So, what does a history nerd do when she moves to London? Goes museum hunting, of course. And, here, museums abound. But they aren’t all famous like the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery. Some are smaller, tucked away in some busy, little known corner of this metropolis.
Such is the case with one of my new favourite museums, the Geffrye. An oasis of peace in the hectic heart of Hoxton, the Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home. Its mission is to show its visitors how much homes have changed in the past 400 years.
The museum is quite small and only has 11 rooms, which span the period from 1600 to the present day. They are all gorgeous. Each room recreates the interior of a middle class home. From the lighting to the heating, from the curtains to the sofas, from the paintings on the walls to the dishes on the table, each room is exactly as it would have been in the past. You can almost see and hear the lady of the house pouring a cup of tea to her guests, or a businessman, tired after a long day at work, retiring to bed at night.
A lot of museums only show you a bunch of objects in a sterile setting, expecting you to fill in the blanks. Here, they are already filled in for you. Moving through the Geffrey is like travelling with a time machine. And you can’t just look. You can also touch. Well, not everything of course. But the museum has period chairs you can sit on, cloth samples you can touch and other bits and bobs you can handle to make the past feel even more real.
There is also one big room full of books, both from children and adults. They are mostly about homes and how they have changed throughout history. Visitors are invited to sit down and read them. I would have spent the entire afternoon in there if my friend hadn’t taken me away. You can’t bring them home, but the museum has a lovely little shop when you can buy books, and all sorts of stuff.
The museum also has beautiful gardens. Those at the front, open all year round to visitors and Londoners alike, offer a quiet place to relax in the heart of a busy metropolis, just off Kingsland Road. Those behind the museum, instead, are period gardens that showcase how domestic gardens have evolved over the past four centuries. They are open to visitors from 28 March to 31 October.
You can see all this for free. But admission to the 18th century almshouses the museum has painstakingly restored will cost you £3 (children under 16 go free). I didn’t have the chance to see it, but I definitely plan to go back and have a glimpse into the lives of London’s poor and elderly in the 1780s and 1880s.
If you are planning to go to London, make sure you visit the Geffrye. In the meantime, you can enjoy the virtual tour on their website. But beware, it’ll make you want to book a ticket to London immediately so you can see everything in person!
Have you ever been to the Geffrye museum?