After our day at Tate Modern we headed over on the tube to Mayfair, one of the more exclusive areas of London. Our objective was to visit the Handel House Museum – a Georgian period town house that was the former home of the composer George Handel at 25 Brook Street, just off Bond Street. He lived here for over 30 years, in what was then a newly developed area, from 1723 until his death in 1759. They are open until 8 p.m. on a Thursday evening, so we thought it would be a good way to finish our day.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of Handel, although I like some of his music. But I like Georgian architecture and enjoy having the opportunity to look inside Georgian properties, particularly townhouses, which have been restored to look something like they appeared when the original inhabitants lived there. And there was an added point of interest as the top floor house next door, also owned by the museum and to which Handel’s house was connected, had been the flat where Jimmy Hendrix had lived for a short while.
The museum is accessed at the rear of the building via Lancashire Court (good to see the name of the Red Rose County up on a wall in London!)
It was a typical, relatively modest town house with four floors and some attic rooms (and probably a cellar too). But the rooms weren’t particularly large. Rooms on two of the floors have been restored to something like they would have looked when Handel lived there. According to the Museum’s website
The interiors of 25 Brook Street as they are now presented are a scholarly recreation, using all available documentation, prototypes and archaeological evidence. As such they are as close as possible to the interiors that Handel would have known.
Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed, but there are photos available to view on the website, here.
The main room on the second floor was Handel’s bedroom. The centrepiece is the four poster bed similar to the one the great man would have slept in. The floor boards were bare and the wood panelled walls were painted a light powder blue, the colour chosen based on samples of the original paint. The adjoining room would have been his dressing room and today houses a display of paintings of the composer’s friends and patrons.
During our visit, on of their regular concerts was taking place in the Music Room on the first floor, so we didn’t get to look inside there, although could here the music being played on the harpsichord. It was here that Handel would have entertained his visitors and held rehearsals. The adjoining room is believed to have been Handel’s composing room and contained a small harpsichord.
As it was a small house, it didn’t take long to look round. And although only a small number of rooms have been restored, it gave a glimpse of how such a house would have looked during the early Georgian period.
There are a couple of harpsichords on view, which I found particularly interesting. Of course we weren’t allowed to touch them, but there was a video running in one of the rooms in the “Hendrix house” which explained how the instruments are constructed and how they work, and there were also snatches of music played on them.
The Hendrix flat has been used as offices by the Trust that runs the museum, but it’s intended to restore it and open it up to the public, which will, no doubt, bring an increased number of visitors to the museum.