Discover the hidden magic of Dennis Severs’ House

If you’re looking for something special, something not many other tourists know about, head to 18 Folgate Street. What initially appears to be a typical Georgian terraced house in Spitalfields becomes so much more once you enter. Get transported straight back to the 18th century with the incredible atmosphere created by Dennis Severs, an artist from California.

Photo by EDVVC
Photo by EDVVC

The interior

Dennis Severs, originally from California, moved into the house in 1979. His aim was to create the family home of a fictitious group of Huguenot silk-weavers and what a job he did! Each room is lit by candles and possess the intimacy that makes visitors feel that the occupants have just nipped out, soon to return. There is a half-eaten meal on the table and beds are left unmade, all helping to generate Severs’ intention of a ‘still-life drama’ within the walls. Entering the house is a truly unique experience for visitors who will feel as though they have stepped through the door into the past.

The family

The family who occupied Severs’ house were named Jervis. Some visitors swear they have heard the family moving about within the house, so intense is the atmosphere. As you move through the house, your senses will be stimulated primarily by the smell of food left out on the table. The walls are adorned with pictures of the family, and the very same wig worn by Mr Jervis in the paintings can be seen hanging over the back of a chair.

The tour

As you are taken through the house, the tour is conducted in silence. The house’s motto is ‘You either see it, or you don’t’, with the intention being to let the viewer’s imagination fill in the missing information. Intense concentration is a must for this tour in order to get the most out of it, and truly become lost in time: as was Severs’ intention.

The house’s ten rooms each play host to moods which dominated the period between 1724 and 1914. Beginning in the cellar, you will be drawn through to the light and warmth of the kitchen. The rest of the tour will take you through the Eating Parlour – home to the brass clock that ticks away moodily in the background – the Smoking Room, the Withdrawing Room and many more. The tour will eventually land you in room ten – the small Back Parlour, which is cluttered with many sights to catch your eye.

Dennis Severs

Dennis Severs first visited England in 1965 and clearly loved it, as he returned two years later to live in London. After several forays down unsuitable career paths, he bought 18 Folgate Street and dedicated the rest of his life to creating his ‘collection of atmospheres’.

Severs’ last days were not pleasant, riddled with cancer as he was. Following his death, the house was bought by Spitalfields Trust and they do a magnificent job of sustaining his creation.

The experience is extremely rare and one not many tourists experience. Make sure you enrich your trip to London by taking in the sights at 18 Folgate Street. You won’t regret it!

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