11 May 2017

We're Moving!


While this site has served us well sonce 2008, it is time to move on! 

Please join us at our new site, which features new houses, new features and a blog where you will find lots of exciting new content. 

You can keep up to date with all of our events and as always, sign up to our newsletter to keep in touch! 

20 October 2016

Under Construction!

 Here at London Shh... we are working hard to get our website up to date and working perfectly! Please bare with us while the website is under construction. 

Thank you for your patience! 
23 March 2016

London SHH: Behind the Scenes

Want to work in museums and wondering how to start a career in the heritage sector?


Join us for an opportunity to meet members of staff from across London SHH and find out how they started their careers in museums.


Entry is free but booking is essential.


To book tickets please visit: http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb777723663


3 May 2016 6:30pm-8:30pm

Stephen's House & Gardens

17 East End Rd, London N3 3QE

27 January 2016

Happy New Year from the team at Burgh House & Hampstead Museum!

It has been a very busy start to 2016 for us. We started off by having the first floor of the house, including our museum and office, rewired just after new year, meaning all of our emails went unanswered until about 8 January!


This also involved taking up all of the carpets, so we spent the next few days restoring and painting the floorboards in our Christopher Wade exhibition room. This week we had new carpet laid in the museum and on the lading which looks fabulous and we are hoping to do the ground floor in the next few week. All of this is part of our Renaissance Appeal fundraising project – find our more and how to support us at: www.burghhouse.org.uk.


This has also been a surprisingly busy few weeks for events at the house. We opened with Satiable Curiosity – An Evening with Rudyard Kipling on 14 Jan, which saw renowned biographer Andrew Lycett chat to Piers Plowright about Kipling’s life and work, with some beautiful readings from the actor Sam West. A fabulous sold-out evening of entertainment celebrating on our Britain’s best-loved writers, whose daughter Elsie was the last resident at Burgh House.


On 21 Jan we welcomed BAFTA-winning playwright, screenwriter, director and Hampstead local Sir David Hare for a sold-out Lifelines talk with our chairman Matthew Lewin. David talked very candidly and wittily about his life and work; said by one of our Friends to be the best Lifelines they have attended!


We are now busily preparing for a packed spring season full of concerts, weddings and other events, including our first ever festival celebrating Chinese New Year! Burgh House is welcoming the Year of the Monkey with a traditional lion dance, an exhibition featuring Chinese artists, a concert and fantastic kids’ workshops in partnership with the Hua Hsia Chinese School.


Don’t forget to check our website for what’s coming up next!


Mark, Ann, Becky & Holly


02 August 2015

London Shh... Summer Garden party: Get your tickets here!

Thursday 20th August 2015, 6pm - 8pm


The Garden, Fenton House , Hampstead, NW3 6SP


Cocktails, croquet, music and lawn games...


Come and join us in the enchanting walled garden at Fenton House and discover more about London Shh... and the city’s hidden gems.

Tickets £8 per person

Book Here




17 June 2015

Hello From Hampstead!

The temporary exhibition launching this summer, Hello from Hampstead! Discovering A History Through Postcards, will showcase a rarely displayed aspect of Burgh House’s collections: picture postcards. Quite commonplace objects, but when explored they provide the means to unpick the history of this postal phenomenon, as well as revealing snapshots of Hampstead’s history.

Many of the postcards in the Burgh House collection date from the turn of the 20th century, the ‘Golden Age’ of postcards. Several postal deliveries a day allowed for postcard messages to be sent frequently back and forth, so that it was possible to arrange meetings and social engagements on the same day. Such a high volume of postal communication led to great demand for these affordable and easily available postcards, many of which have found their way into the collection that this exhibition is centred around.

As an exhibition based on Hampstead, it may seem a little discordant to begin with a postcard that actually shows Golders Green (see left), but it is a snapshot of an event that had a huge impact on Hampstead, its development and no doubt its popularity in postcards. The scene shows a large crowd outside Golders Green Underground Station, waiting to claim a free ride on the newly opened ‘Hampstead Tube’ that connected Hampstead and Golders Green to Charing Cross at high speed. The tube not only facilitated and promoted suburban living, but also an increase in recreational visits to the area. Hampstead had been popular with visitors for hundreds of years, who flocked to drink the medicinal spa waters as well as to walk on the rambling Heath, a relatively short distance from the city. The arrival of the tube in addition to the overground trains, built upon this popularity and cemented Hampstead’s reputation as an easily reachable destination. This postcard therefore seemed to be a fitting introduction to an exhibition built around the subsequent, extensive imaging of the local area.

Postcards included in the exhibition will reflect the continually changing face of Hampstead through images of buildings and businesses that have radically transformed or disappeared. Postcards of celebrated and well-known Hampstead landmarks will also be displayed, including Admiral’s House, Keats House and the Old Bull and Bush pub. The proliferation of postcards during the Golden Age no doubt helped popularise and mythologise these recognisable places. Aspects of Hampstead Heath will also be explored through postcards in the exhibition – some underscoring its flora and fauna, others celebrating the recreation the Heath is famed for. Postcards of the fair, of people fishing, paddling and Bank Holiday gatherings reflect the valued leisure time the Heath supported, and still supports today. One postcard particularly summarises the sheer volume of people that came to the Heath on their days off during postcards’ Golden Age: The Last Train from Hampstead. The steam train is covered with visitors who are literally clinging to its sides, worn out after a day spent on the Heath and in the village, many of whom no doubt recounted their experiences to friends and loved ones through the sending of a postcard.

Hello from Hampstead! Discovering a History Through Postcards opens on 17th July and runs until 13th October. Burgh House is open Wednesday to Friday and Sunday, 12:00-5:00pm. Free entry.











19 March 2015

The Joys of spring at Keats House

Keats’s house and garden sit almost alongside Hampstead Heath, so it is very close to nature, and when spring comes, we feel it intensely here. This intensity seems to fit very well with the poetry of Keats, who wrote most of his most famous poems while living in the house.

Keats’s poetry is full of sensuous sights sounds and smells of fruit, blossom and birds, and he was very influenced by his heath-side house. He wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ sitting under a plum tree in the garden of Keats House in May 1919. According to his friend Charles Brown, whom he shared the house with, a nightingale had built its nest in the garden.  Inspired by the bird's song, Keats composed the poem in one day. It explores the themes of nature, fleeting beauty and mortality, the latter being particularly personal to Keats.

Keats’s poetry was made more intense by tragic deaths in his family. He watched his mother die of TB, and had recently sat at the bedside of his 19 year old brother while he died of the same disease. He was aware that youth, beauty, flowers and the spring last only a short while.

So if you come to see our crocuses and listen to the birds sing in Keats House garden,  or come to one of our poetry events, remember that spring is all the more beautiful because it does not last.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain, 
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad 
In such an ecstasy!

From ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by John Keats 

24 January 2015

Journal of a Tour to the Archives: volunteering at Dr Johnson?s House

ARCHIVES. n. f. without a singular [archiva, Lat.] The places where records or ancient writings are kept. It is perhaps sometimes used for the writings themselves.

17 Gough Square – Dr Johnson’s House – was built around 1700 and is one of the few buildings of its kind to survive in what is now a fairly typical, modern-looking area of the City. Dr Johnson’s tenancy of the property spanned 11 productive years, during which time he completed the bulk of his Dictionary of the English Language, the work with which he is nowadays most closely associated.

For the last century of the building’s 300-year history, the house has been home to the Dr Johnson’s House museum and library. Naturally enough, having operated as a heritage institution for so long, the archives at DJH – an acronym of which I have grown increasingly fond – are home to a formidable collection of Johnsonia. Even without the “irrelevant bric-à-brac” museum founder Lord Cecil Harmsworth was adamant should never be part of the catalogue, there was still a fairly intimidating amount of information to process for a newbie volunteer.

It was, therefore, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I approached my first day at Dr Johnson’s House; having recently left my job in the media industry in search of a new challenge, I was met with just that. As Collections Volunteer, it was my role to catalogue the contents of the House archives, collating all relevant details in a searchable computer database. Opening my first archive box, I was faced with a hoard of large, seemingly ancient scrapbooks, packed full of hundreds of press clippings from dates ranging from the 1920s to the 1950s. Wow.

Undaunted, I set about recording the contents of these articles in the database. Each clipping had to be assigned a catalogue number, its content summarised, its location recorded, and the names of associated people mentioned in the article transcribed. This was quite the baptism by fire: having studied 18th-century literature as part of my degree more than a decade earlier (I’m showing my age there), I had what I thought was a fairly good knowledge of the literary and political figures of the time, but this was a completely different arena. Figures like Mrs Thrale (or Piozzi, depending on your point of view), Francis Barber, Elizabeth Montagu and Anna Williams soon became very familiar.

The process of cataloguing these clippings was as fascinating as it was painstaking. What I found most astonishing was just how frequently Johnson was referenced in the press during the early part of the 20th century. Publications from the Banffshire Journal to the Times Literary Supplement lapped up all things Johnson, with the majority of articles treating the Great Cham with an almost god-like reverence. Surprising, too, was the number of Johnson-related books being published at the time. The discovery in the 1920s of a collection of unpublished, unedited James Boswell manuscripts certainly led to a spark in interest in both Boswell and Johnson, as well as the publication of a wave of ‘new’ and ‘unedited’ versions of various works containing juicy passages expurgated from previous editions. Not that writing about Johnson was a lucrative job, it seems: A.L. Reade, author of the eleven-volume opus ‘Johnsonian Gleanings’, commented in one letter (held in the archive) that publishing his work cost far more than any money he earned from it.

It was particularly interesting to come across clippings about 17 Gough Square itself. Damaged by Lutfwaffe bombing raids during the Second World War, articles on the restoration of the property under the curation of Phyllis Rowell and her mother, Isabella Dyble, were especially moving. There’s been a long tradition of female curation at DJH, one which continues to this day. Dr Johnson’s apparent misogyny has been discussed at length over the years – he famously compared a woman preacher to a dog walking on its hind legs – but he kept a wide circle of female friends and told Mrs Thrale, close companion and potential paramour, that “it is a paltry trick indeed to deny women the cultivation of their mental powers, and I think it is partly a proof we are afraid of them.” I’m happy to confirm that there’s nothing to be afraid of in either Morwenna or Celine!

It’s been great fun and a real privilege to have been let loose in the archives at Dr Johnson’s House. 17 Gough Square has a unique atmosphere and a tangible link to its past: to leaf through a facsimile of a first edition of the dictionary Dr Johnson and his amanuenses prepared in the very room in which the work was done is a special experience. If you haven’t yet visited the House, do come (and make sure you take advantage of the excellent audio guide). If you are thinking of volunteering at this or any other London Shh property, I can highly recommend doing so – I am already looking forward to returning to Dr Johnson and his House in the very near future.

Graeme Vasey
Volunteer at Dr Johnson’s House and Burgh House & Hampstead Museum

03 November 2014

Festive Food through the Ages

London Shh are proud to present...

A mouth-watering evening of Festive Food through the Ages

7pm Thursday 11th December 2014

A talk at Dr. Johnson's House led by Emma Kay, founder of the Museum of Kitchenalia. You will be whisked on a magical tour of the festive food and eating habits of the residents of the London Shh homes, with demonstrations, audience participation and tastings to whet the appetite. Join us for mulled-wine before this fascinating talk takes you from John Wesley to Sigmund Freud’s grandson, celebrity chef Clement Freud, via William Morris, Handel and Johnson, some Bakelite, Schweppes carbonation and Hark the Herald Angels Sing!


