The Museum of the Order of St John

The Museum of the Order of St John

The Museum of the Order of St John
4.5
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
The Museum tells the unique and fascinating story of an ancient religious military Order, from its origins caring for sick pilgrims in eleventh century Jerusalem, through to its modern-day role with St John Ambulance, the international first aid charity.
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area

Address
Neighborhood: Islington
How to get there
  • Farringdon • 4 min walk
  • Barbican • 5 min walk
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles174 reviews
Excellent
120
Very good
47
Average
3
Poor
3
Terrible
1

Sandygranny
Sandy, UK936 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2016 • Couples
If you are interested in history, the Museum of the Order of St John is well worth a visit and it’s free.

The Museum houses paintings, furniture, silver, metalwork. armour, ceramics, sculpture, prints, drawings, textiles, jewellery, rare manuscripts and books, as well as historic first aid equipment and memorabilia from St John’s role in the First and Second World Wars.

We heard the story of the ancient military Order of Saint John, who defended Crusader castles, through to its modern day incarnation as St John Ambulance. The Royal Family have a close relationship with them and in 1888 Queen Victoria granted the Order a Royal Charter in recognition of the excellent work performed by members of the Order of St John during the past half century, especially the establishment of the St John Ambulance Association. The Reigning Monarch has been the Sovereign Head of the Order ever since; the Queen is Patron, the Princess Royal is Commandant-in-Chief (Youth), the Countess of Wessex is Grand President and the Duchess of Gloucester is Commandant-in-Chief (Ambulance & Nursing Cadets) for the Priory of Wales.

The Museum occupies two sites in Clerkenwell - St John’s Gate, which was the entrance to the former Priory of the Order of St John, the English Headquarters of the crusading Knights Hospitaller, from 1140 until Henry VIII’s reign. St John’s Gate has a history of its own. It was a coffee house in the 18th Century, run by William Hogarth’s father, and later the offices of the editor, Samuel Johnson. In the 19th Century, it was a popular local pub for artists and writers and Charles Dickens was a regular.

The Church and the Crypt are just across the road in St. John’s Square and they are also free to visit.

We were fortunate to be taken on a guided tour by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer but it is worth mentioning that guided tours are only available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – at 11.00am and 2.30pm.
Written November 20, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Sandygranny
Sandy, UK936 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2017 • Couples
This was our second visit to this fascinating museum and I can’t believe it’s still free! It charts the history of the Order of St John and the founding of the St John’s Ambulance.

The Church and the Crypt are just across the road in St. John’s Square and they are also free.

This museum is well worth a visit; however, guided tours are only available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – at 11.00am and 2.30pm.
Written August 13, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

macedonboy
Glasgow, UK185,717 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2019 • Solo
The museum tells the story of the Order of St John. A history that goes back almost a thousand years. This order spend their lives caring for and protecting sick people, starting from the first hospital in Jerusalem in 1080, then a network of hospitals and in modern times through the St. John's Ambulance.

There are guided tours available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11am and 2.30pm and I'd highly recommended it. The guide went through the aforementioned history including the now defunct military arm and a lot more. The guide has access to parts of the museum not normally open to the public such as the grand hall which is fantastic. Well worth a visit for those interested in history
Written May 5, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

frtravler
Paris, France237 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2019
As the Order is now a secular caring organization there is not much religious about this tour, except in the historical sense around its founding. The tour of the priory is wonderful- the guide explained the fascinating history of the Order in England, Jerusalem, and Malta. A great way to learn. Very highly recommended even if slightly off the beaten tourist path.
Written August 24, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Manuela L
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg6,665 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2018 • Family
Located in St. John's Lane; here is the richest collection and memories of the Order of St. John, the Knights templars and many history, beyond Malta.
Written February 17, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

essexgran2016
Essex, UK267 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2015 • Solo
A special afternoon out....and visiting the two sites of interest.
Firstly the Gatehouse.
I had long wanted to visit this Museum, but was not able to visit on a "Tour" day.
I had not realised that it not being a "non tour day" also meant that NOT all the Museum was accessible. I took it that it meant purely, that you would not be able to have the option of a guided tour.
However only the ground floor was open, and although very interesting, occupied no more than half an hour.
VERY DISAPPOINTING.

