Museum of the Order of St John

St John’s Gate St John’s Lane London EC1M 4DA

Opened in 2011, this museum tells the story of the Knights Hospitaller from their foundation in 11th-century Jerusalem to the charitable operations of the modern Order, best known for running St John Ambulance and the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. The St John’s Gate arch is all that’s left of their 12th-century English headquarters, but it has a lengthy history of its own: it was a coffee house in the 18th century, run by William Hogarth’s father, and later the offices of The Gentleman’s Magazine (editor Samuel Johnson), while later still, in the 19th century, it was a popular local pub for artists and writers (when one Charles Dickens was a regular). The current collection explores history, art, religion, culture and medicine from the Crusades in the 12th century to the establishment of St John Ambulance in the 19th. There is lots to see and the museum is impressively well-equipped with enough screens to watch and buttons to press that kids will love it; older children will also enjoy discovering how to fire a cannon while youngers ones will appreciate the dressing up clothes. Ask if the church and its crypt are open too as they are also free to visit. They’re just across the road in St John’s Square and there are laminated guides to borrow for self-guided tours. There’s also a memorial garden which can be a peaceful place to stop and reflect.

All images copyright: Nathan Willock

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