Book your tickets here (limited places available)


Dr Johnson’s House
17 Gough Square

The London Shh group properties can all indirectly and directly be linked to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and contribute to the narrative of food history in a number of ways.

Emma Kay the Director of The Museum of Kitchenalia and author of Dining With The Georgians is dedicated to preserving and interpreting Britain's culinary heritage.

Together with Shh a mouth-watering and festive journey into Victorian and Georgian trends in food and eating and drinking ephemera will be explored

From William Morris's fascination with recipes, to George Frideric Handel's doppelganger cook; the secrets surrounding London's small historic houses will be revealed using artefacts, images and a lot of Christmas cheer.

Emma Kay is a Historian, writer, collector and lover of food. She has worked as a Museum Professional for over fifteen years in major institutions such as The National Maritime Museum, The British Museum and the University of Bath. Emma is qualified in all areas of Heritage Management at Post-Graduate level. She researches and delivers talks on the subject of the history of Kitchenalia, by way of her mobile Museum www.museumofkitchenalia.co.uk

08 July 2014

Benjamin Franklin House Blog - July 2014

Benjamin Franklin House is the world’s only remaining home of Franklin – the famous scientist, inventor, printer and Founding Father of the United States. Built circa 1730, the Grade I listed Georgian House is located on Craven Street near Trafalgar Square. The summer is always a busy time for us as we welcome visitors from around the world and we host some of our key public events.

On 4 July we celebrated US Independence Day with a party at the House featuring bunting, balloons, cake, and bubbly! Franklin was the only US statesman to have signed all four documents that created a new nation, including The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris, and The Constitution. Franklin showed great leadership when participating in the formation of the United States.

We have been thinking about leadership over the last few weeks as we awarded the inaugural Benjamin Franklin House Medal for Leadership to Michael R. Bloomberg at a ceremony and dinner at Mansion House on 16 June. The event was attended by over 220 people, including the US Ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun. The Medal, designed by Sir Anish Kapoor, one of the world's great sculptors, recognises Franklin's foresight, wisdom, humour, and humanity, essential qualities of leadership as important in the 21st century as they were in Franklin’s day. Bloomberg is a modern leader who, like Franklin, has set a standard for excellence and commitment in public service, business, and the arts. A special thank you to our sponsors, suppliers, and attendees.

We have an exciting concert planned for Thursday 24 July in collaboration with our neighbours at the Concordia Music Foundation. For the first time, we’ll be hosting a harp concert in Franklin’s parlour with a programme including pieces by Bach, Handel, Mozart and more! Tickets are £20 including refreshments and booking is essential. Phone 020 7839 2006 to book your ticket. 

On a personal note, I’ll be leaving Benjamin Franklin House in mid-August to join the National Trust. I started with the House as a volunteer nearly 7 years ago! It’s been a pleasure to serve in my current role for the last 5 years and it is lovely to finish my time here following such a positive period for the House. It’s been honour to act as a London Shh committee member and I wish the group continued success! 


By Sally James, Operations Manager at Benjamin Franklin House

7 July 2014


02 June 2014

John Wesley's House Blog

An update on our Georgian Chapel museum 

As many of you know, The Museum of Methodism and John Wesley’s House, the house in which Wesley lived between 1778 until his death in 1791, explore the story of Methodism from its origins in the 18th century to the present day. The museum re-opened in May 2013 following a major investment which allowed for conserving and improving the historic structure of the building and a phased re-display of the museum’s most significant objects. We are very happy to have to announce completion of the third phase, a large showcase, ‘Compassionate Mission’, which explores the social mission of Methodism. This was unveiled formally on Wesley’s Conversion Day 24th May by the Senior Pastor of Kwanglim Methodist Church South Korea, and the President of the Methodist Conference.

In case you have not been to the museum or are unfamiliar with our project, one of our key refurbishment aims was to emphasise the Georgian architecture of the building; like John Wesley’s House, the Chapel and crypt were part of George Dance the Younger’s development of the City Road area in the 1770s. Dance was the ‘Comptroller of the King’s Works’ in the City, a post held by Christopher Wren a century before him, and the deeds of the Chapel contain signed drawings of some of the elevations of the Chapel site.  

It was therefore very appropriate that the refurbishment returned the Chapel’s crypt to its original outline, revealing wooden columns and ceiling beams as well as emphasising the very interesting floor consisting of 19th century grave markers.

The new display is now organised thematically, with individual themes presented in clearly separate areas yet spatially and intellectually linked. Where possible, the display cases were arranged around the periphery of the space, to emphasise the architecture, facilitate a more open space and create interesting vistas throughout the museum. In order to draw attention from the comparatively low ceiling, ambience lighting has been installed in the showcases at the top and bottom, especially around the periphery of the space. In this way only a few ceiling spotlights to highlight important objects and areas without showcases were required, and display cases now appear weightless, as if floating in space.

Now the third phase of the development is complete, visitors can explore in depth Methodism’s social causes and commitments over the last two hundred and fifty years. Alcoholism and abstinence, including tee-totalism in the 19th century, are illustrated through engravings, coins and commemorative medals, and there are displays on the abolition of slavery, including the pen with which Wesley wrote his last letter to Wilberforce. The Sunday School movement forms an important part of the story, including a display of gold and silver medals awarded to the children of the Russell family in the early 1900s, all of whom earned special recognition for regular, long-term attendance and commitment. Funding of social causes and mission work abroad and overseas are also explored, as are the challenges of war with an exhibit on conscientious Methodist objectors during WWII.

Funding is still required to put in place our last showcase and an interactive table display. They will trace the spread and development of Methodism internationally, and give an insight into Methodist communities – with over 100 million believers today worldwide. Although we are nowhere near achieving our aim yet, we are looking creatively at possibilities to obtain further funds and hope to complete the museum by 2015 – watch this space!

In the meantime, do look in as entry to museum and house are free; go to http://www.wesleyschapel.org.uk/museum.htm for further information!

 By Christian Dettlaff, Curator at John Wesley's House

1 June 2014

15 May 2014

Museums at Night 2014

Museums at Night is Culture24's annual festival of inspiring after hours cultural events at museums, galleries and heritage sites taking place across the UK from Thursday May 15 to Saturday May 17 2014. Read on for details about which London Shh houses will be hosting events as part of the festivities.

On Thursday 15 May, 7-9.30pm, visitors will be able to explore Keats House after hours and create their own origami poetry with performance poet Sonority Turner. Adult tickets: £8 (including complimentary drink). Booking is essential.  

Benjamin Franklin House will be hosting a talk by Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Vivian Montgomery on Thursday 15 May at 6.30pm. Dr. Montgomery will discuss an extraordinary period of professional activity among England’s 18th century organists. Tickets: £5/£3.50 Friends and concessions. Phone 020 7839 2006 to book.

The curators at Dr. Johnson's House will be leading sold out candlelit tours on Friday 16 May at 7.30pm and 8.15pm evening.

Read more about Museums at Night and the full list of events taking place here.


By Sally James, Operations Manager at Benjamin Franklin House

15 May 2014


01 May 2014

Burgh House Blog - May 2014

What’s in a paint colour?

Burgh House is a Grade I-listed Queen Anne mansion that once stood proud and aloof on Hampstead Hill. Much of the building’s grandest features, including the barley-twist staircase, panelled interior, mantelpieces and imposing wrought-iron gates, were added in 1720 by Doctor Gibbons, the creator of Hampstead as a spa village.

Nowadays the house has been absorbed into London’s Zone Two and has seen many varied owners and uses, passing into public use after World War II.

Currently the building is managed by an independent, self-funding charity and serves many purposes, ranging from a local-history museum, art gallery, concert venue, and free community and education space, while also functioning as northwest London’s busiest wedding venue.

We have been gradually refurbishing the house (a never-ending job, it seems!), but first had to come up with an answer to a big question: how do you decorate a building like this?

Should one be true to the age of the building? In our case, this would mean approaching the decoration in an early Georgian style. Contrary to most of our ideas of Georgian tastes, the interior decoration of the early period was quite plain, with almost dour tones. Panelling like ours was, unless of the finest exotic hard woods, meant to be painted or grained to look like wood. Skirting, walls, cornices, window frames, shutters, walls and doors would often be painted in the same colour, with this colour used throughout the rest of the building, too. Typical paint colours of the period included off-whites, greys, stone and muted greens: these were affordable and purchased as pigments that were mixed with water when ready to be used. Richer colours made from pricier pigments such as golds, dark pinks and pastel blues may have been used by wealthier households in one or more of their grander rooms. The very wealthy may have painted a room in one of the most expensive colours, a dark olive green, as chosen by us for the recent refurbishment of the Burgh House Library, which was said to show off paintings at their best. Incidentally, one of the most interesting facts I gleaned from my research was that the painting of rooms was nearly almost undertaken by the family and servants themselves and not by paid workers, as painting was not considered to be a skilled job. It seems DIY is not such a modern phenomenon after all!

Over the course of the Georgian dynasty, the typical colour palette became brighter, lighter, bolder and more daring. By the end of the Georgian period, paint and paper were cheaper and much more readily available, with rooms delicately themed and furnished. The establishment of the printed press, the first ‘mass media’, meant that fashions changed as quickly as people could redecorate – even if they couldn’t afford it. A home like Burgh House would have been finely decorated and elegantly furnished.

Burgh House, however, has served a variety of purposes since the Georgian era, including being used as a military regimental headquarters before returning to domestic use; the last residents, Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie and her husband Captain Bambridge, left in the 1930s.

Many of the interior features of the house, including our beautiful music room, are the product of the 1920s. Should we therefore decorate the house in the style of this era? We have photographs of the interiors during this period, showing a lighter colour scheme, chintz patterns, stripped wood panelling and piles of oriental carpets. The rooms were busy and eclectic; cosy and homely. We can tell from chips of paint that pea greens, ochre yellow, browns and beiges were used, with woodwork and related features highlighted for the first time in lighter colours

Today Burgh House takes a regular pounding from all its different uses and many visitors, and any decorative scheme we chose needed to be hardwearing. The solution came in the form of a photograph of the dining room at Burgh House from the 1920s. The picture shows warm-coloured, painted panelling with lighter woodwork and Queen Anne-style furniture. In this we found our happy medium and, with the support of Farrow and Ball, have been gradually mixing Queen Anne/early-Georgian paint colours on the panelling chosen to match samples of paint found around the house. These feature a beautiful mix of greys, stones, golds, olives and sages, which we have combined with the modern 20th-century practicality of off-white eggshell painted woodwork.

We are delighted with the result – Queen Anne reproduction meets genuine Queen Anne; bold but fresh rooms, durable and practical, retaining all the warmth of the home Burgh House was in the 1920s, while being true to the period of the building and its original listed features, and done in a way that will preserve the house and its interior to be enjoyed by generations to come.


By Mark Francis, General Manager at Burgh House

1 May 2014


08 April 2014

Freud Museum Blog - April 2014

It’s been a busy year at the museum with a number of projects and plenty of new faces. In January 2013, the Director Carol Seigel took a sabbatical in New York, during which she was able to raise awareness of the museum and kick-start fundraising in the States.  Dawn Kemp was appointed as Acting Director.  In addition to producing Mad, Bad and Sad – a major Arts Council funded exhibition and event programme, she also oversaw a project to shed new light on Anna Freud’s life and work through collections development, interpretation, education and an artist residency.  The new Anna Freud Room will be complete in mid-May 2014.

