Autograph eleven-page manuscript on six leaves, listing the wide variety of trees and other plants in the grounds of Down House during 1844-1846 when extensive planting and landscaping took place.

Down House: Kent, ca. 1846.

A remarkable autograph manuscript detailing the reconstruction of the garden at Down House following the Darwin family’s move there from London. For almost twenty years, the garden at Down House was both an inspiration and a laboratory to Darwin. In the orchard, he conducted experiments on pollination. He built a dovecote where he could breed new strains of pigeons that helped him understand the intricacies of generation. On his daily walk along the sandbank, he observed how plants competed for survival. In solitude, he also struggled with the ideas of evolution that had haunted him since his voyage on The Beagle. “Darwin and his family moved to Down House in September 1842. They did not fundamentally change the shape of the property. The present kitchen garden and pleasure grounds were already in place, their principal ornament being a row of fine lime trees; the Home Meadow was good hayland if in need of maintenance. The most substantial changes to the garden and estate came in the years 1843 to 1846, a period of feverish activity when the house itself was considerably altered. In these years the Sandwalk was formed and various mounds constructed from earth excavated during the lowering of the road to the east. The North Orchard was considerably extended by the purchase of land to the west. More fruit trees were planted, mostly apples. Paths were relaid and many made anew” (Miele, p. 3). “It would soon become clear to all members of [Darwin’s] household that much more was going on in the apparently quiet garden than in the normal gentleman’s plot. At Down House Darwin discovered a place that might offer clues about transmutation, different from what was then being offered in museums and scientific societies. Away from the hubbub of the city, life in the country enabled Darwin to observe what went on in the meadows and woodlands, experiment in the greenhouse and explore the hidden small dimensions inside the cells under his microscope. What first appeared to be an isolated and quiet Victorian retreat would turn out to be the proving ground for revolutionary change. As well as giving his family the thought and care of a loving father, Charles also gave the same skilled attention to his beloved garden. Here he explored the first tests of his theories about plant and animal life. The experiments were designed to expose his ideas to the most rigid of scientific methods. Darwin had no intention of turning the 16-acre estate of Down House into a place of study but that is exactly what happened. There, all on his own, his thoughts were able to build on his experiences more effectively than he had expected. Away from London society the quiet and reserved Charles became more involved with how to test these thoughts and he quickly turned the garden into a living laboratory” (Boulter, pp. 23-25). Miele (p. 18) notes that “Further research should concentrate on the relationship between Darwin's work and the garden at Down. There is a great deal of information in secondary sources -- biographies mostly, but also in the first nine volumes of published correspondence.” This previously unstudied manuscript will surely be an important primary source for this research.

“We have little in the way of documentary evidence for the development of the gardens and small estate at Down before Darwin first saw it in July 1842 … [we can] draw two firm conclusions with regard to the estate and garden: first, the apple trees which would later cluster up against the north elevation … must have been added by Darwin himself; and, second, that the row of Lime trees running from the northwest corner of the house (and now sadly decimated) did not continue across the north front of the house … The owner-occupier of Down House and its sixteen acre estate was the Rev. James Drummond. Some fifteen acres, then as now, was meadow. The present ‘Kitchen Garden’ … was [in 1840] simply a ‘garden’, an extension of the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ in the vicinity of the house. Most of what would become the North Orchard was purchased in August 1845 from Mr. Sales … the idea for the Sandwalk, where Darwin took his daily constitutionals, developed from a shaw, a narrow run of wood and shrubbery, often masking a sloping bank, that is traditionally found between meadows in this part of Kent …

“Work in earnest commenced just after New Year 1843 with the Home Meadow. Previous tenants, Drummond and Captain Johnston before him, must have neglected it, for an entry in the Classed Accounts for 7 January shows a payment of £11.18.6 to a Mr. Shore, a local farmer, for a ‘walk round the field' and the removal of 'forty-three loads of chalk flints etc.’ Over the next two weeks trees were uprooted. Shore went over the field once more. Finally, towards the end of the month, came harrowing.

“In late February attention turned to the garden itself. Dung was brought in and tools. An entry for March records the first of several purchases of ‘fruit trees’ for the orchard immediately north of the house. In early April seven loads of gravel were delivered, most of it to be used for making paths. A payment to a local bricklayer, Laslett, on 15 April is annotated ‘for Garden Walk’. This is almost certainly the long walk which leads from the row of limes to the west verge of the property. According to a letter from this time Darwin was also forming a new kitchen garden, the present one, which, with ‘sundry other projected schemes’ made his days ‘very full’ …

