The Geffrye Museum
Last week, I was poddling about on my bike (as I do) and I noticed two rather lost looking women, consulting a map near Old Street. It turned out they were trying to find The Geffrye Museum (museum of the home), so I was able to point them in the right direction, which as it happened was reasonably fortuitous, as they were about to go the wrong way. So, for this reason, I thought I'd write a brief post about the museum. If you have a spare hour or so, have an interest in how our ancestors lived or are researching old interiors or furniture, then it's well worth a visit. It's also free (donations obviously welcome).
We've popped in there a few times on my Sunday east London walk, and suffice to say, approaching The Geffrye Museum through the council blocks of Hoxton, traversing the busy Kingsland Road brimming with Vietnamese restaurants, then stepping through the museum gate, first time visitors are usually quite astounded to find themselves plunged in to the garden of a long row of lovely 18th century almshouses. It seems like you've unwittingly stepped in to another time and place.
The main part of the building (which you can see above), dates back to 1714 and was formerly almshouses of the Ironmongers' company, left by a guy called Sir Robert Geffrye, who was himself Lord Mayor of London in 1685. After the Ironmongers' pensioners moved to greener pastures at the beginning of the 20th century due to the encroachment of the Victorian east end and all that entailed, the building became a museum.
Upon entering The Geffrye Museum, you will be taken on a journey through the living rooms of the English middle classes, or what I believe Samuel Pepys referred to as 'the middling sort', from 1600 to the present day. The long row of almshouses have effectively been turned in to a time machine, giving you a glimpse of furniture, style, fashion and taste throughout the ages. If you happen to visit in the run up to Christmas, you'll also be treated to the added bonus of seeing how houses were decorated during the festive season and the types of food that would typically have been eaten. Aside from being able to gawp at the rooms, you're provided with bits of historical context that help set the tone and allow you to understand a bit more about the people who lived in such rooms and what life was like for them.
The more recent annexe makes room for 20th century inclusions, and if you get a bit peckish, there's a cafe. During the summer months, you can also visit the gardens and walled herb garden. The museum also have loads of special events, do lots of educational work with kids and for a very small fee you can join a tour (Saturdays, Tuesdays & Wednesdays) of one of the restored almshouses and see how it would have been for the pensioners living there in the 18th and 19th centuries.
My only minor qualm, is that having walked through the museum, you then have to scuttle back through the oncoming visitors along the narrow walkway to get out. However, it's not really that important and anyway, it would seem that changes are afoot. In their quest to fulfill their vision of becoming the 'Museum of the Home', The Geffrye Museum are embarking on an ambitious £18.9m development programme, turning the already excellent museum in to an even better one, which includes another door right next to Hoxton Overground Station which is directly behind. So remember that too ... if you're going there via the overground, Hoxton station couldn't be any nearer if it tried.
The Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, E2 8EA - Tue-Sat (10am-5pm), Sun (12-5pm)
Jeepers. So it was a really lovely weekend of walks and met some great people and experienced very different types of weather. Saturday was one of those really nice cold, but crisp autumnal days and in the morning I met Kat and Nancy for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's.
Here they both are outside the Royal Courts of Justice, which was unusually busy for a Saturday ('cause it was open) due to the London Open House Weekend which happens once a year and if you've never got involved, then you perhaps should next year, because it's great. Lots of buildings all over London, from the flat Jimi Hendrix died in to the Gherkin are open to the public for one weekend only.
We also sampled some tea at Twinings tea shop before winding our way through Fleet Street to finish at St Paul's. I'll also quickly mention that Nancy has her own mobile hairdressing business and zips around London on bike visiting people at home to cut their hair, so if you fancy having your hair coiffeured in the comfort of your own home, then get in touch with her.
Kat is one of a select group of people to do both Saturday walks on one day, so after a spot of lunch, returned for the afternoon walk from St Paul's to Monument, where she was joined by Rachel, Hannah, Claire and also Liron (who had done the east end walk previously) and David, both from Israel.
Rachel is busy, trying to uncover things to do, see, eat and experience in London for Londoners ... and anyone else for that matter, which she compiles in to a radio podcast for Shoreditch Radio and just last week unleashed a brand spanking new website called 'i love London town' ... which you should also check out. Anyway ... we had a wander around Borough and Southwark, before heading back over London Bridge to finish at the Monument.
Sunday was an entirely different weather kind of day and Sabine and Dario, from Germany, braved what began as a steady influx of greyness and rain to become mildly torrential during their exploration of the east end. We popped to the Geffrye Museum en-route, which is a great little place built in 1714 and now is a museum dedicated to the history of how people lived in London from 1600 to the present day.
Because of the Open House weekend, I took the liberty of taking them to the wonderful Hoxton Hall, built in 1863 and one of only two surviving Victorian music halls in London. It was originally called McDonald's Music Hall and strangely was forced to close down after less than ten years due to complaints about the noise.
Keenest double whammy Saturday walker - Kat
Best moustache - No winners
Most likely to be unobtrusively recording - Rachel
Most Israeli - Liron and David
Most German - Dario & Sabine
Weekend Roundup - 14th & 15th Jan '12
The first London walks of 2012 took place this weekend under a clear, crisp and bright wintery sky ... except when it got dark on Saturday. It was still clear and crisp, but less bright.
Saturday 14th Jan
In the end it kicked off with Saturday afternoons walk and after meeting the group of intrepid Chalkers, had a minor mooch around the streets that surround St Paul's cathedral before heading over the wobbly bridge to Bankside.
We paid an impromptu visit to the Rose Theatre, or at least its watery remains, as it was the first Elizabethan theatre, built in 1587 and after the foundations were re-discovered in 1989 now resides in the bowels of the office building that was built over the top. However, we had an equally impromptu mini talk from a lady who worked there, and next time you're down on Bankside, spare a thought for the Rose, to which the recreated Globe owes a huge debt.
Anyway, here are Saturday's Bowl Of Chalkers in Borough Market. See how much fun they're having. They've even got a coffee. It just blows me away each time I see it.
Here they are exploring a quiet enclave of of Guy's Hospital.
Sunday 15th Jan
On my way to meet Sunday's Chalkers for their east London walk I spied a new piece by street artist Xylo which has popped up by Old Street roundabout next to the City Road Turnpike plaque. Xylo is more than a one trick wonder, but these little golden frogs are sprinkled all over London and apparently represent the 'global crisis of mass species extinction'.
It was another clement, but chilly day and despite Old Street underground station and most of the Northern Line being closed, I was impressed with the tenacity of the group to valiantly find their way to the starting point.
Here they are outside the Geffrye Museum, which if you haven't been is one of the many gems to be discovered in the Shoreditch area. It is a museum dedicated to how Londoners have lived from 1600 to the present day, housed within a beautiful building that was itself built in 1714.
Laure seemed to be quite taken with the tiny figures created by street artist Pablo Delgado, like this one just near to Columbia Road flower market.
As were the whole group for that matter, even when standing on a street almost completely covered by street artist Eine.
That photo wasn't remotely staged by the way. After this, we headed to Spitalfields where the east London walk drew to a close outside the Ten Bells, a pub whose walls, if they could speak might reveal the true identity of Jack The Ripper. Obviously they can't speak, so I don't know why I mentioned it. Sorry, I was having a moment.
Most Canadian - Amy & Whitney (although Amy was pseudo Canadian, so I guess Whitney has the edge)
Most French - Laure
Most medically qualified group - Saturday afternoon
Most multi lingual - Dan
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.