Museum of London Docklands
Photos of Museum of London Docklands
What will students see and do?
The Museum of London Docklands tells the story of London as a port city. The museum occupies a former sugar warehouse on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in East London. Built in 1802, it was part of the world’s first dock complex.
The museum features 12 galleries and two classrooms over four floors. Whether your class takes one of the guided tours or you have a self-guided visit, your journey through London history begins on the third floor with the history of the building itself (Warehouse 1).
Students will get a look back at London history before the docks existed. Hands-on exhibits allow students to touch and lift the tools workers would have used in the warehouse.
A visit to the third floor also includes the “London Sugar & Slavery” gallery. It’s the only permanent gallery examining the city’s links to the transatlantic slave trade. The Georgian warehouse was used to take in and hold imports from the West Indies, including sugar and slaves, until 1807.
On the second floor, students will learn about the history of the docklands through models and other displays. They’ll visit a walk-through recreation of old Wapping streets called Sailor Town. This space will immerse students in the sights, sounds and smells of life in the East End in the 1840s.
As your students progress through the museum, they will learn about the changing role and the growing importance of the docklands through the 19th and 20th centuries. They’ll learn about the docklands’ importance to the tea spice trade and its secret role during World War II.
On the first floor, students can visit the Sainsbury Study Centre to learn about the 1869 market and how different it was from grocery stores today. The Thames gallery offers a look at life in the docklands in the 1930s.
On the ground floor, foundation stage and KS1 pupils will enjoy the interactive children’s gallery, Mudlarks. A visit to Mudlarks lets kids try loading cargo onto boats and trains on the model dock.
Your class can also participate in lessons or workshops held in the two basement classrooms. These can cover topics from geography and history to literacy and STEM.
The museum’s focus on creating an immersive experience for visitors makes the Museum of London Docklands a popular choice for UK school trips, especially history trips.
Teaching resources provided
There are several educational resources available for use in the classroom and during your visit. Search the term “docklands” on the website for materials designed specifically for the Museum of London Docklands, then sort the results by age group or subject.
There are maps, PDF handouts, videos and more. The resources cover subjects ranging from the role of the docks in the sugar and slave trades to their importance during wartime.
There’s also a downloadable PDF available with pictures and information about the museum. It’s designed to familiarise your students with the museum’s features, displays and rules. It also makes a handy planning guide for teachers planning a self-guided visit for their group.
You are also invited to make a planning visit to the museum ahead of your trip. Please call to arrange a time and date. You can also email enquiries regarding trip planning, museum galleries and logistics to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minimum and maximum group size
The Museum of London Docklands welcomes school groups of all sizes. Groups of ten or more must book in advance, even for self-guided visits.
The museum requires the following minimum student to teacher ratios:
Foundation stage – 1:3
Key Stage 1 – 1:6
Key Stage 2 – 1:6
Key Stage 3 – 1:15
Key Stage 4 – 1:15
Post-16 AS/A2 – 1:15
SEND – 1:5
Some facilitated sessions have set limits. For instance, the KS2/3 ‘Locks, Lifting and Loads’ STEM session can accommodate 35 students at a time and up to three groups per day.
Details of risk assessment
The Museum of London Docklands holds the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge and the Sandford Award.
Additional information to help you prepare your risk assessment is available to download from the museum’s website.
Don't miss our downloadable A-Z guide on completing a risk assessment
A staff member will meet your school group and show you where you need to go when you arrive.
If your trip includes a learning session, it will take place in one of two classroom spaces in the basement, where there is also space for you to eat your lunch. Make sure to arrange this option when you book – eating is not allowed in the galleries.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible, including galleries, classrooms, the shop, café and theatre. There are two lifts near the reception desk. Toilets are located in the basement, on the ground floor near reception, and the third floor.
The museum is open year-round, Monday-Sunday, 10am-5pm.
Mondays and Tuesdays are school-only days during term. On these days, trips focus on a reserved gallery or facilitated workshops. You can book a self-guided visit for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Admission to the museum is free for both children and adults. Facilitated sessions are also free, but there may be a cancellation fee.
The school trip drop-off area is behind the museum on Hertsmere Road.
If you’re taking the underground or DLR, exit at Canary Wharf or West India Quay.
The museum is accessible by bus on the following routes: D3, D7, D8, 277, D6, 15, 115 and 135.
Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, London, London
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