Wright & Wright Architects
- Original design
- Richard Halsaul and Robert Burford, 1714
- Wright & Wright Architects, 2018
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
The Geffrye Museum is set in a row of 18th century almshouses which are Grade I listed. These were built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company (one of many London guilds that represented different trades) with money left by Sir Robert Geffrye, former Master of the Ironmongers’ Company and Lord Mayor of London. The almshouses were not designed by an architect. Instead in 1712, the Geffrye Charity Committee itself drew up particulars for one ‘model’ almshouse and Great Room (later converted into the Chapel in 1716). The contract to build the almshouses was awarded to Richard Halsaul (houses on the south side) and Robert Burford (Great Room and houses on the North side).
The almshouses provided shelter for approximately 50 pensioners for almost 200 years. In the 18th century the area was largely rural and therefore a peaceful place for pensioners to live. By the end of the 19th century the farmland was built over with terraced housing, factories and workshops and the area became one of the most heavily populated areas in London. In 1910 the Ironmongers’ Company decided to sell the almshouses in order to build new accommodation for pensioners in the cleaner, safer and less crowded suburbs. The buildings were bought by London County Council and converted into a museum that opened in 1914.
The Geffrye is a special kind of museum showing the way people have lived and furnished their homes over the centuries. The linear arrangement provides a series of period rooms which visitors move past in chronological order, displaying rooms from Tudor times to the present day.
The gardens to the rear contain a walled herb garden and series of period gardens, and are well worth a visit. (Open from April –October).
By 1996 the museum needed more facilities, and Branson Coates were commissioned to build an extension behind the listed building. New galleries and public spaces have been added in an elongated horseshoe plan at the opposite end to the Museum entrance.
As you leave the architectural promenade of the older galleries, you enter a restaurant and shop space where the original brick building is joined to the new extension, marked by two different gable ends. An arched steel roof winds between the three and links them together, giving the restaurant the feeling of being temporarily covered and linked to the garden outside.
In fact, the two brick gables are the twin ends of the horseshoe-plan gallery building. One has a round arch leading to the kitchen; the other is a flat arch leading into the new shop. Daylight is introduced where the linking roof joins onto the gables. The room is cleverly lit by specially designed uplighters by artist metalworker, Martin Creed.
Beyond this is a range of new 20th century galleries. At the centre of the space is a concrete and glass staircase – a sweeping, grand gesture which draws the visitor down to the lower level, where education rooms and temporary exhibition spaces are located.
The Geffrye is now closed for a two-year transformational development (although still taking part in Open House London).
We’re investing £18m into the Geffrye to improve access and make it a more inspiring place for you. The Unlocking the Geffrye scheme will breathe new life into the museum’s 18th century, Grade 1 listed buildings by opening up and making much better use of spaces never seen by the public before.
When we re-open in spring 2020 you will be able to:
- Enjoy 50% more space and two floors previously unseen by visitors
- Explore hidden treasures and stories of home from our collections and archives in the Home Gallery and Library
- Get creative in new and inspiring learning spaces
- Come into the museum direct from Hoxton Station – a new entrance opposite the station will lead into a spacious, central reception space with much improved visitor facilities
- Relax in our new cafe
- Enjoy our period gardens and herb garden all year round