Secondly
The Church and garden.
Staffed by a lovely Lady and a Gentleman, offering information, and explanations.
Badly bomb damaged, not a patch on its former self, but well worth a visit.
The Crypt is a fascinating place, and also hosts a vast amount of memorial tablets.

In short, to get the most out of this Museum go on a TOUR DAY.
Written January 16, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TheteamGuildford
Guildford78 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2018 • Couples
We arrived in time to book a private tour and are so glad we did. Karen was extremely knowledgeable and explained the history of the Order in great detail. The displays and information at the museum are all excellent but on the tour you get to see places not available to the casual visitor. Fascinating history and well worth a visit.
Written November 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

keith h
Chesham, UK1,171 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2018 • Solo
The small museum is housed in St. John's Gate which is all that remains of the Priory that once stood here.
Here you can trace the history of The Order of St. John which is now more poularly recognised as the St. John's Ambulance.
Monks originally set up a hopital in Jerusalem to tend to travellers making their pigrimage to the Holy Land. This was in place by 1080 The Order became militarised in order to provide safe passage to pilgrims after The Crusades & Saladin's victory as well providing medical & recuperative services.
Eventually, the Knight's Hospitaller's as they now were known, were forced to leave their last stronghold of Acre & move to Cyprus, then Rhodes from where they were later ejected by the Turkish army of Sulieman. From here they went to Malta & persisted until Napoleon conquered the island in1798. After a very brief sojourn in St. Petersburg their headquarters moved to Rome.
The museum entrance is under the gateway arch & firstly leads into a small , panelled room where information can be had & also a selection of gifts for purchase.
From here one passes onto the exhibits. A selection of information & artefacts provides the history of the order & another separate section displays exhibits & information from The St. John's Ambulance's work during the First & Second World Wars.
I took a guided tour after visiting the museum which lasted about 70 minutes . This gives one access to some upper rooms as well as a visit to the modern Priory Church which sits on the other side of Clerkenwell Rd. The old church crypt still survives underneath & is tremendously atmosperic. I strongly recommend taking the tour as you will learn some fascinating details about the history of the gatehouse.
The museum is about 5 minutes walk from Farringdon station. Entry is free, as is the tour but obviously donations are welcome.
Tours only take place on designated days at set times so you need to check this out before visiting.
Written February 10, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

barklyeast
Bengaluru, India366 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2017 • Solo
This is a wonderful museum in the heart of Clerkenwell.

In the 11th century, a hospital was set up in Jerusalem to give assistance to pilgrims. The men and women who staffed this were known as the 'Hospitallers'. With the arrival of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, the Hospitallers became a religious order recocnised by 'The Church'. They became known as the 'Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem'.

In about 1140, a priory was built in Clerkenwell by the Knights. It was their London headquarters. When King Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome, the Order was dissolved, and much of the priory demolished. Many years later in 1888, Queen Victoria granted 'Order of St John in England' a Royal Charter.

This museum illustrates the long international history of the Order of St John from its origins to the present day, and its activities all over the world.

The museum is housed in what used to be the 16th century gate house to the Priory. It is one of the few parts of the original Priory to have survived to the present day. During the 18th century, this building was used briefly as a coffee house, which was run by the father of the famous artist Hogarth. Another survivor of the original priry is the crypt of the Priory Church of The Order of St John, which is just across Clerkenwell Road. This is sometimes open to the public. You need to ask about it at the museum.

Beautifully laid out, this museum illustrates not only the fascinating history of the Order but also the good work it has done over the centuries.
Written April 12, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

GeorginaS152
Windsor, UK668 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2016 • Couples
The mellow November day was perfect for a visit to the St John Museum and Priory in Clerkenwell - or what was left of it!

A thousand years ago, ten acres of land in Clerkenwell were gifted to the Order of St John in Jerusalem to set up an HQ near London. The Hospital and Priory of St John, with the Nunnery of St Mary, were built on this vast estate.

From the 12th to the 16th century, Knights and pensioners of the Order, together with wealthy, often noble, families, lived there in a "commune ". They paid in money, goods and/or services if they could, for the bed, board and care
they received.

Then in 1540, the Priory was closed in Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. For the next 300 years, many different users, families and businesses occupied the rapidly fragmenting estate.

In the 19th century, the English Order of St John was updating, fuelled by new ideas on providing and teaching practical, basic healthcare to civilians, workers and families.

