18th Century London, frozen in time…
Nestled in amongst the hustle and bustle of one of the craziest capital cities in the world, is one of London’s best-kept secrets. With the immersive flurry of bright lights, rushed traffic and superhuman walking speeds, it’s far too easy to walk past Dennis Sever’s House without even noticing it’s sore-thumb-like presence. It’s forgivable though; I’d hurried past it numerous times before too.
Until this day, when I was called upon by a follower to go and experience it for myself -not ‘review’ it, ‘experience’ it. If you like British Culture, theatre, art, antiques, history, anything vintage or just generally being moved by the extraordinary, you’ll absolutely love this.
The concept is this: An enchanted house, which was bought by artist Dennis Sever, has been restored back to its incredibly magical former glory. It reflects the eras which existed within its walls between the periods of 1724 and 1914 -in particular, the life of the Jervis family who lived there in the 18th Century. You are asked by Dennis Sever to open your mind and harness your imagination as you enter the house with the understanding that you have disturbed the family, who have downed-tools and left.
As I hopscotch a route around puddles down a little alley just off Liverpool Street, I navigate my way into a pool of soft orange light being emitted from a huge, glass and bronze lantern overhead. Stopping open-mouthed, to slowly take it all in, I start to understand what this visit will entail. Lush, green ivy twists itself into a frame around a heavy, oak door. The low-hanging ornate lantern swings hauntingly in front of the foliage. I step up to the entrance, feeling dwarfed by the doorway which reminds me of a scene from a Dickens novel, to use the over-sized door knocker. As I step inside, I’m walking away from Liverpool Street and from the year 2013.
Going inside this house is a time warp; you travel back to a by-passed era and into the lives of the family Jervis.
Each room is candlelit. Every visitor to the house walks around in silence. The only noises present are the occasional creaking of stairs, the soft ticking of the grandfather clock or the crackling of burning embers on the dying-down fire. A log needs adding, but the family has disappeared, remember?
I quickly become hypnotized by the spell which breathes its way through this house. I’m dazed by the attention to detail and feel utterly out of place in my contemporary clothes. I make my mind up about the occupants’ personalities and marvel at the unmade bed, the mid-cut carrot on the sideboard and the first two lines of a half-penned love letter on the dressing table. More notably though, I absolutely fall in love with the interior of this living space; the luxe fabrics, the heavy drapes and rich wallpapers. There are fine paintings, beautiful ornaments and sprawling feathers which all add to the theatricality of this experience. I reach such a deep state of belief in having stepped back in time, that I wonder whether the creaking stairs and noises are actually just the ghosts of the Jervis family.
I walk the layout of the entire house in a meditative state. Twice. Having seen every room, I’m disappointed that it’s over and feel urged to go back over it all again.
Speaking to the curator afterwards, he explains that Dennis Sever died in 1999, leaving this incredible legacy in his wake. Nothing has been changed, only maintained, so that people can come and experience this incredible magic as he intended. Apparently, it’s common for visitors to leave in tears or just to walk away in silence, dumbfounded by the extraordinary power this house carries. Dennis Sever’s House is absolutely unforgettable. I encourage you to go and experience age-old British culture and history with authenticity and beauty and to make Dennis Sever’s efforts entirely worthwhile.
I went to a Candlelit evening at the house, but there are daylight openings too. To really experience it, I’d recommend the former.
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