Down House


A photograph of the rear of Down House the former home of Charles Darwin.

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 in 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.

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.

In September 1843, the Darwin family increased with the birth of “Etty” in the house, where all their remaining children were born: George in 1845, “Bessy” in 1847, 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.

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. 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.
Wikipedia

 


Address
Down House,
Luxted Road,
Downe,
Kent,
BR6 7JT


 

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