• The Museum of the Home has launched a new national collecting project aimed at documenting people’s lives during the coronavirus lockdown. Called Stay Home, the project involves answering seven questions about you and your home and sharing up to five images of your home as well as some personal demographic information. Contributions will become part of the museum’s Documenting Homes collection, an archive of almost 8,000 items which represents homes from the 1900s up to the present day. To take part – or to read the stories of those who have, head to www.museumofthehome.org.uk/explore/stay-home-collecting-project/. The museum is planning to reopen in September following a major redevelopment which includes the renovation of the Grade I-listed Geffrye Almshouses and the development of new spaces which will create 80 per cent more space for exhibitions, events and collections. The reopening will, of course, depend on the situation with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Visits to the National Trust’s home baking pages have increased by almost 900 per cent since the country was locked down in mid-March. Cheese scones have proved the most popular nationally with more than 54,000 people visiting the page in the first four weeks of lockdown – an increase of 3,009 per cent on last year. Second place is apple and rhubarb crumble with almost 15,000 visits (an increase of 581 per cent) and the fruit scone is in third place at almost 10,000 visits (an increase of 737 per cent). Meanwhile in London, favourites include potato and onion soup in Barnet, Westminster and Redbridge, apple cinnamon bun in Islington, chocolate nests in Enfield, and vegetable and coconut curry in Sutton. To visit the recipe pages, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/recipes.
• Captain Tom Moore – the World War II veteran who has raised more than £29 million for the NHS – will be the first person to be virtually invested with the Freedom of the City of London. Moore, who celebrates his 100th birthday today, made headlines internationally when he completed 100 laps of his garden in the hope of raising £1,000 to support NHS Charities Together. The investiture ceremony will be conducted next week and is believed to be the first time it’s been conducted virtually since the Freedom was first awarded in 1237.
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It’s a big year for the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch – not only 300 years since the almshouses were first opened to house the poor and elderly, it’s 100 years since the almshouses were converted into the museum which now occupies the site.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the almshouses themselves (we’ve looked at the museum – which features 11 period rooms from the 17th to 20th centuries – a couple of times previously). The Grade I-listed almshouses were built in 1714 by the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, using funds that had been bequeathed to them by Sir Robert Geffrye, a Cornishman who became twice-master of the company and a Lord Mayor of London (there’s a fine statue of him adorning the front of the building).
They comprised 14 houses, each of which had four rooms, and provided accommodation for up to 56 pensioners. Arranged in a U-shape around a courtyard, the two storey almshouses came complete with a chapel which still stands at the centre of the the complex and where residents were expected to attend each week (a walkway which runs around the back of the chapel was added in 1914 offers some great views of the garden).
The almshouses, which had originally been built in what was a largely rural context, remained in use until the early 20th century by which time the area had become one of London’s most crowded with poor sanitation. In 1910, the Ironmongers’ decided to sell off the almshouses and move out to the safer, cleaner area of Mottingham in Kent.
In 1912, the houses and gardens were purchased by the London County Council – attracted by the public open space – and following representations from members of the Arts and Crafts movement, the museum opened its doors in 1914.
It’s still possible to visit a former almshouse – number 14 – which was restored and opened in 2002 and has been furnished to show what life was like there for the pensioners (contrast the sparse furnished there with that with some of the more opulent rooms on display in the museum – and don’t forget to allow some time to visit the gardens; there is also a shop and cafe on site).
WHERE: 136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. Nearest tube is Liverpool Street or Old Street (a fair walk) or Hoxton Overground Station (next door); WHEN: The almshouses are open on select days only – check website. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am-5pm (gardens open until 31st October); COST: £3 for admission to almshouses/admission to the museum and gardens is free; WEBSITE: www.geffrye-museum.org.uk