Fan Museum

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Not just for fanatics

The Fan Museum, Crooms Hill, Greenwich

Hidden London: Fan Museum display case
Most of the museum’s collec­tion is arranged in elegant display cases

London explorers with more than a passing interest in the deco­ra­tive arts may enjoy briefly immersing them­selves in a recherché corner of the subject in this lovely pair of early Georgian houses on Crooms Hills, just a short distance from the touristic mayhem of historic maritime Greenwich.

The Fan Museum (which is, unsur­pris­ingly, the only one of its kind in the world) was founded in 1991 by Dicky and Hélène Alexander, primarily to display Hélène’s own collec­tion, which has since been augmented by char­i­tably funded purchases.

Most of the museum is devoted to a permanent exhi­bi­tion of fans through the ages, from the flat vellum rectan­gles of the Middle Ages through ornate folding fans from the 18th and 19th centuries to a (merci­fully small) cabinet of desk fans, kitchen odour extrac­tors and the like.

Upstairs there’s usually a special exhi­bi­tion devoted to some partic­ular aspect of fannery, such as adver­tising fans, fans from the world of music or sports, leisure and fans, to name a few of their more recent shows. Every­thing is taste­fully displayed, although it’s a shame that all the exhibits are behind glass – but the reasons for this protec­tionism are obvious.

With the exception of the basement orangery (which can be hired for small functions), the house itself has been fannified in various ways, and there’s a little fan arrange­ment in the centre of the garden – and wrought iron fans adorning the railings beside the steps leading down to it. There are even fan tiles and fan soap in the loos.

The gift shop sells every conceiv­able style of (non-elec­trical) fan and a wide range of fan-related items and liter­a­ture. My companion bought a fan that doubles as a bonnet, appar­ently one of their most popular items and available in a bewil­dering variety of colours and patterns.

A display case in an upstairs room at the Fan Museum

The Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ER
Phone: 020 8305 1441
Website: Fan Museum
Open: Tuesday–Saturday 11am–5pm; Sunday noon–5pm
Admission: £5.00 (adults), £3.00 (children and concessions), free for children under seven
Nearest stations: Cutty Sark (DLR) and Greenwich (DLR and National Rail)
NearbyPainted Hall