There is no sign for Denis Severs' House. Walk down Folgate Street in Spitalfields, look for a flickering gas lamp over a relatively nondescript door, and knock. Wait. Eventually, someone will come to the door and welcome you into the past. It isn't a museum, it isn't a historic home, it isn't a theater. It is...an experience. As a visitor to Denis Severs' House you are a participant in the life and history of the Jervis family; a family of Huguenot silk weavers from the 18th century. You are asked to remain silent as you move through the house, absorbing the sights, smells, and sounds in each room. Half-eaten oranges on the table, a jacket tossed casually across a chair, the sound of hoofbeats in the alleyway, and the washing strung up in the rafters. You feel the family's presence in each room of the house. Mr. Severs himself said, "You either get it, or you don't." Book the evening "silent" tour and you can sip champagne by a roaring fire in your favorite room.
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Dennis Severs' House
History in the grid of streets near Liverpool Street is palpable: This was where Jack the Ripper roamed, working-class Victorians caroused and, before them, Huguenot weavers made an architectural statement. Their grand houses may still be soot-marked, but a now-affluent local community, which includes artists Gilbert & George, is actively involved in the area’s preservation. One example is the fascinating Dennis Severs’ House, a meticulous re-creation of the life of a family of silk weavers from the 18th to the 20th century, complete with smells and sounds.