Benjamin Franklin House Museum (London)

We visited this house as part of London Open House 2016.  We queued for over an hour and given the nature of the weekend, the tour was a briefer encounter than perhaps one would have if one were to pay £8 for a “normal” tour.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the USA, and during a large portion of his life he rented rooms at 36 Craven St, which is only a hop and a skip away from Trafalgar Square.  While his wife remained in the US, he quite probably had a very close relationship with the daughter of his landlady.

I wanted to visited because I had head from Patrick Baty (a paint specialist) that only the Benjamin Franklin House Museum and the Handle House Museum are examples in London of true, original Georgian colours (by which I mean what they were at some point in the 18th century).  PB explained that many private owners come to him because they want to paint their period home with faithful colours, but when he provides the drab colour chart showing them house their house would have been decorated, they think about it, decide they would rather live in a house that is pleasing to their eye as well as being a nod to their moral commitment to heritage, and they divert somewhat from what his whiter than white advice would be insofar as any house needs or has to be painted in the colours that would have been used when it was first built.

The rooms are small and empty, typical of a Georgian London townhouse, but without contents as the museum curator does not want to introduce pieces that were not in the house when Franklin was.

I did learn one thing: when you often walk along a pavement and wonder why the kitchen of a Georgian house is down in the lightwell, think perhaps about the fact that in Georgian times the kitchen was at road level, but the later modifications to London, in particular the addition of sewers under the road and tarmac etc., has meant that the road outside has risen.

After visiting here, we skipped off to other parts of London.  At one point we headed off the wrong way around Regents Park (!) but stumbled upon the magnificent terrace that is Chester Terrace.  Yes, people really do live in places like this.

When visited: September 2016

Website: http://www.benjaminfranklinhouse.org

 

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One thought on “Benjamin Franklin House Museum (London)

  1. I think having rooms without any contents whatsoever is not strictly necessary, as long as the as the museum is honest about the furniture etc. If they can say this chair or that table was created in the years Franklin lived in London (including 1765-75), then there is no need to claim that it was the EXACT chair Franklin put his bottom on. Empty rooms are not helpful, in my experience.

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