Kew is an area of London most often associated with fragrant flowers, blooming blossoms and all things horticultural. I dread to think how the big botanical gardens cope during a hosepipe ban, what with all those plants to water. Actually, how would they get the water into the hoses to begin with… well, today’s Secret Museum goes some way to answering that question.
The Kew Bridge Steam Museum was built in the nineteenth century to supply Londoners with water. It doesn’t anymore,
but with all the pumps and engines on display you can almost hear the wheels crank and splutter.
As you go around – learning about a part of history that’s usually out ofsight and mind – you can help a lost goldfish find her way back to her pond, operate a robotic camera and even save a stranded duckling. Saving the duckling is a bit of a challenge, but once you get the hang of the buttons and levers it’s a piece of cake.
The old steam pumps are really quite beautiful in their own way, despite Dickens declaring that one of the larger ones – a three storey high, 160 year old Grand Junction 90inch engine, thank you for asking- a monster! Dickens does seem to get everywhere nowadays, doesn’t he? It turns out he used to live nearby so the Steam Works would have been a familiar sight to him.
Pumps and pipes do more than just teach us about the technical side of things. There are some really interesting, and frankly odd, things that have been discovered in the pipes and pumps as they were being restored. Things like H. Carter’s false teeth. “Did he throw them away?” asks the museum, “or did he groan as he saw them sink beneath the mud?”
Once you’ve explored the inside, you might be lucky enough to get a chance to ride on London’s only steam railway, or if you really want to see some gardens you can explore the museum’s Wildflower Garden. If the weather is nice you could even have a picnic.
Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 0EN
Children (5-15): £4
Tickets are valid for 12 months after date of issue.