The Museum of London has announced that its planned relocation to West Smithfield will begin in December 2022, alongside a new name; The London Museum.
The move to the historic General Market site will see it occupy buildings that have been derelict for over 30 years. Much of The London Collection will be displayed in an underground gallery space.
The Museum of London Docklands will remain open to visitors during the move. Under the leadership of new Managing Director, Douglas Gilmore, it will be renamed The London Museum Docklands from January 2023 to reflect the new museum brand.
From June 2022 a final series of events, activities and displays at the existing Museum of London site are planned, celebrating the museum’s successes over the past 45 years.
The move is hoped to allow The London Museum to open up to millions more visitors, thanks in part to Crossrail and its Farringdon station close by.
Thameslink trains traveling between King’s Cross and Blackfriars will pass through the middle of the museum every few minutes, making the location the only museum in the world to have a trainline running through the galleries.
The museum said the ground floor level of the General Market will “retain the feel of the old Smithfield marketplace” acting as a new civic space with exhibitions and events curated by Londoners and designed by London’s creative talent.
After the reopening, it plans to open early and close late, with extended opening hours on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as hosting independent small businesses around the perimeter of the General Market building.
A team led by Stanton Williams and Asif Khan Studio with Julian Harrap Architects has been working on a masterplan for the reuse and restoration of the existing structure with “contemporary interventions”.
Part of the team’s proposals has seen the restoration of the exterior of the General Market building and other areas, with conservation work led by Julian Harrap Architects.
The first stage of the work to be completed has seen the façades of the General Market brought back to their former glory.
The museum said the design and restoration process has uncovered some architectural surprises, including forgotten underground vaults which will be used as interactive exhibition space and Lockhart’s Temperance Cocoa Rooms – an establishment which promoted abstinence during the 19th Century.
As part of the redevelopment, the Cocoa Rooms will be brought back to life with restored original tiles. Cocoa Rooms will be open seven days a week – complementing the independent food scene in and around Smithfield.
Also forming the perimeter of The London Museum is a ‘museum high street’, a row of terraced houses that will become home to independent shops, cafes, social enterprises and cultural partners, bringing vibrancy and economic opportunity to the area from 2025.
Sharon Ament, Director of Museum of London, said the new location will be “more than a museum, it will tell the story of all Londoners – past, present and future; it will be a new civic space for millions of visitors to enjoy, 24 hours a day, and it will be a living, breathing building that buzzes with the energy of Londoners.”
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, added: “The new London Museum will be a fantastic addition to our city, inspiring the next generation, attracting visitors from the around the world and securing our position as a global creative capital. This project will also create jobs and support our city’s recovery and I’m proud to be investing in it on behalf of Londoners.”