I’m Sarah Moulden and I am curator of collections
for Down House. More than 100 years after it was dismantled
and dispersed, we’ve sought here at English Heritage to recreate Charles Darwin’s bedroom.
In order to re-display the room, we first stripped out all of the old interactives that
were in this space. Next, we commissioned paint analysis on all
of the woodwork – sash windows, and the skirting and the doors – and found that the paint scheme
changed in about 1858, to a buff colour that we have returned the woodwork to now.
We also did wallpaper analysis to the walls which turned up nothing, but what we’ve done
is recreate a wallpaper pattern that was comparable to the kind of wallpaper that the Darwin’s
would have had at that particular point. And we’ve had it block printed in the historical
manner in which it would have been printed in the mid-Victorian period.
Besides this analysis we also drew heavily on an 1882 inventory which was taken at Charles’s
death, which gives us a fantastic sense of what was in this room. So we know the furniture,
to the Brussels woven carpet we’ve had woven from an 1858 design, and also the kinds of
prints that were on the wall. The furniture includes a chest of drawers,
a bookcase, a sofa and a fantastic six-foot four-poster bed, complete with bed steps.
As part of the project we’ve also opened the dressing closet which is where Charles certainly
would have kept his clothes. In this room adults and children can dress
up in day and night clothes of the kind that Charles and Emma Darwin would have worn.
The closet has been decked out with a new wardrobe which is based on an 1960s design
that has been handmade by fine furniture makers Titchmarsh and Goodwin.
The methods used to construct the wardrobe haven’t changed that much from the mid 19th
century. The lamp in this closet was also made specifically
for the project by Charles Edwards, and is from an archival mid-Victorian design.
We want the recreated bedroom to be a truly immersive experience for visitors. We want
them to sit on the sofa, we want them to try on the clothes in the closet and we want them
to walk over to the bay window and look out at the landscape which meant so much to Charles
and his evolutionary experiments.