RogerBW's Blog

Geffrye Museum 31 December 2017

The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton is about to close down for an extended refurbishment, so I went along to it. As usual, the rooms were decorated for a period Christmas.

I think the local garage may be fed up with trendy Hoxtonites.

Hall, 1630, with wainscot panelling and marchpane on the table.

Parlour, 1695. Still panelled, but now mostly a private family space rather than the room where everything happens.

Parlour, 1745. (Two jellies on the table, for the late guest who's missed dinner.) The basic room is pretty much the same, though the furnishings have changed completely.

A pause for the remains of the almshouse chapel.

Parlour, 1790. Now we have wallpaper! A much brighter and busier room.

Drawing room, 1830. Suddenly we have synthetic dyes and there's colour everywhere.

Drawing room, 1870. Now we have glass all over the place: huge mirrors, dried flowers, and so on. There's been a steady progression of more stuff, too, including the Noah's Ark toy.

Drawing room, 1890. Lots of stuff, even discounting the Christmas cards. Yes, the stuff is Aesthetic Movement and trying to harmonise a bit, but this is the busiest room so far.

And then, in the 1910 drawing room, it suddenly gets neater again. Electric light makes a difference (none of the earlier rooms showed lighting, unless you count the occasional tabletop candle), but this is the first one that looks like a room I can recognise as one I might have been in.

Living room, 1935. The minimal Christmas tree seems a bit of a cheat (I wanted to know whether they'd stick with candles, as in the last two rooms, or go to electricity by this point) but the sense of aggressive geometry is very strong: everything is deliberately a Curved Thing or a Straight Thing with very little compromise between the two.

Living room, 1965. When I was little and went to the houses of schoolmates who had staircases like this, I was always desperately jealous. These are the sort of Christmas tree lights I remember from my youth. (And this is also the good sort of sofa-bed, where you just hinge down the back cushion rather than having a long Procedure to get it ready.)

Loft-style apartment, 1998, with those chairs that make you not want to dawdle over the meal. But… where's the television? All right, I didn't have one when I was living on my own in 1998 (nor since), but I was unusual then and I'm still fairly unusual now.

It's a fascinating place, and while I wouldn't feel a need to go very often I'm glad to have seen it before the refurbishment; I plan to go back afterwards and see what they've done with it. It should re-open some time in the latter half of 2019.


  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 12:22pm on 31 December 2017

    My parents want the 1935 room rug.

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