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This site is currently closed. Unfortunately current restrictions mean that we cannot open Down House safely for our visitors, Members or staff. We will continue to review this with the hope of re-opening and returning to normal winter opening hours as soon as we are able. Any tickets pre-booked for the closed period will be cancelled and refunded. This will be done automatically, so there’s no need to contact us.
Charles Darwin marries Emma Wedgwood. They move into Down House to accommodate their growing family.
Find out more about the Darwins and Down House
Darwin completes his trilogy on South America's geology, and begins his classification of barnacles and his garden experiments.
Darwin starts work on improving the 'old and ugly' house, adding a full-height bay and dropping the lane down in front of the house for greater privacy.
Emma has ten children, the last at the age of 48. Darwin's health declines.
The Darwins' eldest daughter, Annie, dies, probably from tuberculosis.
Darwin takes over a corner of the kitchen garden for his ‘experimental beds’, where his investigations into plant evolution lead to key discoveries.
With Charles Lyell, Darwin submits a paper on natural selection to the Linnaean Society. His youngest child, Charles Waring, dies from scarlet fever. The house undergoes extensive construction.
Darwin completes and publishes On the Origin of Species, providing an explanation for the 'preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life'.
While the world reacts fiercely to Darwin's theories, he remains at Down House, now transformed into a self-sufficient country retreat. It has comfortable rooms, a kitchen garden, greenhouses and an orchard.
Darwin becomes increasingly ill. He publishes The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, which uses the phrase 'survival of the fittest'.
Darwin publishes extensively, including The Descent of Man. A two-storey wing and glass-roofed veranda are added to the house, nearly doubling its size.
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Darwin dies from an angina attack. The family permits him to be buried at Westminster Abbey. The funeral is attended by many distinguished guests.
Emma dies at Down. The house later becomes Downe School for Girls. Another school eventually takes its place but then closes. Down House is left empty.
Eminent surgeon Sir George Browne buys Down. He restores it, with the help of Leonard Darwin's photographs and memories, and opens it to the public.
Curators take up residence at Down on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons. There are major repairs. Responsibility eventually passes to the Natural History Museum.
English Heritage buys Down House. Structural repairs are carried out, rooms recreated and an exhibition added interpreting Darwin's thoughts as a naturalist. The gardens are also restored.
See highlights from the collection at Down House