Darwin used the native wildlife of the Kent countryside around Downe Village as his open air laboratory eventually leading to the publication of his On the Origin of the Species in 1859 which would change the world forever.

Buckston Browne Gardens in Downe originally formed part of the Down House estate, lying next to the family’s large walled garden and adjacent to Darwin’s famous Sandwalk where he would pace around daily contemplating the immense scientific questions he was exploring in his research.

The property at Buckston Browne Gardens named after an esteemed Surgeon and benefactor who bought Darwin’s former home in 1927, and developed a new research & training facility there for the Royal College of Surgeons. The property would later go on to enlarge as a research laboratory before becoming vacant in 1996.   Following a failed redevelopment attempt, the subsequent site owners The Kirkhouse Trust who are a distinguished research & charitable trust based in Oxford, approached Clague Architects to prepare design options for a residential led enabling development which would clean up the site of the former laboratories, restore the Locally Listed house and generate much needed funds to support their exemplary charitable works in sub-Saharan Africa related to education and crop diversification in the face of climate change.

The residential development was successfully completed in 2013 and features four new homes in the converted former Royal College of Surgeon’s Training School which is in a late Arts & Crafts style dating from 1933 and is Locally Listed by Bromley Borough Council. The former laboratory buildings and hardstanding were removed and replaced by three large new family homes set back from the boundary to Down House and arranged around generous landscaped courtyards. Such developments of brownfield land located within in the sensitive and heavily protected Metropolitan Greenbelt are always challenging and successful outcomes such as at Buckstone Browne Gardens require teamwork, pragmatism & imagination from local authorities, communities, land owners and statutory bodies.

Down House & Gardens are open to the public and operated by English Heritage, and make a fantastic day out and an opportunity to learn more about how one man changed the world from his back garden!

Take a look at the web links that may be of interest here – www.darwinslandscape.co.ukwww.kirkhousetrust.orgwww.english-heritage.org.uk





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