House & Family History: Dennis Severs saved and restored this red-brick Georgian terraced house, famously turning it into a completely unique house museum. Drawn to London by what he called "the English light," Severs was a grand and eccentric American designer who emigrated to England in 1967 at the age of eighteen, having fallen in love with London during his first visit to the city in 1965. After purchasing 18 Folgate Street, Severs began to recreate historical interiors in the House as part of a "still-life drama." Primarily created between 1979 and 1999, his house of "historical imagination" showed what life would have been like inside for a family of Huguenot silk weavers. Severs gradually created the rooms in his house as a time capsule, each floor capturing a different century in the House's life during the occupancy of the fictitious Jervis family, who lived here from 1725 until 1919. The rooms are set up as a series of "tableaux vivants," giving visitors the impression that the occupants have just slipped out for a moment; candles flicker, the table has the remains of a meal, and voices of the family are heard from adjoining rooms. After Severs' death in 1999 the Spitalfields Trust took over the operation of his beloved house museum and they continue to operate it as he intended. Dennis refused to install electricity or plumbing and shunned virtually all modern ways of life, famously saying "the 20th century is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there." The motto of the House is Aut Visum Aut Non: "You either see it or you don't."
Comments: "The journey through the house becomes a journey through time; with its small rooms and hidden corridors, its whispered asides and sudden revelations, it resembles a pilgrimage through life itself." - Peter Ackroyd
House Listed: Grade II
Park Listed: No Park
Past Seat / Home of: Dennis Severs, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction
Ownership Details: Today owned and operated by The Spitalfields Trust.