What Is the London Canal Museum?

Britt Archer
Britt Archer
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The London Canal Museum is dedicated to the history of the city’s inland waterways, especially Regent’s Canal. Information presented by the museum pertains specifically to canals, their history, and the goods they transported, as well as the social history of the canal workers and their daily lives. The London Canal Museum also offers information about the ice trade and storage in Victorian times, when ice was brought through the canal system after a voyage from Norway.

This British museum on New Wharf Road in King’s Cross is housed in a building that was constructed around 1860. The museum welcomes children as well as adults to its exhibits, and it is handicapped accessible. There are elevators as well as stairs to allow access to all floors, and electrically powered main doors allow for ease of entry with the push of a button. Handicapped accessible restrooms are available, and audio tours are offered for the blind or visually handicapped visitor.

The London Canal Museum opened its doors to the public in 1992. The museum allows visitors to step into a restored canal boat and learn about the types of cargo and the people who transported the goods. An ice warehouse, constructed for a Victorian ice cream maker, Carlo Gatti, is on view. Old-time stables show where the horses were housed when they weren’t working.

Carlo Gatti is believed to be among the first to sell ice cream as a business. His “penny ice” was a popular treat, and he and his partner also had a chocolate-making machine that was put on view during the Great Exhibition in London. Carlo Gatti was responsible for bringing in 400 tons of ice from Norway when he later started an ice business.

The climate in London was not conducive to natural ice formation. The amount of ice that formed was not enough to meet the public’s demand, and the ice that did form was not of good quality. Before Carlo Gatti began bringing in Norwegian ice, London imported ice from the United States.

The London Canal Museum is run as an official charity and its programs are self-supporting. Private events may be booked there during off hours, with fees going toward the running of the museum. Volunteers perform much of the work at the canal museum.

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