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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Catherine Darwin   [24 July 1842]

[12 Upper Gower Street]


My dear Catty

You must have been surprised at not having heard sooner about the House..1 Emma & I only returned yesterday afternoon from sleeping there.— I will give you in detail, as my Father would like, my opinion on it.— Emma’s slightly differs.— Position.—about 14 of a mile from small village of Down in Kent 16 miles from St. Pauls— eight-miles & 12 from Station, (with many trains) which station is only 10 from London— This is bad, as the drive from the hills is long.— I calculate we are two hour’s journey from London Bridge.— Westcroft2 was 1 & 34 from Vauxhall Bridge.— Village about 40 houses with old walnut trees in middle where stands an old flint Church & the lanes meet.— Inhabitants very respectable.—infant school—grown up people great musicians— all touch their hats as in Wales, & sit at their open doors in evening, no high-road leads through village.— The little pot-house, where we slept is a grocers-shop & the land-lord is the carpenter—so you may guess style of village— There are butcher & baker & post-office.— A carrier goes weekly to London & calls anywhere for anything in London, & takes anything anywhere.— On the road to the village, on fine day scenery absolutely beautiful: from close to our house, view, very distant & rather beautiful—but house being situated on rather high table-land, has somewhat of desolate air— There is most beautiful old farm-house with great thatched barns & old stumps, of oak-trees like that of Shelton, one field off.— The charm of the place to me is that almost every field is intersected (as alas is our’s) by one or more foot-patths— I never saw so many walks in any other country— The country is extraordinarily rural & quiet with narrow lanes & high hedges & hardly any ruts— It is really surprising to think London is only 16 miles off.— The house stands very badly close to a tiny lane & near another man’s field— Our field is 15 acres & flat, looking into flat-bottomed valleys on both sides, but no view from drawing-room, wh: faces due South except our own flat field & bits of rather ugly distant horizon.— Close in front, there are some old (very productive) cherry-trees, walnut-trees.—yew.—spanish-chesnut,—pear—old larch, scotch-fir & silver fir & old mulberry-trees make rather a pretty group— They give the ground an old look, but from not flourishing much also give it rather a desolate look. There are quinces & medlars & plums with plenty of fruit, & Morells-cherries, but few apples.— The purple magnolia flowers against house: There is a really fine beech in view in our hedge.— The Kitchen garden is a detestable slip & the soil looks wretched from quantity of chalk flints, but I really believe it is productive. The hedges grow well all round our field, & it is a noted piece of Hay-land This year the crop was bad, but was bought, as it stood, for 2£ per acre, that: is 30£.—the purchaser getting it in— Last year it was sold for £45.—no manure put on in interval. Does not this sound well ask my father? Does the mulberry & magnolia show it is not very cold in winter, which I fear is the case.— Tell Susan it is 9 miles from Knole Park—6 from Westerham—seven from Seven-Oaks—at all which places I hear scenery is beautiful.— There are many very odd views round our house deepish flat-bottomed valley & nice farm-house, but big white, many, ugly fallow fields;—much wheat grown here — —

House ugly, looks neither old nor new.—walls two feet thick—windows rather small—lower story rather low.— Capital study 18 X 18. Dining room, 21. X 18.— Drawing-room can easily be added to is 21. X 15. Three stories, plenty of bed-rooms— We could hold the Hensleighs & you & Susan & Erasmus all together.— House in good repair Mr Cresy3 a few years ago laid out for the owner 1500£ and made new roof— Water-pipes over—two bath-rooms—pretty good office & good stable yard & & a cottage.— House in good repair.— I believe the price is about 2200£, & I have no doubt I shall get it for one year on lease first to try.—so that I shall do nothing to house at first.—

(Last owner kept 3 cows, one horse & one donkey & sold some hay annually from our field)—. I have no doubt, if we complete purchase, I shall at least save 1000£ over Westcroft, or any other house. we have seen— Emma was at first a good-deal disappointed & at the country round the house; the day was gloomy & cold with NE wind. She likes the actual field & house better than I; the house is just situated, as she likes for retirement, not too near or too far from other houses—but she thinks the country looks desolate— I think all chalk-countries do, but I am used to Cambridgeshire, which is ten times worse.— Emma is rapidly coming round.— she was dreadfully bad with toothache, headache, in the evening, of Friday—but in coming back yesterday she was so delighted with the scenery for the first few miles from Down, that it has worked great change in her.— We go there again the first fine day Emma is able & we then finally settle what to do.— Do not tell Marianne how likely it is we shall give up this house so soon, as I will write to her, when it is fixed— I am very sorry to think that my not being in London will be a drawback to her comfort regarding Robert.—4

The great Astronomer Sir J. Lubbock is owner of 3000 acres here, & is building a grand house a mile off— I believe he is very reserved & shy & proud or fine—so I suspect he will be no catch, & will never honour us—

Besides, the farm-house, which a field off—there is new villa, about two fields off, inhabited by Mr. Edward Price—(a friend of Mr Cresy having married a relation) a Shrewsbury


Down House, Down, (later changed to ‘Downe’) Kent, soon to be purchased by CD.
Another house considered by the Darwins.
Edward Cresy, an architect who lived in the neighbourhood of Down.
Robert Parker, Marianne’s eldest son.


Describes the village of Down and the house they are thinking of buying.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
DAR 153: 7 (EH 88202299)
Physical description
AL inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 637,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2