Thursday, May 20

ThursdayDrive: Severs House Update

Photo from Spitalfields Life's The House of Silence

Last September, a Thursday Drive featured the Dennis Severs House, home to generations of the fictitious Jervis family of Huguenot silk-weavers, created by Mr. Severs to inhabit his step-back-in-time masterpiece at 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, East London.

Happily, I've just learned that the gentle author of the blog Spitalfields Life chronicled a November visit in "Dennis Severs, the house of silence", called thus because visitors are admonished at the door to refrain from speaking during a visit. Ignoring this will result in immediate expulsion.

Severs House itself is not silent. Thanks to strategically-placed
speakers, Jervis family members can be heard going about
their lives in other parts of the house. One expects them to
pop around a corner or through a doorway at any moment.
They never do, of course, but the impression is they might.

Exactly as Dennis Severs envisioned, the illusion so convincing that
house manager Mick Pedroli once had to apologise and refund
a visitor's money after Dennis "fell into a row with a guest
who claimed to be descended from the imaginary family
in question....a spat that met its conclusion when
Dennis threw the woman out in Folgate St

In March, the gentle author treated readers to the story
of the tiles in this magnificent fireplace
and their creator, Simon Pettet.

~ Inset of photo from Simon Pettet's Tiles ~

What appear to be old Delft tiles were actually crafted by
Pettet with such authenticity as to be nearly indistinguishable
from real ones. And what at first glance appear to be classic
Delft figures are residents of Spitalfields in the 1980s. If
you know where to look, there's even one of Simon himself.

The rest of the fireplace, individual tiles and
who they represent can be seen here.

Next came the amusing story of Isabelle Barker's Hat,
for 20 years thought to be an 18th century gentleman's
hat similar to painter William Hogarth's.

Dennis Severs and Isabelle Barker, original owner of
the oft-overlooked "gentleman's hat" in the Smoking Room
of Severs House, at her 80th birthday party circa 1980.
(Photo from Isabelle Parker's Hat)

No doubt Isabelle's 80th was quite an event if it was anything like the Christmas parties described by Anna Skrine, custodian:
Dennis Severs' Christmas parties at his house in Folgate St were the most beautiful, magical events that I ever knew. It wasn’t only how it looked which was magic – but also the smells, because he used to clean the floor with lavender, so you had that mixed in with the other wonderful Christmassy smells of cinnamon and oranges with cloves. He was a master at it. It was just so beautiful.

And last but by no means least, Mick Pedroli who with the
assistance of David Milne keeps Severs House running smoothly.
Read all about it at Mick Pedroli, Dennis Severs House.

~ Severs House manager Mick Pedroli ~
(Photo from Mick Pedroli, Dennis Severs House)

More about Dennis Severs House:

Thursday Drive: Severs House, Spitalfields

Dennis Severs, the house of Silence

Mick Pedroli, Dennis Severs House

Isabelle Barker's Hat

Simon Pettet's Tiles

Dennis Severs House website

More about Spitalfields from
the gentle author at
Spitalfields Life

Have a great day!

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pinkpackrat said...

what a wonderful armchair romp through Severs House and I love love love that fireplace with the Delft tiles

Maddie Grigg said...

That's all very atmospheric and spooky. 1685 - the Monmouth Rebellion in the Westcountry, where my g-g-g-g-grandfather several generations removed fought for the Rebels and ended up on the gallows.

JamaGenie said...

Wow, Maddie! The (fictitious) Jervis family were Huguenots, so pardon my ignorance of English history, but I have no idea why the year of the Monmouth Rebellion in the West Country would be on "their" mantelpiece. Now I'm curious...

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This is a spooky, intriguing story!

JamaGenie said...

This just in from Mick Pedroli:
"1685 was the date the edict of Nantes was revoked which for the Jervises and other Huguenots, was an important date".