18 Folgate Street

I went to the Spitalfields Trust Summer Party not just for the drink, but for an opportunity to see Dennis Severs’s house, which I have only seen once before, long ago when he was still alive and I went on one of his theatrical tours with students from the HF du Pont Winterthur Museum.   I preferred seeing it without the narrative accompaniment, so that I was able to appreciate the brilliance of its wholly fictional, but atmospheric installation, the way that it conjures an imagined past with dust and dirt and trivia far more evocatively than more historically correct, but sterile interiors, including those at Winterthur itself.

I started on the ground floor in the room at the back (I must have lent my copy of his book, or it has been purloined, so can’t reconstruct his names for the rooms):-

Then, down the back staircase into the basement:-

Up into the first floor room at the back:-

I think this could be the mirror in the front bedroom on the first floor:-

And the room above:-

There are bundles of silks left in disarray on the staircase:-

And the washing left out to dry:-

In the attics are the paupers’ rooms:-

It’s a tour de force of historical invention.


8 thoughts on “18 Folgate Street

  1. Joan says:

    I haven’t been to Dennis Severs’ house for decades. I went with a group organised by the Bethnal Green Museum and remember, as a then young woman, finding Dennis Severs quite scary. Those were the days when the V&A outpost at Bethnal Green wasn’t specifically a museum of childhood but had other displays including much Spitalfields silk and a large collection of wedding dresses. At around about the same time the museum also arranged a tour to a silk weaving operation in Essex. These were museum educational opportunities of the highest order which gave me access to a whole different world and for which I am very grateful.

    • This must, I think, have been in the early 1980s. Severs bought 18, Folgate Street in 1979 when the Bethnal Green Museum had already been classified as a Musdum of Childhood, but probably still retained a residue of its older, miscellaneous displays. Charles

      • Joan says:

        That would make sense. I would have been either in my last year of A Levels at Bishop Challoner school in Lukin Street or else on a visit home from my undergraduate studies in textile technology at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

  2. Kate Woodhead says:

    I’ve never been to this house but your photographs really supply the feeling of being there – thank you.

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