I love London. Even though I lived there for a year, and visit as often as I can, I never get bored with it. There are always new and surprising places to discover.
The Dennis Severs House, at 18 Folgate Street in Spitalfields, is of those gems.
Dennis Severs (1948-1999) an American artist, bought a very run-down Georgian House in the then unfashionable and equal run-down area of Spitalfields in 1979 and turned it into both his home and a piece of still-life drama.
Depicting the home of a fictional family of silk weavers from the late 18th century through to the Victorian age, the house is not a museum. Some articles are historically accurate, but the atmosphere Severs has created is a sense of crossing a threshold into a living past.
Visiting the ten rooms – in silence – it’s as though the family has just left and you explore their life using all five senses. Perhaps most potent is the sense of smell: warm scones freshly baked in the cellar kitchen; greenery from the Christmas tree in the parlour; coal fires burning in the grate; perfume in the upstairs bedroom. And there’s more – much more: the steady wheeze of the grandfather clock; a bird chirping outside; how dim the rooms are even with candles blazing; the unevenness of the wooden floors.
But it’s the little details that brings their story to life. Being a rather messy person myself – who is forever searching for things I’ve mislaid – I sympathized with the lady of the house who had removed her ear-rings and left them beside her teacup in the parlour. I can just imagine her frustration next morning trying to find them, in the same way I am constantly on the search for my discarded glasses.
I was unable to take photographs inside, so please check out the link below for more details, or view the interview below from 1997, with Dennis Severs himself, which I found on Youtube.
And definitely consider adding a visit to The Dennis Severs House to your itinerary on your next visit to London.
Getting there: Tube or bus to Liverpool Street Station. It’s only a 5 minute walk from there.
Further Reading: 18 Folgate Street. The History.
Dennis Severs Website