Founded in 1826 the college is set in a classical edifice designed by the architect of the National Gallery, William Wilkins. Committed to providing higher education without religious exclusion, in 1878 it also became the first British University to accept women on an equal footing with men. The college has within its portals the Slade School of Fine Art, which did for many of Britain's artists what the nearby Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (on Gower Street) did for actors. The South Cloisters contain one of London's weirder treasures: the skeleton of one of the university's founders, Jeremy Bentham, who bequeathed himself to the college. Legend has it that students from a rival college, King's College London, once stole Bentham's head and played football with it. Whether or not the story is true, Bentham's clothed skeleton, stuffed with straw and topped with a wax head, now sits (literally) in the UCL collection. Be sure to detour past the stunning Gotham-esque Senate House on
Petrie Museum. If you didn't get your fill of Egyptian artifacts at the British Museum, you can see more in the neighboring Petrie Museum, located on the first floor of the DMS Watson library. The museum houses an outstanding collection of Egyptian archaeological objects—jewelry, toys, papyri, and some of the world's oldest garments. Malet Place, WC1E 6BT. 020/7679–2884. www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/petrie. Free, donations appreciated. Tues.–Sat. 1–5; closed over Christmas and Easter holidays.
Malet Pl., London, WC1E 6BT, England