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History and Research: Down House

Photograph of Charles Darwin taken on the veranda at Down House in November 1881

Down House was the home of the Victorian scientist, Charles Darwin (1809–82) from 1842 until his death 40 years later. Situated in the rural Kent village of Downe, the house offered the peace and privacy that Darwin needed to work on his revolutionary scientific theories. It was at Down that he developed his landmark views on evolution by natural selection and that he wrote his groundbreaking work, 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection' (1859) – a book that shook the Victorian world and that has influenced scientific thinking ever since.

History

Down House is a Grade I listed house situated on the North Downs of Kent, 16 miles south east of central London. From its origins as a small Georgian property built between. 1730-40, the house has been extended through subsequent occupations, most notably during the Victorian period when it was home to Charles Darwin and his family.  

History of Down House

Significance

Down House was Charles Darwin's home from 1842 until his death in 1882. Here he studied, thought and wrote his great influential works including 'On The Origin of Species' (1859). The house, grounds and surrounding landscape provided much of the inspiration for his revolutionary insights into the natural world, which continue to resonate today.

Significance of Down House

Research

A review of the major studies that have contributed to our growing understanding of Darwin and his life at Down House.

Research on Down House

About the author

Tori Reeve was a curator with English Heritage for ten years, and author of the guidebook to Down House, which was published in 2009. Since 2008 she has been responsible for the historic collections and interiors of the Houses of Parliament.

About Portico

Portico is the area of the English Heritage website dedicated to exploring the history and significance of the 400 or so sites that are in its care.

More on Portico

Buy the guidebook

The Down House guidebook is one of a suite of authoritative and beautifully illustrated guides that help to bring our properties to life with their photographs, plans and reconstruction drawings.

Down House guidebook