Erasmus Darwin House
|Erasmus Darwin House|
Front of the house
|Address||Beacon Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England|
Erasmus Darwin House in Lichfield, Staffordshire is the former home of the English poet and physician Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin. The house is a Grade I listed building, and is now a museum commemorating Darwin's life.
Erasmus Darwin, the renowned physician, scientist, inventor, poet, and educationalist lived on Beacon Street from 1758 until 1781. A founding member of the Lunar Society, it was here that he received many famous 18th-century personalities, including Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton, Benjamin Franklin and James Watt.
History of the House
Darwin purchased a medieval half-timbered building on the west side of the lower courtyard of the Vicars Choral in 1758. From 1758-1759 Darwin converted the building into a large Georgian town house of red brick with stucco dressings and Venetian windows. At this time the front of the house was separated from Beacon Street by a narrow deep ditch which once formed the moat of the Cathedral Close. Darwin built a bridge across the ditch descending from his hall door to the street. The ditch was overgrown with tangled bushes, which Darwin cleared and made a terrace on the bank. He planted the ditch with lilacs and rose bushes which screened his terrace from passers by. After Darwin left in 1781 the next owner filled in the ditch to make a driveway from the street to his doorway.
Erasmus Darwin at home in Lichfield
Not long after the Darwins moved into the fashionable new front of their house, a wooden bridge was thrown across the ditch and a twin-tier terrace was built, causing alterations to be made to the basement windows. Anna Seward recollected that the bridge and terrace both had Chinese pailings.
For 20 years this house was the base for Darwin's medical practice, for his scientific experiments, meetings of the Lunar Society, and such inventive schemes as the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal. Amid all this, the house was also the centre of family life.
Recent and Future Events
Erasmus Darwin House recently relaunched two exhibition rooms, with audio and visual interactives.
The house is also involved in the Lichfield festival and annually takes part in the medieval market.
Heritage weekend has the museum open to the public for free and cellar tours are also available.
Halloween is a popular event for the house when it hosts its 'Haunted House Night' which includes storytelling, apple bobbing, games, facepainting, arts and crafts and its freeky food and drink stall. Cellar tours are pre-booked.
Erasmus Darwin House has a revamped the 'Erasmus Study' Exhibition Room with a computer microscope, touch screen games and quizzes and other interactives. The parlour now has two armchairs with headphones to listen to poetry etc. and a conversation between Erasmus Darwin and Anna Seward after the death of his first wife.
The parlour has been recently restored and now holds an antique grandfather clock. The room also includes comfy armchairs with headphones where you can listen to Erasmus Darwin's poetry and ideas of evolution.
The museum has become popular with its Erasmouse Hunt that involves finding 26 'mice' located around the house. Winners get their own wooley 'Erasmouse'. There has been locally noted a few adults euthasiast that enjoy the hunt also.
Erasmus Darwin House is run by a charitable foundation and therefore charges a small admission for entry. £3 Adults, £2 concession, child £1 and Family £6. Occasionally the house has free entry periods.
Gift and Book Shop
The museum includes a gift shop and sells a range of gifts and books.
The cellar is not normally open to visitors and a special tour is required to explore this part of the house.
Room and House Hire
Erasmus Darwin House is available for conferences, receptions, parties and weddings. Three rooms are available for hire. The largest is the Seminar Room, capable of holding up to 36 people. The Exhibition Room can accommodate up to 20 people and the Library can be used for small meetings and interviews.
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