Sometimes life in London is so busy and your calendar so full that the only chance of spending time with your friends lies in both of you taking a day off work. This is what Kat and I decided to do recently when we both took a Friday afternoon off work so that I could spend some time with her and her cute-as-a-button toddler. Kat asked if I had ever been to the Geffrye Museum and I hadn’t so I was thrilled that we decided to spend our afternoon there.
The Geffrye Museum is a most unique museum indeed. Founded in 1914, the museum focuses on the homes of the English urban middle classes through a series of eleven period living rooms and specially maintained period gardens.
We began our visit with a walk through the gardens. It was a sunny mid September afternoon and people were relaxing on the lawns or sitting on benches eating their lunch. I work right next to one of the most beautiful public spaces in London but even I felt a pang of jealousy when I looked at these people and I wished for a minute that I worked nearby so that I could spend lunch hours in this environment.
The award-winning gardens really are well maintained and well labelled for educational purposes. You can see a strictly designed Victorian garden followed by the rambling English country garden that evolved as a reaction to the Victorian era.
Our visit then continued inside the museum. I won’t show you each of the eleven rooms as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you and I really do think the Geffrye is worth a visit. Instead, I’ll show you some of my favourites that we saw on the day.
We spent some time in the garden reading room and I was most impressed by the mural on the wall, especially in the detail of this butterfly. You might need to click on the photo above to enlarge it to see the detail properly.
The original almshouse chapel lies in the middle of the museum and I loved the way the light shone through the high windows.
In the Reading Room you will find a selection of paintings depicting home life from the 17th to 19th century. This made me ponder on the forgotten art of painting and how there were relatively less art works in the 20th century depicting home life and every day life once photography became the preferred medium.
The room above depicts a parlour in 1790. The wallpaper in this room was quite exquisite and I actually set off an alarm while trying to take a closer look at it. Thankfully the guide was really understanding and explained that the wallpaper was in fact hand painted and that I was right to find it so interesting.
This was my favourite room. It is a drawing room in 1830 and I just loved the way the curtains cascaded onto the floor. That is my favourite shade of blue (and blue is my favourite colour).
This is a drawing room in 1870. I loved the fine China tea set and the lace curtains.
From the late 19th century, homes began to become more homely. This scene depicts a living room in 1890.
Another of my favourite rooms was this one which depicts a mid-century period room dating from approximately 1955 to 1965. This reminds me so much of my childhood and we still had lots of wooden cabinets and furniture with tapered legs in my own home and those of our friends and family. What fascinates me is how attractive and retro this is to me now but i distinctively remember finding such styles entirely distasteful by the late 1970s.
We completed our visit with a long rest and chat in the museum cafe. They served up some delicious cake and we chatted away while the rain pounded down outside. It had been a muggy, humid London day and we were both relieved for the rain and happy that we were safely inside when it did come.
The Geffrye Museum is free to visit and just around the corner from the Hoxton Overground station. We really enjoyed our visit and I will certainly be back in the future.
136 Kingsland Road
Tel: 020 7739 9893
Open: Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm
Bank Holiday Mondays 10am - 5pm