Monday, 15 June 2009

Hackney Home History

A little gem of a museum, the Geffrye is housed in 18th century almshouses, protected from the busy traffic of Kingsland Road by its own peaceful gardens. And it is very good value – free, in fact.

The Geffrye showcases English homes through history, allowing visitors to walk through a series of living rooms, peppered with fascinating objects and insights – many with particular resonance today. The use of seasonal, good quality, local produce may be a current trend, but in the 17th century it was a necessity. We are told that 'the angel of the house' had to know which vegetables were in season and which cuts of meat were right for a particular dish. Visitors learn that green was very much the old black, with a sample of Samuel Pepys sage coloured curtains, which apparently were all the rage. 

'Voices from the past' speak to us through telephones. You can hear a reading from the Female Spectator aimed at improving women's lot rather bizarrely recommending that women 'counteract the depressive qualities of tea by drinking alcohol'. An amusing excerpt from Dickens' Our Mutual Friend (read the full text here) describes Mr and Mrs Veneering – who, like their brand new house and furniture, were 'in a state of high varnish and polish'.

Don't miss the delightful walled herb garden (accessed through a separate entrance). It may be that you shouldn't judge a museum by its cafe, but I always do. This museum cafe is a light filled, charming spot, often peopled by 'ladies who tea', sampling the tangy lemon cake or the rich chocolate brownies. washed down with traditional lemonade.