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Why is the Kirkaldy Testing Museum important?

David Kirkaldy's Testing and Experimenting Works at 99 Southwark Street set international standards in testing materials from which everyone’s everyday life benefits today.

Today, this unique Victorian workshop keeps alive our direct link with Kirkaldy's innovation, at the heart of this bustling commercial district of London. The Kirkaldy Testing Museum preserves Kirkaldy's unique Universal Testing Machine - the huge hydraulic powered machine he designed and had built in Leeds - in full working order in the premises he built to house it.

As well as presenting the story of the family who ran the business for almost 100 years and of the wider development of materials testing, the workshop and the Universal Testing Machine provide a unique crucible for new experimentation and collaboration - which can inspire future generations of scientists and artists alike to continue enquiring into the properties of the materials on which we build our lives.

Next Regular Openings

Guided tours on the 3rd Saturday of each month

Saturday 21st May at 11 am & 2 pm.

Entrance fee: £5     Concessions: £4

The museum will only be open at the times of the tours. Please queue outside on Southwark Street, the maximum number on each tour is likely to be around 25.

First Sunday of Every Month

Sunday 5th June between 10.00am-4.00pm

Entrance fee: £5     Concessions: £4

There will be regular guided tours between 10.00 and 15.00, and we will, if possible, run tests on Kirkaldy’s machine at 11.30. In the last few months there have always been enough people there to make a run at this time worthwhile.

If there are sufficient numbers of visitors we are may also run at approximately 13.30 and/or 15.30.

However machine running is dependent on the availability of enough qualified vounteers and will be decided by the person in charge on the day.

If you are bringing a group of 10 or more on a normal opening day please send us an email with the time. We can then give you priority and avoid congestion.

For more information about how to get to the museum and entrance details,
please go to the visiting page.

Group visits are possible at other times, although any requests for visits are always dependent on the availability of volunteer guides.

The drawing workshops with Tom Pearce on the 2nd Wednesdays will not be continuing.

You can see Tom's drawings of Tanner Street here:
uglyduck.org.uk/portfolio/drawings-of-things.

and on his own website here: www.drawingsofthings.com.

Some sketches by Phil Dean alias the Shoreditch Sketcher, who came to the March 2016 drawing workshop are here

Quote from Tom "I think they are really great!"

Other possible evening openings

We would welcome enquiries from local companies considering an evening out with a difference for their department or project group, perhaps as a prelude to a meal. The maximum number we can accomodate would be around 25.

11 February 2016 - Opening of Prices Street

The transformation of Prices Street, long hidden by hoardings behind the museum, is now complete creating a wonderful pedestrianised space linking Kirkaldy’s Testing & Experimenting Works with the new Hilton Bankside. The name of the museum and Kirkaldy’s motto ‘Facts not Opinions’ are celebrated in the yorkstone paving, which gives the museum new, level access to our south side entrance.

Click here to see 1977 and 2016 pictures.

On Thursday 11 February from 5-6pm, Better Bankside and Southwark Council marked the completion of the works they coordinated. The museum was open too, throwing our doors open – literally – to make the most of our new accessible entrance.

Become a Kirkaldy volunteer! - Click here to find out more

The museum is run entirely by volunteers. We now have a new lease but to afford the rent we have to open more often so we will need more helpers.

If you were not able visit on 11 February but want to get involved and find out more, please email us at info@testingmuseum.org.uk.

Videos

1) We were featured on BBC London News Wednesday on 17th June 2015. A longer feature can be watched on London Live TV. Quirky buildings get protective status from Historical England

2) Joolzguides video showing the machine in action. Many thanks to Julian McDonnell of www.joolzguides.com for this.

3) A feature on the museum by The Londonist.

4) Another video on Youtube featuring the main machine and the small Avery.

5) June 2014: Piano Smashing - photos and link to the video.

6) October 2013: James Capper stretching objects - photos and link to the video.

7) 26th September 2013: Concert by OSCILLATORIAL BINNAGE "Music at Breaking Point".

Media Coverage - Click here for a summary

December 2015 - We have articles in the magazines Model Engineer and Professional Engineering.

News Summary - Click here for more news

5th March 2016: We have held the first training session for 6 new volunteers.

3rd January 2016: Paving of Prices Street is complete.

5th December 2015: The Museum is used as the location for the recording of a BBC TV programme. This will be aired in 2016. More details to be published here when known.

Support Kirkaldy Testing Museum - Click here to find out how
Read our Partnership brochure (pdf) here

The museum receives no funding other than from visitors. Help preserve this amazing piece of our Victorian past for future generations.

If you are looking to partner with us and would like to find out more about getting involved in adding your support, please contact: partnerships@testingmuseum.org.uk"

All donations are gratefully received.

June 2014 English Heritage (now Historic England) Upgrade Listing to Grade II *
Listing Details Here

Recognition indeed of the huge importance of this place.

The directors would like to thank Professor David Perrett and the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society (GLIAS), of which he is Chairman, for applying on behalf of the museum and seeing the up-grading through to its successful conclusion.

August 2014 opening - some reflections

Thank you to everyone who came to the Testing Works for our August opening - and for your encouraging words and offers of support for the future. It is inspiring to have the museum alive with visitors of all ages, sharing a fascination and wonder at the survival of the working Testing Machine in its original setting and, above all, the thrill at seeing it in action!

It is an experience we want to bring to many more people and we are doing all we can to heed the universal request not to lose the unique atmosphere. On Sunday 3rd alone visitors told us they were inspired to write articles and explore documentary film-making about the machine. Others simply wanted a chance to get more involved with helping to maintain the Works. It's a rare opportunity these days.

Some of things we heard this weekend:

  • "Most museums now lay it out for you on a plate. Where else can you still experience that sense of walking into a working workshop? Please don't lose that!"
  • "As soon as I saw that a visit involves wearing goggles I was hooked."
  • "Engineers studying today don't get the chance to see real machines up close any more - this is a unique opportunity, and in central London no less, to do just that! We owe it to engineers of the future to keep this place authentic and intact."
  • If you would like to hear from us with updates on the future of the museum, or send us more ideas for support, please email us at: info@testingmuseum.org.uk.

    Endorsements. More here

    "For the Victorians, building bridges with new materials was the nanotechnology of its day but on a truly massive scale. Kirkaldy was at the heart of this revolution and the survival of his testing machine is a vital reminder to us today of the search for truth, even when it isn’t always popular. Everyone with even the remotest interest in how bridges stand should come to Southwark and see for themselves!"

    Dan Cruickshank
    Historian and TV presenter

    ____________________________________________________________

    "Experiencing Kirkaldy’s machine testing materials to destruction gives us direct, exciting contact with the pioneering ideas of this exceptional engineer. But it also offers new ways to explore ideas around art, science and innovation. Ensuring this museum has a sustainable future is essential if we are to inspire people from every background and discipline to continue asking these questions."

    Dr Daniel Glaser
    Director, Science Gallery London,
    King’s College London
    london.sciencegallery.com

    Last Site Update: 4 May 2016