This year also saw huge strides forward in terms of increasing access to all of our collections.  Thanks to a generous donor from the States, we now have high resolution images and greatly improved information about key items in the collection.  We will start making these images available via our website from mid-April.  However we anticipate it will take a year to complete this work.

In May last year, we launched a fundraising campaign to conserve Freud’s iconic couch and were delighted to reach our target.  The conservation work was carried out on site, which enabled visitors and staff to learn about the couch’s fascinating construction and history.

The education department has recently begun work on a project to produce education films to support our many A-level student visitors.  These will also be made available via the website.

Our volunteer team goes from strength to strength and now numbers over thirty. They support all aspects of the museum’s work, but we’re always on the lookout for more, so if you’re interested in getting involved then please do contact me to register your interest (marion@freud.org.uk).

Finally, summer is coming and the Freud Museum garden is bursting in to bloom, so do come and enjoy this peaceful and thought-provoking place. We look forward to seeing you.


By Marion Stone, Development Director at the Freud Museum (April 2014)

Image: Ardon Bar-Hama


21 March 2014

Bricks: The Building Blocks of London Shh...

London Shh is a collection of a diverse group of properties, built over a long period of time (1686-1939). But all of them have something in common; they were, like most of London, built with bricks.

Bricks have been used as a building material in Europe since the Roman period, but this was not commonplace until the seventeenth century. Before 1666, London still looked like a medieval city with most of its buildings made out of wood. The process of rebuilding London with brick had started before the Great Fire of London but the conflagration accelerated this change, as from then on all new buildings had to be made from brick or stone. Since then the material of choice for London and the surrounding area has been the dependable London Stock Brick, with its varying shades of brown and yellow coming from the clay beneath our feet.

Fenton House was built circa 1686 in a style that was to remain typical of London for over 200 years. The bulk of the brickwork is brown London Stock, which was both aesthetically pleasing and cheap. In an age when transport was prohibitively expensive, local materials were essential. London clay can be found throughout the Thames basin, and could therefore be dug up and made into bricks in a neighbouring field, thus eliminating transport costs.  The house is not all London stock, the quoins and window arches are made from red brick, which was most likely imported at greater expense. The window arches in particular are made from gauged brick; soft red brick which is then cut and rubbed into very precise shapes to form an arch above the window with incredibly fine joints of pure lime putty. Most of the houses in the London Shh group are built with London Stock; some of them make use of red gauged windows including Burgh House (c.1704), Dr Johnson’s House (c.1700), and Handel House (c.1723),  whilst others make use of yellow window dressings, for example Kelmscott House (c.1780) and Wesley House (c.1779). This basic formula was used and adapted for most London houses during this period.                                             

The best quality and most expensive brickwork would typically be situated at the public facing front of the house, while the back of the house would be made from cheaper bricks with simpler windows. Some of the houses are stuccoed, for instance Benjamin Franklin House (c.1730) and 7 Hammersmith Terrace (c.1755), or rendered such as Keats House (c.1814). This was done to imitate the look of stonework and sometimes even to cover up any shoddy brickwork underneath.

With the advent of the railways, transport costs plummeted and it became more fashionable to use red brick, so that by the time that the property now home to the Freud Museum was built in around 1920, it was made entirely of red brick. The impact of brick on architecture in London was so great that even Erno Goldfinger used brick, in a non-structural way, for his home at 2 Willow Road (c.1939).


By Christopher Curtis, Operations Volunteer at Benjamin Franklin House

March 2014

Image: Fenton House, Benjamin Franklin House and Freud Museum (Clockwise)

03 March 2014

Dr Johnson's House Blog - March 2014

Time for a good ol’ spring clean at Dr Johnson’s House


SPRING n.s. [from Springen, Dutch]

1.      The season in which plants rise and vegetate; the vernal season.


“Come, gentle SPRING, ethereal mildness,

Come, and from the bosom of yon dropping cloud

Upon our plains descend.”                              Thomson’s  Spring


Though it may not feel like it, Spring is nearly upon us again. Throughout the cold winter months in Dr Johnson’s former basement (now our office), we’ve been going through our fine and varied collection, coming up with ideas of how best to share some of our favourites with our visitors. The collection has been acquired, mainly through donations, since Lord Cecil Harmsworth rescued the House and opened it as a museum in 1911. He was adamant that Dr Johnson’s House should not be filled with ‘irrelevant 18th century bric-a-brac’ or be a ‘stuffy museum’, and that the items in our collection had to be relevant to Johnson directly, appropriate for the ‘cheery home of an impoverished writer’. Thus, Harmsworth turned down some donations, including Johnson’s death mask (too gloomy) and Chippendale furniture (too fancy). The Harmsworths also donated many early items themselves and the Johnson Club transferred their entire collection to the House.

Over the years, many generous donations of relevant books, paintings and artefacts have entered the collection and we’re pleased to say our Library collection of lexicography and many other works by the Great Cham of Literature, his contemporaries and predecessors is now available to browse online. The easy-to-use digital catalogue [http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/library.html] allows users to browse the fascinating collection of books amassed at the House where the literary colossus and creator of the first comprehensive English dictionary once worked and indeed read many books indeed. We’d be delighted to welcome visitors wishing to view specific items from the collection at the House (by appointment only just drop us a line on celine@drjohnsonshouse.org).

The House library and archives comprise more than 1,200 volumes and 100 pamphlets and essays. Highlights include first editions of Johnson’s Dictionary, a 1670 copy of Seneca’s Tragedies, a 1730 copy of Universal Etymological English Dictionary by Nathaniel Bailey and a 1772 copy of The Works of Abraham Cowley. Some were even owned by Johnson himself, at least one of which was clearly much–used judging but the ring mark left on the cover, presumably by one of his many cups of tea!

Throughout the course of 2014, Dr Johnson's House Library will be exhibiting a number of these rare books, not usually on show to the public, in a series of special temporary displays. Items that once belonged to Johnson, his circle of friends and various editions of dictionaries, books and pamphlets will be showcased to reveal Johnson's views on a number of prominent themes, including religion and slavery.  

Our current display marks a rather special event: this February 250 years ago Johnson (along with Joshua Reynolds, Oliver Goldsmith and six other ‘eminent men’) founded The Club (later known as The Literary Club). So, we have decided to celebrate this momentous occasion at the House by displaying some items from our archives which reveal more about this event and its legacy, including menus for supper at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and even a manuscript in Johnson’s own hand. Pay us a visit soon to catch our current display before we contemplate Johnson’s views on religion ahead of Easter celebrations in April.

Spring will also bring with it the inevitable need for a jolly good spring clean. So, in preparation, our Locum Curator went on a course at the Museum of London to train in conservational cleaning techniques (a lot more fun than it sounds and highly recommended! - http://blog.museumoflondon.org.uk/clean-clean/). So, raring to go, there’ll be a programme of collection cleaning at the House in the coming months check our website or call if you’re interested in what we’ll be up to and ways to get involved. (http://www.drjohnsonshouse.org/index.html).


By Celine McDaid, Locum Curator at Dr Johnson’s House

Image: Johnson’s own copy of Seneca’s Tragedies, cup-stain and all (reproduced by permission of Dr Johnson’s House Trust).

March 2014


04 February 2014

2 Willow Road Blog - February 2014

Modernist 2 Willow Road reopening heralded by exciting new exhibition 

2 Willow Road is still under wraps at the moment having been “put to bed” for the brief winter months while we’re closed to visitors. The rooms are in quiet darkness and objects shrouded in acid-free tissue after a much needed winter clean and condition inspection in November – a painstaking and delicate process requiring steady nerves, especially as so many of our objects are of mixed or little known materials – from a Roland Penrose collage to a 1990s Christmas pudding. All of this work will help us to keep these beloved family things in the best condition possible and slow their inevitable deterioration.

Despite the house’s relative youth – it was completed in 1939 – the interiors are surprisingly delicate and exposed to lots of heat and light in the warmer months through the banks of clever Modernist window systems which were designed to bring the outdoors in. Wonderful views, both inside and out, but a conundrum for conservators. New and unobtrusive blackout blinds have helped, being lowered and raised depending on the angle of the sun – although not much of that around lately!

The wraps will come off later this month as we eagerly prepare for reopening from 1 March and look forward to seeing those of our fantastic volunteer team who were not involved in conservation projects alongside us over the winter much news to catch up on and exciting plans to share.

We had a meeting this week with Phil Mayer and Freeman Abayasekera from Ryan Gander’s studio in preparation for his exhibition here from 1 March The Artists Have The Keys. Taking as his inspiration the furniture and fittings that Ernö Goldfinger designed for 2 Willow Road, leading British artist Gander has created new works that will be exhibited interspersed with the collections in the architect’s Modernist home. One audio-visual work in the exhibition (A flawed and wounded man bleeding frames onto a page) is a performance of a children’s book written by Gander, entitled The Boy Who Always Looked Up, about Goldfinger’s relationship to his residential tower block, Trellick Tower in North Kensington. Look on our website for further details of this exciting project, as well as our Last Thursday Lates programme starting in April (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2willowroad).

Watching the Bond film Goldfinger last weekend I realised there may be a reference to how Ian Fleming came up with the name for his film. The first time we meet Fleming’s eponymous antagonist is on the golf course, which is where, according to some, Fleming first heard the name. Fleming played golf on occasion with the cousin of Ursula Blackwell, Ernö Goldfinger’s wife. The name “Goldfinger” came up in conversation and was subsequently adopted by Fleming for his fictional villain (much to the real Goldfinger’s chagrin).

By Sara Nichols, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator, National Trust 2 Willow Road & Fenton House

Image credit: NT/David Watson

February 2014


10 January 2014

Handel House Museum Blog - January 2014

Handel House receive £1.2 million to develop a Hendrix museum

Handel House Museum at 25 Brook Street celebrates the life and music of baroque composer George Frederic Handel who lived at the property from 1723 until his death in 1759. But Handel wasn’t the only musician to live on this street. Jimi Hendrix – considered to be one of the greatest and most influential guitarists in popular music – lived in the attic flat next door in the late 1960s.

Both buildings are occupied by the museum and Jimi’s attic flat is currently our office.

We have always felt proud of the musical connection and now we are in a position to develop Jimi’s flat into a permanent museum following a £1.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. You can read the article in the Guardian now which came out on the 30 December 2013.

There is still more money to fundraise and much to plan for an opening in late 2015, but the news is out and we have had a fantastic response from Hendrix fans and Handel House supporters.

More details will be announced over the coming months so if you want to keep in touch join us on Facebook, Twitter or our website.


By Ella Roberts, Communications Officer at Handel House Museum

Image credit: © Barrie Wentzell

January 2014


20 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from all at London Shh!

If you are planning on visiting  the Shh houses over the festive period, then we would recommend checking individual house websites for details about special events and opening hours. Thank you to everyone who visited London Shh houses this year and we hope to see you again in 2014!


22 November 2013

Benjamin Franklin House Blog - November 2013

We have achieved a great deal at Benjamin Franklin House in 2013, including reaching our visitor target for the year! We have now welcomed over 70,000 people to the House since we opened on 17 January 2006, with the majority seeing our unique Historical Experience. 

Benjamin Franklin resided at the House (located at 36 Craven Street in Westminster) for nearly sixteen years between 1757-1775 and we aim to share his legacy of innovation and diplomacy with all. The House serves many different functions as a dynamic museum, an education facility, and a venue for hire. In the autumn the building has been used multiple times as a filming location for the BBC, including for the Culture Show and BBC Horizon. In addition our diverse events programme has featured lectures, family days, concerts, and receptions including a special US Independence Day celebration.

