Gravestones and period rooms

After a leisurely brunch at the Alpino (strange how the Italians are so good at serving traditional British food), we took the bus to Stoke Newington. It was a crisp sunny day, perfect for a ramble.

Stoke Newington on a crisp sunny day
Stoke Newington on a crisp sunny day

Why Stoke Newington, you may wonder. Because we had decided to pay a repeat visit to a burial ground, to be precise, what is now called Abney Park.

A squirrel watches from his perch on a gravestone
A squirrel watches from his perch on a gravestone

This piece of land has a long history, being once the grounds of Abney House, then a burial ground and today a public park and wildlife reserve.

Tomb of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army
Tomb of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army

In its day, the graveyard must have been an impressive place, like a city with districts for the rich and famous (as above) and others for the less affluent.

Nature is again taking over
Nature is again taking over

Nature is again taking over and the tombs are becoming overgrown as grass, brambles, shrubs and trees spread unchecked and claim the space. Among the fallen angels, tipsy crosses and crumbling tombstones, fallen trees lie among the tumbled graves.

Fallen trees lie among the tumbled graves
Fallen trees lie among the tumbled graves

There are also pathways where you can stroll and enjoy the quiet pleasures of a natural park in the midst of urban streets, observing the birds, insects and squirrels.

Paths to stroll along
Paths to stroll along

I am heartened by the formation of these islands of green throughout the city, where wildlife can create an environment in which to live and thrive and where we can see them and enjoy their presence.

The "Egyptian" gate
The “Egyptian” gate

We left Abney Park by these Egyptian-inspired gates. Other buildings on this side of the park are modelled on Ancient Egyptian designs, including the serpent cartouche shown at the bottom.

The Geoffrye Museum
The Geoffrye Museum

We now took a bus to Shoreditch and came to this lovely place, the Geoffrye Museum. Once a “hospitall”, that is a set of almshouses, built in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Company with a bequest from Sir Robert Geoffrye, sometime Master of the Company and Lord Mayor of London, the building is today a museum showing the changing style of the English domestic interior from the 1600s to today.

A 1630s hall, ready for Christmas
A 1630s hall, ready for Christmas

Central to its purpose is a series of rooms each furnished and decorated to illustrate a room of the period in question. Decoration varies with the time of year and currently reflects Christmas.

An 1870s drawing room
An 1870s drawing room

Each room feels lived in, as though the occupants have all just stepped outside for a moment. It is interesting to note the changes through time – such as the appearance of dining forks or an increasing cosiness in the furnishings.

The almshouse chapel
The almshouse chapel

The chapel stands in the middle of the building and, although it is no longer used, would have played an important role in the life of the almshouse. Services were held twice a day on Sundays and attendance on the part of the inhabitants was compulsory. We might see this as a warning today when the government is busily handing over essential welfare services to religious organizations.

An Edwardian room 1900-14
An Edwardian room 1900-14

A new wing has been added and some of the rooms (including the one above) are found here, together with other exhibitions. In the centre is a spiral staircase. Everything is arranged in a circle around this, making it a central feature.

The extension and its staircase
The extension and its staircase

A museum whose theme is buildings must obviously consider carefully its own building works and I find that this extension is well designed to the human scale. It is a comfortable space, unlike so much modern design where architects seem to strive to outdo one another in novelty, forgetting the people who have to use the building.

1660s clock
1660s clock
Oil lamp 1885
Oil lamp 1885

In addition to the rooms, there are traditional “glass-case” displays showing artifacts from different periods. Two of my favourites are shown above.

Queueing for the cafe
Queueing for the cafe

We thought of taking refreshments in the well run cafe but people were queueing for tables so we decided to move on. I have shown only a sample of what is available at the Geoffrye Museum, which is well worth a visit. Photography, as you see, is permitted.

Spitalfields Market
Spitalfields Market

We came here to Spitalfields Market. The stalls were not in use but most of the shops were open. We had a late lunch in a creperie.

Christmas lights at Spitalfields
Christmas lights at Spitalfields

The market was decorated with colourful Christmas lights but the huge hall looked rather eerie with all those empty stalls.

Christ Church at Spitalfields
Christ Church at Spitalfields

We now turned to the nearby Liverpool Street station where we could take the bus back to the Angel. I could not resist taking another photo of the Heron Tower which we have watched growing steadily skywards over the past months and which now, fully glazed and nearly finished, dwarfs the Greek-vase shape of the Gherkin.

The Heron Tower, Bishopsgate
The Heron Tower, Bishopsgate

We were fortunate to be able to enjoy an outdoor and an indoor activity today. The sunshine took the edge off the cold for our visit to Abney Park and the Geoffrye Museum, though crowded, was warm and full of light. A good day out.

Egyptian cartouche, Abney Park
Egyptian cartouche, Abney Park

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Gravestones and period rooms

  1. AEJ says:

    The museum looks lovely, and the rooms do look so lived in and comfortable. Is that graffiti on the Egyptian gate? By the looks of the path and garden, I’m not sure I’d want to be walking through there all alone. I’m glad you had a nice day out and about.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Yes, I believe that the gate is marked with graffiti that someone has attempted to clean. It is a continuing problem in cities, especially with some many convenient products on the market that are of use to graffiti “artists”.

      Abney Park may look a little wild because of the policy of letting nature take its course, but I don’t think it is any more dangerous to the lone visitor than any of the more formal parks.

  2. WOL says:

    That gorgeous table in the 1870’s drawing room, the paneling in the 1630’s hall, that wonderful 1660’s clockclock and the mantlepiece and wingchair from the Edwardian 1900-1914 room are hereby appropriated for my dream country estate — LOL! Do I remember correctly that “spitalfields” is an elision of “hospital fields?” I seem to recall seeing some archaeology type program about unearthing many medieval plague burials at or near Spitalfields as it was the site of some sort of monastery cum hospital — very likely salvaging the archaeology before a building was built.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The derivation of the name of Spitalfields is correct.

      There are a number of plague pits in the Greater London area as one might expect – the city having expanded to encompass what would previously have been out-of-town sites. In one famous example, the tube line descends and then reascends in order to pass under one. These pits are left alone unless an overriding need requires interference with them as the disease organisms could still be active.

      Very often in museums one sees beautiful objects that one would like to take home! I suppose we can be glad that they are there for us to see and enjoy rather than being inaccessible in a private home.

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