Handel House Museum
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
During his residence at 25 Brook Street, Handel composed several of his most enduring works, including the Messiah, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and Zadok the Priest.
When Handel first came to England he lived with a succession of patrons. His increased income from performances of his operas and his appointment to the royal court earlier in 1723 meant that he could now afford to rent his own house and not rely on wealthy patrons. The location on Brook Street (named for a nearby tributary of the River Tyburn) was firmly middle-class, located close but no too close to the artistic hotbeds of Covent Gardens and Soho, and conveniently near St James' Palace, where his court duties lay. The house was also convenient for the King's Theatre in Haymarket, where Handel's Italian opera were performed.
In 1723 Handel took a sub-lease on the house from a Mr George Barnes, paying a annual rent of 60 pounds. Laws at the time made it impossible for foreign nationals to own property, or even take up a long-term lease.
In the basement was a kitchen, then front and back rooms on the first two floors, with an attic above. The first room on the first flor was the largest in the house. This was where Handel entertained, and probably where he kept at least one of his large musical instruments. Linked to this large room is a smaller chamber where Handel composed music. The second floor was given over to a bedroom and dressing room, and the attic was used as sleeping quarters for up to 3 servants.
The Brook Street residence was far more than just a private home; it was also Handel's business premises. Visitors would pay for and collect season tickets for opera performances, and collect music scores they had commissioned.
After Handel's death the house passed through the hands of numerous tenants, including a doctor, apothecary, writer, diplomat, and a succession of military men. The front room became a shop, and the upper floors were used as office space. In the mid-1950s the textile firm Viyella occupied the upper floor.
Eventually the house was purchased by a charitable trust, and the museum opened in 2001. The interiors of 25 Brook Street have been restored as faithfully as possible to the way they looked in the Georgian period. The restoration made use of a household inventory taken 4 months after Handel's death to determine how the rooms were used and what furniture they contained during Handel's time here.
The museum is really 2 houses combined, numbers 25, where Handel lived, and number 23, the upper floor of which was the home of rock star Jimi Hendrix in 1968-69.
Though it is a museum of Handel's life, 25 Brook Street is much more; it keeps alive the legacy of this great composer through regular recitals of his work and works by contemporary Baroque composers. There are weekly concerts, and a changing programme of recitals throughout the week. The walls are hung with portraits of Handel and people the people who moved in his circles. There are displays on Handel's life and work, and even a 'Composer in Residence' programme to carry on Handel's legacy.
About Handel House Museum
Address: 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, Greater London, England, W1K 4HB
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: between New Bond Street and Grosvenor Square
Website: Handel House Museum
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Nearest station: Bond Street - 0.2 miles (straight line) - Zone: 1
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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