Sunday, 25 July 2010

Down House: Charles Darwin’s Home


This is a small island, as Bill Bryson says, and we had an example of that on our trip to Kent. A few weeks ago we were near Shrewsbury where Charles Darwin was born, now we were to visit Down House where he lived for 40 years from 1842 till his death.

He wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ here  We tend to only hear about his Darwin, the scientist and, especially, about his voyage on The Beagle but there was obviously much more to the man.

I love the notes he made when he was deciding whether to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. On a scrap of paper, with columns headed "Marry" and "Not Marry" he listed his thoughts. Advantages included "constant companion and a friend in old age ... better than a dog anyhow", against points such as "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time."

Despite this logical approach, the marriage was happy and they had ten children. Unfortunately, two died in infancy (not unusual for the period) and he was grief stricken by the death of his daughter, Annie, when she was ten.

The upstairs of the house is devoted to a very fine exhibition about his work and family. He was a devoted father and spent more time with his children than most men of his time, including them in his observations of butterflies and providing them with a large wooden slide which attached to the stairs.

DSCF2399-1DSCF2405-1  DSCF2424 Outside, a lot of work has been done to restore the gardens to their plan in Darwin’s day – though that is an ongoing scheme.

There are more pictures at Picasa.

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