Home of Charles Darwin - Down House

Home of Charles Darwin - Down House

Home of Charles Darwin - Down House
4.5
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
With its unique place in the history of science and evolution, Down House, the family home of world-renowned scientist Charles Darwin, is a must-see. Stand in the study where Darwin wrote 'On the Origin of Species', stroll through the gardens that inspired him, and discover his and wife Emma's newly recreated bedroom which overlooks the gardens. Let Sir David Attenborough take you on an interactive multimedia tour around the house, and discover how the great man developed his ground-breaking theories. Whilst soaking in the knowledge why not visit Emmas Kitchen for a cream tea or delicious light lunch, some of which are inspired by Emma Darwins recipe book itself. Then take a stroll around the beautiful country gardens, making sure you enjoy a lap of Darwins 'thinking path', the sandwalk, which Darwin himself would walk 3 time a day. This stunning hidden gem is not one to be missed. Come and explore today.
Duration: 2-3 hours
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  • lady_britts
    Bexley, United Kingdom1,412 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Stunning house & gardens
    This is a beautiful property & both the house and its gardens are a pleasure to wander around. There is an exhibition in the upstairs of the house where you can learn about Charles Darwin and his family & then there's a free audio guide for the downstairs rooms and the gardens. With a little tea room with outside seating selling fresh cakes and sandwiches, this is a lovely way to spend a few hours. I must also say that every single member of staff were just lovely. Everyone looked so happy to work there, it was honestly refreshing to see. Lovely day out.
    Visited August 2023
    Written August 6, 2023
  • Jamison
    London, United Kingdom16 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Nice day out
    Have been here many times as local to us. Always impressed with how nice, knowledgeable and helpful all the staff , cafe staff and volunteers are. They are always smiling and seem to be enjoying their day. Food is great too!
    Visited February 2024
    Traveled with family
    Written February 25, 2024
  • Jacqui B
    3 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Brill day out with great food
    This was a really good day so interesting and special place but the staff in the house and those in the cafe were excellent. The knowledge of the staff in the tour and the consideration of the person who found the bird identifications was above and beyond. But the food in the cafe was lovely homemade soup and sour dough bun for lunch all made on the site were so good we had to go back for scone cake and tea after a walk around the glasshouse and very peaceful gardens. It felt like a lovely family home which it quite clearly was …. So interesting history and good food … brill day out.
    Visited March 2024
    Traveled with friends
    Written March 28, 2024
  • Melanie
    Cairns, Australia26 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Excellent day trip
    Great house & gardens. Very interesting museum & free audio guide in house & gardens. Great day out to learn about Charles Darwin life. Highly recommend. English heritage site
    Visited May 2024
    Traveled with family
    Written May 24, 2024
  • Zapryan D
    London, United Kingdom13 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    A lovely place to visit!
    I went to Down House with a friend in early June and I was pleasantly surprised by how much there is to see on this heritage site. We spent over an hour exploring the 1st floor of the house, which has many interesting information panels about Darwin, his work and his family. Although we were offered audio guides for the ground floor, we didn't take them but I had a very enjoyable conversation with one of the excellent volunteers who informed me that most of the objects in the rooms on the ground floor had belonged to Darwin and his family. We spent roughly half an hour gradually exploring the garden and we started but didn't finish Darwin's "sandwalk", which was referred to as his thinking path. I think we could easily have spent longer in the garden as we were told that the audio guide covers the garden too. Even though we didn't go to the cafe, we easily spent over 2 hours in the house and the garden. All in all, I would say that although the ticket is a bit expensive, a visit to Down House is still good value for money. The only major downside is that photography is not allowed inside the house.
    Visited June 2024
    Traveled with friends
    Written June 13, 2024
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles783 reviews
Excellent
478
Very good
236
Average
50
Poor
10
Terrible
9

