Last time my mam came down for a visit, she asked if we could go to Dennis Severs’ House, recommended by a family member. I said yes: it’s somewhere I’d been meaning to go for a while.
We found the house easily, not far up from Liverpool Street Station. There was a short queue outside, but it wasn’t long before we were let in. We paid our entrance fee and were given a short introduction.
The house was created by the artist Dennis Severs, who lived in the house in the manner of the original eighteenth century occupants. He later opened the house to visitors. The idea is that you step back in time and interrupt a family of Huguenot silk weavers called Jervis. As you enter each room you get the impression that they have just left; the sights, sounds and smells stimulate your senses and bring the experience to life.
It’s certainly a unique experience. You walk around in silence, absorbing the atmosphere. No photos are allowed, understandably. I won’t describe the house in detail for fear of spoiling the surprise, but it has all the usual rooms that you might expect: kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, even a ramshackle attic.
My criticism is that the repeated instructions, dotted around the house, are rather patronising. Visitors are constantly told what they should be doing, thinking and feeling and I don’t particularly like being told what to do. It got my back up and didn’t exactly put me in the right frame of mind. Also, I kept spotting things in the rooms that shouldn’t have been there – an Elizabeth II-related artefact in the Victorian room and some distinctly modern alcohol bottles in the front room. I don’t know if these were left over from some event or other, but they didn’t exactly fit with the atmosphere.
Having said that, Dennis Severs’ House is certainly an unusual experience, and it’s well worth taking some time out to pay it a visit.
Address: 18 Folgate Street, London, E1 6BX
Opening Hours: No booking required on Sundays and Monday lunchtimes; evening slots are bookable in advance
Prices: Adults £10 and concessions £5 during the day; £15 evening