Is there any greater joy than that provided by having free reign to explore Charles Darwin’s greenhouse (still stocked with the same plants and bees that inspired many of his experiments!) while David Attenborough provides audio commentary for the experience in your ear? If you answered no to this question then I advise you to read on.
The museum is split up into three different parts. The first section is the upstairs of the house where various displays and artifacts from Darwin’s studies are set up. There is even a room where you can play interactive games to help you to better understand the principles of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Strangely enough, this very room is also the room in which Darwin is believed to have passed away in.
The second part of the museum is the downstairs of the house where the rooms are set up as they were when Darwin lived there, with many original pieces of furniture still present. Perhaps the most striking of these rooms is Darwin’s study (pictured below) where you can see the very same black armchair and table where Darwin sat and wrote many of his books including ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’. Before exploring the rooms make sure to pick up a free audioguide from the gift shop which will give you very detailed insight into each room and its contents, with much of the narration offered by none other than everyone’s other favourite English naturalist David Attenborough.
The third and most extensive part of the museum is the gardens of Down House. The gardens were Darwin’s outdoor laboratory and it was in these very gardens that Darwin developed many of his
groundbreaking ideas on evolution and natural selection. Guided by the voices of Attenborough and other scientists, you will see and learn about 12
experiments that Darwin conducted in these gardens, which have been recreated in the ground. You will also be guided through Darwin’s greenhouse, where he made revolutionary
discoveries about the reproductive behaviour of plants.
Although little known about, I would consider a visit to Down House as a must do for anyone with an interest in history or science. As you wander the house and garden, you are offered visual footnotes to Darwin’s theories of evolution by natural selection that cannot be compensated for by any other means.
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