Chris C
Portsmouth, UK7 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020
Fabulous history. Lovely grounds. Nice cup of tea.
Due to Covid restrictions, it was a shame that some areas were not accessible. Of course this isn't the fault of English Heritage. It was great to be able to visit at all.
However, the queue to get into the house was far too long. We waited for 30 minutes and were only in the house for a maximum of 20 minutes. I think this could have been managed better.
I was also irritated by the overly pushy member of staff trying to sell us a guide book and EH membership. I appreciate the sector has been through a rough few months, haven't we all, but when I declined the offer of a guide book and membership, I was made to feel as though I was making a big mistake, being told that the content of the house was 'very dry', and of how much money I would save by becoming a member. I know there is a need to boost income, but it seemed as though the chap was earning commission. We also were not given a map by another member of staff on entry to the grounds, and I had to go back to the desk to ask for one.
I also found that the signage to the house in approaching roads was very poor.
Written August 28, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear ccockel Thank you so much for taking the time to review your recent visit with us. Firstly I am so pleased you enjoyed the history and grounds and understand that unforrunaltey we are unable to reopen all parts of the site currently due to covid 19 restrictions. We are still finding our way with the house reopening and appreciate that the queue time can at times be long. We are only able to admit one bubble per room, and each group is variable to how long they will spend reading, looking etc. In each room so this is why at times the queue can seem long. We are doing our best to try and find ways to manage this as effectively as possible and thank you for your feedback, we would also welcome any suggestions. I was however very concerned to hear about your encounter with one of the team and I am really sorry you found them to be pushy with the guidebook and membership. I can assure you that the team do not work on commission so there was no gain to be had here, but I really appreciate your feedback and can assure you that this staff member plus the rest of the team will be rebriefed on this particular subject as this is definitely not the experience we want to provide. I am also sorry you didn't receive a map for your visit, this should have been offered on arrival and again I will ensure that the team are rebriefed in this as I can appreciate it must have been frustrating. Signage to the site has been reported to our local council for support on more brown signage, thank you for providing your feedback on this too as we appreciate Down House is not the easiest to find. If you would like to discuss your concerns any further I would be happy to. Please contact down.house@english-heritage.org.uk. Thank you again for your feedback. Kindest regards, Bryony Site Manager
Written August 30, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Dick W
1 contribution
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2020
Decided to visit as we are English heritage members.
The carpark is quite tiny, the site says enough for 42 cars?
We were greeted by a very chatty man whilst waiting in line outside the property.
He explained that only the downstairs is open to the public at this moment in time but that they were hoping to open up more of the house in the coming weeks.
Downstairs there are 4 rooms to visit with minimal information about the man himself and you exit through the cafe area into an outside seated area.
We bought cream tea for two which totalled £10.50 which I guess is reasonable had the scone not been rock hard and the cream also rock hard as I guess it was in the freezer.
There is a garden walk which takes in a few noteworthy facts and is quite tranquil on a nice day.
If I wasn't an English Heritage member the price of £16 would be horrendously expensive for the facilities open to you.
Would I go back? Probably as it costs us nothing but fuel due to being members and I would be interested to see the rest of the house.
Written September 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear 734dickw Thank you for taking the time to review your visit to Down House, I was sad to hear that you were disappointed with your visit due to restrictions we currently have had to put in place to safeguard our staff and visitors from Covid 19. As I am sure you can appreciate we are currently operating in unprecedented times and doing our best with the guidance we have been provided with. We have reopened our gardens fully, plus additionally PROVIDING access to the great house meadow, and we have successfully been able to reopen our ground floor rooms safely. Unfortunately due to limited capacity and social distancing rules, our first floor exhibition is currently closed at the moment. Our car park, although small does indeed have 42 spaces for our visitors to use, including two blue badge spaces. In each of our rooms we have provided an interpretation panel about the room and about the Darwins, we also have our fantastic guidebook available in the shop for those who want to delve deeper. I am sorry to hear that your cream tea was disappointing and this is certainly not the quality I would expect from our tea room. Please do get in touch with me directly by emailing down.house@english-heritage.org.uk so we can discuss this further. Thank you again for taking the time to post your review and I hope to hear from you by email soon. Kindest regards, Bryony Site Manager
Written September 11, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

