancing is amusing. Mama enjoyed watching all the office workers doing bootcampesque exercise on their lunchbreak. Mama says it’s called schadenfreude really, but that word is a bit long for me for everyday use.
Anyway, I recommend the Soane Museum to all those toddlers still small enough to be firmly immobilized, to very well behaved children, and to their parents. Mama even took Papa there when they had some time to themselves when my Amazing Big Brother and I were staying at my Grandparents recently, although what they wanted that break for I do not know. Papa enjoyed it so much he donated actual money.
This is very high praise indeed.
This is what the Hitchhiker’s Guide has to say about the museum.
Address: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP.
Opening: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Last entry 4:30pm. Closed every Sunday, Monday and bank holiday.
Price: Admission is free.
Tube: Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines).
Bus: Nearest stop at Holborn tube station.
10 thoughts on “Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”
I have never been (yet) although I have definitely missed the window to immobilise my daughter. Which I miss at times. I do like am odd Victorian collection though so perhaps if I get a break of my own, I might try to sneak along. And be glad no-one is telling me how to spend my own money. Well, except my three-year-old who has plans involving stickers, pens and dinosaurs… #myfirstblogpost
It’s actually quite nice to have a museum about that I can go to without having to take the kids…
This sounds like a very interesting museum but like you say, not one for heavy handed toddlers! I’m not sure my young teens would like it either but I reckon I would. Thank you so much for adding this to #MyFirstBlogPost
I think of it much like snooping around other people’s houses. It’s more interesting as an interior design choice really!So probably not a teen thing, no. But for those of us wondering whether to put a sarcophagus in our living room, yes.
I quite like wandering round museums and old houses and imagining how the other half lived, the money they must have had and the travels they went on to secut=re their treasures has always interested me.Sadly back in the day woman had no say in anything, I am sure she would have preffered to spend it on nrew shoes and dresses.
She seems to have been very supportive of her husband’s choices to be fair. But yes, I hope she got some shoes out of it too.
LOL I’ve been here too. Soane was a bit of a hoarder huh? This is many people’s favourite little museum in London (and I think they must all have hoarder tendencies)… We had a tour guide which helped explain some of this but overall it was Way Out There. I loved, loved, loved seeing the original Rakes Progress series by Hogarth though. Definitely a little gem of English eccentricity.