Next week over 140 guests will join us for our sold out annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the spectacular Butchers’ Hall on 28 November. Thanksgiving is a key event in the annual American holiday calendar. It is traditionally a time for giving thanks, which began with the Pilgrims in the 17th century, took on renewed significance after the American Civil War, and carries forward today.  Our Thanksgiving Dinner will be a traditional feast featuring turkey with all the trimmings. Franklin suggested that the turkey become one of America’s national symbols, and also practiced cooking it as part of his early work on electricity.  We are very grateful to our event sponsors Bloomberg and Whole Foods, who will be kindly donating delicious pumpkin pies for our dessert.

We still have tickets available for our Children’s Christmas Party on Saturday 14 December, 11am. With Christmas just around the corner, children will discover the magic of the season – 18th century style – with crafts and treats. We will sing along to festive classics such as ’Silent Night’ and ’Jingle Bells’ with accompaniment on the Glass Armonica, Franklin’s musical instrument. Enjoy mince pies and deck the halls with a Christmas wreath to make and take home! The event is suitable for 5-11 year olds. Tickets are £5 per child and free for adults. To book phone our Box Office on +44(0) 20 7925 1405 (open 10.30am-5pm everyday except Tuesday) or email education@benjaminfranklinhouse.org

We look forward to reaching many more milestones and hosting some fantastic events in 2014! Visit our website www.BenjaminFranklinHouse.org for news and updates.


By Sally James, Operations Manager at Benjamin Franklin House

Image: 2012 Benjamin Franklin House Thanksgiving Dinner at the Butchers' Hall


17 October 2013

Fenton House Blog - October 2013

As our main season at Fenton House is drawing to a close, we are beginning to look back over 2013 and reflect. It has certainly been a busy year, and here are some of the highlights... 

Our balcony has yet again proved to be a big hit with visitors – at the top of the house, it gives access to stunning views over London and is often one of the highlights of a trip to Fenton.

Music has played a big part in our 2013 season. We are lucky enough to have a world-class collection of early keyboard instruments, dating back as early as 1540, and this season we have had a great series of concerts which proved very popular with both volunteers and visitors. We have also continued our ‘Musical Wednesdays’, a weekly talk and demonstration of the collection. On top of all that, we have a number of talented volunteer musicians who drop in and play informally.  Aside from being wonderfully entertaining, these events really are valuable in enabling more of us to engage with the collection and gain a greater understanding of these fascinating instruments. We will certainly be continuing all this next season.

Apple Weekend, the biggest event in the Fenton House calendar, has come and gone, and was a great success this year – helped along by some fantastic late-September weather! A celebration of our 300 year old orchard, we hosted an array of crafts people and local food producers, provided lots of outdoor games and trails for children, and even had a zip-line through the trees on our front drive! Not to mention lots of apple-related produce, juicing demonstrations and tastings. We had just shy of 1,300 visitors over the two days, and everyone apparently had a great time. Bring on Apple Weekend 2014!

2013 is definitely not over yet, however! We’re busy planning our Christmas weekends and, after the success of the last few years, are open for a record four weekends this year, beginning on 30th Nov/1st Dec. There will be different activities going on each weekend, and whether you want to dip into some traditional Christmas crafts, listen to carol singers, hear our fantastic early keyboard instrument collection or are keen to meet Father Christmas in his grotto, there will be something for everyone. The house will be decorated for the festive season and it's very much a favourite time of year to explore – the beautiful interiors really lend themselves to being dolled up, to magical effect.


By Charlotte Milligan, Volunteer Visitor Experience Assistant at Fenton House

Image credit: Ellen Gates/National Trust


13 September 2013

Open House London 2013

We are delighted to announce that six of the London Shh… houses will be participating in Open House London taking place on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September 2013. This annual event is a celebration of the city’s incredible architecture and it invites the public to cross the threshold of some of London’s most interesting buildings for free! The six London Shh houses taking part include:


*Benjamin Franklin House: open Sat 21 and Sun 22 Sep, 10.30am-4pm, for first come first served half hourly guided tours of Franklin’s only surviving home


*Burgh House and Hampstead Museum: explore this beautiful Grade I listed house and view the special exhibition of British landscapes on Sun 22 Sep 12pm-5pm (last admission 4.30pm)


*Dr. Johnson’s House: discover the house and interiors at Dr Johnson’s charming townhouse on at 21 Sep 11am-6pm


*Emery Walker House (7 Hammersmith Terrace): visit the Georgian home of Emery Walker, a great friend and mentor to William Morris on Sun 22 Sep, 11am-4pm


*Handel House Museum: enjoy visiting the 18th century home of Handel accompanied by live Baroque music. Open Sat 21 Sep 10am-5.30pm (last admission 5pm) and Sun 22 Sep 12pm-5.30pm


*John Wesley’s House: step back into 18th century London with a visit to the house built by John Wesley on Sat 21 Sep 10am-4pm (last admission 3.30pm) and Sun 22 Sep 12pm-2pm (last admission 1.30pm)


We advise checking the Open House London website and guide for full details. Enjoy!


05 August 2013

Freud Museum London Blog - August 2013

Since the last time I wrote in early 2012, we have now completed the first phase of development works which included a larger event and exhibition space, new interpretation materials, better lighting and a larger space for visitors in Freud’s study and new displays of Freud’s personal possessions.


In early February Carol Seigel, the Museum’s Director left the Museum on a year’s sabbatical in New York, where is she is spending some of her time building awareness of the Museum and fundraising for our plans to further improve interpretation, education and archives.


In her place, we welcomed Dawn Kemp as Acting Director.  Among many projects, Dawn is currently working on a major exhibition, Mad Bad and Sad, which will explore the history of ‘female maladies’ and counterpoint them with contemporary women’s art. The exhibition will open on 10 October 2013.  Before that we will welcoming an exhibition by Kids Company, Hide and Seek, which opens on 4 September.


In the spring, were delighted to be awarded funding from the Arts Council for a project about Freud’s daughter – the Museum’s founder – Anna Freud.  We will re-display the current Anna Freud, shedding more light on her achievements and legacy as well as hosting an artist’s residency, creating new primary education resources and researching the archives relating to her life.  The project is due to be completed by April 2014. 


We are also underway with a project to digitize our entire collection and make this available online via a new website.  We hope to have this ready in spring 2014.  Keep in touch and follow what’s happening at the museum via our e-news, Facebook and Twitter.


By Marion Stone, Development Director at The Freud Museum London


09 July 2013

The Emery Walker Trust and the William Morris Society secure Heritage Lottery Fund support

The Emery Walker Trust and the William Morris Society have secured initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their joint project ‘Arts and Crafts Hammersmith: Developing the Legacy of William Morris and Emery Walker’.  This initiative aims to open up access to the rich collections of both organisations and the wider histories – personal, social, political – of the arts and crafts that are deeply rooted in this part of Hammersmith.

Development funding of £91,800 has been awarded to help the Emery Walker Trust and William Morris Society progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. 

The project involves essential conservation work to the collections of both organisations. It will also digitise them through a single web portal, allowing on-line public access to the collections for the first time.  New joint programmes of education, interpretation and outreach will be offered. A shared group of volunteers will be trained to help run the programmes and care for the collections. Both houses will benefit from much-needed repairs as well as alterations designed to improve the visitor experience by creating spaces for exhibitions and better support of public activities.

Geographically, the project is concentrated on the remarkable survival of Morris and Walker's two homes. They stand a quarter of a mile apart in Hammersmith on a stretch of the Thames where many members of the Arts and Crafts movement, particularly those concerned with printing, lived and worked, and by which they were inspired. This aspect of Hammersmith's heritage is of international significance, and it deserves to be better known, understood and enjoyed.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact: Helen Elletson at the William Morris Society on +44 (0)208 741 3735, curator@williammorrissociety.org.uk


05 June 2013

Dr Johnson's House Blog - June 2013

The House has seen a lot of change behind the scenes recently with the appointment of a new Deputy Curator (me) in March [we are a humble team of just two, supported by a wonderful group of volunteers.] So, what have I been up to, you may well ask. Well, in order to get familiar with the House and its treasures, I’ve spent a lot of time going through its fine collection of Johnsoniana, its archives and manuscripts – a real treat!

Every day I seem to stumble across some fascinating, obsolete word (imagine how offended you would be if I were to call you a bedpresser or, heaven forbid, a fopdoodle!). Trawling through former Curators’ talks has also provided much anecdotal amusement – did you know that Johnson could drink over 22 cups of tea in one sitting? I didn’t. An expensive habit considering it wasn’t until the last 6 months of his life that the tax on tea was reduced to a more palatable 12.5%, down from a staggering 119%. Good news for an indulgent Johnson perhaps, but not so much for the rest of Georgian London, as the same Act of 1784 saw an increase in tax on windows (and introduced one on hats, of all things!).

In our Map Chest I also came across several wonderful images of the courtyards and alleyways around Fleet Street, the neighbourhood where Johnson spent much of his time in London. Inspired by this find, our Late Opening June 20th is my chance to share these prints, watercolours and photos with you in Johnson’s Neighbourhood: Past and Present [6.30-8pm]. Book now

In contrast, our Late Opening July 4th explores Johnson’s opinion on events further afield: the bid for freedom made by ‘our American colonies’ [it would seem taxation was proving to be somewhat bothersome for them, too]. Johnson once remarked that patriotism was ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’. The evening Patriots and Scoundrels: Johnson on Independence Day [6-8pm] will draw on Johnson’s 1775 pamphlet ‘Taxation No Tyranny’ to illustrate his thoughts on the matter further, with short introductory talks by the Curator. Our state-side cousins are more than welcome and will receive discounted entry. Book now

CAVEAT not for the easily offended:

 “That our commerce with America is profitable, however less than ostentatious or deceitful estimates have made it, and that it is our interest to preserve it, has never been denied; but, surely, it will most effectually be preserved, by being kept always in our own power.”                                                                                                             Taxation No Tyranny, 1775

What say you..?


By Celine McDaid, Deputy Curator at Dr Johnson’s House


20 May 2013

John Wesley's House Blog - May 2013

Exciting times! The refurbished Museum of Methodism is re-opening on the 25th May, and it will tell the story of Methodism’s immense influence on Britain and the world.

Our new museum is being delivered in two phases; phase one opening at the end of May, with phase two to be completed by November 2013. The project has brought together some of the UK’s finest craftsmen and storytellers; and the architects, John McAslan & Partners, as well as the designers, Barker Langham, have come straight from transforming King’s Cross station and the Royal Opera House. Everything is being completed in record time!

Huw Edwards, the BBC presenter, narrates our new seven-minute audio-visual presentation and the latest technology, including tablet computers, provides interactive access to major archival documents, such as John Wesley’s sermons and Charles Wesley’s hymns. 

Three permanent exhibitions will be ready for the official opening:

“The Warmed Heart” tells the story of John Wesley’s conversion.  His Field Bible is one of the objects on display in a contemplative space. 

“Mr Wesley’s New Chapel” traces the history of Wesley’s Chapel using a series of maps of Finsbury and Islington, the earliest of which dates to 1746.

“Connecting the Connexion” illustrates John’s Wesley’s visionary organisational system of Methodist societies, classes and bands.  Exhibits include a range of membership tickets and a print of Francis Asbury, whose enthronement as a bishop in the United States sealed Methodism’s separation from the Church of England.

