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Down House

Down House
General information
Address

English Heritage, Down House, Luxted Road, Downe, ORPINGTON

BR6 7JT
Coordinates
Owner English Heritage
Website
//darwin.uk.org.english-heritagewww

Down House is the former home of the English naturalist Charles Darwin and his family. It was in this house and garden that Darwin worked on his theories of evolution by natural selection which he had conceived in London before moving to Down.

The house stands next to Luxted Road 0.25 miles (0.40 km) south of Downe, a village 14.25 miles (22.93 km) south east of London's Charing Cross, which was still known as Down when he moved there in 1842. In Darwin's day, Downe was a parish in Kent: it subsequently came under Bromley Rural District, and since 1965 has lain within the London Borough of Bromley.

The house, garden and grounds are in the guardianship of English Heritage, have been restored and are open to the public.

Contents

  • The history of Down House 1
    • 1842–1906: Darwins at Down 1.1
    • 1907–1922: Downe School for Girls 1.2
    • 1927–1996: Darwin Museum 1.3
    • 1996 to present: Restored house and garden 1.4
  • Visiting Down House 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

The history of Down House

In 1651 Thomas Manning sold a parcel of land including most of the current property to John Know the elder, from a Kentish yeoman family, for £345 (equivalent to £43,557 in present-day terms[1]). It has been debated whether this price is likely to have included a house, but, if not, it was Know who built the first farmhouse on the property: some surviving flint walls may date from this period. In 1653 John Know gave the house to his son Roger, probably as a wedding present; and in 1743 the marriage of Mary Know passed the property to the family of Bartholomew of West Peckham in the Weald. In 1751 Leonard Bartholomew sold the uninhabited house on to Charles Hayes of Hatton Garden.[2][3]

The property was acquired by the businessman and landowner George Butler in 1778, and it is thought that he rebuilt and enlarged the house: in 1781 he paid the highest window tax in Downe. Around this time it was apparently called the Great House. After Butler died in 1783 the property changed hands several times, then in 1819 it went to Lieut.-Col. John Johnson, C.B., colonel of engineers in the Hon. East India Company, Bombay establishment. In 1837 Johnson emigrated to "Lake Erie near Dunville in Upper Canada", and passed what was now called Down House on to the incumbent parson of the parish, the Rev. James Drummond. The house was re-roofed and brought into good order under the supervision of Edward Cresy, an architect who lived nearby. Around 1840 Drummond left the property vacant and put it up for auction, but it was unsold and lay empty for two years.[2][3][4]

1842–1906: Darwins at Down

The Darwin family in 1841 was finding their London house increasingly cramped: both Charles and his wife Emma preferred living in the countryside, as they were disturbed by the constant noise and severe coal smoke air pollution of central London, and they had two young children, William (b. 1839) and Anne (b. 1841). Darwin approached his father Robert Darwin for financing, and with the caution that he should try living in an area for some time before being committed to a move, was given approval to start house hunting.[5] Charles and Emma sought somewhere about 20 miles (32 km) from London with railway access, such as Windsor, Berkshire,[6] and came close to buying one near Chobham, Surrey.[7]

On Friday 22 July 1842, Charles and Emma visited Down House. They slept at "a little pot-house" in the village, which was also "a grocers-shop & the land-lord is the carpenter", and returned to London on Saturday afternoon, then on the Sunday Darwin wrote to tell his sister of their first impressions. Though there were plenty of trains on the 10 miles (16 km) line from London to the nearest station, from there it was a long, slow and hilly 8.5 miles (13.7 km) drive to Downe. The small quiet village was away from main roads, and though local scenery was beautiful on a good day, the house "being situated on rather high table-land, has somewhat of desolate air ... The charm of the place to me is that almost every field is intersected (as alas is our's) by one or more foot-paths— I never saw so many walks in any other country".

The east side of the house is close to a narrow lane: the central block was the original house, the service wing to its left was extended with a schoolroom and bedrooms above the kitchen. The 1877 extension to the right included a new main entrance.

