Tuesday 9th February – 6th meeting of 2016

We met today at London Bridge, all nine of us and caught a 149 bus to The Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA. Although we have been here before today we wanted to see the almshouses that have recently been renovated.

The journey through the City brought back good memories for me as I started my working life here in the Midland Bank, Bishopsgate –  many many years ago!! I must add that it looks a completely new area now with some lovely new offices blocks and Liverpool Street station looked completely different from the one I remember!!

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Once off the bus we walked to the museum. This is a superb area. The Museum is in the original almshouses, Grade 1, 18th century buildings and gardens built by Sir Robert Geffrye for Ironmongers’ Company. The museum is free but we purchased a £4 ticket to join the 11 o’clock tour of the newly restored almshouse.

The Museum is set out in the almshouses and each room is set as a main living area of an English urban middle class home and show life over the past 400 years. They include household goods, such as furniture, wallpaper and paintings.

Our lady guide gave us a very interesting history of the almshouses. Built by philanthropist Sir Robert Geffrye and the Ironmongers’ Guild in 1714 for the old poor and destitute of the area who were associated with the Ironmongery business. As the area changed they were at one time occupied by school governess and then in 1914 bought by London County Council who turned it into this wonderful museum of the home. The gardens were left has they stood and is used as a park giving local people a quiet calm space to use away from the noise and speed of the area.

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We went outside along the garden to the renovated almshouse at the end of the block. When built each front door opened into four separate rooms, two up and two down thereby housing four single people or four married couples. There was a communal area in the basement used for the laundry. The building had two rooms set out as they would have been.  The one downstairs set in 18th century and upstairs one from 19th century. The 18th century room was very sparse. Wooden floor one table and chair with candles for light. There was a fire place and bed in the corner. People living here would receive a pension and also wood and coal for the fire. They also had to be back in their rooms by 7 o’clock as the area was locked up and they were not allowed out until the morning! The 19th century room was much more homely with a rug, photographs on the mantlepiece, tablecloth and ornaments.

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The charity also built almshouses in Mottingham Kent which I was interested to find out as I live in Mottingham. These now have been turned into apartments.  The Trust now today have almshouses in Hook and Basingstoke, Hampshire which are available for people with limited means. Sir Robert Geffrye the founder was married but didn’t have children and left all his future to the charity which still carries on today.

This was a very interesting tour and our guides were very informative.  The museum is excellent and always have lots of school parties studying there. It is a perfect place to find out about life in London over the last 400 years.

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After the tour we went to the cafe for tea and cake and then made our way home after a very pleasant morning.