Days out diary - child friendly and family activities

Family days out Thomas land and children railways Family days out fun with boats Family days out Baby Elephant at Twycross Zoo Family days out Lake district cruise on Lake Windermere Family days out museums Family days out Magna Science and Technology Centre Family days out butterfly farm

This is a continuation of: Trip to London with a Baby - Part 1 - Hotel at Wembley Park and travelling around London on the Underground. In part 1 I have put details of the accommodation and travelling in and around London. In this part I will mention one of the places we visited in London, and then in part 3 I'll mention some shops in London before cover our our final day in London in part 4.

St. John's Gate Museum, Library and Tours of the Priory and Norman Crypt

The first place I visited is one of London's best kept secrets. St. John's Gate in Clerkenwell is the historical home of the Order of St. John and St. John Ambulance. The building is adjacent to the modern headquarters of St. John Ambulance and is still used for meetings of the Order of St. John and by St. John Ambulance. I have been in meetings in one of the rooms in St. John's Gate myself, through my volunteer work with St. John Ambulance.

St. John's Gate Museum and Priory London England UK

St. John's Gate now features a museum occupying the ground floor of the building. The museum is free, but they do ask for voluntary donations. They request a donation of £5 if you take the tour, but leave it up to the individual for those not going on the tour. There is also a small shop selling St. John Ambulance branded items and books of historical / local information. The St. John Ambulance gifts are also available to buy online through St. John Supplies. There are three separate exhibits in the museum, which take about and hour to go around. There is also a tour available at certain times, which also takes about an hour.

Clerkenwell and the Priory

The first section covers the local area of Clerkenwell and the Priory. These are mainly old maps and photographs. As you enter this section the door is split into two parts. If you want to take a pushchair in then you will need to open the door fully by opening the catch on the edge of the door (or ask for help from the receptionist). There is not much for children in this exhibit.

Time to Care: the story of St. John Ambulance

Time to Care: The Story of St. John Ambulance CD-ROM

The second exhibition covers the history of St. John Ambulance. This is the most suitable for children and includes some hands on exhibits. There are some things in glass cases, but even then many of the items are in drawers that you can open and close to see the items, so they feel a bit more involved than may be the case if they were in normal cases. The exhibition includes some computer screens which give information on this uniform of the past etc. The computer based exhibits are available on a CD-ROM costing about £10.

The Order of St. John Exhibit

The final section is an exhibit of the Order of St. John covering the medieval order and exhibits from the crusades. There are some items that will appeal to children, such as the armour, but generally this is a hands off exhibit of ancient artifacts.

The Tour of St. John's Gate, the Priory and the Norman Crypt

There are tours of St. John's Gate, the Priory and the Norman Crypt run on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 11.00am and 2.30pm. There are sometimes tours at other times depending upon demand / availability. These are run by staff from the museum, or from the local council / tourism group.

The tour is around the ancient building and is unfortunately not suitable for pushchairs, and may involve a narrow spiral staircase. Much of the tour is viewing parts of the ancient buildings or treasures, but children may find the crypt interesting. If there is a large group of children then they can arrange tours designed for that age group (particularly for badgers or cadets). On this visit I was not in time for the tour, but I have taken the tour in the past and found it most interesting.

Visiting St. John's Gate

The best way to get to St. John's Gate is by underground at Farringdon station which is on the Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines. There is a large flight of stairs to negotiate if you have a pushchair. From the underground station there is a sign that sends you in the general direction however I have noticed the sign has been moved around in the past (I believe by vandals). As you exit the underground station you need to take the road that goes up the hill, which is just to the left of some shops (Cow Cross St.). Then up the hill there is a path to the left which goes behind some of the shops to come out onto St. John's Lane. After turning left the museum is then a few hundred yards straight in front.

The museum has toilet facilities, including a disabled toilet. I don't believe that they have a baby changing table, but they do have a first aid room that could possibly be used for changing or feeding a baby in.

The museum is only 10-15 minutes walk from the Museum of London, which would be a good onward destination to make a days visit. We however went shopping. More about some children's favourite shops in part 3 (coming soon).