Two streets away, London's Liverpool Street Station swirls with commuters; in the pub opposite, early drinkers dissect the working day over pints of lager, and a short stroll west, City traders still stare, transfixed, at banks of screens as share prices fluctuate. But here down a cobbled street in East London, just yards away from the buzz and hum of the city's financial district, is Dennis Severs' House, a refuge of stillness and soft, dancing candlelight.
We explore the house in silence, a little guiltily, as the historical occupants appear to have just popped out. A bed is unmade, meals are left half eaten and uncleared, the smell of spices fills the air and a fire burns merrily in the grate.
Dennis Severs bought the Georgian townhouse at 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields in 1979 and set about transforming it into a glorious stage set. Each room, decorated in a different style, creates a narrative, a journey through time where you experience the sights, smells, sounds and changing fortunes of a family of London weavers through the ages.
If you’re a Dickens fan you’ll love the top floor, a spartan, tatty garret that’s straight out of Oliver Twist. And the house is especially atmospheric at Christmas, with a tree and decorations in the Victorian parlour and the sound of distant carol singing.
It’s hard to envisage a more immersive, atmospheric trip into the past. If you want to experience the East London of your imagination, this is the place to do it.
Find out how to visit Dennis Severs’ House. The nearest Tube station is Liverpool Street or Overground station Shoreditch High Street.