The Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home comprising eleven rooms furnished in the style of different historical periods from 1600 onwards, along with exhibition and workshop spaces, gardens, a café and a shop.
All of the rooms are accessible on one level and although the corridor from which you view the earliest rooms can feel narrow on busy days, it’s definitely wide enough for prams, buggies and wheelchairs to manoeuvre. Outside, the period gardens offer insights into styles of planting and popular species from the 17th Century to the present day and there is also a herb garden and plenty of information available about the culinary, medicinal and other uses of many different herbs through the ages. These gardens are only open in the spring and summer but the front gardens with their 100 year old plane trees are open all year.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
The Geffrye is a gem of a museum in the heart of Hackney – and, with the exception of the restored almshouse for which there is a small entrance charge, it’s free! I love stepping off the Kingsland Road and the twenty-first century into the Geffrye’s front gardens. The logo of the museum is a keyhole and indeed you are getting a fascinating ‘through the keyhole’ glimpse into homes from the past as you stroll along the main corridor.
In between the period rooms, a few spaces are laid out in a more conventional museum style with interesting artefacts from chairs to tea caddies on display as well as commentaries to listen to on handsets, fabric swatches to touch, and timelines to help you and your family orientate yourselves! You can also walk through the original almshouse chapel or through a garden room behind it featuring some fold-down seating, gardening books to browse and a quirky mural. Another space is a reading room that boasts numerous books about the history of the home including a good range of books to sit and read with children. There is also a very extensive library and archive although access to this would need to be arranged prior to your visit.
The museum is housed in former almshouses built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company. The original building has been added to and made fit for purpose as a modern museum thanks to a beautiful and very harmonious extension. The Geffrye’s relatively small size compared to many London museums and the fact that it’s free make it perfect for visiting with young children in my view as the amount there is to see doesn’t make a visit onerous. The general layout and chronological arrangement of exhibits are clear and helpful, making it a favourite place to return to for an afternoon in my family.
Children are made very welcome with a Sam the Dog’s trail to follow, a space for children which boasts a really good range of activities (including colouring sheets, trails and ‘odd one out’ activities) at weekends and in the holidays, and some lovely art, craft, gardening and cooking workshops in holidays too (booking is advisable). There is also a programme of nursery rhyme-time sessions and storytelling events. My son has enjoyed some of the online activities as follow-up to a visit to the museum especially the one where you explore a Victorian house looking for Sam who has got lost learning lots of fascinating facts about Victorian homes along the way!
The shop and café with views over the period gardens are full of temptations. I have once or twice made the Geffrye Museum my destination of choice on Mothers’ Day because it’s a place that makes all of us happy! The setting is so beautiful and the café has quite a sophisticated and nature-inspired feel with its curved shape, ribbed ceiling, art nouveau-inspired standard lamps and big windows and on a quiet day it could be a delightful place to meet a friend for a coffee, read or just watch the world go by! It offers hot food, salads, sandwiches, cakes, hot and cold drinks and children’s options too and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve sampled there including homemade quiche, mackerel salads and scones – the peach scones I ordered there once were delicious! You could also take your own picnic to be eaten on the benches or on the grass in the spacious and shady front gardens.
A workshop my son and I attended when he was five was called ‘Wacky Windowboxes’ and it was led by an experienced and enthusiastic crafter and crafting blogger. Children were well provided for in terms of ideas and materials. My son has also enjoyed lots of the activities and trails we’ve done and always puts his hands inside the artefacts boxes to think about the texture and feel of the various household items inside. I think it’s an unintimidating environment for children, not too vast to be exhausting, and it’s stimulating in all sorts of ways. We’ve always been impressed by the pleasant and helpful staff, by how well kept the exhibition spaces, gardens and visitor facilities are and by the fact that, as places to visit with small children go, we’ve found this characterful museum to be a calming place and also a great spur to contemplation, conversation and creativity.
Address: 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA.
Cafe: Yes, a lovely cafe serving delicious hot and cold food and drink (see MGF Says below).
Toilets: Yes, fully accessible with baby change.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: They say: ‘Entrance and gardens are ramped and accessible for wheelchairs. Wheelchairs are available to borrow from the Geffrye main entrance – please ask at Reception on arrival.
All main displays are located on the ground floor.
There is a lift to access the art rooms, additional toilets and temporary exhibition space on the lower ground floor.
Please note that due to the museum’s listed building status, the Restored Historic Almshouse is not accessible for wheelchairs. However, you can view a virtual tour online.
Guide and Assistance Dogs are welcome’. (www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/visit/access)
Parking: There is very limited pay and display parking locally. Parking for disabled visitors is available in front of the museum for up to three hours between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m.
Train: Hoxton Station (directly behind the museum) or Liverpool Street.
Tube: Old Street (Subway 2), then bus 243 or a 15 minute walk. Liverpool Street, then bus 149 or 242 or a 20 minute walk.
Bus: 243, 149, 242.
Phone: 020 7739 9893.
Another attraction at the Geffrye is the restored almshouse off the main courtyard which is open to the public on certain days only (see website) and for which there is a small admission charge. The museum is housed in an eighteenth century building with an extension built in 1998 by Branson Coates Architects.
Review by Emma Page