A Visit to London's Science Museum

Science Museum - London 01

The best thing about London, without a doubt, is that most of the museums and art galleries have free entry.  Sometimes they contain paid exhibits (which usually run for a limited time and need the financial input) but you can genuinely spend days on end wondering around amazing permanent exhibits for free.  You certainly need days on end too!  We spent three hours wondering around the Science Museum and we barely managed to cover a fraction of this massive building that stretches over seven levels. 

I’m going to start off by telling you that the Science Museum is pretty amazing.  It is the sort of place that would be worth it even if you were paying a pretty hefty entrance fee because it is just jam-packed full of technology and history.  There were a couple of areas that were undergoing refurbishments when we visited but I see that those were open and completed in time for the summer. 

Hopefully I can manage to convince you that it is not only a place for men and school children on school excursions!

Energy Hall

Mill Engine by Burnley Ironworks Company, 1903
Mill Engine by Burnley Ironworks Company, 1903

Steam power played a massive part in the history and development of this country and they have some absolute gems in this collection.   Walking through the energy hall reminded me of so many things I’ve learned about in the history and traditions of England: factories, mills, steam engines, the industrial revolution, Manchester, the cotton industry and for some absolutely unknown reason, Oliver Twist.  If for no other reason, visit the Energy Hall for some absolutely brilliant photographic opportunities!  I love the photo above because that wheel was spinning really fast and the photo came out great.

The Atmospheric Pumping Engine (below right) is one of the oldest remaining remnants of these steam engines.  The date they gave is 1791 but I don’t know if that was the commissioning or decommissioning date.

Click on the photos for larger views.

Parsons' steam turbine with generator, 1891Atmospheric engine by Francis Thompson, 1791
Parsons' steam turbine with generator, 1891 //
Atmospheric Pumping Engine by Francis Thompson, 1791

Compound steam engine by J and E Hall, c.1838Compound steam engine by J and E Hall, c.1838
Compound steam engine by J and E Hall, c.1838

I'm such a geek.  I loved that this machine was from Dartford because that is where I live now!  Dartford was indeed an industry hub for several hundred years and in fact, they are just tearing down the last remaining factories in the area now. 

Exploring Space

Science Museum - London 07

There was a lot to see in the Exploring Space section but the lighting was not conducive to taking photos.  Anyway, I met an astronaut!!!  This is Gene Cernan who was the last man on the moon as he was the last astronaut to re-enter the Apollo Lunar Module during the final manned lunar landing.  He was very interested at first to know why I was taking photos and making notes but seemed to lose interest once he learned that I was just a lowly blogger.  Sheesh, thank goodness he was an astronaut and not just an actor or something!!!

Deep Blue Restaurant

Science Museum - London 08

We had lunch in the Deep Blue Restaurant.  It is a lovely looking restaurant and I just had to eat somewhere that looked so futuristic but it was slightly on the ridiculously expensive and overpriced side!


If you read my post about visiting the National Air and Space Museum in DC last June, then you’ll know that I am crazy about old air craft and space ships and so on.  So visiting the third floor Flight exhibition was akin to Charlie Bucket entering the chocolate factory.

A V Roe's Triplane, 1909
A V Roe's Triplane, 1909

This paper and wood airplane was flown by Alliot Verdon Roe on 13 July 1909 at Lea Marshes, Essex.  Roe was the first Briton to fly an all British aeroplane, the Roe I.

 Montgolfier balloon, 4th June, 1783Science Museum - London 11 
Replica of Montgolfier balloon, 4th June, 1783

The Montgolfier brothers succeeded in launching the first manned ascent using what became known as the montgolfière style hot air balloon.

Beta Airship Car, 1910Vickers Vimy biplane, 1919
Beta Airship Car, 1910 // Vickers Vimy biplane, 1919

They suggest spending 30 minutes in the Flight exhibition but I have to disagree! I would suggest at least an hour or two as there is just so much to see and so much to take in and absorb too.  The exhibit starts with the very first flights in human history and moves right through modern airplanes and technology so yes, 30 minutes is definitely not enough!

