18 Folgate Street
18 Folgate Street

An eccentric and fascinating house made over by artist Dennis Severs to resemble the home of 18th century Flemish weavers. It is as if you, the visitor, have walked through a painting into the home, arriving in the middle of dinner and as you wander from room to room your senses are intrigued by the smells, sights, and sounds of daily life.

Touring the house is like a game, the gist of which is that you have interrupted a family of Huguenot weavers named Jervis, who remain tantalisingly just out of sight as you pass from room to room. The house is not full of art; the house itself is the artwork, and visitors are intended to participate in the experience of that art.

Does it work? Famed artist David Hockney once said that it was like experiencing a great opera.

The house experience is arranged around 10 rooms, each representing a specific time period. Or as Severs called it in his original vision, "the house's ten rooms harbour ten "spells" that engage the visitor's imagination in moods that dominated the periods between 1724 and 1914.

The first room is the cellar, where you can still see pieces of the 12th-century church of St Mary's Spital, the church that gave its name to the modern Spitalfields. Also below ground level is the Kitchen, while on the first floor are the Eating Parlour. Room Four is the Smoking Room, the male domain, and the more feminine Withdrawing Room. Other chambers include a Boudoir, Back Parlour, and lodging room.


The house was not well signposted when I visited and I was glad I had a map to help me find my way, though it is a fairly short walk from Liverpool Street station. Number 18 is located in a long row of similar terraced houses, with nothing in the way of obvious signage to let you know you've actually arrived in the right place. Then you look up and see the shadow-figure cutout in the upstairs window and know you've found the right house!

Evening and twilight visits can be booked, with some Sunday and Monday lunchtime openings - see website for current times.