An octagonal kitchen building at Royal Bethlem Hospital, early twentieth century. Courtesy of Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust (LSC-210)
As work gets underway on the transformation of IWM London and the Large Exhibits Gallery specifically, we thought it might be good to take a look at how that particular space has evolved over the years.
The Imperial War Museum moved to Lambeth Road in 1936, taking over the central section of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital. The building, completed in 1815, was constructed around a courtyard where the Chief Physician had his garden.
As the number of patients grew, the garden was replaced by an octagonal kitchen building, shown above in the early twentieth century. Before IWM moved in, the kitchen was demolished to make way for three single storey exhibition galleries.
The remains of Surrey Lodge, an apartment building destroyed by a V2 rocket on 4 January 1945. The photograph was apparently taken on the following day and graphically shows how a 5 storey building was reduced to rubble. Image courtesy of Lambeth Archives.
Barely 150 metres from IWM London today is the site of the most destructive explosion in Lambeth during the Second World War, which killed 43 people. Just before 8.30pm on the night of Thursday 4 January 1945 a huge explosion destroyed an apartment building, Surrey Lodge, on the corner of Kennington Road and Lambeth Road. The old Lambeth Baths and a chapel on the opposite side of Lambeth Road were also severely damaged. The blast also extensively damaged the northern and western sides of the Imperial War Museum as well as many surrounding buildings.
Moving a gun into the Imperial Institute in 1924. 275 loads of exhibits weighing approximately 800 tons were moved during this period, with only three instances of minor damage to objects reported. IWM (Q 36932)
Museum objects are seldom static – displays, exhibitions and research material move around all the time. Transforming IWM London is just the latest in a long series of major moves, from the move to Crystal Palace in 1920, to the opening of AirSpace at IWM Duxford in 2006.
The army section display at Crystal Palace, 1920. Although the space was dramatic, the glass structure and four year lease meant it was unsuitable as a long term home for the Museum.
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs from the museum archive. With the transformation of IWM London now moving into full swing, we thought it would be a good opportunity to tell you more about the history of the Lambeth Road building that our London branch has occupied for over 70 years.
IWM Director-General Diane Lees explains the planned redevelopment work for IWM London
Last night, the IWM Foundation, an independent charitable trust, hosted its patron Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at a reception to launch a £35million fundraising effort to transform our First World War galleries in time for 2014.
In a deeply personal speech, Lord Rothermere, founder of the IWM Foundation, highlighted the ‘devastating impact’ the First World War had on many thousands of families in the country, including his own.
His great-grandfather, the 1st Viscount Rothermere, Harold Sidney Harmsworth, tragically lost two of his three sons in the fighting.
19th century print showing the exterior of the Bethlem Royal Hospital © IWM (Q82924)
The National War Museum was founded in 1917 when the government decided that a museum should be set up to collect and display material related to the First World War, which was still being fought. Interest from the Dominion governments led to a change in name to Imperial War Museum. It was formally established by Act of Parliament in 1920.
Hello and welcome!
The First World War was a turning point in world history. Claiming the lives of over 16 million people across the globe most people in the world have a connection to it, either through their own family history, links to their local community or because of its long term impact on the world we live in today.
It was during this time that IWM (Imperial War Museums) was founded as a lasting memorial to all those who played their part in the conflict, be that at home or on the fighting front and we continue in this role today.