During a recent weekend trip to Bristol, we found The Georgian House Museum on Great George Street, a quiet street in the centre of the city. With just a small hanging sign to mark its presence, the museum is easy to miss unless you’re looking for it.
This Georgian townhouse was built in 1790 for John Pinney, a wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant. The enslaved African, Pero Jones, accompanied Pinney and his family back to Bristol and became Pinney’s personal servant at the house (and now has a bridge in the city named after him). These days the museum provides a short respite from the busy and noisy life of the city, encouraging visitors into the house to see what life used to be like a long time ago.
Upon entering we were greeted by a volunteer and handed a detailed information sheet about the house. The museum is spread over 4 floors, so you can see “below stairs” including the kitchen, laundry and housekeeper’s room and “above stairs” (the dining room, Pinney’s study, the drawing-room, library and bedroom) where the Pinneys lived and socialised.
At the time of our visit, The Georgian House Museum was hosting an exhibition called “Interventions/2: Films by Yoko Ono”. Rather than the exhibition being hosted in one room, each room seemed to have a piece of the exhibition in it, most notably a TV showing a black & white film. The first film I saw was of someone’s bum moving and another film was of a fly squealing and perched on a woman’s breast. People didn’t seem to know where to look as you certainly didn’t want to be caught gawping at the screen. The TVs were out of place in this Georgian house, they were prominently placed and getting in the way of what we were there to see, the Georgian rooms. Not really the kind of exhibition you expect in this type of museum.
My photos aren’t quite as good as I’d like as I was having to look beyond the old televisions to see the house itself.
There was, however, quite a touching part of the exhibition which featured a work called “Arising”, addressing the abuse of women. Abuse survivors had written about their experiences and their commentaries were on display. Outside in the back garden, visitors were given the chance to write their personal wishes for peace and tie them to one of the trees in the back garden.
Overall, we had an enjoyable visit, but we just found that the exhibition got in the way. I’d like to visit again to see the house in all its glory.
The Georgian House Museum is free to enter, but is now closed for the winter season. It reopens in April.