The Mount House, Shrewsbury
Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 at The Mount House. Today the house is occupied by the District Valuer and Valuation Office of Shrewsbury, and tourists may visit the grounds during business hours. The house is customarily reffered to as The Mount; however, according to local literature published by the Information Centre, Shrewsbury, and by Mr. H. Quinn, The Mount is a place, and on it Robert Darwin built the house.
Trees hide the The Mount House from the narrow road that curves up the the hill from Frankwell. The entry gate is beyond the house. A shaded drive leads gently upward past outbuildings to the left that were part of the farm. Then the woods open onto a broad lawn that extends from the front of the house toward the road.
The Mount House, built by Robert Darwin in 1800, is a large Georgian house. Judging from the sunlight, the facade faces south; the rear windows overlook a shallow yard and steep drop to the river Severn, a view now blocked by trees. To the east and southeast, the gardens that ran down to water meadows and the town beyond (Browne, 1995: 6) are now neighborhoods of homes.
One enters a central hall. Doctor Darwins patients waited in a room on the left, under the broad stairs that ascend and gracefully turn under the central front window. The surgery was down a hall, also to the left. To the right is the the door to a large library that openes into the drawing room at the back of the house; large windows look out toward the river. The dining room, also with matching large windows, was behind the surgery. The second floor room in which Charles Darwin was born can bee seen outside: the first window to the left of the door; you can make out the back of a computer monitor that sits on a desk in the room.
Early in 1832, Robert had a hothouse built; it may have been at the right, the east end of the house. In March of 1833 he wrote to Charles (one of only three letters sent during the voyage): In consequence of the recommendation in your first letter I got a Banana tree. I sit under it and think of you in similar shade. (Bowlby, 1990: 197) The servants quarters were in a wing at the west end of the house, and the farm stretched beyond them.
The farm buildings are across a yard from the servantss quarters. In his autobiography (1958: 45-46), Charles Darwin said:
Towards the close of my school life, my brother worked hard at chemistry and made a fair laboratory with proper apparatus in the tool-house in the garden, and I was allowed to aid him as a servant in most of his experiments. He made all the gases and many compounds, and I read with care several books on chemistry, such as Henry and Parkes Chemical Catechism. The subject interested me greatly, and we often used to go on working till rather late at night. This was the best part of my educaton at school, for it showed me practically the meaning of experimental science. The fact that we worked at chemistry somehow got known at school, and as it was an unprecedented fact, I was nicknamed Gas.
Probably none of the farm buildings shown here were as far from the house as the tool-house in the garden.
The garden was a source of childhood pleasure. Charles Darwin mentioned (1958:24) some of the fruit trees in the kitchen garden and the orchard: The kitchen garden was kept locked in the evening, and was surrounded by a high wall, but by the aid of neighboring trees I could easily get on the coping. I then fixed a long stick into the hole at the bottom of a rather large flower-pot, and by dragging this upwards pulled off peaches and plums, which fell into the pot and the prozes were thus secured. When a very little boy I remember stealing apples from the orchard....
Robert Darwin died on 13 November 1848 at age 83. Catherine Darwin Langton and Susan Darwin both died in Shrewsbury in 1866. The Mount...was put up for auction in 1866, after the three surviving Darwin children—Ras, Charles, and Caroline Wedgwood—had taken what possessions they wished. (Wedgwood & Wedgwood, 1980: 288)