At The Down House: Darwin’s Home

Darwin in Light Blue

Charles R Darwin (1809-1882) statue at the London Museum of Natural History, 2010 – photo G Paz-y-Mino-C

I visited the Down House, Darwin’s Home, in July 2010. Here are a few pictures I wanted to share in celebration of the International Darwin Day, February 12. Prior to visiting the Down House, which is located just a few miles South East of London, I went to Canterbury, Kent, to attend the International Society of Protistologists (ISoP) annual meeting, at the University of Kent. Coincidentally, back in 1991, as an undergraduate student, I obtained a Diploma in Endangered Species Management from the University of Kent, which offered such certification in partnership with the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (nowadays Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust).

Let’s start at the main entrance to the Down House. I had to wait for several minutes to capture the image below with no people around, although there were about a hundred visitors by the time I arrived to the House, in the morning hours. The House is a museum, which preserves the interior as in the late 1800s. A very nice small store, with items of value, books and historical replicas of Darwinian souvenirs, operates in one of the rooms of the first floor. In there, I bought some “notebooks,” with front and back covers made of leather and with antique-looking imprints of Darwin’s image; the notebooks were both pricy and very beautiful. In the second and third floors, I found a modern and computerized educational interpretation setting. All very impressive.

But, let’s take a look at the House’s main entrance, below:

Down House front entrance

A few rules to visit Darwin’s Home:

Down House Rules for Visitors

And a plaque to commemorate the acquisition of the House by English Heritage in May 1996:

Down House Plaque

Below, view of the House, from “the gardens side.” Again, about one hundred people were visiting the House while I was there, but I had to find the right moment to capture images with no visible visitors (I do this in most of my photography):

Down House Side View from gardens

This Sun-clock indicates close to 11:00 AM:

Down House Solar Clock

Detail of  the very well kept gardens, British country-side style:

Down House Gardens

On my way to the “green house,” so peaceful walk…

Down House Greenhouse outside

Inside the green house, I found orchids and carnivorous plants on the shelves, and ferns on the ground. Darwin used to keep a collection of such plants to study and was particularly fascinated by the complexity, ‘feeding-upon-insects habits,’ and creatures living inside the ‘pitcher’ forms of some of the carnivorous plants:

Down House Greenhouse inside

A close up of pitcher carnivorous plants:

Pitcher carnivorous plants Down House

A close up of cute “bug biting” carnivorous plans available for purchase (funds to support the Down House and its museum):

Down House Carnivorous Plants

A majestic centuries-old tree on the walking trail… probably admired by Darwin during his daily walks around the property (Darwin’s “thinking path”):

Down House Old Tree

A clever recreation setting for the visitors and families walking through the gardens (always intellectually proper, Darwinian style, except for the plastic):

Down House clever outdoors game

The beautiful Cathedral of Canterbury in the City of Canterbury, located South East of London and farther East of the Down House. I spent a week in this historical city while attending ISoP’s meeting at the University of Kent and just before visiting Darwin’s Home:

Canterbury Cathedral

Being at Darwin’s Down House was a forever-to-remember experience. The interior and exterior of the House were kept impeccably. I recommend to all biologist –and to anyone who values the history of science– to visit this place, walk quietly along the “thinking path,” just like Darwin did, and imagine his presence. It gave me much joy and calmness to be in such outdoors, watch the birds, the old trees and insects, all descendants from the ancestral wildlife which Darwin admired and so deeply understood. — © 2015 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved.

Related Articles and Media Reports:

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Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars

Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter: Evolution Illiteracy among America’s Finest Educators

Why people do not accept evolution?

The Incompatibility Hypothesis (IH): evolution versus supernatural causation

The Boston Globe Metro: Basic knowledge of Darwin’s theory lost in some classes Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin!

South Coast Today: Evolution misunderstood by students, faculty