Government Backs Darwin's Former Home As World Heritage Site

By Culture24 Staff | 30 January 2009
A piece of yellow card being folded

Down House, Downe, Bromley - the former family home of one of Britain's greatest scientists. Courtesy Bromley Council

The former home and laboratory of Charles Darwin, Downs House in Bromley, has been chosen as the UK's 2009 nomination to become a World Heritage Site, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham announced today.

Known as Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory the site comprises Charles Darwin's house, experimental garden and the seven kilometres of countryside immediately around his property.

It was used for Darwin's important scientific investigations for forty years after his round-the-world voyage on HMS Beagle in the 1830s. It was here that Darwin developed and demonstrated his theory of evolution by natural selection through the study of plants and animals in natural settings and under human management.

The nomination comes in the year that is the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, 'On the Origin of Species'.

"Darwin's contribution to our understanding of the natural world is unrivalled,” said Andy Burnham. “His life of science was based on meticulous research in and around his home and the surrounding farmed valleys.

“These still survive as the tangible context for his original scientific insight. They remain - 200 years exactly after his birth - an inspiration to shape the thinking of future generations on our approach to biodiversity, ecosystems and the role nature can play in helping people adjust to the effects of climate change.”

a piece of yellow card

Charles Darwin, the man behind the the theory of evolution. Courtesy Bromley Council.

Darwin moved to Down House in 1842 to allow him to further his scientific exploration and to cater for his growing family. The surrounding farmed landscape and its varying geology and soil types also enabled him to access, via numerous footpaths and lanes, a wide variety of plants and wildlife, the raw materials for his research and scientific work.

Finding everything he needed for his science he seldom left the locality until his death in 1882. The farmed landscape, together with Down House and its gardens were thus his workplace for his greatest period as an experimental scientist.

The site was originally submitted to UNESCO as the UK's 2006 nomination to become a World Heritage Site in January 2006 but was withdrawn by the government because it considered its original report did not recognise Darwin at Downe’s significance as a site for the heritage of science.

The new nomination was prepared by the London Borough of Bromley working in close partnership with local bodies and English Heritage. Together with those from other countries submitted by UNESCO's deadline of 1 February 2009, it will be assessed by expert advisers to the World Heritage Committee over the next 18 months.

A final decision on inscription will be made by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in the summer of 2010.

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