The three story house itself stood "very badly close to a tiny lane & near another man's field", and was "ugly, looks neither old nor new" but on the ground floor it had a "Capital study" and a dining room facing east, and a large drawing room facing west, with plenty of bedrooms upstairs. Darwin believed that the price was about £2,200 (equivalent to £184,965 in present-day terms) and he could lease it for one year to try it out.

That Friday was cold and gloomy, and Emma was at first disappointed with the "desolate" scenery as well as being "dreadfully bad with toothache, headache", that evening, but liked the house and grounds better than Charles, finding it "not too near or too far from other houses". On the Saturday the weather changed, and "she was so delighted with the scenery for the first few miles from Down, that it has worked great change in her".[4][8]

Charles Darwin's study at Down House, restored with original furniture including his wheeled armchair and writing board. On the right, two (shuttered) windows look east, and Darwin had an angled mirror fixed outside to see who was coming up the drive to the entrance.[9]

The house had obvious faults, but they were both weary of house-hunting,[10] and it was cheap. Emma preferred a more expensive house in Surrey, and may have hoped that Darwin's father would increase the loan, but life in crowded dirty London was becoming more unpleasant and she was pregnant so unable to continue the search that year.

With advice from the architect and surveyor Edward Cresy, Darwin opened negotiations, but the Rev. James Drummond refused to lease the property and wanted £2,500 to pay off his mortgage on it. Cresy suggested a bid of £2,100, but Darwin remembered an unsuccessful earlier attempt at purchase, and made an offer of about £2,200 which was accepted.[11][12] At the end of August they were almost ready to move, and Emma moved in on 14 September 1842, followed by Charles three days later.[13] Emma gave birth to Mary Eleanor on 23 September, and they were all getting on well – even Darwin's brother Erasmus who had said the place should be called "Down-in-the-Mouth" had altered his opinion,[14] but they were saddened when baby Mary died on 16 October.[15]

The west front of Down House looks out onto its gardens, and the main block is dominated by the angled walls of the bay extension Darwin had built in 1843. The kitchen wing to the right has a classroom on the upper floor, and the block to the left, added in 1858, has a drawing room behind the glazed roofed verandah.

Stucco rendered building in a plain Georgian style with hipped slate roofs and overhanging eaves. The central block is three storeys, and there are two-storey extensions on each side. Lattices are fixed to walls between windows to support climbing plants. A wide lawn forms the foreground, and tall trees appear behind the block to the right.

Darwin made extensive alterations to the house and grounds. An angled bay forming a large bow front extending up through all three storeys at the west elevation of the house extended the drawing room and rooms over it, giving improved views and lighting: Darwin wrote telling his cousin that the first brick was laid on 27 March 1843. By 27 April, work was in hand to lower the lane by as much as 2 feet (0.61 m) and build new flint boundary walls, which together with earth mounds and shrubbery made the east garden more private. A strip of the field was made into a kitchen garden including the experimental plot of ground, and later the greenhouses.[16][17]

In September 1843, the Francis in 1848, Leonard in 1850, Horace in 1851, and their 10th child Charles Waring Darwin who was born in 1856, but died in 1858.

Between 1845 and 1846, Darwin altered the service wing to the south of the main block, getting the kitchen area rebuilt with the addition of a butler's pantry, and a schoolroom and two small bedrooms on upper floors. The outhouses were rebuilt, and a mound to the west side was removed with a new mound being added to the east to give protection from the wind.[18]

On their first visit Darwin had noted that "The great Astronomer Sir J. Lubbock is owner of [3,000 acres (12 km2)] here, & is building a grand house a mile off", but thought that he would be too reserved or proud to visit them.[4] In fact, Sir John William Lubbock had brought home a "great piece of news", and while his son was initially disappointed that the news was just that Darwin was coming to Down House and not a new pony, young John Lubbock soon became close friends with Darwin and a frequent visitor to Down House.[19]

a gravel path through woodland, with low vegetation on each side. To the left leaves cover large shrubs and bushes, a row of bare tree trunks and branches are close to the right.
The sandwalk, Darwin's thinking path.

