Benjamin Franklin; scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor and founding father of the United States of America lived in London for just over 15 years. The Benjamin Franklin house in London is the only one of his residences to still be standing anywhere.
Why is the Benjamin Franklin House in London?
Benjamin Franklin is central to story of how the United States came about. He has been on the $100 bill for over a century. How come he lived in London? Well, he might have been born in Boston but his father was British. He first came to London to lobby for curbing the control of the Penn family in Pennsylvania. Whilst he was in London he became a leading light of the Royal Institution, exchanging ideas with the top scientists of the age and being a bit of leader in the field of electricity.
Where is the Benjamin Franklin London residence?
36 Craven Street nestles just below Charing Cross station. At the end of the 20th century it was derelict and in danger of destruction. Fans of the London version of Monopoly will be pleased to hear that it is handy for four of the properties; Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross and at pinch Whitehall.
What to expect at the Benjamin Franklin Museum
Nothing remains of the furnishings of the time. No attempt has been made to set-dress the rooms as they might have been, rather there are a few sparse items of furniture. You can take two types of tour; an architectural one that focuses on the building or an historical experience where a costumed guide takes you round the house interacting with a fancy multimedia show as she goes.
We opted for the historical tour. You started with a short film about the life and times of Benjamin Franklin in the basement. Also on display is a macabre display of bones that were dug up from the site. Bodies under the house! Don’t worry Ben Franklin wasn’t up to no good, they are thought to have been left over from the anatomy school that also occupied the house at the time. One of the many ideas that Franklin came up with were bifocal glasses, a replica pair can be seen. As the lights go up your guide suddenly appeared from behind us and led us through the upper rooms, seeming to talk to Mr Franklin as she went.
Objects that Franklin actually touched are absent from the house but it doesn’t matter. To be in the very beautiful sparsely furnished rooms hearing the story of his time in London skillfully told is really interesting. What amazed me was how small the rooms were given that he was a man of status.
- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN HOUSE
- 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF
- Historical Experience Tours: Wednesday-Sunday 12 noon, 1pm, 3.15pm and 4.15pm
- Adults £8, children under 16 free
- Art Fund holders get a 50% discount
- Architectural Tours: Monday 12 noon, 1pm, 3.15pm and 4.15pm
- Adults £4, children under 16 free
- Book tickets in advance
36 Craven Street is in the very heart of London. Just a short walk away you will find the Banqueting House, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (which has one of the best views in London). Check out my post about historic houses to visit in London for more ideas about glimpsing behind closed doors.