Down House

Yesterday I drove down to Down House, in Kent, to give a talk about the creative lives of my Darwin and Wedgwood ancestors, and how I came to write This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin. And although I am doing lots of events in and around the publication of the book (for more of those, click here), this, of course, was a particularly special one.

If you’ve never been to Down House, it’s easy to get to from London, and it’s a lovely day out. It’s now in the care of English Heritage, and they’ve done a very good job of recreating the life of the household downstairs. Upstairs, in what would have been not-very-exciting bedrooms, is a series of displays about Darwin’s ideas and discoveries. There are things for children to do, and the nursery displays some lovely examples of the childrens’ creative lives, including my great-grandfather George’s amazingly detailed and careful paper knights, and heraldic drawings: as his oldest daughter, Gwen Raverat, describes in her memoir Period Piece, although he was a physicist by profession, history and heraldry were his lifelong private passions.

And when I looked down from the second floor, where I was giving the talk, it was wonderful to see the next generation of scientists, scholars and storytellers running around the garden, exploring Darwin’s ideas and discoveries, where he own children once played.

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