In 1846, Darwin rented from Sir John William Lubbock a narrow strip of land of 1.5 acres (0.61 ha) adjoining the Down House grounds to the southwest, and had it planted. He named it the Sandwalk Wood.[18] One side was shaded by an old shaw with oak trees, and the other looked over a hedge to a charming valley. Darwin had a variety of trees planted, and ordered a gravel path known as the "sandwalk" to be created around the perimeter. Darwin's daily walk of several circuits of this path served both for exercise and for uninterrupted thinking. He set up a number of small stones at one point on the walk so that he could kick a stone to the side each time he passed, so that he did not have to interrupt his thoughts by consciously counting the number of circuits he had made that day. The sandwalk also served as a playground for his children.[20] A wooden summerhouse was built at the lower end of the sandwalk.[9] In 1874, Darwin gave a piece of pasture land to Sir John Lubbock (the son) in exchange for ownership of the Sandwalk Wood.[18] From 1849 Darwin used it to continue his walking exercise on return from Dr. Gully's hydrotherapy treatment.

A new extension at the north end of the house was added in 1858, providing a large new drawing room facing west which became a comfortable family room, and two bedrooms over.[18] The former drawing room was converted into a new dining room, and the old dining room next to the kitchen became a billiard room.[9]

Darwin's greenhouse at Down House where he conducted many experiments

Darwin's interest in the

  • The Home of Charles Darwin (Down House) : English Heritage
  • Information for teachers: English Heritage – includes floor plans
  • Darwin bicentenary at Down House
  • World Heritage SiteDarwin at Downe – proposed
  • A scientist's guide to visiting Down House
  • Downe House School website
    • History of Downe School
  • Kent Wildlife Trust

External links

  • Atkins, Hedley (1976). Down: the Home of the Darwins: the story of a house and the people who lived there (2nd ed.). [Chichester]: Phillimore.  
  • ) World War I (Describes life at Downe House school during  
  •  
  • Darwin, Charles (1887),  
  • Freeman, R.B. (2007), Charles Darwin: A companion (2d online edition, compiled by Sue Asscher, John van Wyhe ed.), Darwin Online 
  • Howarth, O.J.R.; Howarth, E. K. (1933), A history of Darwin's parish: Downe, Kent. With a foreword by Sir Arthur Keith, Southampton: Russell & Co. 
  • Reeve, Tori (2009). Down House: the Home of Charles Darwin. London:  

References

  1. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  2. ^ a b Howarth & Howarth 1933, pp. 75–77
  3. ^ a b Atkins 1976, pp. 16–17.
  4. ^ a b c "Letter 637 – Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, E. C., (24 July 1842)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  5. ^ "Letter 601 – Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, Emma, (3 July 1841)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  6. ^ "Letter 606 – Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., (23 Aug 1841)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  7. ^ "Letter 609 – Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., (28 Sept 1841)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  8. ^ Atkins 1976, pp. 20–21.
  9. ^ a b c d Overy, Caroline (2004), Down House, Home of Charles Darwin. Making a visit: Information for Teachers (PDF), Colchester:  
  10. ^ Darwin 1887, p. 319
  11. ^ Browne 1995, pp. 441–442
  12. ^ "Letter 634 – Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, S. E., (late July–Aug 1842)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  13. ^ "Letter 640 – Darwin, C. R. to Broderip, W. J., (31 Aug 1842)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  14. ^ "Letter 648 – Darwin, C. R. to Horner, A. S. (4 Oct 1842)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  15. ^ Browne, p. 443
  16. ^ Darwin 1887, pp. 318–322
  17. ^ "Letter 665 – Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D., (25 Mar 1843)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
    "Letter 673 – Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, S. E., 27 Apr (1843)". Darwin Correspondence Project. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f Freeman 2007, pp. 124–125
  19. ^ Howarth & Howarth 1933, pp. 72–73
  20. ^ Darwin 1887, pp. 114–115
  21. ^ "The Times". Darwin Online. 25 February 1897. 
  22. ^ a b Freeman 2007, p. 126
  23. ^ Atkins 1976, pp. 106–10.
  24. ^ Bowen 1950, pp. 185, 194.
  25. ^ Freeman 2007, pp. 128, 304
  26. ^ Bowen 1950, p. 194.
  27. ^ British Association for the Advancement of Science: Historical and descriptive catalogue of the Darwin Memorial at Down House (35 pp.) (c. 1946?) pp. 5–8
  28. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/festivalsandevents/4592579/Charles-Darwin-anniversary-Down-House-Kent.html
  29. ^ http://www.london-footprints.co.uk/peodarwin.htm
  30. ^ "In praise of ... Down House". The Guardian. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  31. ^ "UK launches Darwin heritage bid". London:  
  32. ^ "Home of Charles Darwin (Down House), Visitor Information". English Heritage. 