Three more exhibitions will open in the autumn at the end of the second and final phase of the museum’s development. 

We can’t wait – come visit us after the Bank Holiday weekend and explore the first phase of the new museum for yourself; entry is free and everyone is welcome!

By Christian Dettlaff, Curator at John Wesley's House & The Museum of Methodism



15 May 2013

Museums at Night 2013

Many of the London Shh houses will be participating in Museums at Night (Thursday May 16 - Saturday May 18 2013): an annual festival of inspiring after hours cultural events in museums, galleries and heritage sites. On 16 May Freud Museum London is hosting an evening with Turner Prize-winning artist, Martin Creed. On 17 May Handel House will be running a special candlelit evening and Keats House Museum is offering twilight guided tours. Benjamin Franklin House is running two evening Historical Experience shows on 18 May. Spaces for all events are limited, so we recommend checking for availability with the houses.

Read more about the festival and other organisations taking place here: http://www.culture24.org.uk/places+to+go/museums+at+night

26 April 2013

Emery Walker House Blog - April 2013

We are very excited about the opening of the Emery Walker House for the new season, as well as the prospect of welcoming both new and familiar faces to our lovely house. We have a dedicated team of volunteers who do fully guided one hour tours, so visitors are sure to experience the full Emery Walker experience yet again this season. From April – October we have 3 tours every Saturday and in addition on occasional Sundays as well from May – September. Please see our website, www.emerywalker.org.uk, for further information.

We would also like to encourage groups to come in for tours out of the normal opening hours. This means we will now be opening the house especially for interested groups, which will hopefully make the Emery Walker House accessible to even more enthusiasts of Emery Walker and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

A very special occasion for us this month was, when the Emery Walker House appeared in the BBC4 documentary ”Hidden Killers in the Victorian Home”; an interesting documentary which mainly focused on how the most common lethal dangers in the Victorian era surprisingly occurred within the home. Although hidden killers are not among the first things that spring to mind when walking amongst the very domestic, floral, and cosy interiors of the Emery Walker house, we of course agree that it is a perfect location for a showcase of the Victorian home.

Although Morris’ wallpaper appears in several Victorian houses, the Emery Walker house is actually the only house that still has original Morris & co. wallpaper, which dates back to when it was originally produced. Speaking of which, as a side note for future visitors who have seen the documentary, we would like to point out that they need not to worry, as we definitely have no arsenic in our wallpaper. Just beautiful patterns.

For those of you, who like us, are looking forward to the beautiful British summer, we are pleased to announce that the Emery Walker House again this year will take part in “The Open Garden Squares”. For this lovely occasion the house will be open on Sunday June 9rd, from 2-5pm, so make a weekend out of it and come enjoy the early summer with us. Tickets for the event are cheaper if bought in advance. Please see www.opensquares.org for further information.

By Helen Elletson, Curator at Emery Walker House and Kelmscott House



26 March 2013

London Shh Connections

The London Shh group consists of small historic houses built in different time periods, which were home to various famous residents; buildings which all tell their own unique stories. Perhaps, however, there are fewer degrees of separation than you might think. What follows is a series of connections between the houses; be it their inhabitants, construction or collections.

-          Fenton House displays an original Dutch harpsichord which may have been owned by composer George Frideric Handel, who lived and died at Handel House on 25 Brook Street

-          A performance Handel’s Water Music on the musical glasses inspired Benjamin Franklin to invent the glass armonica in 1761, a working replica of which is held at the Benjamin Franklin House

-          Franklin met Dr Samuel Johnson in 1760 at a meeting of The Society to Promote Christian Knowledge. Johnson resided at many different addresses in London including 17 Gough Square known as Dr. Johnson’s House

-          Dr Johnson was plagiarised by John Wesley who officially apologised for borrowing heavily from one of his essays in March 1775

-          In 1804 John Keats’ father fell off his horse outside Wesley’s House and never recovered from his injuries. Keats was 8 when he died, leaving his mother a widow. Keats later took up lodgings at Wentworth Place, now Keats House Museum

-          ‘An American Memorial to Keats’ was published in 1895 by Kelmscott Press, which was founded and run by famed artist and socialist William Morris

-          William Morris was a friend and peer of Emery Walker who lived near Kelmscott House in Hammersmith. The Emery Walker House is full of Morris furnishings and mementos of their friendship

We struggled to connect the remaining houses, but found those located in Hampstead have their own fascinating links:

-          Erno Goldfinger, the Modernist architect, built and lived at 2 Willow Road in Hampstead. He was an idol of architect, Ernst Freud, who resided at 20 Maresfield Gardens (now the Freud Museum) with his father Sigmund

-          Ernst’s son, Lucian, became a famous portrait artist and voiced his great respect and admiration for landscape artist John Constable. An exhibition about Constable is currently on display at Burgh House and Hampstead Museum

So there it is, all eleven houses linked by their history. If you know of any more facts or anecdotes which tie these places together please contact us, or even better, visit the houses in person!

By Luke Holmes, Intern at Benjamin Franklin House. Edited by Sally James, Operations Manager at Benjamin Franklin House.

06 February 2013

Burgh House and Hampstead Museum Blog - February 2013

Penguins at Burgh House!

We love kids in our museum and so our new year’s resolution was to make the museum at Burgh House more kid friendly than ever before. Thanks to a generous grant from the Tana Trust we have been able to do just that and today – 6th February we see the launch of the Penguin Kids Corner.  Named after everyone’s favourite penguin, the High Hill Penguin, who lives in Hampstead Museum, Penguin Kids Corner is there to give all our young visitors something fun to do, be they babies, toddlers or school age.  Our new cosy reading corner is packed full of fun and interesting books for all ages, and with comfy beanbags it is the perfect place to get lost in a good book.  You can also dress-up as your favourite character from history (the staff at Burgh House have already had a lot of fun trying out the costumes), delve into the toy box or get your creating juices flowing on the colouring table.  We may even display some of our favourite creations in the museum! Now all we need is for you to come and have fun!

To celebrate we have two fantastic kids events coming up, on Friday 22nd February half term family fun for 5-9 years starts at 2pm (£3) and on 2nd April the Mad Hatters Easter Tea Party for 2-7 years olds is an afternoon not to be missed (£15).  Book Here! http://www.burghhouse.org.uk/events/family.aspx  

14 January 2013

Handel House Museum Blog - January 2013

Charles Jennens: the man behind Handel’s Messiah

The Messiah is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest pieces of music of all time, but little is known of its inception. An exhibition at Handel House aims to shed light on Handel’s friend and collaborator Charles Jennens who came up with the subject and libretto which inspired him to write this extraordinary work in just 24 days.

Charles Jennens (1700-1773) was a wealthy landowner, devout Protestant and musical innovator with an addiction to Handel’s music. He compiled an unrivalled collection of every note that Handel wrote and became a loyal friend of the composer. He was a private man with no profession but was an immensely generous supporter of charities and the arts. He inherited his father’s 736-acre estate of Gopsall in Leicestershire and transformed the Jacobean Gopsall Hall, filling it with one of the largest picture collections in the country, as well as an immense library, containing many Shakespeare texts.

Handel held Jennens’ creativity in high regard, respected his opinion and used several of his suggestions in his most celebrated pieces of work. As a result, Jennens became Handel’s best English librettist, producing the texts for such mould-breaking works as Saul and Belshazzar. His influence on Handel is unquestionable but his work was always anonymous, never credited and he remains largely unknown, even by classical music scholars.

But Jennens’ work with Handel is just one of his unsung achievements. He was also the first person to publish Shakespeare’s plays in single volumes, producing the first modern editions of King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and Julius Caesar between 1770 and 1774. At the time of publication, Jennens came under vicious attack from influential rival George Steevens, whose profound jealousy was legendary and whose connections (which included Samuel Johnson) helped perpetuate the allegations he spread. Steevens, who was known to alter Shakespeare’s text in his own editions to throw suspicion on the work of others, made attacks on Jennens’ personality and work which persist to this day until now.


Charles Jennens: the man behind Handel’s Messiah

21 November 2012 – 14 April 2013

For more information please visit www.handelhouse.org  

Image: portrait of Charles Jennens (© The Handel House Trust Ltd)

14 December 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Christmas carols, mince pies and fruit punch at our concert on 12th December. We were delighted to see you there!

If you are planning on visiting  the Shh houses over the festive period, then we would recommend checking individual house websites for details about special events and opening hours.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from all at London Shh.

06 November 2012

Christmas Carol Concert

Join us for a festive evening of Christmas carols and festive pieces at Wesley’s Chapel on 13 December 2012, 6.15pm-8pm.  The programme, introduced by a short ecumenical service, will include Handel's Largo, Mozart’s Kyrie: Mass in C minor, pieces from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and a selection of well-known Christmas hymns and sing-along carols.

Doors open at 6.15pm for refreshments, concert starts at 7pm. Please note that seating is unreserved.

Book online here: http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb334342373

Image: Olivia Mann Photography

06 November 2012

Fenton House Blog - November 2012

We are coming to the end of our open season now at Fenton House, and looking back, it has certainly been a busy year.

The packed calendar of public events began with our popular Easter Trail in the garden and continued with our High Spirits Tea Party to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. We held Open Garden Squares Weekend in June, and our annual Apple Weekend in September which attracted over 1500 people. We also welcomed a record number of visitors during Open House London weekend, despite the dismal weather. Apple Weekend was a particularly special event this year as we celebrated the bequest of Fenton House in the 1950s with plenty of rock n’ roll music accompanying brilliant lindy hop dancers on the formal lawn, as well as tasting platters of traditional English apple varieties, sumptuous cake stalls, a gin bar in the orchard and a zip-line in our front garden for the more adventurous among you!

Our ‘Linear Collections’ exhibition by the artist Venetia Norris, featuring botanical drawings inspired by the gardens at Fenton House, was well received by our visitors when it ran for three months earlier in the year, and our series of summer concerts were popular as always. This year we began a series of afternoon talks in the house, with ‘Musical Wednesdays’ giving the public a chance to learn more about our early keyboard instrument collection, and ‘Object in Focus’ talks on Thursdays are providing a more detailed analysis of the various and unique items in our collections. We plan to continue these talks next season following the positive feedback we’ve received this year.

As we enter in the winter months and our closed season we will be preparing the house for a ‘deep clean’ and all the essential maintenance and conservation needed for both the building and the collections. However, following our very successful Christmas opening last year, Fenton House and Gardens will be open for weekends in December (1st-2nd, 8th-9th, 15th-16th). The beautiful interiors of the house are particularly atmospheric at this time of year and will be festively decorated; we are also hosting a fabulous Christmas Fair in the garden run by Oakleigh Fairs on 15th-16th December featuring a wide range of arts, crafts and gift stalls, as well as a chance to meet Santa and his reindeer in their Christmas grotto. We look forward to seeing you there.


Author: Ann Hartigan, Visitor Experience Assistant

November 2012

Image copyright: Claudia Sottile

19 October 2012

Christmas Carol Concert

The Medici choir will be singing a repertoire of favourite Christmas carols and festive pieces at Wesley’s Chapel on 13 December 2012, 6.15pm-8pm.  The programme, introduced by a short ecumenical service, will include Handel's Largo, Mozart’s Kyrie: Mass in C minor, pieces from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and a selection of well-known Christmas hymns and sing-along carols.

The Medici Choir was established in 1951 to perform during the Festival of Britain; today, it is over sixty voices strong and performs nationally and abroad, including Paris, Prague and further afield.  Recent engagements have included Westminster Abbey and London City churches.