“In September 1843, in a letter to Charles Lyell, Darwin reported that: ‘We have at last got out house and place tolerably comfortable; and I am well satisfied with our change in life.’ A letter of December details what else had been achieved ‘Out of doors’: ‘...we have levelled the broad walk and put a step which is a great improvement; only my heart bled at the number of Mulberry roots we cut through – we have done all our own planting – and are making the side of the house tidy and resetting the lawn, and have made the paths by the cow yard tidy and dryer’ …

“The Sandwalk was hatched in these first years of feverish activity at Down. Early in 1846 he leased a one-and-a-half acre piece of land at the southwest corner of the estate from Sir John Lubbock. It was fenced and planted with native trees and bushes. A Circular path dressed with sand was laid out, what recent biographers have referred to as ‘his thinking path, the ‘Sandwalk’, on which he would plod henceforth on his midday constitutional', counting laps with local flints piled up at the head of the circuit.

“The Sandwalk was planted with several varieties: hazels, cherries, alders, limes, hornbeams, and dogwoods. There was a line of hollies down the exposed east side and a birch privet. The sandpit at the south end of the wood provided the dressing for the paths … Emma Darwin [Darwin’s wife] made her own very firm mark on the Sandwalk by planting a wild garden amongst the trees. She encouraged the growth of bluebells, anenomes, cowslips, primroses, and in particular wild ivy. There were also sloes. She saw it as her job to struggle against the less desirable local plants, in particular the dog’s mercury and Jack-in-the-hedge, and once hired a local boy to help to root out these invaders …

“There is little doubt that Darwin used the garden at Down as a living and working laboratory. Part of this function was centralised on the kitchen garden where he planted experimental beds, probably close by the hot-house/laboratory complex. But the quality of Darwin’s mind, its incessant searching, taken together which his lifelong quest to define, elaborate and defend a single theory unifying all living nature, meant that the most mundane corners of the estate, whether the primroses in the garden beds or the climbing plants in the Sandwalk, were grist for his intellectual mill.

“It is not the purpose of this interim report to detail every interaction of nature and mind that might have taken place at Down: a few highlights will illustrate the point. For a start there were the Darwin children themselves. On at least one occasion Darwin derived scientific information from watching his family expand and mature. At the same time he was engaged in a debate with a French botanist, Auguste St. Hilaire, over the production of buds. He wrote Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew Gardens, of his hypothesis that a reduction in the amount of sap tends to produce buds, a reaction he knew ‘from trees in orchards’. It is easy to imagine Darwin noticing this in the saplings he had so recently planted in his North Orchard and in the Sandwalk.

“This pattern – in which casual observations made in and around Down were systematised into by science – intensified in the 1850s, when Darwin was trying to demonstrate the general truth of his theories by reference to common British plants. In April 1854, under the ‘Science’ heading in his ‘Classed Accounts’, payments to Rivers, a nurseryman from whom Darwin had earlier obtained ornamental plants, are recorded for peas. In a letter from about this time to Julius Fairhead, a nurseryman at Teynham, Darwin put a series of questions on their variability. From it we learn that Darwin had been studying different species in his experimental garden since at least 1852 and was now ready to try out some of his conclusions. In the mid 1860s Darwin corresponded with another nurseryman, Thomas Rivers of Sawbridgeworth, on the subject of ‘bud variation.’ Nurserymen that same sort of practical knowledge of species variation as poultry breeders and pigeon fanciers, and Darwin was keen to draw on their expertise.

“It would be wrong to think of the pleasure gardens and experimental gardens at Down as distinct and separate. A chance discovery in the meadow or among the bedding plants one season might in the next be the subject of a learned paper. In a letter of 1856, for example, Darwin was delighted to report the discovery of some seeds in the earth right under a huge beech tree which he had just had cut down. This he dated to 77 years, based on its rings, which provided him with a specimen to test his theories on the length of time and under what circumstances seeds could lay dormant. He was then engaged in a complicated debate on species migration. An experimental notebook for that year records work on long-buried seeds and their vitality. A letter on this subject to the Gardeners’ Chronicle followed. There were also studies of climbing plants, perhaps suggested by their spread in the Sandwalk, where, of course, one finds cowslips, the subject of another study and learned paper. In the mid 1870s came papers on the two forms of flower in primula. In time his interest turned to the formation of the soil itself through the action of earthworms. To study the problem he installed the 'worm stone' at the foot of the large Spanish chestnut just west of the pleasure lawn. The list goes on and is nearly as long as Darwin's bibliography” (Miele).

Boulter, Darwin’s Garden. Down House andThe Origin of Species, 2009. Miele, ‘Darwin’s Garden – The Estate and Gardens at Down House, Bromley. A Preliminary Assessment,’ Historical Analysis and Research Team Reports and Papers (First Series, 2), English Heritage, 1996.