Notes

See also

The house can be reached by public transport from central London, as it is located within Transport for London travel Zone 6. The 146 bus service from Bromley South railway station (daily) terminates nearby at Downe Village, and the R8 bus from Orpington railway station (excluding Sundays) stops on request outside Down House.

Down House, its garden and grounds are open to the public and English Heritage members. It is open daily from April to the end of October, and on weekends only from November until the end of March.[32] The house and garden undergoes routine conservation work during its closed periods.

Visiting Down House

Down House and the surrounding area has been nominated by the UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to become a World Heritage Site. It originally went through public consultation in 2006 and a decision had been expected in the last three days of June 2007. However, ICOMOS warned the DCMS that the House might not meet the criteria for scientific sites on the register, and so in May 2007 the DCMS announced that it was withdrawing the bid with the intention of resubmitting it later. The bid was resubmitted unsuccessfully in January 2009.[30][31]

Down House was acquired in 1996 by English Heritage, with a grant from the Wellcome Trust. It was restored with funds raised by the Natural History Museum from many trusts, and from a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and reopened to the public in April 1998. In 2009, the Darwin Bicentenary Project created a new exhibition on the first floor of the house, telling the story of Darwin's life and work.[28] A video guide outside focuses on how Darwin used his garden as an outdoor laboratory and features clips from David Attenborough, Professor Steve Jones and Melvyn Bragg. Darwin's notebooks were digitised using Turning the Pages software and put online.[29]

1996 to present: Restored house and garden

In May 1954, Down House itself was designated as a Grade I Listed Building and in September 1988 the garden and Sandwalk was added to the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England at Grade II.

Buckston Browne's endowment for the house proved insufficient and the expense of maintenance led to the British Association in turn donating the house to the Royal College of Surgeons, which administered the adjacent Surgical Research Station, in October 1953. In 1962, Sir Hedley Atkins (1905–1983), later President of the Royal College of Surgeons, moved into the house together with his wife and assumed the role of honorary curator.

From 1924, another girls' school was run in the house by a Miss Rain, but this was unsuccessful and closed in 1927. Following an appeal at that year's Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Surgeons an endowment fund and land adjacent to the Down House property to establish the Buckston Browne Research Farm, a surgical research station.[27][22]

Down House today as a museum.

1927–1996: Darwin Museum

A girls' boarding school was established at the house in February 1907, co-founded by the headmistress Olive Willis (1877–1964) with her friend Alice Carver. The school began with five mistresses and one girl, but was soon successful and grew to around 60 pupils.[23] Various corrugated iron outbuildings were erected around the house at this time, to serve as the school's chapel, gymnasium, music-rooms and lavatories: these were later removed.[24] The school occupied the house until 1 April 1922, when it moved to larger premises at Hermitage Rd, Cold Ash, Newbury, where it remains.[25] One of the school's houses is still named Darwin. The novelist Elizabeth Bowen, who was a pupil at the school during World War I, wrote after revisiting the house in the 1930s: "I have never liked scientific people very much, and it mortifies me to think of them trampling reverently around there on visiting days, thinking of Charles Darwin and ignorant of my own youth."[26]

1907–1922: Downe School for Girls

[22] In February 1897, the house was advertised to be let, furnished, at a rent of "12

After the death of Frank's first wife Amy, their son Bernard Darwin was brought up by Charles and Emma at Down. Charles Darwin died at the house in 19 April 1882, aged 73. Emma also died there in 1896.

[18] In the same year Darwin bought a strip of land to the north of the property, beyond his orchard, and had a hard tennis court and a new wall built.[9].smoking room was converted into a On the Origin of Species and the old study where Darwin wrote [18]

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