• Lilium

Dennis Severs' House - Enchanting Havens



Dennis Severs came to Spitalfields in 1979 and bought a derelict house saved by the Spitalfields Trust. He reconfigured it to tell the story of an imaginary Huguenot family who had lived there since it was built in 1724.



"Take a walk through time in Dennis Severs’ House in which the material things he collected become a cast of characters, the House destined to be their stage."


I visited the house in early November, having been drawn there by the images of the rooms and the wonderful promise of candlelit "Silent Tours". I can not express to you the amount of times I have been in a beautiful room in a stately home and was wrenched out of my quiet enjoyment of gazing at a painting by the dreadful exclamation of "Look Margery! that painting reminds me of the one I painted on that course", which is followed by a 10 minute story of an art class from 20 years ago and how they prefer oil to watercolour anyway and I can't even escape as they are blocking the door.



And worse yet, when I am walking through an exquisite garden and hear the ominous phrase "Monty Don said..." which is then followed by a rendition of the entire care of the plant from spring cuttings to over wintering only to end their lecture with "But I don't really like them. They're far too flashy." The agony of it all. So I am sure you can now grasp my enthusiasm for a silent tour, no Margery's or Monty Dons. It's just you and the room as you take it all in.



"Once I get you in there, I am going to bombard all of your senses until I create in your mind a picture or an impression – like a memory – which you can take away within you."

- Dennis Severs



 


Now this is not a place I can give a traditional tour of as it is a completely unique experience and I wouldn't like to spoil it, so I shall paint a story with images and encourage you that if you ever happen to find yourself in London, it should be at the top of your bucket list. The whole house is lit exclusively by candlelight, there are coal fires in every room and as you walk through you can hear the voices of the residents nearby, they've only left the room for a moment just as you entered. This house, its rooms and the stories they tell, may be as close as we can ever get to traveling through time.