LeanneR102
Sidcup, UK200 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2021 • Friends
We have English heritage passes and are new members. We had vaguely heard of Charles Darwin’s house but didn’t realise how much there was to see. We went on an extremely hot Sunday and it was very quiet. We had a picnic in the picnic garden. Very lovely area with lots of picnic tables with parasols which, with young children, we really appreciated. Then we had a walk around the vegetable and flower gardens. My 4 year old loved spotting all the different butterflies and vegetables.
We then had a look around the house. The man at the entrance to the house explained to us how it would work and that we couldn’t take photos. He also told us where to wait to use the lift (we had a pram.) we had a look around the house and it was lovely to be able to take our time and not feel rushed as they were only letting one family in at a time. Then we went upstairs in the lift. Now, before going up in the lift, the lady downstairs said she had told the lady upstairs we were coming up and she would wait for us at the exit of the lift and then show us which way around to go. When we exited the lift we waited and waited and waited. No lady. So we just walked on ourselves. We then came to a room on the right (which we now know is the last room before finishing the tour) we were in there all of 3 minutes and a older English heritage volunteer lady came up to us and loudly and very rudely told us to hurry up, stop taking so long looking and to leave. I tried explaining we had just come in and we didn’t know which way round we were meant to go as we waited for someone and they didn’t come. All in all we sorted it but this woman was so rude to us my son was a bit taken back and was worried as he thought we were in trouble. Anyway… the house is fantastic and so is the gardens. Definitely worth a look around and we were there a lot longer than we expected to be. I think we would have gone back round the gardens again if it wasn’t for the fact it was 32 degrees and had a newborn in the pram.
We will definitely be back.
Written August 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear LeanneR102 Thank you so much for your 5 star review, it was great to read that you had a great day with us. I do however apologise for the behaviour of one of our volunteers and I am sorry that this upset your son. This is not the type of behaviour I would expect of my team and I will ensure that this is followed up accordingly. I really hope that you are able to come back in the near future. Best wishes, Bryony - Site Manager
Written September 11, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

gfrenc8106
Horsham, UK85 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2020
Having passed Down House many times as a child, on my way to visit an uncle who lived further up Luxted Road, I was delighted to be able to visit Darwin's home for the first time using my English Heritage membership. It is a lovely house with large, airy rooms, and very much a family home. The rooms downstairs are furnished much as Darwin would have known them, upstairs is a comprehensive and well curated series of exhibits of Darwin's possessions, writings, experiments etc. I came away from the house feeling that I had a much better understanding of the man who did so much to shape modern evolutionary thinking. The gardens too were lovely, we walked through the formal garden, the vegetable garden (past its' best), the long greenhouse, and on to the Sandwalk where Darwin would walk and develop his theories. Covid-19 precautions were observed, and the house guides were very helpful, informative and approachable. Highly recommended
Written October 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hi gfrenc8106 Thanks for giving us a 4 star review. I am pleased to hear that by the end of your visit you had a greater understanding of Darwin. I hope you can come and visit us again soon. Best wishes, Bryony - Site Manager
Written June 13, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

runningwild32
united kingdom322 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
This had always been a place we intended to visit and we were not left disappointed. We have always found that the smaller family lived in properties are better laid out, particularly when used as a family home. Good introduction upstairs and you then have an audio guide for downstairs and the garden. There is a great deal of information regading Darwin's achievements but also about the man and his family, which adds flesh to the overall story. Good little cafe which is spread across two rooms.
Written January 6, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

John S
Sandwich, UK72 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2020
Disgcefully the National Trust are still taking peoples money (in advance) for a wildly diminished experience.

Most of the house is STILL closed. True enough, if you examine the website carefully you can discover this, so well done NT in staying within the letter of the law, but no credit for tricking people out of their money without delivering.

I'd been planning a trip here for decades and was very disappointed to find that ALL the scientific exhibits are CLOSED. I'm an academic biologist and walking around just a very few rooms (which could have been in any large home of the period) without any context of the remarkable significance of Darwin and the house was not what I expected.

All I can suggest is that, if you are interested in Darwin, evolution and it's significance, you avoid Down House until you have WRITTEN confirmation that the venue is properly open.

The NT should be ashamed to be tricking the public in this way.

