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
We have mentioned this museum before, but it’s well worth doing so again (particularly for those who may have missed the first entry). Located in former almhouses in Shoreditch, the Geffrye Museum is a survey of house interiors from the 17th century through to modern times.
Featuring 11 reconstructed period interiors created using authentic furnishings, it tells the story of the city through its residents’ homes (albeit largely wealthy ones) and includes a look at a hall in 1630, a parlour in 1790, a drawing room in 1870 and a loft conversion dating from 1998. There’s an audio guide which provides details on each room and information panels as you go along (and if you can’t get there but want to have a look, the website gives a detailed look at each room with notes on select furnishings).
The almshouses in which the museum resides (it runs along the rear wing of a U-shaped courtyard and takes in the chapel) were built in the early 1700s by the Company of Ironmongers after it received a bequest from Sir Robert Geffrye, a former twice-master of the company and a former Lord Mayor of London (his statue adorns the front of the chapel and faces out into the courtyard, itself a quiet oasis in busy Shoreditch).
These were used until early in the 20th century when the company decided to relocate the remaining pensioners. But the buildings have been preserved and it is possible to visit a former almshouse which has been restored and opened as a museum with displays on what life was like for the pensioners. Meanwhile, at the rear of the museum is a walled herb garden filled with herbs and a series of ‘period garden rooms’ ranging from the 17th to 20th centuries.
There’s also a restaurant and shop onsite (housed in a new extension opened in 1998).
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 (gardens open until 31st October); COST: Free (admission to almhouses £2.50 at set times on select days); WEBSITE: www.geffrye-museum.org.uk
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