Skip to page content

Darwin at Downe bid for 2009

The proposed World Heritage Site was the open-air laboratory in which Darwin developed his theory of evolution.

Situated in the London Borough of Bromley, the proposed site covers his home, garden and grounds at Down House, the neighbouring villages of Downe and Cudham, and the surrounding countryside.

Conserving the Kent countryside

The area of 10 square kilometres is ancient countryside on the rolling Kent North Downs just 25 kilometres from St Paul’s. The area has been chosen to represent Darwin’s typical daily activities as a scientist during the 40 years he lived at Downe (1842-1882).

Through his wildlife observations and scientific experiments in the grounds of Down House and the surrounding countryside, he came to realise that evolution by natural selection is key to our understanding of the living world. At Down House he published his findings in his most significant work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, and followed this with a series of influential books that contained vital evidence to support his theory.

Keston Ponds, where Darwin observed the wildlife © Derek Kendal, English Heritage.

Keston Ponds, where Darwin observed the wildlife © Derek Kendal, English Heritage.

The ideas Darwin developed at Downe have had a profound influence on the life sciences, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, the creative arts and general views of humankind’s relation to other living creatures in the natural world.

Home of inspiration and experiment

Down House survives almost unaltered since Darwin's time and English Heritage has restored the grounds and recreated many of Darwin's experiments. The wildlife sites of special importance to him are managed by Kent and the London Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and the LB Bromley.

Having received expert evaluation of the Darwin at Downe World Heritage Site nomination the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) now intend to submit the bid to UNESCO in January 2009.

To support UNESCO’s aims to include more sites celebrating the achievements in science on the World Heritage List, the DCMS have agreed to host an international meeting. This will look to define criteria to support the call for scientific and technological sites and enrich the evaluation process for all potential World Heritage Sites.

We are now looking forward to celebrating Darwin’s bicentenary in 2009 and will take forward the vision of the partnership: To use and manage sustainably the natural and built landscape of the Darwin at Downe nominated World Heritage Site, and to develop access to, learning and understanding of Darwin’s insights into natural life and their universal significance.

For more information see Darwin at Downe or contact Alister Hayes, World Heritage Bid Manager, London Borough of Bromley.

 

‘There is grandeur in this view of life... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin