Darwin At Downe In Bromley Nominated For World Heritage Site

By Richard Moss | 13 January 2006
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 Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, has announced that Darwin at Downe, Charles Darwin's home and workplace, is the UK’s nomination for World Heritage Site status in 2006.

Situated in the London Borough of Bromley, Darwin at Downe comprises Darwin's former property, Down House, as well as the experimental garden and countryside immediately around it.

"I am delighted that the United Kingdom is nominating Darwin at Downe, Charles Darwin's home and surrounding landscape, as a World Heritage Site,” said Tessa Jowell. “Darwin was one of the greatest scientists of the modern age and his contribution to our understanding of the natural world is unrivalled.”

The house and surrounding countryside were the location for his important scientific investigations for 40 years after his round-the-world voyage in HMS Beagle during the 1830s. It was here that Darwin developed and demonstrated his theory of evolution through the study of plants and animals in natural settings and under human management.

a piece of yellow card

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

The universal value of the nominated site is directly linked to the influence of Darwin's ideas and writing on the life sciences and biodiversity.

His publication The Origin of Species (1859) is widely recognised as one of the most influential books of all time - transforming scientific and wider public thinking about natural life and humans' place in the natural world. The change in thinking that the book brought about was a historic stage in the development of the modern understanding of life on earth and human nature.

Darwin is believed to have walked for miles and miles in the fields and woodlands of the area around Downe, which cover approximately 10 square kilometres of land. Today much of it is farmland and open public space owned partly by Bromley Council, which was involved in the submission.

Two years of careful preparation and consultation with local people and organizations preceded the bid and included a steering group, which incorporated representatives of the council and English Heritage, who own and operate the house.

“This is an exciting application and World Heritage status would give Down House and the surrounding area international recognition,” said Councillor Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council.

“More importantly it would enable this area and its legacy to remain intact for generations to come. We have taken residents’ feedback on board and will work with them to overcome issues that may affect their quality of life,” he added.

Photo of a field full of little yellow buttercups

Typical countryside around Downe. Courtesy Bromley Council.

Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, commented: “As managers of The Home of Charles Darwin, Down House, which lies at the heart of the nominated World Heritage Site, we're delighted that this remarkable property will become better known and appreciated nationally and internationally as a result of the nomination.”

“It is very exciting to think that this area could be a World Heritage Site in time for Darwin's bicentenary in 2009 and for the Olympics in 2012," he said.

The United Kingdom can nominate only one site per year for consideration as a World Heritage Site. The nomination document for Darwin at Downe was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in Paris on 12 January 2006.

This nomination, together with those from other countries submitted by UNESCO's deadline of 1 February 2006, will be assessed by expert advisers to the World Heritage Committee over the next 12 months.

Final decisions will be made by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting in the summer of 2007.

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