Things to see and do
Welcome to Home of Charles Darwin - Down House
We have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a Member, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance. To book your visit, click here.
Although things might be a little different when you visit, you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring the places where history really happened. And you’ll still be given a warm and safe welcome by our friendly – if socially distant – staff and volunteers.
- Gardens - Our beautiful gardens will be open with a one-way system for you to enjoy while keeping to social distancing rules.
- House - From 1 August, the ground floor and first floor exhibition of the House will reopen with a one way route and limited capacity inside. Visitors will need to wear face masks when inside the House.
- Glass Houses - Due to their enclosed spaces the glass house and laboratory will remain closed. Instead we will be opening the great house meadow to visitors for the first time.
- Cafe - A temporary catering facility in the gardens offering takeaway service of light refreshments. Our café is taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Find out more here.
- Shop - The shop will be open with a one-way system in place.
- Toilets - Our toilets are open as usual. Additional hand sanitising stations will be available on site.
- Dogs - As a 'Site of Importance for Nature Conservation', we are unable to allow dogs. However, assistance dogs welcome.
- Access - The newly-opened meadow and some pathways including the sandwalk can be difficult for wheelchair users.
- Face masks - Face coverings must be worn in Down House's indoor shop and we recommend wearing them in all other indoor spaces. We won’t be able to give you a face covering, so please come prepared so you don’t miss out.
Stand in the study where Darwin wrote 'On the Origin of Species'. The room remains structurally unaltered from Darwin's time, restored to the original 1870s arrangement and 1921 decoration.
Admire the furniture, of which nearly every piece is the original, and dozens of Darwin's possessions, including some dating from his time on HMS Beagle.
Charles and Emma's Bedroom
More than 100 years after it was dismantled and dispersed, English Heritage has recreated Charles and Emma Darwin's bedroom. This was the bedroom in which the revolutionary scientist died in 1882 and where, for 20 years, he enjoyed reading and resting, where he recovered from various illnesses and where he kept a watchful eye on his experiments in the garden from the room's large bay window.
Working from family letters, a detailed inventory, contemporary descriptions, paint analysis, and in-depth research into mid-Victorian interior design, English Heritage curators have sought to closely match the bedroom's original late 1850s appearance.
The room features novels Darwin would have read, a soundscape to conjure the experience of Emma reading to her husband, and a dressing closet allowing both children and adults to dress up as Charles and Emma. There's also a brand new free family trail taking visitors across the house and gardens as they explore what family life was like here at Down House.
The gardens were Darwin's 'outdoor laboratory' and he spent many hours here making observations and conducting his experiments. Take a wander past the vegetable patches and flower beds, and gain some inspiration of your own. Discover the garden's highlights, see if you can spot the wormstone and enjoy the beautiful planting whatever the season.
Exhibition and Interactive Guide
Dig deeper into Darwin's work through our exhibition and interactive guide. The award-winning exhibition on the first floor of the house covers Darwin's life, his scientific work, and the controversy which it provoked.
You will see many previously unseen objects including manuscript pages from the 'Origin of Species'; Darwin's hat, microscope and notebooks; and a copy of 'Das Kapital' inscribed to him by Karl Marx.
Take a free tour round Darwin's family rooms with hand-held multimedia guide, narrated by Sir David Attenborough and Andrew Marr.
Plan your visit to Home of Charles Darwin (Down House) today.
Explore the Sandwalk, the 'thinking path' that formed the basis of Darwin's daily perambulations around his estate. The hedgerows and undergrowth surrounding this peaceful stone and sand path offered plenty of scope for plant-life investigations. In the present day, visitors can follow in Darwin's footsteps by strolling down this tranquil route and reflecting on the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Discover Darwin's Family
Wander the rooms in which Darwin lived a loving life with his family. Visit the drawing room and see the piano treasured by his wife Emma, and discover the boisterous and liberal upbringining enjoyed by their many children. Explore the billiard room where Darwin enjoyed regular games with his butler, Parslow, and see the Kitchen and service wing in which Parslow worked.
Darwin's hothouse and greenhouse provided the perfect specialised growing environment needed to rear exotic plant specimens to use in his experimentation. Today, visit the greenhouse and enjoy a stunning collection of orchids, insectivorous plants and climbers such as would have been grown by Darwin during his time at Down.
Bees provide a perfect case study for Darwin's theories. After exploring the Greenhouse, discover our beekeepers display and take a peek inside a living hive. Read about the different types of bees, and learn about the valuable work they do as pollinators.
Down House Café
Enjoy a tasty lunch or quick afternoon treat in our café. The café is in the old kitchen where all Darwin's meals were prepared. Some of the dishes use site-grown produce from the Kitchen Garden and local produce.
If the sun is shining, why not sit out on the patio where the renowned scientist used to receive his famous 'water cures' from his butler Parslow? If the weather is bad, there is seating inside and overflow seating in the Butler's Pantry.