This is not a very well known place to visit in London, but it an original and interesting 'museum'. It is at 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields (near Liverpool Street station and Spitalfields market) and is a labour of love of former owner, ex-pat American Dennis Severs. He re-created the run-down 18th century terrace into a 'still-life drama', imagining the house was home to some Huguenot silk weavers. Each room is a different period in 18th-19th century history, and is set as if the occupants had just vacated it. For example, in the kitchen there is an egg in some flour ready to be mixed, but cook had got up and popped out.
In another room there is a Hogarth painting above the fireplace, and the room is set out the same as in the picture, but the gentlemen drinking in the painting have left abruptly, leaving glasses and chairs tipped over. There are various 'clues' to a story in each room, but it was not always straightforward working out what had happened. The house has many details in each room you can look at and sometimes smells (mustiness mostly – it fitted the experience). You tour in silence and my visit (of approx 45 mins) cost £10.
Afterwards we re-located to the pub opposite and it was interesting to discover that amongst seven of us, we had all absorbed different clues, and had different ideas as to what happened in the house. I thought that this was part of the charm – but did wonder if there is perhaps a definitive answer.
You cannot take photos and the house only has limited opening times, so check online before visiting. There are no facilities here such as a cafe or gift shop. I'm not even sure if you can go to the loo!
On a quite side street, five minutes from Liverpool station and two steps from Spitafields market there is a house lost in time. It?s ten rooms look as if their occupants left just a minute ago, despite the fact that they there Huguenot silk weavers who lived and died before the beginning of the 19th cent. This strange place is a brainchild of one man, Denis Severs, who bought the house and spent years of his life restoring it to that he thought, was it?s look during the lifetime of the original occupants. And make no mistake this is not your ordinary English Heritage or even National Trust house. When you walk through the entrance door you step back two hundred years. The food (and I mean REAL food) is still warm on the table, coals are simmering in the fireplace, you even hear coaches passing on the street and the cry of peddlers through the craftily hidden speakers. You don?t just walk through a dead museum - you feel it, smell it, hear it all as if you ARE transferred to another era. As you ascend the stairs from the kitchen to the servants? rooms in the attic, smells and the sounds change with you. From the warm smell of real burning fire in the front room to spiced oranges sweetening the drawing room. You smell the coffee boiling in the master bedroom on the next floor and notice the red lip paste, scooped in the mussel shell, and just left by the lady of the house on the side table. And finally ending in the attic you overwhelmed by the smell of poverty (damp, onions, and god knows that else) in the ragged rooms of the servants. Trust me on this, you won?t forget the experience. To make it complete, try to walk around as silent as possible, ignoring the over visitors (who usually find it very hard to be quiet) and the annoying A4 sheets scattered around the house, reminding you to be silent and ?to immerse yourself in the atmosphere?. Denis Severs house is on 18 Folgate St. and is open only twice a month: First Sunday till 18:0
0 (£7.50) and first Monday in the evening (£10, probably for the price of the candles?)
Opening times: Every Sunday afternoon. From 12-4pm, last admission at 3:15pm. No booking required. Monday lunchtimes. Following the 1st and 3rd Sundays. From 12-2pm, last admission at 1:15pm. No booking required. 'Silent Night' Monday. Twilight/evening visits. From 6-9pm, last booking at 8pm. Booking required. 'Silent Night' Wednesday. Twilight/evening visits. From the 1st October 31st March. From 6-9pm, last booking at 8pm. Booking required. A typical visit lasts approximately 45 minutes and includes a short introduction. 'Exclusive Silent Night'. On the last Thursday of every month at 7pm, with an option to include the exquisitely filmed BBC documentary on Dennis Severs' House or Dennis Severs' book '18 Folgate Street the tale of a house in Spitalfields'.