London has so many good museums and historic attractions to pick from, a visit can become a bit overwhelming - Do you go for top national, unusual independent, or obscure gem?
Away from the bustle of the nationals, the hip coffee drinkers of the independents, the instagram worthy oddities of the obscure, is the welcoming industrial huddle of the Brunel Museum.
There's something delightfully honest about a museum in London where the cash is kept in a tuppaware pot, and the cafe can only seat about 6 people. This is local pride in people of national importance, and it's heartwarming.
Approaching from the tube station, you can see that the Brunels are part of the local history, with murals at a local school, and civic art on walls. Hidden between houses and flats are the raised garden roof and painted walls of the Grand Entrance Hall's above ground portion, and the Engine House with proud chimney.
Initially the Engine House seems small, but once past the conservatory entrance with a smattering of chairs for refreshments, you realise it's built over levels. We were ushered in swiftly, as "the video is about to start". There was no question of our not watching the video, the assumption was that wanted the full experience!
Down the steps and we watched a programme of about 15 or so minutes about Marc and Isambard Brunel. Informative, but not stunning, it reminded me of the kind of things school showed us if a teacher couldn't be found to cover a lesson. By the end of the programme, there were about seven of us, whom the keen staff member gathered up, and ushered outside and down to the Grand Entrance Hall.
There was a slightly sweet bit of fuss between himself and another staff member about which doors should be opened or locked, to ensure that we weren't all locked out, but that the place wouldn't be robbed.
There isn't much to see, and there were disappointing piles of tat left over from a previous social event. Our guide gave a slightly scatty talk, making a few assumptions about how much we already knew about the Thames' Tunnel and The Grand Entrance Hall.
A particularly curious tourist asked some questions which led to interesting information being imparted, and areas and directions being pointed out in situ, but without his probing, these facts would have been left uncalrified or wholly unmentioned. There are plenty of fascinating facts and personal tales to tell in this space, and a bit of help from a professional may help the volunteers in doing this, while still keeping it "their" tour.
Our guide did treat us to a delightful piano solo, to demonstrate why the space is now ideal for music performances and parties since it's redevelopment. The roof garden is used to grow plants for making cocktails at regular museum social evenings, so they are certainly savvy about using appealing to seekers of unconventional events.
All in all, I feel The Brunel Musuem is well worth £6 a head, as you genuinely feel you are keeping a part of London history open and available and useful, and that they are also putting in an effort to fund and maintain it in novel ways rather than just relying on visitor income.