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Down House

From Academic Kids

Down House, photo by Richard Carter
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Down House, photo by Richard Carter

Down House is the former home of the English naturalist Charles Darwin and his family. It is located in Downe in the London Borough of Bromley, a suburb 14.2 miles (22.8 km) south east of Charing Cross. It was in the house that Darwin worked on his theories of evolution by natural selection. It is now a museum.


Contents

The evolution of Down House

On the origin of the house

Down House was originally built as a farmhouse around 1650, and it was extended in 1778.

The Darwins move in

Darwin, moved from London to the suburbs in the midst of labour riots, buying the house for 2,200 from the Rev. James Drummond, who had asked for 2,500. They moved in on the 14th September, 1842. The Darwin family then consisted of Charles, his wife Emma and their children William Erasmus (b. 1839) and Anne (b. 1841). Emma was heavily pregnant with Mary Eleanor, who was to be born on 23 September but to die less than a month later on 18 October.

The other Darwin children many of whom would later achieve notability in their own right would be born in the house, "Etty" (born 1843), George (born 1845), "Bessy"(born 1847), Francis (born 1848), Leonard (born 1850), Horace (born 1851) and Charles Waring Darwin (1856 1858).

The Darwins added to the house in various ways. On 24 March 1843, construction work started on a large bay window at the front of the house. A new drawing room was added in 1858, and at the same time an extension was added to the main entrance. The former drawing room was converted into a new dining room, and the old dining room became a billiard room. In 1872 a verandah was added to the side of the drawing room. In 1877, a new study, entrance hall and Georgian-style porch were added and old study where Darwin wrote The Origin was converted into a smoking room.

Charles Darwin died at the house in 19 April 1882, aged 73.

Downe House School

A girls' boarding school was established at the house in 1907 by a Miss Olive Willis (1877-1953), but was moved away in 1922. One of the school's houses is named Darwin.

See Also

A museum to Darwin

The house was bought in 1927 by the surgeon Sir George Buckston Browne (1850-1945), who presented it to the British Association for the Advancement of Science together with an endowment to ensure its preservation in perpetuity as a memorial to Darwin. Down House was formally opened as a museum on the 7th June, 1929.

Buckston Browne's endowment proved insufficient and the expense of maintenance led to the British Association in turn donating the house to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 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.

Down House today

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.

See also

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