Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A visit to Darwin's house

It is a slow long side project of Chris’s but he is working his way through Journey of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. So when we found out we only lived about 40 minutes from where Darwin used to live and where he also wrote the origin of Species we decided to visit a few days ago.

Darwin’s old house is open to the public and it’s a rather grand house, he certainly was born into a privileged background. The downstairs of the house is still kept the same and the upstairs has been converted into a series of exhibitions detailing not only Darwin’s life and works but also those of his family. In fact in the children’s rooms you can still see where the eldest child carved his name into one of the cupboards shelves. The gardens and the original hot house are also there and if you’re ever in the south east of England it’s well worth a visit.
Unfortunately you are not able to take any photos inside the house so we were unable to get a photo of the famous study where he wrote the origin of species but we did get some exterior shots.

The front of the house.

The back, taken from the garden.

Darwin's hothouse where he was able to grow his more exotic plants.

Not a surprise to find the gardens were our sons favorite part of the day - he certainly slept well that night.

If however you find yourself in central London then the natural history museum offers a free guided tour around their Zoology spirit building where they have the largest collection of the original specimens collected by Darwin on his Journey of the Beagle (the second biggest collection of Darwin’s original specimens is in the natural history museum in New York). Me and Chris did this tour a few years ago and its quite spooky. They have thousands of jars full of animals in formaldehyde, from a tiny jar with a mouse to enormous jars filled with sharks and primates. The scientist doing the tour tells you how they preserve all the specimens (a lot of which is over 100 years old) and their ongoing work. I remember the whole centre was very cold as they have to keep the temperature below a certain degree as all the alcohol in the formaldehyde makes the area very flammable! Its not for the really squeamish but very interesting, plus they have a giant squid which sealed the deal for us.


  1. Fascinating! Unfortunately, it's doubtful I will be getting to England any time soon, so I will have to live vicariously. ( there a difference between using England or Britain? Maybe my ignorance is showing.)

  2. oh no I think it can be confusing to people abroad. Basically England is just that, England. Great Britain also includes England, Wales, Scotland and northern Ireland. So whereas someone born in England would consider themselves English (or someone from Scotland, Scottish) someone like my dad who has Irish parents but was born in northern Ireland,would say that he is 'British' as he really doesnt have any 'English' connection other than the fact he lives here.

    It makes perfect sense to people living here but when I type it out like that I can see why you asked! LOL

  3. i didn't know Darwin had such a swanky house;)

  4. Um ... yeah, thanks for clearing that up. :)

  5. Ooh, a giant squid. I will definitely keep that in mind if/when I ever get to visit Great Britain.

  6. Just like on the film we watched, I wonder if they filmed it here at the actual house.

    Sounds like an amazing place to visit, talk about weird and wonderful.

  7. Isn't it wonderful when toddlers conk out early and sleep long?! What a precious little boy!

    I usually just say UK when I refer to the whole shebang and say the specific country when I mean that. It is kinda like folks from the UK or OZ referring to all Americans as Yanks--- that rubs Southerners the wrong way.

    When we were in London we did the British Museum and the Library-- so we saw very cool antiquities-- the rosetta stone, the magna carta, gutenbergs ect and the art museum was fabulous--- but I hate that we missed this museum and Darwin's house-- I visited the museum website and what amazing exhibits--- We will definitely go to there next time.

    Thanks for all the great info and photos.-- I like seeing the little hothouse but I would have expected Darwin to have a more extravagent looking one.

  8. Emma - I have to admit I thought Darwin was born into more modest surroundings. However since he had a total of 10 children (7 survived into adult hood)plus all the servants running around it proberly felt like quite a small house at times.

    Zara - the giaint squid they found a few years ago which is why we did that tour, it created quite alot of business for them at the time.

    Petty - was the film any good? I bet they did do the outside shots there, they did sell the DVD in the shop but they wanted £17 for it!

    Lese - I think that hot house with its hot piping was the height of technology in his day but yeah it was alot smaller than I thought it would be.
    Ive lived south of London for 15 years and I STILL haven't seen everything, as long as you did the main bits, plus you need to leave something for next time.

  9. Oh, I would so love to go there! Thank you for the vicarious visit :)

    I remember the giant squid at the Natural History Museum! It was quite impressive.

  10. What beautiful pictures! I wish I could take a good shot. There are so many beautiful locations in the UK to visit. I lived in Cornwall for a couple of years but there's no way that you can get a chance to see everything unless you live there (and then I think we tend to take things that are so local for granted).

    I came by today to drop off an award for you! You can pick it up here.

  11. I'm jealous - I would love to visit Darwin's house someday! We are planning to visit the UK next year, and my husband being a scientist will certainly be interested in stopping by Darwin's house - thanks for posting about it!