Down House----the home of Charles Darwin

2009 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the world's most eminent scientists, Charles Robert Darwin. It was also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his groundbreaking book, On the Origins of Species, which continues to be influential to this day.

In the United Kingdom there were many activities to celebrate it. After watching BBC documentaries about his garden and his theories I had a desire to visit his home called Down House. Charles Darwin and his family lived here for forty years during which time Darwin wrote the majority of his major works including the most famous, On the Origin of Species.

Down House is located in Downe in the London Borough of Bromley, a village 14.2 miles (22.9 km) south east of Charing Cross. It’s both available by train or by bus. There is also a small parking for cars and one coach.

By 10am, after less than 30 minutes driving I arrived. I did not realise I lived so near to Darwin home and I was so close to the great man. How lucky I was. The opening time of Down House is 11am so I decided to visit the village church first.

Because Darwin’s wife Emma was a believer in God, Darwin with his wife went to the church for Sunday service regularly. Partly it was a Victorian tradition to visit church, but mainly it was because he loved Emma deeply. What a good husband he was.
At 11am I walked back to Down House. I was so excited. From this moment, I would start my journey to know a great man who was just known in my history books before today. Before I saw Down House, I thought it would like a strong castle or very old building. I’m not sure how old it is, but I can tell it is a little simple and plain. If nobody told me, I would not think it was his home. Similar buildings you might find in other places of this country.
I opened the door and walked into the outer hall. Walking through the outer hall, it is a reception with a shop. Currently the entry prices to the house and garden are £9.30 for adults, £4.70 for children and £7.90 for concessions. Because I’m a member of English Heritage I was free to enter. The staff were busy giving visitors electrical tourist guide. It has a big touch screen. You can touch it to choose your route and what you want to know. It's great when it works. Unfortunately, mine did not work very well. It wasted my time and drove me crazy. I left the shop and turned right into the Drawing Room.

1. The Drawing Room

In September of 1857 the Darwins began to build a two-storey addition to the north-west facade. It was originally intended for a 'new dining room and large bedroom. However by the time the room was finished they had decided to use it for a new Drawing Room. The focal point of the room is Emma Darwin’s grand piano. It has been carefully conserved and replaced in the Drawing Room in approximately the same position it occupied when it first arrived over 140 years ago. His wife was an accomplished pianist. When she was a young lady, she had once taken a few lessons from Chopin. She could play most days for her own and the family’s pleasure.

In this room I also saw a few of portraits. At either end of the wall behind the piano are portraits of Charles and Emma painted by George Richmond just after their marriage.

Beside the bookshelf there is a picture of Darwin and his sister. It was taken when he was a boy. He looked like any ordinary boy, but he had a pot of plants in his hands that might forecast his future.

2. The Inner Hallway

I turned right out of the Drawing room and went into the Inner Hallway. One cupboard under the stars in the inner hallway was the place where Darwin deposited old manuscripts that he did not want to throw away, including a preliminary sketch of On the origin of Species. On the opposite side of the Inner hall is the study doorway. I turned left into the Old Study.

3. The Old Study

There I spent most of my visit time. In this room, Charles Darwin usually worked in the early morning and afternoon and it was here that he wrote On the Origin of Species. The room is preserved as it was during Darwin’s lifetime, using his original furniture and books.

Here I saw his high-back arm chair which he had raised up on an iron frame fitted with wheels. The Pembroke table in the centre of the room was his worktable where his magnifying glass is displayed. There is a screened area in the left-hand corner of the room was Darwin’s personal ‘privy’. I also saw an old weighing machine beside a bookshelf in the left-hand corner. It belonged to his father. Leaving The Old Study I walked into a playing room called The Billiard Room.

4. The Billiard Room

This room used to be a dinning room, but during the time Darwin was very enthusiastic about the game of billiards. So he bought a billiard table for Down House and played with his sons and friends in the room. Here I saw his portraits in different periods on the walls around the billiard table. For me one of them was most impressive because it is now used for the current £10 note . rambling a while there I turned to next room used as a Dinning Room.

5. The Dinning Room

In this room you can see a mahogany dining table placed next to large window panes, through which you can have a better view of the garden. That said at lunchtime the family and sometimes as many as a dozen guests would be gathered the table. After lunch Darwin would rest on the sofa, either here or in the Drawing room. As with other rooms there are a few family portraits including one of Charles’ grandfather in its original position.

There is an permanent exhibition about Charles Darwin and his works at the rooms in first floor. However due to the time limit I had to ignore it and went out to the garden straightforward. Although it was early Spring, there was still more to see in the garden, which contains lawn, green house, orchards, path, etc. Immediately behind the house lies a small area of lawn ornamented with a few flowerbeds. I saw two staff were busy to plant and was told they are trying to resume the previous look when Darwin was there. At the greenhouse, where Darwin did his research, I saw a few unusual tropical plants, some of them were gloriously blossoming. To me the most impressive part was walking along the Sandwalk Copse, which was Darwin’s famous ‘thinking path’, along which he would take his daily constitutional walk, thinking and observing wildlife as he went.
Above it is about my experience of Down House in 2009, which I enjoyed very much. I would like to write it down to share with everyone. I hope I can visit it again in the near future.

Summary: a must see house in the world.