Handel House Museum
Handel House Museum

This museum is located in the attractive Georgian house where composer George Frideric Handel lived from 1723 until his death in 1759. The museum celebrates Handel's life and works and offers regular recitals of Baroque music in the superb setting of the period rooms. The museum is really 2 houses, numbers 25, where Handel lived, and number 23, the upper floor of which was the home of rock star Jimi Hendrix in 1968-69.

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 not 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 operas were performed.

In 1723 Handel took a sub-lease on the house from a Mr George Barnes, paying an 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.

The rear entrance to the museum
The rear entrance to the museum

The House
In the basement was a kitchen, with front and back rooms on the first two floors and an attic above. The first room on the first floor 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 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 the people who moved in his circle. There are displays on Handel's life and work, and even a 'Composer in Residence' programme to carry on Handel's legacy.