The Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

The other weekend, we popped down to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, and felt compelled to tell you how great it was.

As avid readers will already know, in a recent poll by the council on its website, The Horniman is “the place which makes Lewisham residents feel most proud of their home town” (of course, we’re talking about Lewisham as a borough here, the town would be Forest Hill, but let’s not be pedantic, eh?). With this in mind, and a sunny afternoon in the reckoning, we set off to Forest Hill on our bikes.

The impressive exterior of the museum gives an indication of the history inside. Taking up a large portion of the museum is the display of taxidermy which looks like it was shipped in from the Natural History Museum in the 1930s. You’ll either love it or hate it, and it’s sure to scare small children. There are even some dissections to be seen – a bit Damien Hirst, but very educational.

It’s not all about the dead animals though, in fact, the museum has a definite focus on the world's people and cultures. There are lots of related workshops, talks and ongoing courses, so have a look on the website for these.

An unexpected surprise was the aquarium down in the basement. A series of displays gives you a chance to gawp at tree frogs, sea horses, octopi and many others – remember, all for nothing but a charitable donation!

The gardens are a nice place to laze around too, and you get a pretty good view across London – if you can see past the ship-like Dawson Heights estate on the horizon! In all, the Horniman is recommended for a day out, and just next-door to Brockley.

25 comments:

Tressilliana said...

A real gem. And free! The park is lovely, and there is a little children's zoo on the top of the hill (or at least there always used to be).

Right next door there is a nature reserve on the site of the old High Level line to Crystal Palace, which ran from Nunhead through Brockley, over to the highest part of Forest Hill, through Dulwich and onto the Crystal Palace. Closed in the 60s, I think. You can still trace where it was by the site of the infill housing along the route.

For those who don't cycle and don't want to/can't drive over to the Horniman, the P4 stops right outside the Horniman. On your return you can get off outside the Brockley Jack or stay on another couple of stops and get off outside Gordonbrock School, up Ivy Lane, through the little passage by the side of Prendergast Lower Site and there's Hilly Fields. Or wander through the cemetery, if it's open.

lb said...

The two best things in there are the collection of early musical instruments and the walrus, whihc beats all the other displays hands (or flippers) down. I once heard that the bloke who stuffed the walrus didn't realise that walruses should have wrinkles in their skin and overfilled it, giving it a taut, sausagelike appearance that's strangely compelling.

max said...

For us with prams and related time management problems another great combo is a visit to the Horniman followed by shopping at the nearby Sainsbury in Forest Hill that is very well stocked indeed.

Amanda said...

This is another place I go to lots.

It's a failsafe pleasant/good time for kids and adults too.

The attractions -
'old wally' the Walrus, the curatorial blurb, says a baby walrus weighs the same as 10 average sized 10yrs old

My personal favourite is environmental lobby poster bird the Dodo. It's not a real stuffed Dodo as you would expect but looks good, the blurb is a salutory reminder of our impact on the earth.

In contrast to the dead stuffed animals there's the aquarium (one of the oldest in London) and live bees. Kids often go crazy on seeing the bees and start screaming.

The gardens are lovely, (highly manicured)as you'd expect from a Green Flag winner. The views from the hill are striking, its worth bring some binoculars on a cloud free day.

The cafe It appears a lot of thought has gone into the menu, in terms of pleasing the prospective patrons. It offers a range of food that caters to the health conscious parent, and semi foodie, pastas, paninis, handmade pizzas, as opposed to sandwiches, crisps the 'old school' packed lunch fare. I'd say it's worth going here for the cafe alone.

I really appreciate that we have such a high quality attraction so closeby and for me it beats many of Greenwich's offering because it isn't touristy.

Tamsin said...

Yes, my favourite is the Walrus. And it is quite believable that in the early days before extensive photography when you got a dead skin you would just stuff it tight. Reminds me of a lovely 17th C Dutch painting of New World jungles - there is a monkey sitting at the base of the tree leaning against the trunk, just like a human on a picnic, and a sloth that is the right way up. The artist had obviously just seen them dead and guessed at how they would be.
And famously, Landseer's lions in Trafalgar Square - with front paws straight out sphinx like rather than one curled round the way a real live lion lies down.

brockley mutha said...

We adore the Horniman - the farm zoo, picnics in the park, the aquarium, free talks about the collection, regular special exhibitions. they do live music in the summer and I remember once going for a fantastic latin american music festival.

spincat said...

I love this place and one of the more unusual events they host is coming up 17th August : a jerk cookout - where you can sample ... yes, jerk cooking ... listen to music - try it!

Brockley Jon said...

Brilliant to get so many positive comments - it is indeed a gem of the south east. I feel bad that it has taken me this long to get down there!

