As we were leaving Chiswick House and Gardens on Bank Holiday Monday, we realised we were just a few minutes from the London Museum of Water and Steam – somewhere I’d only recently heard about as it’s the venue for my choir’s Christmas performance later this year. On the spur of the moment, we decided to stop in for a quick recce – and ended up staying for a couple of hours and buying an annual ticket so we could keep going back!
We headed straight into the main museum hall where many of the working steam pumping engines are homed. Sophie and Alex made a beeline for the fancy dress station and transformed into a Victorian scullery maid and engine stoker!
After a quick look at the engines, we found the brilliant Waterwheel courtyard, the entrance to which was next to – you guessed it – a magnificant working wheel!
The splashzone was full of interactive activities for children, as well as more working engines including a fire engine and little steam railway.
Alex and Sophie were immediately engrossed in the hands-on play, using dams, levers, wheels and pipes to make water flow where they wanted it. They were the perfect age and size for everything!
We were also just in time for a little trip on the Waterworks railway, being pulled by a diesel engine first and then a lovely little steam engine.
When we finally dragged the children away from the courtyward, we found that the museum’s 1856 “bull engine” was just about to start. It turns out that each weekend, the museum staff and volunteers run a few of the engines for the visitors – so we were really lucky to see one in action. Alex and Sophie waited in anticipation and loved watching the piston move up and down.
Matt and Alex then climbed up to the top of the museum to see the 90 and 100 inch engines – the largest surviving single cylinder beam engine and largest working beam engine in the world. Sophie was a bit too small for the climb, but judging by the pictures, it was vast!
We only stayed for a couple of hours, and didn’t explore the complete museum or any of the gardens, so I know we’ll be back soon to see more. But I loved the part we did see – it was so accessible, hands on and interesting. I was quite a fan of industrial revolution history in my school and university days, and the museum did a great job of demonstrating the working engines and the huge impact they made on society.
(By tbe way – if you fancy seeing my choir perform in this glorious location, our family friendly Christmas concert tickets are on sale here)