Downe at the time was a small village sixteen miles from London and had only a few hundreds inhabitants. It stood 560 feet above sea level and north of the great chalk escarpment above the Weald.
On his return to England on October 1836, after an adventure of almost five years on the Beagle, Darwin would never embark on another journey ever again. In fact, he spent the rest of his life at Down House, where he was often sick and confined to his bed, being unable to work for weeks at a time.
Although Charles Darwin described Down House as ‘ugly’ and looking ‘neither old nor new’ in a letter to his sister, it was precisely what he and his wife, Emma, were looking for: a house ‘at the extreme verge of the world’ with room for expansion, acres of land, and neighbours who were neither ‘too near nor too far’.
After moving to the house in 1842, Darwin and his wife, Emma, remodelled Down House extensively. To accommodate his growing family and improve the servants’ quarters, Darwin added a service wing in 1846, which included a schoolroom, and a two-storey extension in 1857, on the north end of the house, with an additional extension built in 1876.
Darwin also greatly developed the extensive gardens, which he used as an open-air laboratory. It was here that Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural selection and wrote his groundbreaking work ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)’.
Charles Darwin died at Down House of a heart attack on 19th April 1882 at the age of 73, and was buried at Westminster Abbey.