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Rooms Through Time

Over the past 400 years, the main living space of the home has been many things – a bustling hall, a formal parlour, a cosy living room.

Our Rooms Through Time are based on real London homes and span from 1630 to 1990. Their owners would have had enough money to decorate and live comfortably.

When the Museum reopens, there will be an all-new Victorian room scenario.

See some of the ways in which homes and home life have evolved in the past 400 years.

The 1930s Room Through Time Detail from the living room of a serviced flat in 1937

Domestic game changers

In this new gallery space, we will display a selection of everyday items from the past 400 years which have transformed the ways we live in our homes. Many of which are still shaping domestic life today.

Some of the game changers in our display:

  • 'Billy' bookcase
  • Central heating thermostat
  • Clock
  • Lightbulb
  • Fork
  • Waterpipe
  • Lock and key

Which object has changed your home the most?

Some of our domestic game changers

Cream plastic thermostat on white background
Domestic Game Changers
Warmth at the turn of a dial
Detail of the lantern clock
Domestic Game Changers
Keeping time
Cream plastic 1960s television set
Domestic Game Changers
Time to tune in

Some themes in the Rooms Through Time

We follow all of these themes through the history of home.

Food and dining

We explore our behaviours around eating together at home. From a time when the whole family, including servants and lodgers, would have eaten together. To dinner moving later into the afternoon and when cooking became part of a new fashionable lifestyle.

Global influences

We look at the effects of international trade. How goods, like tea, coffee and sugar, that ended up in our homes were products of slave labour and colonial exploitation.

Taste

From very functional spaces, homes became a canvas for people with disposable income to express their taste and social standing. We trace how decoration and furnishings of home changed.

Role of women

We consider the changing expectations of society on the role of women. Expectations on girls and women to follow certain pastimes, behave in certain ways and carry out certain household tasks.

Some objects to look out for

A white cup with three handles, decorated with blue and yellow flowers Object number 185/2015

Posset pot, English Delftware, 1695

From the parlour in 1695

Posset is a hot milky, spiced and sweetened alcoholic drink. It was often served from posset pots at special occasions.

The pot would be passed around from guest to guest and drunk through the inbuilt straw.

A wooden table with a built-in chess board Object number 2/1996

Needlework and games table, about 1815

From the drawing room in 1830

As well as a reversible backgammon and chess board, the table has a removable book rest for reading.

The silk bag underneath was used to store embroidery and needlework.

A black telephone set Object number 18/1980

Telephone, 1930–1940

From the living room in 1937

Having a telephone line connected the living room to the rest of the world.

The telephone is made of plastic, a favoured material for telephones in 1930s.

A silver metal electric heater Object number 53/2005

Avon electric fire, 1954

From the living room in 1965

By 1965 70% of English households owned an electric fire to help keep their living rooms toasty and warm.

Many new town houses were also fitted with central heating, eradicating the need for a fireplace.


Refreshing all the Rooms Through Time

We are conducting new research and sourcing new objects to bring the former period rooms to life with the stories of people who would have lived in similar homes in the past.