10 sites in London you may not know about – 7. Geffrye Museum

Tucked away just north-east of the city of London, this surprisingly interesting museum features reconstructed interiors of London homes from the 1600s through to modern times. The museum is located in former almhouses built in the early 1700s by the Company of Ironmongers using a bequest left them by Sir Robert Geffrye, a former twice-master of the company and a former Lord Mayor of London.

Worth visiting for the almhouses alone, these were used until early in the 20th century when, given the overcrowding in Shoreditch, the company decided to relocate the remaining pensioners. Thankfully, due to the fact that the almshouses were built around a large garden not to mention the lack of public open space in the area, the almhouses and grounds were preserved; the former to be used as a museum.

The museum itself features a series of informational rooms between those in which the lavishly detailed reconstructions – which are largely of the main living rooms – are contained and there’s an audio guide which is well worth taking the time to listen to as you work your way through. There’s also a restaurant and special exhibition spaces on site (contained in a modern wing opened in 1998) and preserved within the museum are the chapel once used by the pensioners and the promenade which overlooks gardens at the rear.

For those who want a closer look at what life was like for the pensioners, for a £2 fee you can take a tour of one of the former almshouses which has been restored to show the living conditions of the almhouses in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the rear of the museum, meanwhile, lies some magnificent gardens including a walled herb garden filled with herbs from Roman times onward and a series of ‘period garden rooms’. Keep an eye out as well for the statue of Sir Robert which adorns the front of the building.

WHERE: 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. Nearest tube is Liverpool Street or Old Street (a fair walk) or Hoxton Overground Station (next door); WHEN: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am-5pm or Sundays and Bank Holidays, 12-5pm; COST: Free (admission to almhouses £2 at set times during the day); WEBSITE: www.geffrye-museum.org.uk

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