Down House

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London, England

Down House London Reviews

Vikram Vikram
301 reviews
Brilliant! Talk about non-touristy and value for money! May 30, 2014
There are those days, and then there are those days... I've had the fortune of coming to London so many times and seeing so many things but how often does one uncover a gem? Something that's a mix of educational, entertaining and plain interesting.... well that's Down House for you.

This is the former home of *the* Charles Darwin and one of the most enjoyable English Heritage properties. Getting here can be a bit of a pain - you take a train to Bromley South, then a bus to Down (the last stop on the bus) and finally a half mile walk on a road with no pavement! Plus we went on a rather chilly day...

There are 3 parts to this site: the museum/display upstairs, the tour of the ground floor (rooms) and then the garden/greenhouse. there's a nice multimedia display that's free to use for the duration of the tour of the rooms and garden. You don't need it for the displays on the first floor.

I would strongly suggest anyone visiting this place to earmark about three hours at least. It looks small and doable in a couple, but it's misleading that way. And the displays and everything is so interesting you really owe it to yourself to stay here longer.

The displays/museum: How very interesting this this! I had no idea Charles Darwin was such an interesting bloke! The displays detail his life starting from his (or rather, his dad) wanting him to be a surgeon, then becoming a clergy, then a 5 yr voyage to S. America which made him want to become a scientist, his family, that "checklist" on why he needs a wife ("the advantages outweigh the disadvantages"), his rather big family (kids), etc. Everything is really well presented here - artifacts of his work, diary entries, how he fought for credibility to fight the religious beliefs and how he came close to plagiarism and how he got around that, etc. These displays also chronicle his poor health (apparently he got some virus on his voyage that stayed with him till death), as well as one of the kids' death (due to some virus, was sent to Liverpool for treatment of cold water but didn't work).

The rooms - this is where I feel bad as I couldn't spend time here at all. We had a bus to catch at 1p and had time to visit either the rooms or the gardens and I went with the later. But it does look quite interesting. There's this knitting like display that the wife would do as she was supposedly restless. Pretty interesting, but again, I don't know much about the other parts.

The garden and greenhouse - and finally, the garden! There a lot of "milestone" places in this garden. At face value, it looks like any other "cute" English garden you've seen in my blogs several times now. But there are some points of interest - an old ugly mulberry tree that's been around as long as, or even longer than Mr. Darwin himself, the famous sun dial, the little "weed enclosure" where he'd grow weeds to help prove this theory of nature and interdependence of animals and plants on reproduction, the really interesting greenhouse with the collection of bees (and marked Queen Bees), the mundane veg garden and finally, the non-descript Sandwalk. Another significant place here is the very interesting tennis court (the multimedia guide explained why this was so, but I frankly don't remember it now!).

So all in all, there really is a lot here, and what makes it even more interesting is the fact that it's so "out of the beaten path" that very few visitors come here. I'd strongly recommend this to anyone going... you'd genuinely be amazed!
The famous sundial that Charles Da…
This was the infamous irregularly …
The gardens, one can see the ancie…
View of Down House from the gardens
8 / 8 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Travel2014 says:
Echoing Vance here Vikram. Thanks for putting this on the radar. Sounds very interesting. Hope to see it.
Thanks for sharing.
Posted on: Jan 03, 2015
Vikram says:
LOL!
Posted on: Jun 19, 2014
vances says:
Thanks, Vikram - a truly interesting spot that I knew nothing about, and well presented! But I am terribly disappointed you can't recall the relevance of the tennis court...talk about a net loss!
Posted on: Jun 19, 2014
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