Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010. Denis Sever's House

Denis Severs' House, 18 Folgate Street, Shoreditch, London

Monday, July 5, 2010. Denis Severs' House

Monday was a museum day. In the morning, I went to the Museum of London. Imagine if we had A Museum of Fort Worth or Dallas or Houston. There wouldn't be much there. But the history of London is just a little more detailed. They started in 500,000 B.C. and come up to the 1990's. My favorite parts were the walk through dioramas. They had sections set up like Victorian streets complete with shops. Another one was set in the 1920's with flapper dresses and two early British cars. The lunch there was good as well. I'm finding that museums have dependably good food with fairly reasonable prices. There's a travel tip for you.

The East End, home of the famous soap, "East Enders."
Yesterday evening I went to the most unusual museum I think I've ever been to. It was close to the Liverpool train station. That neighborhood was a revelation in itself. My mental picture of the East End was run down tenements with a few Yuppie types trying to restore some areas. Well I was wrong! It was old, but vibrant and teeming with sky scrapers and prosperous looking business people. That part of London is hilly, something I hadn't seen in central London. They've done a pretty good job of building new architecture in sympathy with the older building styles.  I found out later that this was the most heavily bombed area of London during the Blitz.  They had to rebuild major sections of this neighborhood.  That made me feel even more impressed.

The museum was called The Denis Sever's Museum after the last man that lived there. It's a 300 year old house, but it has never been modernized. No electricity! No Internet! Only Victorian plumbing!!! Severs moved into the house in the 1920's and set about decorating the house as if a family lived there, but each floor was a different time period. He lived there, without modern conveniences, until he died about twenty years ago.

The Parlour
Here's the gimmick. The museum is only open at particular times. You must book in advance. Tours are done in candle light. And most importantly, you CAN'T talk. If you do you are kicked out immediately! As you go through the house, your mission is to figure out the mystery. What's the story behind the stage set? After your eyes adjust, you have to notice all the details, and there are a lot of them. Every once in a while they leave a written clue. In various rooms, you smell lavender or tobacco or dust. Sometimes you hear a voice whispering or kids giggling in the background.

It was quite a sensory experience! It reminded me of JK Rowling's web site. Remember when she first set it up?  You had to find clues in various pages and figure out the proper sequence to do things in order to earn a reward.  You also had to be patient because things would happen randomly, not just when you wanted them to.  

This museum was like that. It felt like I had stepped back in time and was snooping through this family's life. I even felt a little guilty for reading their private letters and notes and literally looking at their dirty laundry.
The main stairwell

In one room there was a beautiful black cat right in the middle of the unmade bed. I thought it was a prop, until the end of her tail twitched. I almost started laughing out loud! Thank goodness I stopped myself. I'm happy to say that I did figure out the mystery. But, I'm not telling you the answer! I want you to go yourself. The tour took about an hour, and I had a smile on my face all the way back to Bloomsbury. London is fun!



The bedroom at Dennis Severs' House where the cat almost got me kicked out.

Are you paying attention to the details?  Do you see the big picture?

The Jacobean Dining Room

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