2018 marks 20 years since Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, was reopened to the public by English Heritage supported by a wide range of organisations and donors. The day focused on science and the public engagement in science in gardens, and highlighted the work and the experiments Darwin carried out at down House. It was brought up to date with opportunities for science in gardens today. The day included a garden tour taking in some of the recreated experiments.
Charles Darwin lived at Down House for 40 years until his death in 1882. After moving to the house in 1842, Darwin and his wife, Emma, remodelled the house and its extensive gardens, which Darwin used as an open-air laboratory. It was here that Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural selection and wrote his groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859).
Down House remains much as it was when Darwin lived there. Many of the ground-floor rooms are filled with family portraits, furniture and personal possessions, as they were when Darwin lived here, while the study contains his writing desk, chair and many objects connected with his work. The gardens have been restored to their appearance in his time, and some of his experiments on plant and insect life have been recreated in the garden and glasshouse.
Antony O’Rourke, English Heritage Down House, Head Gardener
Jay Holmes, Senior Coordinator of Urban Advantage Professional Development, American Museum of Natural History
David Slawson, Director of Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), Imperial College London
Nicholas Wray, Curator, University of Bristol Botanic Garden
Juliet Day, Understanding Plant Diversity Project Manager, Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Chris Bisson, Policy Development Manager, Eden Project
Kristyna Slivova, English Heritage Down House, Senior Gardener, and Volunteers: Elizabeth (Weed Garden Experiment), Jane (Lawn Plot Experiment, fungi and worm recording), and Ray (Experimental Bed)
Lorraine Cheesmur, Head of Programmes and Learning, and Ed Ikin, Head of Landscape & Horticulture, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at Wakehurst
Alistair Griffiths, Director of Science and Collections, Royal Horticultural Society