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Inside Dennis Severs' House
Dennis Severs' House
18 Folgate Street
Spitalfields, E1 6BX

Closest station: Shoreditch High Street

Opening times:
Sunday: 12pm-4pm
Monday: 12pm-2pm
Prices: £10 admission

Inside Dennis Severs' House

A visit to the Dennis Severs House in the East End is more than just an unusual London art tout, it also serves like a history lesson about the Hugenot family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In each of the 10 rooms, artist Dennis Severs tries to recreate the Huguenot silk weaver's living environment in 18th century London: the time when they fled France and brought their silk weaving skills along.

The house tells a story about the rise and fall of silk trade in Spitalfields—from lavish luxury to abject poverty.

Telling tales from around

Dennis Severs House isn't just a house—it's a living historical and artistic space.

The first sights inside the house are of paintings, antique tables, chairs and carpets. But as soon as you enter the home, you're led down to the basement through a creaking and squeaky wooden staircase.

The stairs lead down into the cellar, adjacent to which is the kitchen. While the magnified sound of dripping water from the tap sent a shiver up my spine, my mind was too busy admiring the collection of China.

Upstairs, the rooms have more light and one can feel a female presence in the house— huge wooden chests, mirrors, dressing area and jewellery.

Paradoxical storeys

The ground floor and the first floor are refined—the couches, chairs and the grand clock represent the 18th century. But as you move up to the uppermost level, the wealth and luxury suddenly disappears.

The rooms and the entire floor tell the story of the steady deterioration of a family with the rapid industrialisation of silk. There are no more decorations or rich aesthetics to the rooms; minimal furniture, an ordinary bed compared to the lavish ones at lower levels and a shabby appearance is what you see.

As you tour the house, the sights, sounds and smells are distinctive. The fire in the hearth and the burning candles in the rooms provide a sense of warmth.

As I toured in silences, some of the rooms and the ambience reminded me of the movie sets from Marie Antoinette. More or less, it was like time travelling and being in someone else's house 200 years ago.

Add to that—the silence in the house. You're not allowed to talk. Thus the whispers combined with the squeaking floors and the ticking clock adds an element of eeriness to the exploration. The sudden bell —used to call the servants by the housemasters—rings and jolts you every few minutes.

Though Dennis Severs' House is just a 45-minute tour, you could develop a relationship with the house and its interior.

Flash photography isn't allowed so remember to capture the images in your memory.

Bibek Bhandari