10 historic London homes that are now museums…2. Carlyle’s House…

Carlyle’s House frontage. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

This Chelsea terraced house, now owned by the National Trust, was once the home of the Victorian literary couple, essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife (and skilled letter writer) Jane.

The Carlyles moved into the red brick property at 24 Cheyne Row (formerly number 5) in 1834, having left rural Scotland to see what they could make of themselves in London.

As their stars rose – by mid 19th century Thomas, the “sage of Chelsea”, had become an influential social commentator, the home became something of a hub for Victorian literati with the likes of Charles Dickens, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, George Eliot and William Thackeray all visiting them here.

When Thomas died at the property on 5th February, 1881 (Jane had died in 1866), the home reverted to the landlord but a group of admirers decided it needed to be preserved as a memorial to their friend. They raised funds through a public subscription and in 1895 opened it as a shrine to the writer.

The National Trust took over the running of the house, which was built in around 1708, in 1936 with the enthusiastic support of founder Octavia Hill who herself was a Carlyle fan.

The property, which still retains many of its original fixtures and fittings, features a recreation of the couple’s parlour based on Robert Tait’s painting A Chelsea Interior which depicts the Carlyles in the room in 1857.

The property also boasts the attic study that Thomas had constructed in August, 1853, and where he wrote The French Revolution, Latter Day Pamphlets and Fredrick the Great. His attempts at sound-proofing it had failed.

Meanwhile, Jane’s dressing room features a pair of original chintz curtains which she made in the late 1840s.

Inside the parlour at Carlyle’s House. PICTURE: Kotomi_ (licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Among the items on show in the property is a necklace given to Jane by German writer and stateman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which features a pendant containing a portrait of him. There’s also a a decoupage screen made by Jane using prints in 1849 and wallpapers by William Morris.

The property, which also features a small walled garden and a bust of Thomas Carlyle on the facade, is currently undergoing restoration work and will reopen in March.

WHERE: Carlyle’s House, 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea (nearest Tube stations are Sloane Square and South Kensington); WHEN: Check website when it reopens; COST: £9 adults/£4.50 children; WEBSITE: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house.