Down House

Experience the Victorian country house where the world was changed. Explore the home of Charles Darwin and his family at your own pace, using Down House's innovative, handheld guides.

A handheld multimedia tour, narrated by Sir David Attenborough and Andrew Marr, guides you round Darwin's family rooms and the garden. It includes commentaries by experts, animations, an film footage and games for all the family.

A delightful place in itself to visit, Down House is also a site outstanding international significance. Here the famous naturalist Charles Darwin lived with his family for 40 years; worked on his revolutionary theories; and wrote 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection'–The book which shook the Victorian world as influence thinking ever since.

You'll find Darwin's work and personality vividly reflected throughout the house and gardens. Ground floor rooms have been recreated as they appeared when they lived here with his indefatigably supportive wife Emma and their many children.They include the 'Old Study' where Darwin wrote his most famous books, still displaying his chair, writing board and many personal items. You can also visit the family Drawing Room–with Emma's grand piano– Billiard Room and Dining Room.

Discover an award-winning exhibition on the house's first floor covering Darwin's life, his scientific work, and the controversy that it provoked. Beginning with an introduction to Darwin and the impact of his theories, the displays continue with his famous five-year voyage aboard the 'Beagle' in 1831-36, including full scale re-creation of this on-board cabin. Further displays highlight 'On the Origin of Species', a book which immediately sold out its first edition.

The Darwin's children schoolroom celebrates family life at Down House. There is also an education room available for family learning, and resources room for those interested in delving deeper.

By no means that stereotypically stern Victorian father, Darwin involves children in his practical experiments in the extensive gardens of Down House–his 'outdoor laboratory' and place where he made many of his discoveries. You can follow these via a multimedia guide, beginning with Darwin's 'weed garden' illustrating the struggle for existence and nature.

The sundial amid pretty flowerbeds highlights Emma Darwin's role as a gardener; a surviving mulberry tree recall family traditions; and a lawn experiment investigates proliferation of plant species. Visit the nearby hothouse to see some of Darwin's most fascinating experiments involving carnivorous plants and exotic orchids. In the summer there is a working observation beehive in the laboratory.

After a tour of the extensive kitchen gardens, you reach what is for many a place of pilgrimage; the wooded Sand Walk, Darwin's famous 'thinking path', which he paced for five laps a day while working out his theories.

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