When Charles Darwin moved to the house with his young family in 1842, Down House was a plain and sturdy 18th century block set within a few acres of exposed land. The Georgian origins of Down House are still visible behind the many alterations and additions made by the Darwins during the course of their forty-year occupation.
The 18th century house
Down House was built in the early 18th century, probably on the site of a 17th century house. It faced east and was a simple box shape.
In the late 18th century the house underwent a major modernization, probably soon after George Butler, a rich businessman and landowner, bought it in 1778. He built a new kitchen and service block onto the south end and rearranged and improved the principal rooms on the ground floor, moving the main entrance to the north side of the house and the staircase to its present position.
The house seems to have changed hands several times after Butler's death in 1783. Nathanial Godbold, a property speculator from Fulham, acquired it in 1818 and rented it out to John Johnson, colonel of engineers in the Honorable East India Company, who later bought it.
The Rev'd J Drummond, vicar of Down, bought the house in 1837. He commissioned the architect and civil engineer Edward Cresy (1792–1858), who lived locally, to make some improvements, installing a new roof, two bathrooms, a stable yard and a cottage.
Phased plan of Down House
A phased plan of Down House can be downloaded from the right-hand side of this page.