Buffet style breakfast is included in the room rate at Ibis Styles hotels and there was a good selection of both hot and cold dishes to set us up for the day in its brightly coloured restaurant. Setting off, I walked the short distance to Prince Regent DLR station and made my way via Canning Town and Stratford to the Central Line as I wished to visit Bethnal Green.
I’d never been to Bethnal Green before and the reason for my visit was to take a look inside the Victoria & Albert (V & A) Museum of Childhood which is located a few steps away from the underground station. I’ve visited the V & A main museum in South Kensington many times and having enjoyed the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh I was eager to see how this compared. Entrance to the museum is free of charge as for the main V & A museum in South Kensington.
The building was completed in 1872 and officially opened as the Bethnal Green museum but after the First World War it began to focus collections of interest to children. Since 1974 the decision was made to dedicate the museum to the subject of childhood and the V & A’s collections of children’s costume, books, nursery items, art and furniture were relocated to Bethnal Green alongside the museum’s existing toy collection.
I adored everything about this museum from the magnificent large hall with its wrought iron pillars to the exhibits on display. One of my favourite displays was of an art installation featuring 150 vintage dolls houses in a variety of architectural styles and averaging approximately one metre high. The ‘village’ sits on a stepped platform evoking a sprawling hillside community. Some of the toys featured I remembered from my own childhood and there were board games and Matchbox cars on display that even my own children had more recently played with.
In addition to toys there are galleries displaying clothes including uniforms which were popular for dressing up in and playing pretend occupations such as soldiers and nurses. The nursery equipment also fascinated me, being able to see how prams have evolved from coach built steel bodied versions to what we use today. Before leaving I had to take a look at the collection of traditional wooden rocking horses two of which were available for children to ride on.
After leaving the museum I returned to the nearby underground station in search of a National Trust property in Hackney. Getting there was quick and easy, taking the Central Line to Stratford and then hopping onto the Overground a few stops to Hackney Central.
It was a pleasant short walk to Sutton House along the pedestrianised Narrow Way and then through St. John’s churchyard gardens which led to the Walled Garden Walk. Along there I found a wrought iron sign pointing to Sutton House which is located on the corner of Homerton High Street. At nearly 500 years old Sutton House is the oldest home in East London. Originally built as a Tudor Palace, its final occupants were squatters in the 1980’s before being bought by the National Trust to be saved for the nation.
Some original features remain such as intricate patterned woodcarving in the parlour but various modifications have taken place over the years reflecting changes of ownership. Before Sutton House was built the site was used for manufacturing leather, later becoming a car breaker’s yard. The garden features planting in old tyres and the shell of a campervan being used as a greenhouse to celebrate the industrial heritage of the site.
After enjoying my visit I headed back to Piccadilly to find somewhere for a snack and a short rest. It had just started raining heavily so my cafe stop was well timed. Later I enjoyed a walk through St. James Park, along The Mall to Buckingham Palace before returning to our hotel in the Docklands.