The Sands Films Studios in Rotherhithe are just one such place. Housed in some unprepossessing Grade II listed former granary, Sands Films Studios were founded in the 1970's and offer film production facilities as you may expect but also a cinema club (free) and a renowned costume-making workshop.
You will have seen their creations in such films as Little Dorrit (1988), Vanity Fair (2004), The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Pride and Prejudice (2005) or Fingersmith (2005) and many others.
The quaintest and most interesting part of the complex however is without a doubt the adjacent Picture Research Library.
Neatly tucked on the ground floor of the oldest part of the building, its ceiling supported by 18th century reclaimed ships' timbers, imagine a giant scrapbook of thousands of images, photographs and other magazine clippings brought together in a serendipitously haphazard way and covering subjects as varied and far apart as advertising and packaging to costumes, via domestic utensils, nature, transport or war.
Add to that a collection about local history and you may get a picture (!) of this visual cornucopia used by researchers, stage and fashion designers as well as local school kids.
The staff there (probably volunteers for the most part) is incredibly friendly, welcoming and passionate, and, although what looks a caf in actually a staff canteen, Neil, a propah cockney (although his mum is apparently from Norwich) who seems to be the manager there, will probably let you have a bite if you ask nicely and will later come and sit with you with a nice cuppa and have a good old chinwag.
Neil assures us that the best time for a visit is on Tuesdays, when Olivier, the enthusiast in charge, is at hand and able to guide you through his treasures.
Whether it is a Tuesday or not however, if you find yourself near Rotherhithe, do drop by and have a look at this hidden London gem.
The library is open every week days from 10.30 till 4.00. Access is free.
for more information visit: www.sandsfilms.co.uk
More pictures are available on my flickr account here.
An edited version of this article has appeared on Londonist here.