Geffrye Museum

Geffrye Museum

After intending to do so for several months, I finally got round to making a visit to the Geffrye Museum in east London. The museum focuses on the history of the home during the past four centuries, exploring how homes have changed and how these changes reflect and are reflected in the way people live.

Open 10-5 every day except Monday (it’s open Bank Holidays though), the museum is free to visit and easy to reach:  it’s fifteen minutes away from Old Street tube station, and a couple of minutes from Hoxton Overground station. The building itself is a set of almshouses built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company, owing to a bequest from twice Company master and former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Robert Geffrye. Now Grade 1 listed, the building has been a museum since 1914, after it was sold off by the Ironmongers’ Company who wanted to relocate the almshouses out of Hoxton, which had become one of the most run-down and unhealthy parts of London.

Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum
Sir Robert Geffrye
Sir Robert Geffrye

One of the almshouses, No. 14, has been restored and is open to the public (for a small fee) on selected Saturdays and weekdays. Sadly it was not open on the day I visited, so I will have to make a return trip in order to see it. The museum’s past is also evident in the almshouse chapel, which you come across around halfway through your visit.

Former almshouse chapel

On entering the museum, you witness a microcosm of its theme: a selection of chairs arranged in a semicircle, each from a different era. Looking at them, you can see how styles have changed in four hundred years.

Chairs in a row
Chairs from the last four centuries

Most of the museum is made up of period rooms, each of which is made up to look like a typical family room from a particular period. The rooms are arranged in chronological order, and provide fascinating insight into how people lived during those times.

Period room
Hall, 1630
Period room
Parlour, 1695
Period room
Parlour, 1745
Period room
Parlour, 1790
Period room
Drawing room, 1830
Period room
Drawing room, 1870
Period room
Drawing room, 1890

I really enjoyed looking at the development of the rooms and how they changed over time. One important factor in this change was that in the beginning, many middle-class people worked from home, perhaps running their business from the lower floor or front room of their house and living in other rooms. Later, people began to go out to work, and homes were used only for leisure purposes.

Later on, there is a section of the museum devoted to the twentieth century. Another arrangement of chairs greeted me at the start.

Chairs in a row
Chairs from the last century

These rooms represented shorter spaces of time than the older ones: each portrayed only a decade or so. Perhaps this reflects the more rapid changes in design during the twentieth century.

Period room
Drawing room, 1910
Period room
Living room, 1935
Period room
Living room, 1965
Period room
Apartment, 1998

The last bit of the museum was a small exhibition about the people who live and work in Hoxton, a nice complement to the rest of the exhibitions.

I liked the Geffrye: it is a lovely place and there’s a lot to see considering that it’s free. Definitely worth a visit.


Address: 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA


Opening Hours: Tues-Sun (& Bank Holidays) 10am-5pm

Prices: Free

Trinity Buoy Wharf

Trinity Buoy Wharf is a former east London wharf which has been transformed into a centre for the arts. I visited to see Fourth Monkey’s immersive production of Paradise Lost (you can read my review here), but found some other interesting things too.

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I don’t know what this is supposed to be, but I like it [flickr id=”9130905978″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
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The O2, seen from the north side


I didn’t expect to see something like this when I visited Barking in east London. Whatever this building used to be, the ruins are beautiful.

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The ruins of Barking Abbey, founded by Saint Erkenwald, Bishop of London, are now a public space.

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Barking Abbey

St Margaret’s Church is next to the Abbey ruins, and is still a working church. The building mostly dates from the 13th century

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St Margaret’s Church

A busy Saturday in east London

I had a very busy and tiring Saturday. I visited 11 tube stations. Eleven! And they were all in east London, most of them on the Central Line.

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I began with a visit to Bethnal Green, as I wanted to go to the nearby Museum of Childhood. I tell you what, you know you’re getting old when the toys you played with as a child go on display in a museum. I enjoyed reminiscing about the 90s and learning about toys in ages gone by – some of the dolls from a century or half a century ago were terrifying.

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I took a walk through Victoria Park; the day was cold and cloudy but I enjoyed the walk. The park was the first royal park open to the public, and it provides a much-needed recreational green space in east London. I imagine it is lovely in the summer.

My travels took me through Leyton and Leytonstone up to Woodford and Snaresbrook. The most notable part of my journey was seeing the Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone tube station. Director Alfred Hitchcock grew up in the area and a few years ago several mosaics picturing scenes from his films were installed in the corridor leading to the ticket hall. I had fun trying to guess which film each mosaic represented.

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Hitchcock as a child, outside his father’s grocery shop
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Hitchcock, directing
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The Pleasure Garden
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Strangers on a Train
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The Skin Game
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The Birds
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North By Northwest
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Hitchcock with Marlene Dietrich
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Rear Window
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A day of DLR-ing

As part of my project to visit every tube station in London (in which I am including both the Overground and the DLR, since they are on the Tube map), I decided to tick off a few on the DLR (the Docklands Light Railway) on Saturday.

I decided to start at the bottom and work my way up, so I got the train from Charing Cross to Woolwich Arsenal, the only DLR station in Zone 4. The area – known as Royal Arsenal – was historically where weaponry and munitions were built from roughly Tudor times up until the Second World War. There are still buildings in existence that were once part of this area, including the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse.

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Royal Arsenal Gatehouse

I visited Greenwich Heritage Centre which has a small exhibition about the development, heyday and decline of the area, which is no longer home to factories but is being redeveloped as a residential area: numerous new and converted flats are dotted around. The area is situated by the river and there are some fabulous views towards central London and downriver.

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I also went to Firepower: the Royal Artillery Museum. As the name suggests, this was all about artillery and weaponry which I can’t say interests me a great deal, although I was amused by the party of little boys marching to the orders of an army major (I think they were having a birthday party or something).

From Woolwich Arsenal station, I took the DLR north under the Thames, first to King George V station (which is in a largely residential area) and then to Pontoon Dock, which is right next to the Thames Barrier and its accompanying park.

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Thames Barrier

Subsequently I got off at West Silvertown, the most notable feature of which is the Tate & Lyle factory, decorated with a large model of a golden syrup tin. To complete my journey, I went north and got off at Stratford High Street, walking through a shopping centre (not Westfields; the other one) to catch the Central line at Stratford.