Keep the little facts and tips coming. The jerk cookout (a 'Jerk Off'!?) sounds great!

Anonymous said...

I saw Eternal Jerk was open on Saturday! Been living Westside for 18 months and that was the first time I'd ever seen it open. Looked shit mind you.

Headhunter said...

Good museum, but last time I went, the aquarium was looking a little sparsely populated. Someone needs to get out and buy some new goldfish and shibunkins...

Graham said...

I'm thinking about getting married at the lovely Horniman next year, and then having the reception in Dulwich College. Have also looked at the fabulous but fabulously expensive Eltham Palace. Any other recommended wedding venues nearby Brockley?

Tamsin said...

"My mother is thinking of getting married."
"Again!"
"It's the first time."
"Of course, you ought to know. I was under the impression that she'd been married once or twice at least."
"Three times, to be mathematically exact. I meant that it ws the first time she'd thought about getting married; the other times she did it without thinking.."
(Saki: The Match-Maker)
Sorry, couldn't resist it.
Congratulations - on either the thinking, or the getting married or both. I've recently been to a wedding reception in Greenwich where the bridal party arrived by sailing barge and had drinks in the painted hall and then a sit-down meal in the undercroft below. (I gather they had intended the cheaper terrace for drinks but struck lucky in that it was closed for building works so they were offered the Painted Hall at a bargain rate.) The Dulwich Picture Gallery does events. Or at right the other end of the scale in price and amenity - the Telegraph Hill Centre is available on Saturdays from 12noon to 11pm. There is also a document on the Lewisham Website that I was consulting at work this afternoon - an area by area list of Community Halls available for hire (some of which have licences to do the ceremony as well).

fabhat said...

Graeme - I'm getting married this Friday...I'd recommend looking at Charlton House - glamour without the extraordinary price tag of some of the other places...

fabhat said...

sorry - Graham, not Graeme. Greene not Garden...

brockley mutha said...

Graham - I like your taste. Nice choices. Is it a summer wedding.

other options would be the royal naval college in Greenwich - its just beautiful.

Had a friend who did Eltham Palace - very nice choice.

The rivoli would be a quirky fashion forward choice.

Belair Park - v nice

I saw a wedding part in Benchley Gardens a couple of days ago - thought that was an inspired choice. there's a beautiful golf course just behind there which is built over a water reservoir.

still think your present choices are nice. where in dulwich college are you doing the wedding reception?

Graeme said...

Graham - Why not look at the combination of Eltham Palace and Dulwich Colege which is Eltham College. Just to confuse things even more, the buildings of Eltham College were used by the Royal Naval College before they moved to Greenwich !

max said...

A pagan ceremony at the stone circle in Hillyfields?

Richard said...

Graham, my uncle & aunt had a winter wedding at Dulwich college - ceremony in the old chapel & reception in the halls. It was a brilliant choice & the halls looked fantastic.

Brockley Mutha's rivoli suggestion is fantastic, I'm assuming they don't have a marriage license so choosing somewhere nearby for the ceremony could be tricky.

Tamsin said...

@fabhat - congratulations to you too, BTW. Your mother showed me the shoes she was choosing between on the way back from the Telegraph Hill Ward Assembly last night. Lovely!

Amanda said...

Yes, holding a reception in the Horniman gardens would be amazing. There is so much choice now on weddings its crazy.

I had such a nightmare trying to choose. I really love the concept of wedding planners. I used that magazine London Weddings, and it helped to whittle down my choices. Once I decided on the style/theme of the wedding, everything flowed from that. I decided on a traditional style, so that dictated the venue and I chose the nicest and closest venue to host the reception.

That was the basis but I did go to town on stationary, the food and favours and some quirky things like we had a magician going round. I think it's important to keep the guests entertained.

Anyway congratulations and really enjoy it. It goes so quickly.
best wishes

Tressillian James said...

Ranger's House - on Greenwich Park and Blackheath -

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.00100100500100m

link to it's 'wedding venue' page

fabhat said...

Thanks Tamsin - the shoe choice has now been made - now it's just pre wedding nerves to worry about...

Graham said...

Thanks for the comments (and the congratulations!), folks. Really helpful. I'll definitely have a look at a few of those, Charlton House especially, as a few people have suggested that is great value for what you get. If we went for Dulwich College, the wedding breakfast would be in the great hall upstairs, and the dancing etc would be in the lower hall, but I love the cloister with all the Shackleton stuff, so I'll probably spend a lot of time in there.... It's a really great place.

fabhat said...

m, just to say Charlton House was brilliant last week - totally helpful and friendly, and all our guests loved it...

Brockley Nick said...

Congratulations fabhat!

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