In 1874 Members of the Order of St John managed to buy the freehold of the Gatehouse of the Priory at Clerkenwell to use as the Order's HQ again.

In 1877 the St John Ambulance Organisation was formed, with a focus firmly on primary care, first aid training and emergency aid to the sick.

Finally, in 1888, the Royal seal of approval when Queen Victoria granted the Order a new Charter as a Royal Order of Chivalry - The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

Today our tour would take in the three remaining fragments of the original huge site: St John's Gate, the Cloister Garden and the Church of St John.

A short walk took us from Farringdon Station to St John's Gate, once the grand entrance to the Priory. A small brick arch studded with Tudor bosses and stained glass windows above, links the East and West towers either side of the road. Inside the door is the ground-floor Museum, remodelled and digitally updated in 2010. It shows the timeline of the Order of St John through the past ten centuries in a very compact space.

This exquisitely-curated collection first shows the three founding principles of the Knights and Members of the Order of St John - Faith, Valour and Care.

The next gallery displays exhibits from the 11th to the 18th century, and tells the story of a thousand years of war. From the 11th to the 13th century, the Holy Wars - the Crusades - when the Knights of the Order fought with European allies to support Christianity - and particularly Jerusalem - until they were finally despatched from the Holy Land. From the 14th to the 18th century, the Order split and fled to a series of islands - Cyprus, Rhodes and Malta. When defeated in Malta by Napoleon in 1798, the Pope offered the Order a base in Rome, where they are to this day.

The third gallery covers the modern history of the St John's Ambulance Service supporting both civilian and military life in WWI and II and up to the present.

After viewing the museum and bookshop, our excellent guide led us up the tight spiral staircase to see the work and social rooms of the Order. First the imposing Chapter Hall with its array of splendid portraits, coats of arms, and fine furniture.

Then more rooms - the Old Chancery with its silver collection and more portraits of Knights and Ladies of the Order. A walk through the Council Chamber, the room over the arch whose stained glass we'd seen from outside. Here we admire the 18th century fireplace and the portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Finally, down the wood block spiral staircase to the West Tower and the Malta Room with its fine furniture and paintings of the island; pretty tiles and glinting ancient coins.

After a delightfully absorbing hour we crossed the road to the bijou Cloister garden. It's stocked with a range of medicinal plants, including its 'signature herb' - St John's Wort! In the centre of the garden is a 200-year old olive tree, gifted to St John's by Portugal about three years ago, which is clearly loving the London air. Locals like to lunch here and a cheeky squirrel was busily burying a nut .... before investigating today's lunch options by rifling a diner's rucksack!

Finally, we entered the Church, white walls bright with sunlight on the banners of Knights of the Order. Another interesting talk from our guide as we sat in the sparkling church and enjoyed the decor, insignia and coats of arms of ancient chivalry. There was to be a major ceremony the following weekend when the new Lord Prior of St John would be inaugurated.

Then down to the fascinating crypt beneath. Here our guide showed us the remains of the old Norman columns and foundations in the first 3 bays. Then he pointed to the altar to show how the crypt morphed into the slimmer and later Gothic style. Again, beautiful stained glass and furniture, poignant memorials to past Knights, all on a human size and scale.

After a brilliant tour it was time for tea and chat about our splendid visit. Our group were Friends of St George's Chapel, Windsor, the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter. We were thrilled to be visiting the Home of the Order of St John, an even older Order of Chivalry. The similarities between the two were fascinating, not least the coats of arms and regalia which play such a major part in chivalry.

A magical afternoon which simply flew by! When you visit, do buy the excellent guide book from the shop to take round with you and read afterwards. It's brilliant! There's also an excellent activity book to keep any young knights and ladies busy. The upstairs tour is not suitable for wheelchairs because of the building's small size and listed status, but the ground floor museum is very accessible and I think there may be a digital tour available if you check. Opening hours are Mon to Sat, 10am-5pm. Tours are available on Tues, Fri , Sat at 11am and 2.30 pm. It's best to book. Special tours like ours - on Thursday - can be arranged.

Top marks for the museum, garden and church, all beautifully maintained. The staff are friendly and helpful and the guides superb. They told us so much so well, with wit and humour, that we didn't need to ask questions, simply to relax, listen and learn! And, of course, enjoy!
Written November 25, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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