My lovely friend took me out for a surprise birthday treat last week and succeeded in the challenge she had set herself: to take me somewhere I hadn’t been / didn’t know about in Shoreditch – the result: Dennis Severs’ house, 18 Folgate Street: http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/ Well done her as it was fantastic!
Dennis Severs bought the derelict property in the then ‘slum’ of Shoreditch 30 years ago and immediately set about creating his extraordinary house, which is a slightly spooky, but highly realistic and engaging time capsule of Victorian London.
Each of the ten rooms in the house are decorated to a slightly different historical period. The accute attention to detail, combined with the fact that visitors are asked to look around in complete silence makes for an amazing experience. The brutal poverty of 19th-century London becomes shockingly real – exasperated when you realise that Severs himself lived in his ‘still life’ museum, without electricity, heating and modern appliances right up until his death in 1999.
There were elements of the tour that were slightly naff / contrived. There were signs strategically placed in the various rooms saying something along the lines of “Are you still looking? You should be feeling the story by now…” which I found a bit off putting (read: irritating). I also couldn’t help but laugh as, upon arrival, we were met by an artsy Shoreditch ‘doorman’ who told us very sternly that talking inside the house was absolutely forbidden as was any unnecessary noise – as he brought his condescending speech to a close his mobile phone started to ring and he was SCARLET as he reluctantly turned it to silent and let us in to the house! Oooops!