Doors open at 6.15pm for refreshments, concert starts at 7pm. Please note that seating is unreserved.

Book online here: http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb334342373

Image: Olivia Mann Photography

19 September 2012

Open House London 2012

Open House London is an annual celebration of buildings and architecture across the city. During the weekend of 22nd-23rd September over 750 buildings will open their doors to the public for free. This festival provides a unique opportunity to explore some facinating places.

Please see below for details of the London Shh houses participating.

* 2 Willow Road will be open Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm. Entry will be via limited timed tickets only, available from the house on the day on a first come first served basis. Last entry 4.30pm.

* Benjamin Franklin House will be open for pre-booked only half-hourly tours over the weekend from 10.30am-4pm. However, there may be some additional spaces available on the day.

* Dr Johnson's House will be open on the Saturday 11am-5.30pm with short introductory talks throughout the day. Last entry is 5pm. Max 100 people at one time.

* Emery Walker House will be running regular tours on both days from 11am-4pm. Max 15 people at one time.

* Fenton House will be open on both days 11am-5pm. Timed entry may be used if very busy. Last entry is 4.30pm.

* Handel House Museum will be open on a first come basis on Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday 12noon-6pm.

* Kelmscott House will be open with regular tours running on both days from 11am-5pm. Max 40 people at one time.






08 August 2012

London Shh...Summer Garden Party

Join us on Thursday 23 August, 6-8.30pm, for a late summer soiree in the garden of an English poet: an evening of poetry and romance in Keats’ secret garden in the company of London’s Small Historic Houses.

There will be guided tours of Keats House, poetry readings and a creative writing challenge inspired by John Keats and his garden. Also available on the night will be a pay bar and a fabulous raffle with prizes donated by each house.

Tickets cost £10 including a drink on arrival and canapés.

Book online here or send a cheque payable to London Shh to Keats House, 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, London NW3 2RR

For further information, please contact Holly Booth at Keats House, email: holly.booth@cityoflondon.gov.uk, Tel: 020 7332 3868.

02 July 2012

Benjamin Franklin House Blog - July 2012

We will be busy hanging up red, white and blue bunting at Benjamin Franklin House this week in preparation for our US Independence Day Party on the 4th of July. It is perhaps the most fitting location for such an event in Britain: the House served as the first de-facto American Embassy. For nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, Dr Benjamin Franklin –diplomat, inventor, Founding Father of the United States and more – lived behind its doors. Franklin was the only statesman to have signed all four documents that created a new nation, including The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris, and The Constitution. The first of these signed on 4 July 1776, formalising the separation of the 13 colonies from British rule, is celebrated annually with a US national holiday, traditionally marked by fireworks, parades, and barbecues. It has been celebrated in London since 1882, when this “novel international festival” was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, attended by members of Parliament and others.

On the 4th of July, we will be serving cake kindly donated by Konditor & Cook, and bubbly to guests in Franklin’s Parlour on the first floor of the House. Our Georgian interiors are looking especially beautiful, following some recent redecoration and conservation work to our eighteenth century floorboards.

We have many family events, and lectures planned throughout the rest of the summer including our Children’s Summer Fete. Upcoming US themed events include a Presidential Debate held in association with the Eccles Centre for American Studies on 19 October, and our annual fundraising Thanksgiving Dinner on 22 November. Find out more about all our events here.

Author: Sally James, Operations Manager

July 2012

14 June 2012

Keats House Blog

Following a hectic Keats Festival from 1st – 10th June, the museum is enjoying a brief period of calm before the influx of summer tourists and day trippers. Like many museums, summer is our busiest period and it’s always a fine balance between making the house accessible to the public and preserving the delicate interiors of the museum. In 2009 the museum was completely refurbished with funds from The Heritage Lottery Fund, but with a house this small the impact of thousands of visitors is already starting to show. We will be arranging a deep clean and fresh lick of paint for the winter months, but in the meantime we are working hard to promote our exciting range of summer events.

The vibrant gardens at Keats House become the setting for our annual Teddy Bear’s Picnics where we sing songs and read stories to families. This year these are taking place every Wednesday during the school holidays at 3pm. Arrive early to get a good spot!

We are also running our most ambitious programme of Regency Sewing Workshops, inspired by Keats’s fashionable fiancée Fanny Brawne who originally lived in the larger part of Keats House. You can make an entire Regency outfit from scratch and by hand, including bonnet, Spencer jacket and slippers. Everything you need to be the belle of the ball!

Finally, if the sun is shining and you fancy a lazy day in Hampstead, why not visit our garden? It is free to visit and something of a hidden gem in Hampstead. We recommend bringing a blanket, a well stocked picnic hamper and a chilled bottle of fizz. We can’t promise Nightingale song, but we can promise the peace and tranquillity of an English poet’s garden. 


Author: Holly Booth, Interpretation Officer

June 2012

25 May 2012

The London Shh Loyalty Card

You can pick up loyalty cards at eight of Shh houses plus two National Trust properties.* Remember to bring your card when you visit a Shh house and ask the admissions assistant to stamp the back for you. Visit five or more London Shh… houses by 31st December 2012 and receive a limited edition goodie bag!* To collect your bag, please hand your fully stamped card to a Shh house staff member.  

We hope the card will encourage visitors to discover London Shh… houses across the capital during this Olympic year. Tucked away down intriguing streets and alleys, off the beaten tourist track you will find some of the city's best kept secrets. Visit our map to find out where we’re hidden.

* Participating houses include: 2 Willow Road (National Trust), Benjamin Franklin House, Burgh House, Dr Johnson's House, Fenton House (National Trust), Freud Museum, Handel House Museum, John Wesley's House, Keats House Museum and Kelmscott House

* Goodie bags are limited to one per person and subject to availability.

01 May 2012

John Wesley's House Blog

May is always a special time here at John Wesley’s House and Wesley’s Chapel, built by John Wesley in 1778 on London’s busy City Road. It is the month in which John Wesley had his conversion experience in 1738, when he “felt his heart strangely warm’d” and he suddenly realised he had faith in God and was called upon to serve the Lord as best he could for the rest of his life.  Wesley of course was instrumental in establishing what later came to be known as “Methodism”, a very practical or “methodical” approach to the Christian faith based on a belief in personal mission and service to one’s fellow human beings.

The days just before and after Wesley’s conversion day on the 24th May are always very busy with visitors and pilgrims. There is a bustle about the historic site and a sense of energy and renewal – partially, no doubt, due to the gardens of the house and chapel breaking into bloom. This spring however is particularly exciting for us at Wesley’s Chapel. Following the installation of new signage around the site last year, further fundraising has resulted in a very generous donation to the Museum of Methodism (also on campus) and John Wesley’s House. Both will be re-developed and the house will become an integral part of the overall site and museum experience. Much more so than now, John Wesley’s House will quite literally become the gateway to The Museum of Methodism whilst offering a historic experience in its own right. The redevelopment of the museum provides an excellent opportunity to stand back and consider how we present John Wesley’s House and how the house can become the starting point for our visitors’ history experience on site. It will of course continue to function as a historic house and remain much as Wesley knew it, but with the added bonus of helping to orientate our visitors and introduce them to the rich history which lies beyond our gates. Our refurbishment is scheduled to start later this year, so if you haven’t been yet to visit us, spring is the best time to come – go on a (free!) tour led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, listen to a concert in the chapel and have lunch in the chapel grounds!

Author: Christian Dettlaff, Curator

May 2012

05 April 2012

Dr Johnson's House Blog

Behind the scenes at Dr Johnson’s House we are hard at work cataloguing our library.  Samuel Johnson owned thousands of books on his death and these were sold at Christies in 1784 over several days’ sale.  Today we have three of those books in our library along with other highlights including two first editions of Johnson’s Dictionary, a growing collection of eighteenth-century dictionaries and books belonging to Johnson’s contemporaries James Boswell, Hester Thrale and Elizabeth Carter.  However, until this year there had been no electronic catalogue of the books and many people simply don’t realise the library is there as a research facility, open to all. Our Library Cataloguing Project is aiming to change all that. 

Following a successful fundraising appeal, the House has contracted specialist rare books cataloguer, Dr Sarah Cusk, to catalogue the books.  Our volunteers are also creating photographic records of each book, starting with the early printed works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  We have now catalogued over 600 books and these will be available online – along with the launch of our new website – later this year.  So keep checking our website for the most up to date information: www.drjohnsonshouse.org.  Dr Johnson’s House will also be launching an ‘Adopt a book’ scheme to help conserve some of our valuable books and later this year we will install a new purpose-built display case in the library so that we can start showing the gems in our collection to our visitors.

“Alas, Madam! How few books are there of which one can ever possibly arrive at the last page ...” Samuel Johnson



Author: Stephanie Chapman, Curator

April 2012


15 March 2012

Burgh House and Hampstead Museum Blog

Artist John Constable’s love of Hampstead and the Heath is largely overlooked but, now, as the second centenary of his first visit there approaches, a new exhibition at Burgh House will redress the balance, thanks to a grant of almost £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Burgh House and Hampstead Museum will be marking the event this year with a major six-month exhibition of some of Constable’s original works, currently in storage at the V&A.  For the first time they will be on display just a few steps from the views that inspired them. The exhibition will also draw from Burgh House’s existing collection including works by CRW Nevinson, Donald Towner and Duncan Grant to reflect the development of village and Heath through the artworks of those it has inspired.

Constable first came to Hampstead in1812 to walk and ride over the Heath as an escape from London city life. His visit made a strong impression on him and he returned many times before finally moving there with his family in 1820. At the time he wrote: “I have settled my wife and children comfortably in Hampstead. I am glad to get them out of London for every reason.”

The Constables lived at a number of different addresses including some directly opposite Burgh House. In addition to his painting he became actively involved in local life and lectured on painting and the study of clouds and the sky to the Hampstead Literary and Scientific Society. It was while living in the village that he developed his technique for capturing these elements on canvas; he also represented a number of local houses and streets in his work.

The artist died in 1837 and is buried in Hampstead parish churchyard next to his wife and six of their seven children. His grave and commemorative plaques on the homes in which he lived are the only official memorial to his life and work in the village.

Now, with the support of the HLF, Burgh House’s major exhibition will explore the heritage of the area using its own collections combined with various loaned artworks.

Rebecca Lodge, Curator at Burgh House, said: “We are very excited at the prospect of being able to show these wonderful works of art in their natural home.  It will be a real treat for the local community and a fantastic resource for schools in Camden.  We are enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this 100 year anniversary celebration possible.”


Author: Kate Streeter, General Manager

March 2012

01 March 2012

London Shh Loyalty Cards

We are pleased to announce the launch of the London Shh… Loyalty Card! You can pick up the new loyalty cards from the 1st March 2012 at eight of Shh houses plus two National Trust properties.* Remember to bring your card when you visit a Shh house and ask the admissions assistant to stamp the back for you. Visit five or more London Shh… houses by 31st December 2012 and receive a limited edition goodie bag!* To collect your bag, please hand your fully stamped card to a Shh house staff member.  

We hope the card will encourage visitors to discover London Shh… houses across the capital during this Olympic year. Tucked away down intriguing streets and alleys, off the beaten tourist track you will find some of the city's best kept secrets. Visit our map to find out where we’re hidden.