TRANSCRIPTION (by Christine Chua and John van Wyhe, courtesy of

Page 1
Fifth Line

1 Morello cherry

2 Swan’s Egg (?) [pear tree]

3 (March) Ribston Pippin 1 [Glory of York, apple tree]

4 Coe’s Golden Drop (Shrewsbury) x [plum tree]

5 Ribston Pippin (1) 2 x

6 Ribston Pippin (1) 3 x

Place for Green Gage [plum]

Standard greens

Sixth Line

  1. Wine Sour (Shrewsbury) x [plum]

2 Jargonelle Pear Std Glout Mosceau [pear] Cattell [1]

3 Juniper tree (?) Plum. (Lee)

4 Orleans Plum (Lee)

5 Magnum Bonum (Shrewsbury) [Yellow medium size apple with patterns of red]

6 Marie Louise (out of line) [Pyrus communis, pear]

Seventh Line Four Green Gages & One Orleans & standard Gausell Bergamott

In S. West corner, two standard (Western one from Cattell & Eastern one from Stoddolph

[John Cattell, a nurseryman in Westerham, Kent.]

Shropshire Damsons. [prune] (3) (5)

South of walk where Damsons & Magnum Bonum stood in S

Page 2

Field one Bigarreau White Hart Cherry and two Standard apples from Cattell, the smaller southern one.

Northern Queening (Jan) (April) & the northern one Northern Winter Queening (2) [apple tree]

In the N W corner beyond walk a Bigarreau Cherry.

In Field; beginning at West End

1 Catillac Pear Autumn Bergamot Sh Cattell (Lee) (Stewing)

2 (June) Norfolk Biffin [hard and very red apple] K. Std

3 Feb Blenheim orange [apple tree] K. do (Feb:)

4 (Sept) Keswick Codlin [apple tree] K. do (2) / 3 Codlins /

5 (June) French Crab. Apple K. do

2d Row

1 Winter Queening

2 Pear Napoleon & Bergamott Cadet. frm Mr Haycock

[Edward Haycock was Shropshire County Surveyor and the leading architect of the region (CCD2: Hobbs 1960).]

3 Catillac Pear 18. Kitchen Apples

  1. Eating do

8 Pears

15 Plums, beside Damson

3d Row

French Crab Apple

June 1844

Page 3

South of Walk, round north orchard

Sales Field Beginning at Eastern ends of rows

[William Sales was a neighbour and landowner.]

First Row

Magnum Bonum, Shrewsbury

Green Gage standard Cattell


Orleans Standard

Second Row – irregular

Christmas Woodstock Ap. (after Christmas)

June French Crab. Dwt. - (June)

March Codlin Sept

(Jan) New Eng. Pippins Dwt. (Jan)

Ribston Pippin

March Cod. Dwt.

April Northern Queening (April)

Winter Queening

March Codlin Do. to south of line

White Hart Cherry

Page 4

Third Row

Marie Louise Pear Standard

(May) Royal Russet DwP-

Gausell Bergamot

Jargonelle Dw

Apricots, Turkey. –


(June) Norfolk Beaufin [apple]

Fourth Row

April Alfriston April

(Feb) Blenheim Orange Feb

Scarlet Pearmain Dwt

Dec Hawthornden Dwt

Keswick Codlin

Dec: Hawthornden Dwt

(Jan) New English Pippin. (3 trees))

Page 5

Fifth Row

(Olivine Gausell Bergant

((( Pear Napoleon & Silver [illeg] (from Mr Haycock)

Crofton Pippin (Shrewsbury)

Page 6


Rhod. Bed under Portugals Laurel

  1. Magnoliafolium

2 = R. Catawbiense

others common Poticum from Maer.

Round bed. at end of azelea Bed. R. port. [Ros.] R. Port. albom.

Rhod nachum

Azelea Bed. beginning at South end near walk, following that side & working Round

Azelea pubescens grandifl

- bicolor do


  1. portica

- nudiflora

  1. fragrans

Rhododendron hirsutum Shrewsbury

Paeonia moutan

Paeonia whitleyi

- Albiflora fragrans

St. Bruno's Lily, Catty

Wild [Mule] Pink, do

Page 7

Against House beginning East side

Caprifolium flexuosum

menispermum canadense

Pomegranite [Pomegranate]

Isle de Bourbon Mad. Despres

Banksian yellow

Vine Royal Muscardins White

Bignonia radicans sugeta

Glyceria sirensis

[2 words illeg]

Magnolia grandiflora

Clematis florida (Shrewsbury)

Caprifolium gralum

Caprifolium [illeg]

Bignonia radicans sugar

Cap flexuosum

Clematis azurea grandiflora

China Rose Mandarin du Levenberg (also against that wall

magnolia conspicua

Rosa sulphurea double yellow

Mag. purpurea

North of House China Blush.-

Page 8


Round plantation in Field Cockspur Thorn – 2 single (shorter)

