Down House: A Curious Stone Wall… (9.7.2022)

Kai-Lin Discovers a Curious Stone Wall…

Charles Darwin’s family lived on a sizable estate in Bromley, Kent, which possesses a not so ‘secret’ garden that is walled-off from the other areas deliberately cultivated for scientific research. As is common with such places, these gardens are designed to serve as ‘private’ spaces (despite the quite often ‘large’ dimensions) within which well-to-do families could roam, relax and get up to all sorts of other activities! Servants would usually (and discreetly) bring food, drink and whatever else was required – whilst giving the impression that a) they were ‘not there’ and b) the people (their employers) were ‘on their own’!

Of course, today, this ‘secret’ garden is open to the general public and serves as a picnic area where bees can be observed flying to and from the ‘hive’ located in a nearby green-house! The land available (as ‘private’ property) to the well-to-do in the 1800s is often quite extraordinary when it is considered just how many people in Britain were homeless or had to live in squalor whilst packed into unsanitary single rooms in crumbling city tenement building! The middle-classes possessed an idyllic physical space within which their bodies existed – a situation (and set of material conditions) that often generated a corresponding sense of a secure and ‘spacious’ interior (or expansive mind-set free from everyday worry) that could, providing the right education and motivation was present, lead to ground-breaking theorising and progressive scientific endeavour!

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