* Participating houses include: 2 Willow Road (National Trust), Benjamin Franklin House, Burgh House, Dr Johnson's House, Fenton House (National Trust), Freud Museum, Handel House Museum, John Wesley's House, Keats House Museum and Kelmscott House

* Goodie bags are limited to one per person and subject to availability.

13 February 2012

Freud Museum Blog

This is quite possibly the busiest time any of us can remember… 


Phase one of our plans to develop the museum began in mid January when the builders arrived to remove the wall between the exhibition and film rooms to give us a much larger event and exhibition space.  Between now and the summer, we will also be introducing an orientation space, better lighting and information for Freud’s study, displaying more of Freud’s personal possessions and much more besides.


Meanwhile, we are hosting Jane McAdam Freud’s exhibition, Lucian Freud My Father which has attracted huge interest from press and visitors alike and gives a very personal take on the passing of one of the greatest British painters.


In addition, it’s all hands on deck for the preparation of our forthcoming exhibition, Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed.  The exhibition will show original documents from the artist’s recently discovered psychoanalytic writings, as well as drawings and sculptures, in the house of the founding father of psychoanalysis.  It should be our biggest show yet.


Earlier in the month film star Viggo Mortensen visited the museum for drinks and a Q&A session before our screening of the David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, in which he plays Freud. The film charts the early days of psychoanalysis and the complex and fiery relationship between Freud and Jung and has been on general release since 10 February. 


Keep in touch and follow what’s happening at the museum via our e-news, facebook and twitter


Author: Marion Stone, Development Director

February 2012

18 January 2012

What's On 2012

The London Shh...houses are looking forward to another exciting year, filled with events ranging from lectures to concerts. Visit our What's On to find out about what we have planned for 2012.  You can easily search the What's On section by type of event, historic house, and date. Upcoming highlights include new exhibitions at Burgh House and the Freud Museum, both starting on 25 January 2012. Stay tuned for details about joint London Shh... events throughout the year too!



20 December 2011

Season's Greetings

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at London Shh!  We recommend checking the individual Shh houses' websites for full details about opening hours over the festive period.

16 November 2011

London Shh participates in Audience Research Network project

Earlier this year, London Shh was successful in its bid to take part in a project supported by Audiences London and Renaissance. The Audience Research Network scheme has been devised to encourage a new or existing networks London museums, such as London Shh, to work together with assistance from Audiences London to understand, share and compare their audience information.  


Our goal since inception has been to share audience research in order to assist each other with the development of individual audiences.  With very different staffing and volunteer structures, and resources, we all have different capacities for gathering and analysing visitor information.  It has been our hope to find a way of running audience research that benefit London Shh whilst providing useful information for each individual member house to increase capacity, apply for funding and extend reach.

Audience surveys are being conducted at Burgh House & Hampstead Museum, Dr Johnson’s House, Emery Walker House, Freud Museum London, Handel House Museum, and Kelmscott House. The survey information is captured using SNAP software, which will be used to create final reports.

We aim to achieve the following objectives by completion of the project:

- Build an accurate audience/visitor profile

- Analyse visitor patterns over different seasons

- Cross reference findings between the different houses

- Identify gaps in audience and develop strategies for London Shh and individual houses

- Evaluate services provided at each house

- Share findings with the houses unable to take part in the project

- Use the end of project findings/report as evidence of value for money of London Shh membership for both existing and future members



13 September 2011

Beyond the Blue Plaque

Blue plaques are a common sight around London. The scheme, founded by the (Royal) Society of Arts in 1866, is now run by English Heritage and to date around 850 plaques (not always blue!) have been installed in the capital to commemorate the residence of notable figures.

Benjamin Franklin House at 36 Craven Street is marked by a unique decorative scroll plaque, installed in 1914, revealing that it was home to Benjamin Franklin, the printer, scientist and Founding Father of the United States. An earlier Society of Arts plaque was commissioned for the house, but confusion over a change of door number resulted in the large brown plaque being mounted on the wrong building. The mistake was rectified this year and Franklin’s original 1869 plaque can now be seen at the correct address, on an interior wall.

Two other London Shh houses feature Society of Arts plaques. In 1876, a plaque was installed at Gough Square to commemorate the residence where Dr Samuel Johnson compiled his great Dictionary of the English Language. Dr Johnson’s House was a fitting venue for the launch of the book ‘Lived in London: Blue Plaques and the Stories Behind Them’, published by Yale University Press in 2009. The Society of Arts plaque celebrating John Keats’ residence in Hampstead, the setting that inspired his most famous poetry including ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, was erected in 1896. Fewer than half of the thirty five Society of Arts plaques remain in existence; London Shh is proud to display three of these.

In 1901, the scheme passed to the London County Council, and became known as the 'Indication of Houses of Historical Interest in London'. Two London Shh houses are adorned with these plaques including 7 Hammersmith Terrace where Sir Emery Walker, the typographer and antiquary lived. Another ornate porcelain plaque on City Road, Islington, denotes John Wesley’s House and chapel. Plaques varied in colour in the early stages of the scheme – blue, brown, terracotta, sage – and were made of different materials. Only in the 1940s was the iconic ‘blue’ plaque standardised.

Since 1986, English Heritage has managed the blue plaque scheme and has awarded a total of four plaques to just two London Shh houses. Separated by two centuries, composer George Frideric Handel and guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived in adjoining properties at Brook Street in the West End – now Handel House Museum. The plaques on the exteriors hint at the story of two hugely influential international musicians who both made a career and home in London. Hendrix first found fame in the UK and Handel composed some of his most famous pieces at Brook Street, including Messiah and Zadok the Priest.

The Freud Museum also has more than one blue plaque, in this case honouring two generations of the same family. The plaques for Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, and his daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer in the same field, were unveiled in 2002 by comedian John Cleese, making them the most recent of the London Shh plaques.


Next time you are exploring the capital, see how many plaques you can spot. The plaques are often an indication of the fascinating stories to be found inside. The London Shh houses are more than just buildings, they help visitors explore historical stories and the personalities of the people who called them home.  We also want to encourage people to venture off the beaten path, beyond the blue plaque. Burgh House, a beautiful Grade I listed building and home of the Hampstead Museum and William Morris’ Kelmscott House may not have plaques, but they are wonderful heritage gems.

By James Spellane, Operations Intern at Benjamin Franklin House

Photo credits: all images are courtesy of London Shh houses, except John Wesley’s plaque image courtesy of Jamie Barras

05 September 2011

How do houses become museums?

London Shh... is a collection of nine small historic houses which tell the stories of fascinating and famous former residents. Each house has a different way of interpreting the past and presenting history. Learn about the transformation from home to museum in an upcoming lecture on the 28 September 2011, 7pm at the Freud Museum.  

Dr Antony Hudek, Mellon Research Fellow at University College London, will explore some of the thought provoking issues around how homes, such as the Freud family home at 20 Maresfield Gardens, become museums. When, and how, does a house become a museum – a ‘house museum’? How does this passage from one function to another affect the visitor’s experience? Taking Freud’s 1919 text ‘Das Unheimliche’ (‘The Uncanny’) as point of departure, this presentation seeks to identify what subsists, what survives when a house turns into a museum: the ghosts of its former occupants, the archive (once a personal collection of papers, books, memorabilia), and a sense (reassuring or unsettling) of domesticity. But Freud’s text does more than provide a useful guide to what lingers in the house museum, in particular his own. It plays out the paradox of the uncanny: that if the house museum, like the psychoanalytic text, depends on the veracity of its portrayal of the subjective matter it tries to exhibit/expose, it can only do so in the fractured guise of theatre and fiction, lest it fall prey to the very myths and phantasies its stated mission it is to dispel. This talk is part of the Freud Museum’s 25th anniversary programme.

Booking: £10/£7 Concessions and Members of the Museum. Book online here. Advance booking is highly recommended. Doors open 6.30pm, event starts promptly at 7pm. For further information please contact us at eventsandmedia@freud.org.uk or +44 (0)20 7435 2002

13 July 2011

Summer events at London Shh Houses

Looking for something interesting to do this summer? Visit London Shh houses for a range of fascinating events including; concerts, art exhibitions, family workshops, and live theatre.

Enjoy concerts at Handel House in July and August featuring baroque harpsichord and flute recitals. Or perhaps join the Freud Museum on the 28th July to celebrate its 25th anniversary. During the final three weekends in July you can also book tickets to see live theatre in the garden of Keats House dramatising the lives and loves of Britian's most influential romantic writers. See Burgh House's new exhibition on The Life and Art of Helen Allingham which runs from late July until early November. Discover more about the Craven Street bones found at Benjamin Franklin House during a family workshop on 26th July, which is part of the 2011 Festival of British Archaeology. Or learn about woodblocks and textile printing at Kelmscott House at a talk on the subject on the 23rd July.

Our What's on section contains full details about all events, ticket prices and how to book. 

13 April 2011

New London Shh...Houses!

We are pleased to welcome two new houses to the London Shh...group; John Wesley's House located in the heart of the city and Keats House Museum in Hampstead.

John Wesley’s House, built in 1779 is a fine example of a Georgian town house. John Wesley, a Christian theologian and founder of the Methodist movement, resided in this house for the last twelve winters of his life. The house today has retained many of Wesley’s belongings and furniture, including his study chair. The house is open to the public Monday – Saturday 10am-4pm, and on Sundays 12 noon-1.45pm. Admission is free but donations are gratefully received.

Keats House Museum, built in 1814 is dedicated to the life of the poet John Keats and also poetry in general. Keats lived in the house from 1818 to 1820. Whilst residing here he wrote 'Ode to a Nightingale', and fell in love with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. Keats House Museum works closely with local community groups, museums, artists and schools, and runs popular poetry groups. The house is open to the public in the summer from Easter to 31 October, Tuesday – Sunday 1-5pm, and in the winter from 31 October to Easter, Friday – Sunday 1-5pm. Admission tickets are £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.

Christian Dettlaff, Wesley’s Curator has summed up the importance of joining the London Shh…group; “We are very excited to join London Shh.. The association provides an excellent platform for similar small historic London houses to group together, share expertise and increase marketing opportunities. People don’t necessarily realise how many smaller historic properties are open to the public in London, and their associations with famous people and events. Indeed, some of their former celebrity occupants may have heard of and even known each other as many of them lived at the same time in London, for instance John Wesley and Samuel Johnson in the mid 18th century, who were close friends and visited each other at home. The houses are thus linked on many more levels than just location, purpose or style and visiting one, more or all of them provides an excellent opportunity to discover lesser-known London and step back in time!”


Details about upcoming events at these houses will be coming soon to the What’s on page.


05 April 2011

London Shh...houses featured on Simon Seeks

The travel guide and holiday review website 'Simon Seeks' selected many of the London Shh... houses including Dr Johnson's House and Freud Museum, in a feature about museums open to public which are dedicated to historical figures.

Read the full article on the Simon Seeks website here.

10 March 2011

Johnson's Garret comes alive

Dr Johnson's Garret is playing host to 'A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson' (now sold out) and the performance has received rave reviews (Guardian ****, Independent**** ).  

In this performance, Dr Johnson is brought alive by actor Ian Redford whilst Russell Barr performs as both James Boswell and many other characters ranging from George III to Johnson's housemate Anna Williams!  The house has been lucky to welcome a guest appearance from Trudie Styler as Mrs Thrale.  Michael Billingham ,writing in Tuesday's Guardian suggested that 'Rarely do a play and its setting match as well as this' and in his four-star review in the Independent, Paul Taylor said the performance was 'seriously site specific' and he 'did not want the evening to end.'