Science Museum - London 17Science Museum - London 18 
Air Traffic Control Desk // Jet Engine


Figurehead of HMS Northstar Science Museum - London 20
Figurehead of HMS Northstar

I have been interested in shipping and maritime history ever since I visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum in December 2008.  The museum suggests that you spend 15 minutes in the Shipping section and I would really disagree.  This section is full of models, artefacts and shipping paraphernalia and you’d be doing yourselves a real disservice to just rush through this section.  Realising this, we decided to move on and vowed to return to the Science Museum one day to get a real look at this section.

Computing and Mathematics

Science Museum - London 23Science Museum - London 22

The Computing and Mathematics sections are two sections sitting next to each other on the second floor.  They are really interesting but not especially good for photos, hence the lack of photos.  We spent a good hour in these two sections (and once again, the museum undersells them by recommending 15 minutes each) as my friend Patrick and I are just geeky like that!  If you are interested in computers, logic or mathematics, I would recommend that you go first to this section as it is really interesting.

Making the Modern World

Our last stop in our tour of the Science Museum was the Making the Modern World exhibit.  I didn’t make it very far because right there at the front of the hall was Stephenson’s Rocket.

Stephensons Rocket

Stephensons RocketStephensons Rocket

Until the age of 9, I lived in Rainhill, near Liverpool, which is where the Rainhill trials took place in 1829.  The trials took place to determine the best and most competent design of steam engine and Stephenson’s Rocket won.  It was not the first steam engine ever but it set the standard for steam locomotives for years to come.

The Rocket has a very special place in my heart which is possibly why i couldn’t stop photographing and touching it. 

That concludes our visit to the Science Museum! It is a brilliant museum and well worth the visit.  Actually, it is well worth several visits!

30 comments on "A Visit to London's Science Museum"
  1. Breaking news - man on the moon disses lowly blogger, that's classic. I love to figure out how things work, I'd lose myself in here for days!!

  2. Very interesting, thank you very much by the information

  3. Noone knows less about science and technology than I do. Yet I loved the Energy Hall and other parts of your museum because they are direct outcomes of the Great Exhibition of London 1851 in Crystal Palace. While the era was already employing advances in power, architecture and construction in the sciences, the organisers and patrons wanted to show the rest of the world how advanced Britain's science really was.

    The connection between exhibitions and science museums was important in Australia also. The Inter-colonial Exhibition of 1867 in Melbourne had been scientifically fascinating. So the NSW government bought many of the exhibits to place in the brand new Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum (later the Powerhouse Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)

  4. Emm one of my favourite London attractions. Some excellent photographs from you with a really good commentary.

    If I miss just one thing out here its places like our museums.

  5. Very interesting and informative post!! Amazing photographs here, Emm.
    What a fascinating Science Museum! Looks like an absolute must-see.

    Have a great Monday!
    ~B xx

    Thanks so much for your interesting comments and your excellent movie suggestions :)

  6. @ Ryan: I know, right!! What a scandal. It is a great museum and obviously benefits from good funding so well worth a visit.

    @ Gloria: Thank you! You have a lovely blog.

    @ Hels: Wow!! What a fascinating and interesting comment - thank you!! I love that you know so much about these things!

    @ Mike: Thank you! Yes, I imagine I would miss them back in South Africa too as they are quite limited.

    @ Betty: Thank you! It is a must-see and I would certainly recommend it on your next whirlwind tour to London!

  7. Hi Emm! Free entry is great... and the musums in London are superb!!

    There is a weird post at Blogtrotter Two waiting for your comment... ;)
    Enjoy and have a gorgeous week ahead!

  8. This was almost my favorite London museum! I'm glad you liked it, too. Although it is really just ridiculously HUGE. Any time estimates you see for it need to doubled, or tripled, or even more, if you want to see everything.

  9. Emm, seeing as you have expressed an interest in using Windows Live Writer for you blog posts (i.e maps in particular) take a look at my blog on here about using Live Writer. http://techno-granny.blogspot.com. Tagged with Live Writer. Thanks and hope my posts help you get the most out of it. Nice blog by the way

  10. I haven't been to the Science Museum since i went with the school

    Those pics Emm are really good and enjoyed your narrative (big word for me) lol.

    Thanks for sharing

  11. Maybe the Astronaut was wishing he was some place more exciting such as the moon, instead of sitting around all day smiling and having his picture taken...

    The science museum is indeed one of the better free museums out there in London. There are only a handful of free ones that I enjoyed enough that I would go back again in the next 10 years and this was one of them!

