The home of Charles Darwin
for most of his life, near the village of Downe
south-east of London, and now a museum
After Darwin returned from his Beagle voyages of 1831-6, he began to settle down. He married his cousin Emma Wedgwood and they sought a house in the country. His family were rich enough that he didn't have to make a living. Down House is no great beauty but it's a pleasant, solid squire's house of the late eighteenth century, with gardens and orchards amid the gently rolling hills of Kent. They lived there from 1842, Charles until his death in 1882, with seldom much travelling away from Downe because of his infirmity, and Emma remained for part of the years thereafter.
After her death it was used as a school for a while, and was turned into a museum in the 1920s. It was run by the Royal College of Surgeons but had fallen into disrepair when English Heritage took over in 1996 and restored it. It's now a lovely place for a visit, with quite interesting displays, and gorgeous walks in the countryside around if you have the good fortune to visit on a fine day in spring when primroses abound.
Remarkably, it's technically in London, so London transport passes get you around, but it's a world of farms and woods and fields, and the pubs in the little village of Downe (the George and Dragon and the Queen's Head, if I recall) are definitely country pubs. It must have changed little since Darwin's day. He enjoyed his walks to local beauty spots, and examining all the little flora and fauna in the woodland.
It was a family home. He and Emma had a happy home life, with lots of children bouncing around. The death of Annie (1841-1851) is said to be the final blow to his last vestiges of religious belief. By the time he moved into Down House he had the basic form of his theory of modification through natural selection. The gardens, the orchards, the greenhouses, all now carefully preserved in close to their original form, were his laboratory and inspiration.
Downstairs the lower rooms - study, parlour, and dining room - have been restored with a lot of original furnishings, equipment, and books. The books in his study! He must have read everything there was on every relevant subject, geology as well as natural history, journals from all over. But then there's that story - probably just an urban legend - that his shelves included the journal that Mendel's work was published in, but which he never saw. Upstairs there are modern displays outlining his life and work, and the inevitable room full of bright plastic displays for children. There's also - make sure you don't miss it, as it's just sitting there not emphasised - a big display case full of gorgeous stuffed birds.
For pictures, and a good feel for it by his granddaughter the artist and writer Gwen Raverat, see http://darwin.baruch.cuny.edu/biography/down/. She was born a little after he died, but visited her grandmother there. Today it's open all year, a short bus trip away from Orpington or Bromley. And I recommend the venison pie in the Queen's Head too.