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Shh...don’t tell everyone about these secret gems

PUBLISHED: 17:41 20 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010

SIX hidden gems of London architecture including Burgh House and the Freud Museum have joined forces to boost visitor numbers. London Shh… stands for Secret Historic Houses and includes the homes of other famous figures such as Handel s former house in Ma

SIX hidden gems of London architecture including Burgh House and the Freud Museum have joined forces to boost visitor numbers.

London Shh... stands for Secret Historic Houses and includes the homes of other famous figures such as Handel's former house in Mayfair, Benjamin Franklin's four-room residence near Trafalgar Square, Dr Johnson's House off Fleet Street and the William Morris Society at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith.

Launching London Shh last month at Burgh House, general manager Kate Streeter spoke of the challenges facing small independent historic buildings run by few staff with little or no marketing budget.

Tucked away off the beaten track, they are off the radar of many London tourists. But Streeter said banding together could help recession-proof their futures by pooling skills and resources and encouraging more visitors through the doors to enjoy these beautiful historic buildings.

A new website www.london shh.org.uk is now up and running to showcase the six houses, which also includes details of historic walks, events and talks.

Regular events include craft workshops and fairs at Kelmscott House, literary and psychoanalytic talks at the Freud Museum and theatre performances in Samuel Johnson's dictionary garret.

London Shh also hopes to organise late openings, joint events, and a grand tour next summer.

Benjamin Franklin House at 36 Craven Street is where the US founding father lived between 1757 and 1775. It became the first de facto US embassy during a pivotal time in Anglo-American history. Rescued from dereliction, the Grade I heritage treasure opened to the public on Franklin's 300th birthday in 2006.

Burgh House and Hampstead Museum was built in 1704 during Queen Anne's reign and its first occupants were Henry and Hannah Sewell. After Henry's death in 1708, Hannah continued living here until 1720. It holds a collection of antiques and original artworks.

Sigmund Freud moved to the house at 20 Maresfield Gardens in 1938 after fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna, and died the following year. He brought with him his collection of classical and oriental antiquities, his library and furniture, including the world-renowned couch.

Handel House Museum at 25, Brook Street, was home to the baroque composer George Frideric Handel from 1723 until his death in 1759. It was here that he composed Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

Dr Johnson's House was built in 1700 and was home to the critic and lexicographer from 1748 to 1759. The house is full of original features from the door handles to the open staircase and it was in the garret that Johnson famously wrote his Dictionary of the English Language.

The coach house and basement at Kelmscott House, Morris' home from 1878-96 is now the location of the William Morris Society. A collection and library of works by Morris are held there.


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