Down House in Kent was Charles Darwin’s family home for 40 years until his death in 1882. As well as raising his children there with his wife Emma, Down House was the site of Darwin’s groundbreaking discoveries and revelations. Darwin conducted experiments in the gardens, wrote ‘Origin of Species’ in his study, and walked the famous ‘sandwalk’ route daily, thinking and rethinking his theory of evolution.
Our project began and ended at Down House so that we could learn more about Charles Darwin in his own home and feel connected to his history. On our first visit, we had a sensory tour of the house with audio cues and tactile props to help us envisage the rooms and their atmosphere clearly. One of the highlights was learning that Darwin kept a pot of worms on the piano in the living room to see if they reacted to the vibrations of the music when it played! (They didn’t).
We also tried writing with quills (learning how repetitive it was to keep having to dip the quills back in ink), tasted Darwin’s favourite foods (he loved a ginger cake), and sat in a replica of Darwin’s study chair, where he spent most of his days writing.