‘Testament to a fundamentally important body of work’: Alexander’s postcard from Down House

Alexander visits Down House, Kent in April 2015

Alexander visits Down House, Kent in April 2015

Why I went…

The most obvious reasons for visiting were my recent relocation to the London area, my membership of the National Trust, and concomitant quest to visit local properties in their care. However, former resident Charles Darwin is clearly the main selling point – and the draw of the man was undoubtedly greater than that of the property’s own architectural merit and history in taking me there. I did minimal reading on the latter, or on how things would be balanced in their presentation to the visitor.

What I got out of the experience…

I certainly got more than I bargained for from the trip. The house offers far more of an insight into the life and work of Darwin than it does into art and architecture, perhaps the more usual insights one gains on this type of visit. Upstairs rooms had been turned into a museum to his achievements; interactive, interesting and illuminating by turns. Downstairs rooms (including Darwin’s study), whilst preserved or recreated in more habitual National Trust fashion, were deliberately presented as if he had just slipped out to the garden. And, of course, the gardens and greenhouses themselves are able to demonstrate some of the results of his botanical endeavours. All in all, Down House stands as testament to a fundamentally important body of work, and to its illustrious erstwhile inhabitant.

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