Kirkaldy Testing Museum | Kidadl

Kirkaldy Testing Museum is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read our Terms & Conditions for further information.

  • Discover the groundbreaking experiments that took place at this Victorian testing centre.
  • Take a guided tour around the exhibition and ask as many questions as you like.
  • Keep an eye out for the fun family events that take place at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum throughout the year.

Engineering and science fans will love spending a day out to the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. This unique museum in London is a Victorian-era material testing centre that tells the story of the Kirkaldy family, who ran the business for 100 years, as well as taking visitors through the development of a century of technology and industrial materials. It is a paradise for those interested in physics, architecture and construction, as well as those who have a hunger to learn more about the world around them. You will never look at another bridge or building in the same way again after a visit to this wonderful engineering museum.

Opening in 1874, the Kirkaldy Testing Factory was established and run by Scotsman David Kirkaldy. Here he performed tests on materials like steel and iron to see how suitable they were for building on a large scale. The Industrial Revolution was spurred on by these developments in science and technology that allowed innovative machines and buildings to be constructed and pushed humanity into the next generation. This building in central London was a hub of creative testing that was pioneered by the Kirkaldy family for generations. 

The centre was shut down in 1965 upon David Kirkaldy Jr’s retirement and it wasn’t until 1983 when it finally reopened as a charitable museum for public viewing. Nowadays this Victorian museum in London is one of the greatest pieces of preserved history that provides great insight to the public about life in the 1800s, as well as information about how the features of modern life were born and developed into what we see today.

The main service that the museum offers is a guided tour around the authentic testing machines that lasts for around 45 minutes to an hour. The knowledgeable staff is always on hand to answer any questions as visitors explore the machines, records and personal history of the Kirkaldy family in their own time after the tour has concluded. There is so much for children and adults alike to learn and discover in this small building.

The centrepiece of the collection has to be the full sized hydraulic-powered Kirkaldy Machine, which was primarily used for crushing, bending, and performing tension tests on various materials. Other impressive Victorian-era machines include the Tensile Testing Machines, contraptions that were used to examine the tension-compression properties of materials. These machines still work to this day; visitors will love getting to try them out for themselves by crushing a concrete cube in the live demonstrations. 

Other machines on site include the Impact Testing Machines and the Hardness Testing Machines, all of which carried out specific experiments on many kinds of materials. The old measurement systems and records reveal the great impact this small museum had on how some of the main structures of London were built. Seeing these vintage machines in action and connecting the dots between what was discovered during this part of the Victorian era and what we see around us today will delight those with a love for engineering and history alike. 

The Kirkaldy Testing Museum is a hidden gem of London but it often takes part in city-wide culture festivals and holds fun family workshops. Past events have included participating in London History Day, the Merge Arts Festival and the London Open House scheme. Keep an eye out for news of any upcoming activities and to have a look at photographs and videos of previous events. 

What to know before you go

  • The Kirkaldy Testing Museum is open every Sunday from 11am - 5pm. 
  • It can be arranged for a group visit of up to 20 people to have a private viewing of the museum during the week.
  • There are no food vendors on site, however there are plenty of cafes and restaurants open in the surrounding area.
  • There is a small gift shop on site where visitors can pick up unique souvenirs.
  • There are toilets available in the museum for visitors to use. Please note there are no wheelchair accessible toilets on site.
  • There is no wheelchair access at this location as it is preserved from its original state in the Victorian Era. Steps and narrow walkways through the exhibition would make it unsuitable for wheelchair users and buggies.
  • The Tate Modern is just next door, which would make an excellent visit after you have finished exploring the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. Other attractions are also nearby, including Shakespeare's Globe and the Southbank Centre.

How to get there

  • The closest Tube stations are Borough (Northern Line), London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee Lines), Southwark (Jubilee Line) and Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern and Jubilee Lines) all within a 15-minute walk of the museum.
  • The nearest rail stations to the museum are Blackfriars, London Bridge and Waterloo.
  • There are many bus routes that have stops on Southwark Street near the museum. These include the 21, 35, 133 and 343.
  • There is no dedicated parking area at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, visitors are asked to find parking in the streets nearby which can be difficult.

More amazing things to do