Monday, 21 February 2011

The House of Dennis Severs

‘You are going to take a journey...’

Glass-fronted office buildings may squat bulkily upon Bishopsgate, but the warren of streets reflected in those anonymous eyes can sometimes reveal an older time, for those with the ability to see and imagine.

The art of Dennis Severs, showcased in his amazing time-capsule house in Folgate Street, Spitalfields, plays upon this ability, offering visitors the chance to step back through the centuries.


This is the house of the ten spells – ten rooms given over to sensory illusion lit by flickering candle. The game is that we have interrupted a family of Huguenot weavers and as we step in the room we find they have just stepped out. It is then down to our imagination to see more, should we choose. This feeling is predominant as you walk around the rooms – it is and feels like a private house, and we are but shadows in their time.


Walking around, I couldn’t help but notice how dark it was, even with candles and weak daylight filtering through the dusty windows. It was also cold – very cold. It gave me such a strange feeling about how it must have been to live in that time – how I would have lived in that time. If you didn’t have money for coal or wood, and you couldn’t spare many candles for light, then you would have lived a miserable shivery existence. Even living in opulence would have been a challenge.


I liked the two rooms used for relaxation. Pretty pastel colours ruled in the ladies ‘withdrawing’ room (so that is where the term ‘drawing room’ came from!) and the men had a wooden chamber next door (pictured above) where they could roll around spilling wine, which seemed to be their chief occupation, if you go by Hogarth. I presume the women rolling around spilling wine would have been harlots down the public house. Seems odd to think that women were either ladies or harlots. There doesn’t seem much middle ground.

I came away from the house inspired and buzzing about ideas for stories, ideas for decoration, ideas for ideas. Even better, I went to see the house with the lovely Pamela, the blogger behind From The House of Edward – so had someone equally enthused to talk to for the rest of the afternoon! If you don’t know Pamela’s blog do go and check it out – she is a beautifully evocative writer that often marries her magical words to inspiring pictures – her blog is simply one you sink into, like cashmere, and think ah, I’m home!

The pictures on this post are taken from the Dennis Severs' House website - do go to see it if you have the chance!

17 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

This is amazing. England has always been on my bucket list, but this is definitely a stop I would make.

Lindsay said...

This sounds most interesting. I shall certainly visit.

jbchicoine said...

Oh, how romantic and inspiring--though I prefer not to think of it so cold and dark. I wonder how high the rate of depression was for the times--no wonder they were so given to thier wine!

Pat Tillett said...

dark, inviting and very interesting! I'm on my way...

Kenda said...

Fascinating place! Now if I ever get to England! Thanks for giving us a peek inside, and for a glimpse into another part of history :-)

Fran said...

Sounds inspiring. And, boy, do we all need a bit of inspiration every now and again!

Old Kitty said...

I'm so going to this man's beautiful home!!!! Thank you so much for the info - I've worked around Bishopsgate since forever in the early 1990's and never knew!!!! Wonderful!!!!!

Take care
x

Happy Frog and I said...

I absolutely love posts like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

Debbie said...

What a fabulous place, so full of character. Definitely my cup of tea.

Talli Roland said...

I heart Dennis Severs' house! It's fantastic! Glad you enjoyed it.

Happy Odd Girl said...

The idea that women were either 'ladies' or harlots seems to run throughout civilisation, and so some extent still persists, I fear. The Victorians took it to the nth degree with their 'domestic angel myth' thinking.

It basically comes of an androcentric world view, where women aren't seen as full human beings, but only through the eyes of men and in relation to their effect on men.

I could continue ranting about this but I'll stop now. :D

If anyone is interested, I recommend Dorothy L Sayers excellent essay: 'Are Women Human?' :)

AA said...

hm...fun for halloween, huh? :)
-AA

follow me, please?

iknowtheressunshinebeyondthatrain.blogspot.com

Dolly said...

What a beautifully written post. I love reading posts about hidden gems in London - you are a gem of a writer!

Deniz Bevan said...

How could I not have known about this? Definitely on my To Do list for our next trip to England!

Jeanne said...

I have always wanted to check this out. A friend sent me an article from The New York Times with rave reviews. I must do it now!

Jeanne xx

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wasn't it fun??!

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