London’s Clown Museum | Trinity Church, Dalston

It’s not for the coulrophobes among you, but Dalston is host to one of London strangest – and smallest – collections. The London Clown Museum.

Based in Trinity Church, Dalston, I had no idea what to expect. But I was given a friendly greeting at the entrance…

London Clown Museum

“It is like meat and drink to me to see a clown.” – William Shakespeare

Run by four members of Clown International, the Clown Museum is the little sister of the main Museum is Wooky Hole, Somerset.

It’s a tiny space and almost every inch is covered with colourful objects, prints and posters.

London Clown Museum
London Clown Museum

What immediately catches your eye is the collection of painted eggs.

London Clown Museum

It was started by a man called Stan Bult, Dentist by trade But very friendly with the local clowns. He began the tradition of painting faces on eggshells.

London Clown Museum

Known as ‘The Clown Egg Register’ every member of Clown International has an official painted egg as part of their enrolment. This ensures each member has a unique face paint style and it can’t be duplicated by another character.

The main collection (with over 240 eggs) is at Wooky Hole, these ones were donated to the museum as all the clowns here have passed away.
London Clown Museum

GINGERNUTT THE CLOWN

London Clown Museum
When I visited I got a chance to speak to Ian (AKA Gingernutt the Clown) one of four on the museum team. He says it’s getting a lot harder to find clown work in London, most children wanted ‘Frozen’ parties last year and the release of clown horror films doesn’t help much.
London Clown Museum

The Church

London Clown Museum

Trinity Church is known as the Clown’s Church because of the annual service held each year on the first Sunday of February. Celebrated as Joseph Grimaldi’s Birthday. Grimaldi, who became the ‘unchallenged King of’ Clowns, lived at on Exmouth Market (where there’s a blue plaque) from 1818-1829.

When I visited, back in 2016, Trinity Church was being restored. I did however, manged to get a cheeky look through the keyhole.
London Clown Museum

Through it, you can just about make out the Grimaldi stained glass window.

But there’s also a handy reproduction in the museum.

London Clown Museum

The original Clown’s Church was at St James’ Episcopal Church on Pentonville Road (where Grimaldi’s grave is found) and the first service was back in the 1940s. But why even have a church?

Gingernutt explained that clowning on the road was a risky business; 70 years ago there was a lack of safety equipment and it’s heavy, hard work putting up circus tents. Most clowns wanted to receive a blessing from priests to wish them luck. However the congregations weren’t too keen on groups turning up in full costume on a Sunday. It was Ron ‘Smokey’ Townsend who persuaded the church to allow him to dress in his clown outfit and the relationship grew from there.

When St James’s was deconsecrated the clown contingent moved to Holy Trinity where they’ve been since 1959.

London Clown Museum

The cabinet above celebrates the life of ‘Smokey’.

VISITING

The Museum is open for visitors every 1st Friday of the month and the Annual Church service is every 1st Sunday in February. Taking place on 3 February 2019. It’s free to attend but is busy so get there well before the service starts at 3pm.

To give you a flavour, the video below was the 70th anniversary. Around 800 clowns turned out with Simon Callow – in a full clown outfit – giving the year’s reading!

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