The Geffrye Museum and the History of the Home

The Geffrye Museum and the History of the Home

The Geffrye Museum, located just below the Kingsland Road by Hoxton station, presents it’s patrons with 11 period rooms, arranged in chronological order and spanning a period of 400 years. The journey from the 17th century to the present visualises changes not only of the domestic setting, but of wider, societal values too. With free entry, The Geffrye Museum is an essential pit-stop for any Londoner curious about the history of the home, or the formation of societal values.

What is immediately apparent from the museum’s informative plaques is that the London house has never been a contained space, concerned only with itself. At every point, it is permeated by what is outside, in the streets of London and even further afield. Virtues of properness or the phenomenon of manners, for instance, influenced the home from without, and these virtues were reflected in one’s choice of drapery and furniture as much as in one’s behaviour. 

The introduction of imported goods is visible increasingly throughout the museum’s period rooms, showcasing London’s status as a forerunner in the global world. Technological developments had made global exploration possible, and with this Londoners were introduced to many modern staples - tea, coffee and porcelain are found in almost every London house today. This openness has long continued, with London displaying a welcoming, accepting attitude which has allowed it to thrive as a culturally diverse city. To this day, this serves as a point of pride for many Londoners, and in 2016 London welcomed a staggering 20 million overnight visitors, deeming it the 2nd most visited city in the world!

The domestic and the professional in London have also long shared a connection. In the 17th and century, families of the middling class lived above the space that served as the hub for the family business, with their housekeepers and employees sharing their home. This tradition of working from home has somewhat been reborn of late, with the internet and other technology making remote working a possibility for many. In blocks of flats across the city, the internet provides yet another means for the London home to be continually influenced by - and influencing in return - locations far and wide.

The final four period rooms of the museum rattle through the constant change of the 20th Century; change that came at an unprecedented rate, from the light bulb to electric heaters. The 1990s themed period room at the end of the museum culminates the action with chairs facing towards a television set - a stark contrast to the equipment of leisure seen in earlier rooms: the easel, the writing desk, the chessboard or the piano.

With outdoor space in London at a real premium, what will perhaps refresh the most about the Geffrye Museum is the gardens. Period gardens as well as an authentic herb garden complete a sensory experience that extends beyond the visual, and rounds off a trip that’s both pleasant and informative!