One of London’s hidden gems – the picturesque Geffrye Museum may be off the beaten track, but it’s what makes this museum even more appealing. No need to deal with hordes of day trippers. It’s a lovely way to while away an hour or so, especially if you’re an interiors geek!
Geffrye Museum of the home
The Geffrye Museum is located within a beautiful row of almhouses built in 1715 and surrounded by manicured lawns. When you step into the grounds it feels more like a Cambridge college and provides a stark contrast against the busy, edgy road you walk off to access the museum.
It showcases the evolution of the ‘average’ London home from 1630 to the present day. Off the long corridor are a series of rooms exhibiting how middle class living rooms have changed over the years. As someone who always said ‘if I didn’t work in TV I’d be an interior designer’, it has been on my museum hit list for a while.
The series of living rooms aligned along the length of the terrace are each furnished in the various period styles. The museum has done a great job punctuating the London time line with significant historical events in each section.
It was amusing to see the girls’ reactions when we showed them what Casa Pixie would have looked like in the 1850s. They were disturbed by the lack of wifi. I on the other hand was very taken with tea set.
Almost surreal to fast forward from Samuel Pepys diary to a newfangled 1930s flat in the heyday of Mr Selfridge…
…to Donald Drapers 1960s hip surroundings (of course if you remember the sixties and seventies, you’ll see the furniture you knew only too well!)…
…to the 90s and ‘the one where Joey becomes a London museum exhibit.’
The detail and authenticity of the individual rooms are excellent along with the clear explanations. You can also listen to audio clips of people to get a really immersive experience of what life for the middle classes at that time would have been like.
Radha particularly enjoyed the children’s trail questions attached to each room.
Attached to the wonderfully impressive exterior on the Kingsland Road you find a modern extension to the rear, complementing the original structure while adding something fresh to the overall experience.
The Geffrye also offers an accompanied tour of one of the almshouses which has been restored to its original state. It’s a fascinating insight into the life and living conditions of the poor pensioners. Exposing the difference in living standards of the wealthier pensioners from the middle class homes of the time in the museum’s main displays. We missed out this time around as the tours take place on specific dates (refer to the museum website). The tours cost just £4 and are free for children.
There is also a lovely little café which has a children’s menu and good selection of breakfast and lunch foods as well as delicious cakes. The babyccino with marshmallows went down a treat. They use local and ethically sourced ingredients where possible. It was fairly pricey, but you do end up supporting the museum.
The café is right opposite the Kids’ Zone so perfectly placed for parents needing to relax while the kids get creative. The Geffrye is a great place for younger kids too, there are always fun arts and crafts activities in the Kids’ Zone and in the gardens.
The cute little museum shop is full of gorgeous interior objects to beautify your home too.
If you fancy splashing the cash (on a dining table and chairs). The crockery was more reasonably priced.
Fancy something herbal? The museum’s award-winning walled gardens to the rear of the building illustrate the different historical styles of home gardens over the past four centuries
In summer they are full of luscious flowers but being the end of March it looked a bit sparse on our visit. Still a great place for a run around!
If you love nosing around other people’s homes you’ll love this museum. The 18th century almshouse offers a vivid history of English interiors.
Providing a glimpse into people’s lifes and discovering how homes have changed over the past 400 years.
It’s free to go in but a £3 donation is ‘suggested’ as you enter. Well worth a visit!
Which places inspire you? Let me know in the comments box below.
The Geffrye Museum | 136 Kingsland Road | London | E2 8EA