Around London – New VC gallery at Imperial War Museum; Roman remains unearthed at Syon Park; and, High Society at the Wellcome Collection…

An exhibition containing the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses has opened at the Imperial War Museum, housed in what is the museum’s first new major permanent gallery for 10 years. The Extraordinary Heroes exhibition – housed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery – contains his Lordship’s collection of 162 Victoria Crosses, awarded for parts played in wars stretching from the Crimean to the Falklands, displayed alongside the 48 Victoria Crosses and 31 George Crosses already held by the museum. As well as the awards, the new gallery will display many objects for the first time, including a badly damaged backpack worn by Lance Corporal Matt Croucher when he leapt on a grenade during action in Afghanistan in 2008 to save the lives of his fellow soldiers (he survived as well), and the diving suit worn by Acting Leading Seaman James Magennis who won a VC for his role in placing limpet mines in the Johore Straits in World War II. The gallery was paid for with a £5 million donation from Lord Ashcroft. Admission is free. For more information, see www.iwm.org.uk.

The remains of a Roman settlement have been unearthed at historic home, Syon Park, in London’s west. Archaeological experts from the Museum of London have already removed around 11,500 pieces of pottery, jewellery and about 100 coins from the site on the Syon Park estate. Syon Park, the home of the Duke of Northumberland, sits on the northern bank of the Thames, opposite Kew Gardens. The site was excavated in 2008 in preparing for the construction of a new luxury hotel there. Some of the artefacts will go on display at the new hotel, the London Syon Park, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which will open early next year. The settlement, which includes a Roman road and burials, was discovered only half a metre below ground level. For more information on the property, see www.syonpark.co.uk.

Now on: From an early morning coffee in European cities to chewing betel nut in Asia, the Wellcome Collection’s major winter exhibition, High Society, traces the role mind-altering drugs have played in history and culture. The display includes more than 200 exhibits, from an 11th century manuscript written by monks in Suffolk detailing poppy remedies, to a 17th century account by Captain Thomas Bowrey describing his crew’s experiments with the cannabis drink bhang, and an account of NASA’s experiments with intoxicated spiders. Admission is free. The exhibition runs until 27th February. For more information, see www.wellcomecollection.org.

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