Address: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ


Time: 10.00 am to 6.00 pm every day

Phone: +44 (0) 207 416 5000

Entry Price: Free

1000m from Elephant and Castle

500m from Lambeth North

The Imperial War Museum is located in Lambeth and is an exhibition of wartime artefacts. The idea was conceived by MP Sir Alfred Mond and in 1917 the War Cabinet agreed to his proposal to commemorate the First World War in this way. In 1920 an Act of Parliament was passed.

The Museum was named ‘Imperial’ as the Commonwealth nations were keen to be included and suitable items were then gathered worldwide. It was opened in 1920 by King George V and was housed in the Crystal Palace. It was an immediate success and on the first Bank Holiday 94,000 visitors arrived. It moved to South Kensington in 1924 but it soon became clear that it needed a new home. A site was suggested in Lambeth that was the old Bethlem Royal Hospital, which was owned at the time by newspaper tycoon Lord Rothermere, who had plans to demolish it. In the event two wings were taken down and the museum moved into the building in 1936.

It closed during the Second World War and suffered minor bomb damage, although most valuable items had been evacuated. During the War the Armed Services requested the return to action of a number of exhibits for active service. After the War the Museum’s terms of reference changed to include WWII and in 1953 they changed again to include any conflict since 1914 that saw British or Commonwealth action.

The exhibits range from the smallest item to the tanks and aeroplanes that are mostly found in the Large Exhibits Gallery. This was a facility built during the redevelopment of 1986 and was a conversion of the hospital courtyard. The Museum was offered storage facilities at Duxworth, Cambridge. This developed and in 1976 a second Museum opened there.

Today, further Museums are the Cabinet War Rooms and HMS Belfast in London and the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. Perhaps the most impressive part of the London Museum is the Ashcroft Victoria Cross Gallery on the top floor. It remains one of the most famous London landmarks.

The images below form only part of the exhibits on show and displays can often change.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.