Visit London Canal Museum

Explore the Ground Floor


The ground floor of the museum houses large colourful exhibits from the canal age, and offers access to the canalside where our tug boat Bantam 4 is usually moored. Learn about the start of the canal age in the UK, learn about how a large population of canal boat people lived and worked afloat, admire the traditional painting style of "roses and castles".

View of the ground floor showing colourful exhibits left and right and an arched bridge

The ground floor is an atmospheric gallery of large exhibits on the two themes of the museum, the canals and the ice trade

A strange-looking miniature tractor in the foreground, in the background an ice cream tricycle painted with

The 1960 Wickham tractor is a rare survivor of a what was a common sight in the 1960s in London. Miniature tractors like this took over from horses to tow unpowered barges around the capital.

A view of the stern of the narrowboat, with traditional painting, tiller, and canal signs on the wall behind

The narrowboat Coronis is the colourful exhibit that dominates the ground floor. Go inside!

Interior of narrowboat cabin, with cupboards in a confined space

The cabin of Coronis is a must-visit experience. Imagine living in a tiny cabin with the whole family! Thousands lived with no other home for over a century. In the cabin hear an audio track of a dramatised family conversation. In cabins like this people were born, cooked, ate, slept and died. There are other audio exhibits around the museum too, that enable you to listen to memories collected by the museum in oral history recordings.

The two ice wells under the building are the only commercial ice wells that you can see in the UK. There are others, covered over. The second ice well can be inspected using a virtual tour, or viewed live on your phone or computer.

Click for sound clip. If you are unable to listen to sounds there is a transcript of the sound clip.

A green and red tug boat with basin of moored boats seen in the background

The tug Bantam 4 is normally moored outside. Bantam 4 is a "pusher" tug designed to push rather than pull an unpowered barge, which is more fuel-efficient. This type of tug was mostly used for canal maintenance work. It was built in London, at Brentford. The canal basin is nowadays home to a mixture of residential and leisure moorings for private boats.

Display of traditional narrowboat decoration known as

The canal age was an age of hard labour and poverty for the workers, but their lives were brightened by the tradition of "roses and castles" decoration. The boats and all sort of utensils were decorated in this colourful style and you can see some good examples of this craft in the museum, alsong with a display of so-called Measham pottery and the decorated lace-plates that were often found in the cabins.

A glass case holding a model horse and cart, with other exhibits in another case below

The ice trade exhibition tells the story of Carlo Gatti, who came to London from Switzerland to make his fortune, and succeeded! He was one of the biggest importers of Norwegian ice in the 19th Century, and it was Gatti who built the museum building in around 1863.

Explore the first floor