Horniman Museum

On Saturday afternoon I hopped on my beloved London Overground train and happily travelled about three million stops down south. I’m from north London so, although I don’t have anything against the south, it felt a bit weird when I got off the train – as the air is different down there. Slightly more polluted.

We met up with my sister and her boyfriend and made our way through Forest Hill, stopping off briefly in a pretty little muse – lined with bunting and made up of converted warehouses – to buy a couple of BANGING prints from Supermundane and then continued on up the hill to the Horniman Museum.

Surrounded by the lovely green lawns of the Horniman gardens, the museum’s setting is rather idyllic. A beautiful green house – to rival Kew Gardens’ beauties (though somewhat smaller) – is nestled out the back, behind the cafe.

The museum is home to an aquarium, though you have to pay for that part and we were on a mission to enjoy one of London’s many free cultural attractions, as well as a gallery of art and ancient instruments – and the permanent collection of taxidermy.

Originally the home of Frederick John Horniman, the house was opened to the public in the Victorian times – as Horniman wanted to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’. He worked as a tea trader and philanthropist and had collected odd objects during his travels.

And the objects are, indeed, odd. As well as stuffed rats, sloths, birds of prey, foxes, orangutangs, lizards, fish and other animals – there is a huge taxidermy walrus. Walruses were not common in England back in the Victorian times and so rather than leaving the characteristically saggy sides when stuffing it – the taxidermist filled it up to the point of bursting:

One of the cabinets had a rat foetus in various stages as it develops into a baby rat. Gross – but also quite fascinating. There was also a chick as it developed inside the egg.

My sister and I laughed the whole way through – fruit bat skeletons and some of the odd South American wild animals being the best source of amusement.

After leaving the museum, we got a bus through the rather lovely Dulwich village to Brixton and had scrumptious Mexican food in the part-shabby part-gentrified Brixton Market. We then found a pub and chilled for a few hours before hopping on the Underground and travelling all the way up the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park.

I’m now a fan of south London. But I’d recommend using the overground – it’s like being taken on a fairground ride to a new, exciting part of the city.

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