The Royal London Museum
About the Museum
The Museum is located in the former crypt of a fine, late 19th century, early English style church, designed by Arthur Cawston, which has been extensively restored. The building also accommodates the Library of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Whitechapel. Visitors wishing to see the main body of the church may do so on weekdays, subject to the approval of the Duty Librarian at the Library reception desk. The Museum, which has a separate entrance in Newark Street, reopened to the public in 2002 following major refurbishment, supported by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London Charitable Foundation.
The Museum now offers easier access for disabled visitors and has revamped sections on the history of the hospital since its foundation in 1740, Joseph Merrick (the 'Elephant Man'), and former London Hospital nurses Edith Cavell and Eva Luckes. A new section on forensic medicine (sponsored by crime writer Patricia Cornwell) features original material on the Whitechapel ('Jack the Ripper'), Dr Crippen and Christie murders. It also has a permanent exhibition of artefacts and archives relating to the hospital and the history of healthcare in the East End. Works of art, surgical instruments, medical and nursing equipment, uniforms, medals, and written archives and printed books are included.
The Museum is in three sections: the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The 18th century section features an overview, together with specific subsections on the foundation of the voluntary hospital, benefactors, medical education and health in the 18th century. Among the original material displayed are the hospital charter of 1758, a drawing given by the artist William Hogarth in 1744 and the operation bell of 1792.
The 19th century section features an overview, together with subsections on surgery before antisepsis (including instruments belonging to hospital surgeon Sir William Blizard), nursing and Florence Nightingale, hospital expansion, hospital matron Eva Luckes, Dr Barnardo, Frederick Treves and the Elephant Man and Victorian doctors. Objects on show include a replica of a hat and veil worn by Joseph Merrick and documents relating to his residence at the hospital, contemporary surgical instruments and medical equipment
The 20th century section features subsections on children and health, x-rays, the First and Second World Wars, Nurse Edith Cavell, hospital Chairman Lord Knutsford, cardiology, blood transfusion, obstetrics and the National Health Service. Visitors can see an x-ray machine from the 1930’s and a carbon arc lamp used to give ultra violet light treatment to King George V in 1928. A series of recent photographs by Impact Photos is also displayed.
There are special sections on hospital uniform (usually four uniforms are on show), forensic medicine (including material on the Jack the Ripper murders) and dentistry (including a denture made for George Washington).
There is a video viewing facility where four films are currently available for viewing by Museum visitors:
- An ancient house of healing (a fundraising film made for The London Hospital in 1939)
- The Queens Hospital for Children (1939)
- Not so much a training: more a way of life (nurse training at The London in 1968)
- QED: the true story of the Elephant Man (BBC Television, 1997).
The Museum is open Monday to Friday, 10am-4.30pm (closed over Christmas and New Year, Easter and public holidays).
The Museum has a small number of staff and our opening hours may be subject to change at short notice. We recommend that you check opening times before planning a special visit to the Museum by telephoning 020 7377 7608.
Small groups are welcome, but please telephone in advance to discuss requirements, as space is limited.
Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Wheelchair access: there is ramped access to the Archives and Museum from Newark Street.
The Museum shop sells a range of cards, postcards and publications.
Archivists Jonathan Evans and Kate Richardson
Address Archives and Museum, The Royal London Hospital, St Augustine with St Philip’s Church, Newark Street, London E1 2AA
Telephone 020 7377 7608