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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In addition to the rooms, there are traditional “glass-case” displays showing artifacts from different periods. Two of my favourites are shown above.
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.
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.
The market was decorated with colourful Christmas lights but the huge hall looked rather eerie with all those empty stalls.
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.
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.