Dennis Sever’s House

Today I visited a place known as Dennis Sever’s House. It is quite difficult to explain exactly what the house is to someone who has not actually visited it. To try to put it simply, Dennis Sever lived in the house in the way that people alive in the early 18th Century might have lived. The house then took on a life of its own and became almost like some type of art installation – a very interactive one. Nothing seems to have been written about when Severs opened the house to the public, or who operates it today, but Severs himself passed away in 1999.

A visit today revolves around the premise that you walk into the house and interrupt a family of silk weavers, known as the Jervis family. Disturbed by your visit, they hide away, and everything is left untouched as if they had really been there. The attention to detail within the house is quite fantastic – each room is like a set piece from an elaborate painting. The thing that I found truly amazing though was the scent within each room. I am not sure how they have done it, or how they ensure that the scents are a constant each time the house is opened, but it really is a case of a smell transporting you to a different time and place.

Frustratingly, no photography is allowed, so the images below are from the official website http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/. The booklet photographs are from the ‘souvenir’ passed to me as I was ushered out. I came out feeling a little mixed about the whole experience. As I said above, the actual house and items within are amazing, but I found the people operating the house to be frosty to say the least. There is a slight air of pretension about the whole thing – no talking is allowed at any time whilst in the house. I see the point of this to an extent, as I often like to be silent whilst visiting things such as this, but I found the forcing of silence a little awkward. Also, no real detail is given about the house until the end of the tour, where it all sort of clicks into place. I would have preferred to have received the booklet beforehand and this may have enabled me to immerse myself in the experience slightly more.

I would definitely recommend paying it a visit – I have genuinely never been to anywhere like it in my life. The house is number 18 Folgate Street near Spitalfields Market, and entry costs £8. The house only opens on specific days at specific times, so have a look at the website if you do plan to visit.

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