Staff seemed to be of the opinion, that this was just tough luck
Written September 11, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear JOhn S Thank you for taking the time and trouble to review your visit to Down House yesterday, which is cared for by the English Heritage Trust. It is such a shame you felt your visit was only worth 1 star and a terrible rating for circumstances we are currently unable to control due to the covid 19 pandemic. All of our visitors at the moment have to prebook their visit with us, and this is the same across the heritage and tourism sector. This is because we are currently operating with limited capacities in place so our visitors are kept safe with lower levels of vistors present onsite, as well as abiding by the government guidance provided to our sector that we must have record of all who have visited us for track and trace purposes. When booking online our website very clearly stipulates what we have managed to reopen onsite before you make the decision to book so that you are not disappointed when you arrive. I am sorry if you did not see this on our homepage when you made your booking but as you mention we do have it on our website and we have informed our visitors in advance so that everybody knows what to expect when they arrive. Therefore we are being very open and honest with what is available for our visitors and not tricking our visitors. Unfortunately due to the current global pandemic, there are some areas of site which are not compliant with social distancing regulations. These areas remain closed for your safety as well as the safety of our staff and volunteers and hope you can appreciate that. The rooms upstairs that you were unable to visit on this occasion consist of 4 exhibition rooms, which tell the story of Darwin from a young boy until his death. His life work is of course a big factor of the exhibition as well as his family life, as this is where Down House is unique as he lived here with his large family for 40 years. The 4 downstairs rooms you were able to visit our presented as they were when the Darwins lived here, and interpretation boards are in each room providing information and facts about Darwin and his family. I am sorry you feel disappointed after a visit you had been planning for decades, but as mentioned above we have been very clear and honest about what is open on our website so you and others can pre plan your day, as well as our telephone number being available on our website where you can speak to us onsite. I would suggest that if you do plan on visiting us again in the future giving us a call, so we can advise you about what is available for you to see. After speaking with my team regarding your visit yesterday, they politely informed you of the reasons why the first floor exhibition as closed at the moment, you then made the decision to leave the site without visiting the gardens, which was Darwins outdoor laboratory. I am sure with your background you would have found the grounds very interesting indeed, so I am sorry that you did not take the opportunity to enjoy the gardens. I hope that in the future you are able to come and visit us again and can enjoy all areas of site. Thank you again for your review. Regards, Bryony Site Manager
Written September 13, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Anne S
Greater London, UK59 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020 • Couples
They should make it clear on the website that only the ground floor is open. We queued for 25 mins and we’re out within 15. The gardens are fine but nothing special. . Luckily we are members and live locally but if we had travelled some distance we would have been very disappointed.
Written September 3, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear Anne S Thank you for taking the time and trouble to share your review of a recent visit to Down House and I am sorry to read that you found it disappointing and therefore only awarded 2 stars for your experience. As I sure you can appreciate we are working in exceptional circumstances at the moment and doing the best we can with the guidance that is currently in place to ensure that our visitors and our staff and volunteers remain safe. This has unfortunately meant that due to the size of the small 5 rooms upstairs in our exhibition we have been unable to reopen these at the moment, due to social distancing and flow and capacity of the house. The Darwins were a modest family and there home is not very large so unfortunately due to the guidance in place currently we have not been able to open up all areas just yet. We mention on our website that parts of the house are available to enjoy. It is also sad to hear that you found the gardens nothing special. Darwins garden was his outdoor laboratory and full of interesting experiments and quirks to see. This year we had just one gardener for the 33 acres of land we look after for 4 months, so we appreciate that our gardens may not be looking it's best at the moment. You may be pleased to hear that our volunteer gardeners are now back with us and helping us catch up on the 4 months we lost. I am pleased to hear you are members and live locally, and hope that you can come back in the future and have a more positive experience. We are all trying our best to provide the best experience we can with the restrictions and safety measures and guidance we have to adhere to and hope that you and our other visitors can appreciate that. Thanks again for your feedback.. Kindest regards, Bryony Site Manager
Written September 6, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