Scarlet. = 4 ilex = 1 Acer Plalanides. 3. A. nubrum

  1. A Striatum (green bamboo). Pineaster

Front of Flower Gardens

Clethra alnifolia

[Rhamum] alnifolia

All Spice tree

Lilac. Charles 10th

Thorn coccinea

- nubra

Larch mound

Crataegus pyracantha Scarlet arlutus

Deutzia scabra Photinia serrulata

Ilex balearicum

[illeg] nicrophylla

Barleria dulci

Right or Left West side going S. along walk to Garden

Waterers laburnum

Double Pink Thorn

Ribonia large flowered

American Mountain Ash

Thorn odoratissima

oviculalus sanguinea

Liquidambar (bush)

Lilac dark (var)

Page 9

Purple Laburnum Juniperus sirensis

Evergreen Thorn Cupressus thyoides

American Mountain Ash 2. Arbor vitae Tartaricus

Venetian Sumach 1. - Chinensis

Rhus from Mr. Hussey (Thugia zepaul Long mound)

Cockspur Thorn Pinus pumilo munghus

Left side of do walk going S

Maple leaved thorn laricio [pine] (behind laurel)

Syringa grandiflora Abris morinda

Crataegus pyra centifolia Level of Laburnum

Riber sanguinea P. pumilo

Laburnum sweet scented P. laricio tarica

[2 words crossed] P. pinea.

Syringa [Josœhœa] P. tarica (in corner)

Spizœa [aviœfolia] P. Laricio (dead?)

Thee-thorned acacia - austriacus nigricans -not straight line

Berlin's, [illeg] aristata (2) P. laricio penultimate east

1 Thorn coccinea (?) (11) P. austriacus nigricans

4 Narrow leaved Thylleraea furthest east

2 Ilex opaca

3 - thick leaved

- perado

Coniferous Trees Rigel heard going south [illeg]

Taking parallel lines from S. to N. Liquidambar tree [illeg]

beginning near walk. Platerus orientalis

Juniperus Hibernicus Juglan nigra West? East

-- Savier Juercus coccinea, palustus & macrocarpon

-- succica [like them in good plat]

-- sepandus Acer nubrum. A. opulus. A nubra A. platamus

Cupressus torilosus [torulosa] Ailantus glandulosus



Pinus excelsus

Abies cephalonica Sir John L.

Page 10

Catalogue of Orchard Tree

First Row curved at western end at northern side & East End

  1. Transparent Siberian Crab.
  2. (Sept) Keswick Codlin. [Kilit] (1)

3 (March) Bedfordshire Foundling K (Lee

4 Decr Hawthorndean Aston Town K (1)

5 May Royal Russet K (1)

6 Wine Sour Shrewsbury

7 Dec. Hawthorndean K (2)

8 Ears Shrewsbury Pear

9 Magnum Bonum (Lee)

Second Row: always beginning East end, near House.

1 (Jan) Yorkshire Queening K (Lee)

2 Morello

3 (Jan) Golden Reinette Eat. (Lee)

4 (Sept) Dutch Codlins K. ([St Adolph])(1)

5 (April) Court of Wick Apple Eat. (Lee)

6 Aston Town (Lee)

7 (May) Golden Harry Apple Eat. (Lee)

8 (May) Royal Russet K. (2)

Page 11

Third Row

Jan: 1. (?) New English Pippins K. (Stod/ January St. Gags)

2 (May/ Alfriston Apple K. (Lee)

3 Magnum Bonum

4 (April) Court. Perdu Plat (Eat) (Lee)

  1. ? Cres Golden Drop? Shrewsbury (Sturmer Pippins)

6 Green Chisel Pear (Lee)

7 (Jan) Beauty of Kent K. (Lee)

8 (?) Pearson Plate Apple (Eat) Lee

9 (Sept] Summer Golden Pippin (Eat) [St Adolph]

Fourth Line

1 (March) Herefordshire Pearmain (Eat) Lee

2 Swan's Egg (1)

3 hort (?) Knights Downton Pippin (Eat) Lee

4 Hacon's Incomparable Pear (Lee)

5 Breda Apricot Apricot in the Orchard in Brussells (Lee)

6 (April) Scarlet nonpareil Eat (Lee)

7 (Dec) Hawthorndean Imperial Plum Shrewsbury K (3) Sturmer Pippins)

8 (?) Winter Queening K ([St Adolph]) (1)

Autograph manuscript with several corrections and deletions. Eleven pages on six leaves (202 x 159 mm), probably lacking the first leaf detailing the first to fourth lines.

Item #5158

Price: $125,000.00