Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

December 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Aunt Fanny, Julian | 1 Comment
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A visit to the Geffrye Museum’s ‘Christmas Past’ exhibition has become something of a festive tradition for me since moving to London a few years ago. The Museum is set in eighteenth century almshouses in East London and presents a series of rooms recreating typical middle-class living spaces from the 1600s through to the present day. Every year at Christmas time these rooms are decked out according to the traditions and customs of their period, with decorations ranging from sprigs of rosemary and bay leaves in the earlier rooms, through to the artificial tress and electric fairy lights of the twentieth century.

The room pictured above is the Geffrye Museum’s 1910 drawing/sitting room and is meant to represent a semi-detached house in Golders Green, North London. Although many Blyton aficionados may disagree, I think there is something a little bit Kirrin-ish about it. Obviously Kirrin Cottage is old (it’s been in Aunt Fanny’s family for generations) but, when they had the money, the family may have periodically updated its fittings and furnishings. A short period of prosperity for the Kirrin family in the late nineteenth century could explain the elegant Arts and Crafts fireplace, and although this is supposed to be 1910, it could easily be a room of 20 or even 30 years later, assuming that Aunt Fanny did not always follow the latest trends in interior decoration.

Looking at this room I can imagine the children helping to decorate it with branches of holly (as the most mature and sensible member of the Five I suspect Julian would be the one at the top of the stepladder) and Aunt Fanny stealing a quiet moment to sit down with a cup of tea and fill the stockings (just seen on the sofa) with tangerines and other small gifts – perhaps while the Five are off at Kirrin Farmhouse discovering secret panels and old linen maps.


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  1. In fact in Five Go Adventuring Again, which is set during an Xmas vacation, the way Enid Blyton describes Uncle Quentin’s study in the book is how Imogen Smallwood describes it in her book, A Childhood At Green Hedges.
    Stephen Isabirye is the author of The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (

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