Life at Down House
Down House

Soon after he came back to England, Darwin decided to get married, to his cousin Emma Wedgewood. In 1842 he and his young family moved out of London to the village of Downe, as the village is spelt, in Kent. Darwin lived at Down House, in Downe until he died. lt was where he did all his experiments and wrote most of his books. And it was where he lived and brought up his family too.

Looking after Down House
The Darwin family had a team of servants to look after them at Down House. This was usual in well-off Victorian families. There was a butler, cook, gardener coachman, housemaid and nurse, and a governess for the girls. Charles Darwin treated the servants well and they respected him. Several of them stayed with the family for many years The butler, Joseph Parslow worked at Down for thirty-six years and the cook for thirty years.

 

Down House todayDarwin's children

Darwin and WilliamCharles and Emma had a large family. This was very common in Victorian times. They had ten children, and seven of these lived to be adults. Charles was very fond of his children, and was heartbroken when his daughter Annie died at the age of ten. The children were allowed a great deal of freedom to play noisy games and go where they liked, which was unusual in Victorian families. The girls were educated at home, and were taught geography, music, singing and languages, but no maths or science except some simple study of plants. The boys were sent to a private tutor, and then to a small private school in Surrey, before going on to public or grammar schools.

Charles and his eldest son William

Darwin's Day
Like many Victorian families, the Darwins had a daily routine. Charles always got up early and went for a short walk around the garden.
07.45 He ate breakfast on his own
08.00-09.30 He worked in his study
10.30-12.00 More work in the study
09.30-10.30 He read letters, or had a book read to him by his wife
12.00 Whatever the weather, Darwin always went for a walk around the Sandwalk, a path in the grounds of Down House. This was his 'thinking' time
13.00 Lunch followed by reading the newspaper and replying to letters
15.00 Darwin rested in his bedroom. Sometmes Emma would read to him
16.00-16.30 Another short walk
16.30-17.30 More work in the study
19.30 Dinner.Then he played two games of backgammon with Emma, read, and listened to Emma play the piano
20.30 Darwin went to bed

Down House today