Haggerston’s Geffrye Museum is hoping to be awarded an £11 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to expand its premises.
The Geffrye Museum, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, preserves some of the best local history the area has to offer, and receives over 100,000 visitors annually.
The museum is free to enter and a beloved haunt for locals and tourists. Yet it frequently suffers from overcrowding as a result of its popularity.
“I bring lots of people here, of all ages,” said Rosemary Smith, a local resident and regular visitor to the museum. “It’s a lovely place to just come and sit.”
But Mrs Smith went on to speak of the congestion in the museum corridors at busy weekends, and the problems with the museum’s cramped layout.
“It’s a bit like viewing exhibits in a railway car on the rush hour train!”
The planned improvements will cost £15 million in total, and will create 40 per cent additional space to display never-before-seen collections, hold activities and host conferences.
The renovations will also improve accessibility, and restore the structure of the museum’s 18th century buildings.
One controversial aspect of the Geffrye’s development project involves the historical pub Marquis of Lansdowne, located on Cremer Street.
The museum’s original development plans, submitted last year, involved demolishing the derelict Victorian pub. This sparked outrage amongst locals, and a petition to protest the demolition gained over 2,300 signatures.
Fortunately for the pub’s supporters, Hackney Council rejected the planning proposal and forced the Geffrye to re-think its plans.
A new proposal to restore the pub to life as the museum’s café has been largely welcomed by protestors. But a few stubborn opponents remain, who think that the Marquis should be restored as a pub – or nothing at all.
Last Tuesday, the museum held an open evening which invited members of the public to view and comment on the development plans. Post-It notes left by visitors called for the Geffrye to ‘Provide a first-class pub!’ and to restore the pub’s interior ‘so it reflects period pubs in the locality’.
However, museum director David Dewing is confident that the plans in their current form have the public’s full support. “We went back to [the protestors], and they all approved of the new plans for the pub,” he said.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks it’s an excellent idea.”
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