Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London

Spaces inhabited by the poor during the 19th century are brought to life through paintings, photographs and personal objects.

Augustus Edwin Mulready, A Recess on a London Bridge, 1879 Laing Art Gallery © Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums/Bridgeman Images

Augustus Edwin Mulready, A Recess on a London Bridge, 1879

Increasing urbanisation in the wake of the industrial revolution placed unbearable strain on Britain's cities. The situation was amplified in London where the population grew at record rates, causing housing to become increasingly scarce and expensive. Larger properties were converted into flats and tenements to try and alleviate the problem but, with landlords failing to maintain proper standards, slum conditions developed.

This exhibition charts the story of the thousands of Londoners who made their homes in lodgings, workhouses and shelters in the 19th and 20th centuries. From the homeless seeking refuge on the street to the experience of making a home in a room shared with dozens of others, paintings, photographs and oral histories recreate their hardships.

Yet it also considers how people fought against the workhouse system, using it to their own ends, as well as the community and camaraderie of living in a common lodging house.

Don't miss

A smaller display in the lower concourse explores contemporary homelessness in London. It is the result of a collaboration with New Horizon Youth Centre, King's Cross – a day centre working with young people who are vulnerable, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.


Venue details

Geffrye, Museum of the Home 136 Kingsland Road London E2 8EA 020 7739 9893 www.geffrye-museum.org.uk

Entry details

£2.50 with National Art Pass (standard entry £5)

Tue – Sat, 10am – 5pm
Sun and Bank Holiday Mon, 12 noon – 5pm

Closed Mon (unless Bank Holidays), 29 Mar, 24 – 26 Dec, 1 Jan