The Geffrye Museum takes visitors on a trip back in time through a series of recreated parlors and drawing rooms that offer a glimpse of how tastes, styles, and life in general have evolved among the English middle class over the course of several centuries.
When it was first established in 1914, the museum’s intent was to offer the tradesmen of London’s East End furniture district a historical perspective on their craft by showcasing examples of “technical and artistic excellence,” according to the museum’s website. As the neighborhood’s woodworking community dwindled, however, the museum turned its attention to the growing middle class population, adapting its collections into a series of rooms that reflect the distinct decorative tastes of various historical periods, beginning with 1630 and working almost up to present day with a replica 1990s-era loft style apartment of the sort that have become a staple of London city life. The museum is also known for its period gardens which likewise demonstrate changing landscaping sensibilities throughout English history.
The museum is housed in what was originally a series of almshouses commissioned by Sir Robert Geffrye. From 1714 through 1911 this charitable institution was home to around 50 poor pensioners. One of these residences has since been restored to reflect its original appearance, giving visitors an idea of the conditions in which many of the city’s elderly poor lived.
Update October 2017: The museum will close on January 7, 2018 for almost two years, to embark on a transformational development project: Unlocking the Geffrye. Although the main museum building and period gardens will be closed, there will still be plenty of reasons to visit. Throughout closure it will run a programme of events and activities in the front gardens. The restored almshouse will also be open for tours on certain dates throughout the year.