  12. Emm, that blogpost made me ache - I know it must have taken hours of effort to put it together :)

    I really should pay that place another visit - the last time I was there it was for the 80s videogame retrospective and we spent all night playing pacman and gauntlet :D

  13. When my sons were young, the big holiday treat was a day in London which always included a visit to the Science Museum. Little did I know that one of them would end up at university just a short walk along the road! I ended up knowing the place very well.

  14. If I ever get to London, that place is definitely on my to-do list. It's gorgeous, especially the restaurant. Now I've got an itch to visit my local science museum. It's probably nowhere near as amazing as London's though.

  15. I'm with you. I like that third floor Flight exhibition. And I LOVE the look of Deep Blue. How do you find these places?

  16. I was hoping you'd mention the computing exhibit :-) It sounds as though I could spend all day there reading about the history of computers.

  17. @ Trotter: I agree - we are very, very lucky.

    @ Kathy: It is big, isn't it??? Which was your favourite one then?

    @ Technogran: Thank you so much for the links to your posts! I have been using WLW since 2008 and I cannot believe how much I didn't know. I know several beginner bloggers who would only be too happy to see those links!

    @ Morten: Me too! What do you have out your way?

    @ Steve: Thank you!! I hope you make it out there some day as there is definitely something for everyone.

    @ William: I think it is always looking out for which museums have just received some funding. I hated the Natural History Museum back in 2005 and loved it last year!

    @ The Londoneer: That must have been loads of fun!!! And you are right - this post took a huge amount of time to do and took the entire weekend, setting back my other blogging by several days! Certainly a labour of love!

    @ Sheila: Oh wonderful! Which university did he go to? I think museums are great for stimulating inquiring minds and set the groundwork for higher learning.

    @ Berryvox: Go for it!! Perhaps the science museum might not be as impressive but I am sure you have other interesting sites in your area!! (I'm thinking more nature-oriented things?)

    @ Cassandra: Ha! In London you don;t need to look hard to find them. They are all really well advertised and sign posted etc.

    @ John: I thought of you when I visited there!! I knew you must have loved it there.

  18. Yeah I love the London's Science Museum. You really need a few days just to scratch the surface.

    Then there is the Natural History Museum just around the corner, with all those dinosaur bones. A truly amazing place.

  19. @ Tim: Hiya! Yup - we moved on to Natural History Museum that afternoon - love it there. Will finally get around to posting about that too!

  20. Thanks a bunch for this post.
    I love London.. but it's a bit expensive place to stay with 4 or 5.
    I can't wait however to cross the channel.

  21. I was thinking it was interesting but when I saw the Montgolfier there I got goosebumps: I want to see the Montgoolfier too! Lucky you, Emm! But for me the most fascinating pieces would be those locomotives. I'm sure this museum in London is the best place to learn about steam engines and trains in general. I recently worked on a book about the origins of railways in my land and it would be great to see those old trains in this museum. I'll click on that link to the Science Museum :) Thank you, Emm!

  22. It certainly looks like its changed a lot since the last time I visited! I don't think it had separate sections when I went :P

  23. You just made me want to visit London.. Really - That's WONDERFUL pictures! :)

    I didn't know most entries was free.. So thank you!

    Will go there soon..

  24. I'm a sucker for science museums and this one looks spectacular. I love the old Industrial Revolution machinery. It's looks so simple compared to what we have today.

    I blogged this at:

  25. Looks like an amazing museum with a wealth of history and science. Awesome images and a great presentation for the traveler and curious minded. The Deep Blue Restaurant looks extremely impressive, as well. Excellent show and an informative fun read.
    R. Wing

  26. Me thinks I should visit there! Great shots.

    What was your favourite bit?

    Thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comment. Come visit again tomorrow!

  27. Emm - what a great posting - I loved London's museums as well. Your tour through the science museum was fantastic. . . brings me right back. Thanks

  28. I love that museum...I love most of the museums in London...in fact during our brief trip back last month, we managed to squeak in a visit to the Natural History Museum (again) :)

  29. I haven't been to the science museum in Toronto since I was a kid and went on a class trip. I remember it had a lot of stuff. Likely a lot more now in all this time. You've made me want to go, though I'd only have a day to see it all.


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