The Commandery is a site where a building has been for a thousand years. On entry you are given an audioguide – as part of your £5.50 (adults) admission fee and from there on have to choose (from the list/number provided in each area) which era you are interested in tracking through the building.
These relate to the various ways the site of the Commandery has been employed. At first it was a monastic hospital, then the home of a wealthy Tudor merchant. After that it was the Civil War Headquarters in 1651, then a Georgian home, the site of a college for the blind and then a print works, before finally becoming a museum.
I chose to stay with the Tudor era throughout, and you are given a continuous throughline to that particular period of the house and the people who lived/worked there as you move through each room, though it is possible to mix and match as you go through or even listen to all eras as you go through, though you may be there for a long time!
The Tudor narration splits the story into the rich and poor sides of the house and as I had only an hour until the building closed I decided to mostly go with the rich side, though I did pay a quick visit to the poor side
I found the whole experience really interesting. There isn’t much furniture or other decorative artefacts in many of the rooms, which allows you to better imagine the state of the rooms in the narrator’s (excellent) descriptions of them.
There are some things worthy of note however, such as the death mask of Oliver Cromwell, famous of course for overthrowing the English monarchy. This plaster cast was made just before he was buried at Westminster Abbey in1658.
And a funeral pall from 1490 which is considered important because it is so well preserved.
I also quite enjoyed the Getting Dressed room, with examples of costumes worn in various eras.
And the view of the gardens from the windows. (I’m not sure whether or not the gardens are usually open to visitors, but they weren’t when I was there).
All in all I think it’s a very good way of showing the different historical levels of a house and somewhere that I would suggest you visit if you have any sort of interest in history.