AnselmColom
Grays Thurrock, UK2,902 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2020 • Family
We have recently taken a one year English Heritage membership so our visit was free. Only 4 rooms available to see at the moment so a lot to ask of paying in full. Lovely house and nice gardens but you can see all in 30 mins! Staff there were fantastic. We will be back when upstairs is open as well. Nice gift shop. Lovey area for picnics. Nice tea room. Loads of parking. But not really worth it if paying in full at the moment.
Written September 12, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear AnselmColom Thank you so much for taking the time to review your visit to us in September 2020. I hope that you are able to visit us again in 2021 to see more of the site open, after the easing of restrictions. Best wishes, Bryony Site Manager
Written September 11, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Jo B
Hereford, UK60 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2021
Large house, but not all open to the public, and many rooms are museum rooms rather than furnished. Only a couple are as it would have been when Charles lived there.
It was very interesting to read all about his life and look around. the gardens are small, but when walking around we saw wild parakets which was nice.
No photos in teh house, which I feel is a little stingy, just to get people to buy the guide book.
Went to the cafe, very small with a few tables, but amazing home made food and very fast service. Gluten free snadwich freshly made and the soup was lovely.
Written October 29, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hi Jo B Thank you for taking the time to review your visit with us and for giving us 4 stars. We have 2 floors of the house that are open to the public. The ground floor has all rooms open and displayed how they would have been when the Darwins lived here. The first floor is an exhibition all about Charles Darwins life and work, and his bedroom has also been recreated on this floor. We have photographic evidence of what the ground floor rooms looked like when the Darwins lived here, but unfortunately bedrooms were rarely document in the victorian times. We therefore did not have the information available to recreate these in to the rooms used to be when English Heritage took ownership of the site in 1998. The majority of the collection on display here at Down House is original and belongs to several different lenders, some of which do not wish to have their items photographed and this is therefore why photography is not allowed inside the house. We have 36 acres of land at Down House, 3.5 acres of these are formal gardens and the rest are meadows, fields and the Sandwalk, Darwins thinking path. I am pleased you had an enjoyable experience in the cafe and I hope that you will be able to visit us again in the future. Best wishes, Bryony - Site Manager
Written June 13, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

DPDeep
London, UK40 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
The house is still following strict COVID rules except for the idea of air circulation. It was a warm day but all the windows were closed and many shutters were closed too (apparently to protect some of the exhibits from direct sunlight.) There must be a better method of protection from direct sunlight without making some of the rooms stuffy and so dimly lit it was difficult so see some of the exhibits; one of the cabinet's lights had broken so you couldn't see the contents of that cabinet at all.

The tour around the house was interesting; the highlight being Darwin's study, but you can only stand at the door and there was a queue as only two people could do that at a time. I enjoyed the installation exploring his later work on human emotions.

The part of the exhibition that explored both Darwin's journeys around the world and the development of his thinking I found very underwhelming and dated. There is a nod towards a multimedia display which uses the "Pepper's Ghost" effect (a 19th century visual effect) but multiple display boards with lots of writing behind exhibition cabinets in dimly lit rooms, I'd suggest, doesn't really meet 21st century expectations.

The gardens were lovely and the idea of Darwin being such a family man was very warming.
Written August 31, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Dear Steve M Thank you for taking the time and trouble to review your recent visit to Down House - The Home of Charles Darwin. It is disappointing that you felt your visit only deserved 2 stars. At Down House at the time of your visit in August 2021 we were still trying to keep all of our visitors and staff safe due to the ongoing pandemic with limiting the amount of visitors in to the property at one time .We also asked those entering to wear their masks as you note there is little outside ventilation throughout the house. When dealing with a historic collection, there are various environmental factors we have to consider when protecting these fragile objects, and natural lighting and opening up windows and doors do play a huge part in damaging collections as fragile as this. This is why we had to have the additional measures such as mask wearing still in place to help keep everyone and everything safe. If you want to look at more information about conservation and caring for historical collections please do got to the English heritage website where you can find out all about why we do the things we do and the science behind conserving a historic site. I am pleased that you found the tour interesting but I also note your comments about our exhibition being dated. Our current exhibition was installed in 2009 and will be due an upgrade in the near future. I am pleased you enjoyed the gardens, and hope that if you visit again in the future you have a more enjoyable visit. Best wishes, Bryony - Site Manager
Written June 13, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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Home of Charles Darwin - Down House - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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