27.03.2015
14:26

Dennis Severs' House

Address:

18 Folgate Street, London E1 6BX

Phone:

020-7247 4013

Website:

www.dennissevershouse.co.uk

Opening times:

1st and 3rd Sun of each month 14:00–17:00; Mon following the 1st and 3rd Sun 12:00–14:00; Also open on Mon evenings for candlelight viewings (booking essential). Telephone for additional Dec and early Jan openings, when the house is dressed for Christmas

How to get there:

Tube: Liverpool Street

Entry fee:

Admission charge

18 Folgate Street, a 1724 Georgian terrace house in the heart of historic Spitalfields, was created by Dennis Severs, an American designer and eccentric enthusiast for times past, who lived in the house with no electricity and few concessions to the modern world until his death in 1999. With period decoration and furnishings, many bought from local markets, the rooms are presented at different historical periods as they would have appeared when inhabited by successive generations of the fictional Jervis family. Historically, Spitalfields was an area dominated by Huguenot silk weavers and this was the Jervis family trade when they first occupied the house in the early 18th century. Visitors progress through the centuries from the Kitchen and Front Parlour, to the late 18th-century prosperity of the elegant Drawing Room and to the collapse of the silk industry and the cold, damp poverty of the Victorian attics. An evening candlelight tour is the most atmospheric. To best savour the series of tableaux vivants, visitors are asked to maintain silence (and can be asked to leave if they do not). Sounds and smells hint at the family near at hand. Floorboards creak, clocks tick, a bird flutters in its cage, carriages bowl past on the cobbled street outside, candles flicker and warm fires crackle and hiss. Throughout the house the emphasis is on evocation of atmosphere and mood rather than pinpoint historical accuracy, and a visit is an unforgettable experience.

The Huguenot Contribution
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries large numbers of Huguenot (French Calvinist) refugees found a safe haven in England, exiles from religious persecution. Many came to escape the French Wars of Religion and the 1572 Massacre of St Bartholomew, and numbers peaked sharply following the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which removed Protestant freedom of worship. Huguenot communities were established in East Anglia, Kent, and along the south coast, as well as London, which was the main draw. By 1700 Spitalfields, Leicester Fields and Soho had become distinct Huguenot areas. Spitalfields, being beyond the jurisdiction of the Weavers’ Company in the City, became increasingly identified with the silk industry.

Many Huguenots were prosperous international merchants who were able to escape with their goods intact. Their investments in London banking and insurance houses (several Huguenots were foundation subscribers to the Bank of England) contributed substantially to the capital’s wealth, whilst marriage alliances created powerful trading and financial dynasties. A great many more Huguenots were skilled craftsmen, whose expertise and innovatory techniques had a profound impact on London’s luxury trades. An early key figure was Daniel Marot, a pupil of Louis XIV’s maître ornemaniste, who was in England in the 1690s, working for William and Mary at Hampton Court. His interior designs, with grotesque ornament, mirrors, lacquer work, massed displays of porcelain and elaborate upholstery, provided rich sources for contemporary craftspeople. Important carvers and gilders included the Pelletier family, who provided furniture for Kensington Palace and Hampton Court, and a leading upholsterer was Francis Lapiere, based, with others, in Pall Mall. Many of London’s leading 18th-century goldsmiths, such as Paul Crespin, Paul de Lamerie and the Rococo master Nicholas Sprimont, were second-generation Huguenots, while native masters such as George Wickes and Thomas Heming were Huguenot-trained.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

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