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Museum History

A View of Sir Robert Geffrye's almshouses, 1805

The Geffrye Museum was opened by London County Council in 1914.  It is set in the former almshouses of the Ironmongers' company, built in 1714 with a bequest from Sir Robert Geffrye and sold to London County Council in 1911.  In 1914 the council was persuaded to save the 18th century buildings and their gardens by leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement who suggested its conversion into a museum.  The buildings were Grade I listed in the 1950s and with their gardens now form a wonderful oasis in Hoxton, east London.

The Geffrye began as a museum which aimed to inspire and educate those in the East End furniture trade.  By the late 1930s, as the industry moved away, the focus turned to children and family audiences. The museum's education services were developed under the initiative of Molly Harrison, who is credited for her pioneering work in expanding the potential of museums as centres for learning and education. 

Over the years it evolved, attracting wider audiences with collections of paintings, furniture and decorative arts presented in the context of period living rooms, known in the past as 'parlours' and later as 'drawing rooms'. Since the Geffrye became an independent charitable trust in 1991, all the period rooms have been refurbished, a twentieth-century wing added and an almshouse restored and furnished to show the living conditions of pensioners in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Today the Geffrye focuses on the history of home both as a physical space and a concept, and how this has changed over the centuries influenced by economics, art, technology and international trade as well as social trends and family behaviours.  Home and garden themes are further explored through temporary exhibitions and study initiatives, education and learning programmes for schoolchildren, families, adults and young people.

You can explore our period rooms here, find out more about the almshouses and search objects in our collections here.

Corporate keyhole logo for Geffrye Museum