Many of the houses in London Shh provide intimate and quirky venues for a whole variety of performances from music recitals and plays to poetry readings and comedy evenings.

Find out more about 'A Dish of Tea' here and to see all the events at London Shh houses click here.

28 January 2011

London Shh... makes guest appearance at the Museum of London Cultural PR Conference this January

The cultural PR conference sought out London Shh... to speak on marketing small and regional cultural organisations on little or no budget.  This is something we like to think ourselves something of experts, so we jumped at the chance and dispatched Kate and Stephanie to the Museum of London to tell them all about the London Shh... project.  Whilst we had a  lot to say on the subject, the conference also reminded us of all the big plans we have for London Shh... in the future.  We were also able to pick up some top inside tips from our colleagues from other organisations doing great things in challenging times, as well as some pretty influential journalists and PR specialists.  So all we can say is watch this space...

11 January 2011

Benjamin Franklin House original 'blue' plaque finally to be erected

On 17 January 2011 (7-9pm), in celebration of Benjamin Franklin’s 305th birthday, and the 5th anniversary of the opening of Benjamin Franklin House to the public as a dynamic museum and educational facility, the original ‘blue’ plaque intended to commemorate Franklin’s nearly sixteen year tenure at 36 Craven Street, London will finally be erected. One of history’s great polymaths, Franklin is famous for his contributions to science, letters, invention, diplomacy, music, and more.


In 1875, the (Royal) Society of Arts, originators of what became the popular blue plaque scheme to recognise the lodgings of London’s important past residents, commissioned a large terracotta plate surrounded by a wooden frame to honour Franklin, their first international member.  However, they accidentally erected it on the wrong building. 


Prior to two rounds of renumbering and the construction of new buildings on the street, Franklin lived at 7 Craven Street which had become 36 by the late 19th century.  It was affixed incorrectly, however, to the 7 Craven Street of 1875, but this was discovered too late; it was cemented tight.  In the course of investigations, the Clerk of the London County Council proved by consulting City of Westminster rate-books (which tracked annual assessments) that Franklin’s landlady, leaseholder Margaret Stevenson, had lived two doors from Craven Passage on the east side of the street – number 36 – not at the top of the west side, where number 7 was then located. 


In 1914, 7 Craven Street was demolished to make way for a restaurant (which no longer stands) and the plaque was finally removed.  It was donated to the London Museum, then at Stafford House, St. James’s, the forerunner to the Museum of London.  It eventually came to rest in the Museum’s Hackney storehouse where it has been ever since.  It was kindly donated by the Museum to Benjamin Franklin House last year. 


In 1914, the London County Council put up a new ‘blue’ plaque on 36 Craven Street, a bronze scroll and the only one of its kind, which denotes Franklin’s only surviving residence anywhere in the world.  But soon there will two plaques.


According to Benjamin Franklin House Director Dr. Márcia Balisciano, “For the first time in 136 years, on an auspicious Franklin day, the original plaque [to feature on an interior brick wall] will finally be displayed where it was always intended!”


If you are interested in attending the reception please contact Operations Manager, Sally James info@benjaminfranklinhouse.org.

21 December 2010

Season's Greetings!

Merry Christmas from all of us at London Shh...and have a happy New Year!

08 December 2010

Follow London Shh on twitter and facebook!

Follow London Shh... on twitter and facebook to find out about Shh events, news and secrets!

27 July 2010

The Story of London Festival 2010- 'Ahead of their Time' Event

London Shh...will be hosting an evening of hands-on activities on Tuesday 5 October 6-9pm at Benjamin Franklin House for The Story of London festival 2010- a celebration of London’s past, present and future. Visitors will be invited to discover the innovations of some of London’s most famous former residents. Representatives from each of the seven London Shh…houses will present their former residents’ groundbreaking ideas, inventions, works of art and music which helped shape our capital's future.  Activities including arts and crafts, experiments, talks by specialists and quizzes will be available for all to try in the beautiful setting of an atmospheric Grade I listed Georgian House. The evening is an ideal opportunity to uncover some of the capital's most innovative residents and their historic houses over a socialable after work drink. The event will be funded by Renaissance London.

Tickets: £5 per person, and include a glass of wine

Location: Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF

Booking details: Please visit http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb112103358 or send a cheque made payable to London Shh to Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF

For more information contact Sally James, Benjamin Franklin House info@benjaminfranklinhouse.org


08 July 2010

Shh... We're having a garden party!

On 15 July, the Freud Museum is delighted to be hosting a Summer Party for London Shh…, a group Small Historic Houses which tell the stories of their fascinating and famous former residents.


Freud once observed "Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts." The garden at the Museum is particularly beautiful, especially at this time of year, when Freud’s beloved rose garden is in full bloom.


All are welcome to come along on the 15th and discover his home in London, see his extraordinary study, crammed with exotic antiquities, the iconic psychoanalytic couch  draped in oriental rugs and walls lined with countless tomes. 


Tickets to this fundraising event will include a glass of Pimm’s on arrival and delicious canapés, so why not get some friends together and come and see why Freud loved his garden so much.


Also available on the night will be a pay bar, games, two new exhibitions and a fabulous raffle with prizes donated by each house.


Tickets cost £15 / £13 (concessions)

To book, please visit: http://shhgardenparty.eventsbot.com/ or send a cheque payable to London Shh to the Freud Museum20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX


For further information please go to www.freudmuseum.org


01 July 2010

Kids Get Crafty at Kelmscott House

“…a danger that the strongest and wisest of mankind, in striving to attain to a complete mastery over Nature, should destroy her simplest and widest-spread gifts, and thereby enslave people to them, and themselves to themselves…”William Morris, 1880


Young adventurers put their creativity into action using William Morris's most-loved design principles.  The half-term workshop was organised by volunteers at Kelmscott House, in what was a delightful sunny afternoon in one of London's greatest hidden treasures. Patterns in nature were translated into patterns in art – a contemporary reflection of Morris's methods. Ornamenting everyday objects also aptly demonstrated how both observation and art can enhance self-empowerment.


In the timeless spirit of the Kelmscott Press, participants designed their own book covers, ready to bind. They moved through three stages of production, which included an intriguing exploration of the gardens, folding their painted designs to witness the intricacy of repeated patterns, and using stamps to add a personal touch. This event is being planned again for the summer, so stay tuned!


02 June 2010

Summer Garden Party Tickets on sale now!

Thursday 15th July, 6-9pm

With spring (if not quite summer) well and truly here the London Shh... gardens are looking stunning!  To celebrate, as well as to do some much needed fundraising, we would like to invite you, our London Shh... supporters to a special evening of entertainment in the garden at Freud’s House. 

Tickets are £15/ £13 (concessions) and will include a free glass of Pimms and yummy nibbles.  If Pimms O’clock lasts longer than just one glass, never fear there will be a pay bar as well.

Buy tickets here.

12 May 2010

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

This three part mini series on BBC4 goes behind the scenes of three small museums in the UK to find out what makes them tick and how they work to keep ahead in the 21st century. 

The documentaries, made by Richard Macer, explore how the museums are striving to reach new and more diverse audiences. 

The first programme (13 May, 9pm) takes place at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, the second at the Freud Museum (20 May, 9pm) and the third at the National Waterways Museum (27 May, 9pm).

Naturally London Shh... is key to the Freud Museum's efforts to attract new audiences, perhaps less familiar with the man and his work. 

Tune in to discover the people, politics and passions at the heart of these museums!  

For more information, see the BBC4 website or contact info@londonshh.org.uk 

17 March 2010

London Shh... defines 'Museum Chic'

The Times declares London Shh... houses as the place to go for up-to-the-minute interior design inspiration

‘From this day forward’ says Kaya Burgess of The Times Bricks and Mortar Supplement, ‘The Phrase ‘Museum Chic’ will be added to our vocabulary’.  ‘Fashion may be back in the grip of the 1980’s’ he says ‘but interior design is looking back much further, to simpler, less lurid times.  Six homes that once housed London’s most eminent residents (London Shh...) are now...an inspiration for trend-spotters’. You heard it here first!

09 March 2010

Time Out spills the beans on London Shh

 'Some of London's most fascinating museums are its historic houses - thanks to their famous former residents'  according to Time Out's article on London Shh this week (Time Out London, 11-17 March 2010).  London's critical guide to the arts, culture and going out in the capital features a double page spread on London Shh in their family friendly Around Town section.  Complete with stunning images of the interiors, collections, objects and famous residents, each of the houses is featured.   Natasha Polyviou sought out the hidden gems of London Shh, which she found variously 'secreted away in a courtyard' and 'preserved in an atmospheric little square'  and writes that each of the houses 'reveal reams about their one-time occupants and the impact they had on the capital'.

22 February 2010

Free Guided Tours at The Freud Museum

In response to recent requests from visitors, The Freud Museum will be offering free guided tours on the first Sunday in the month, starting on 07 March. The tour starts at 12.30 and will last approximately 40 minutes. You don't need to book, but places are limited, so best to get there a bit earlier.

In addition to the tour, visitors will be able to see the new exhibit, ‘Andy Hope 1930 at the Freud’, which opens 25 February 2010. It is the latest in the critically acclaimed ongoing series of Freud Museum exhibitions curated by James Putnam. The Berlin-based artist Andreas Hofer (b.1963) has created a new series of works ('Andy Hope 1930') for Sigmund Freud’s house that includes paintings, collages, sculptures and site-specific installations.

For more information about The Freud Museum, please click here.

26 January 2010

2 for 1 Offer

Until March 2010, all Listed Property Owners Club Members are eligible for 2 for 1 entrance to all London Shh... Houses! Take advantage of this offer and see where it all started for historical figures such as Freud, Franklin, and Handel. There are 6 houses to choose from, all within London, and each providing a distinct and memorable experience.

To visit a house, click on its name below for more information:


Bring a friend - just show your "Listed Property Owners Club" membership card at the door and their entrance fee is on us!

We look forward to seeing you!

11 November 2009

London Shh... goes live!

The launch of London Shh… and our new website took place last night, Tuesday 10 November, in the atmospheric surroundings of 300 year old Burgh House in Hampstead.  A host of guests from the heritage world, as well as the Deputy Mayor of Camden, Councillor Lulu Mitchell, and representatives of the Mayor of London’s Cultural Campaigns Office, heard architectural historian Dan Cruickshank give a rousing speech, outlining just why these hidden gems of London architecture should be brought out into the open.  Introducing the group, Kate Streeter, General Manager of Burgh House, spoke of the challenges facing small, independent historic buildings. With tiny staff teams and often little or no marketing budget, the London Shh... houses recognise that banding together could help to recession-proof their organisations, and introduce new audiences to their rich histories.

06 November 2009

London Shh... Official Launch: 10 November 2009

On Tuesday 10 November, London Shh... an organisation highlighting the capital's hidden gems will be officially launched at a champagne reception hosted by architectural historian, Dan Cruickshank.  The reception will take place at the stunning and atmospheric 18th century Burgh House in Hampstead.

During the evening, guests will be able to see an exhibition featuring the founding members of London Shh... (Freud Museum, Benjamin Franklin House, Dr Johnson's House, Kelmscott House, Handel House Museum and Burgh House) and staff from these properties will be on hand to answer questions about their houses and future plans for London Shh... 

Earlier this year, a BBC4 film crew began documenting the life of the Freud Museum for a programme to be aired in spring 2010.  The film maker, Richard Macer, has been following the development of London Shh... initiative and will be filming at the launch event, and doubtless joining us in a celebratory drink on the night!