About Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House in London is the sole surviving former residence of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Today the house remains largely as it did when Franklin lived there, and provides a fascinating look into his life and times.
Benjamin Franklin House history
Built around 1730, the beautiful Georgian residence at 36 Craven Street was occupied by Franklin for nearly 16 years between 1757 and 1775. Though strictly in London as chief colonial diplomat, during his time in the city Franklin also undertook a number of other pursuits, including writing his Autobiography, developing his new glass armonica design, and even inventing a new alphabet!
While Franklin lived on Craven Street, his close friend and son-in-law of his landlady William Hewson ran an Anatomy School in the building. During excavations in 1998, the remains of 15 bodies were found in the house’s basement – secretly buried in a windowless room beneath the garden.
Following the assertion that they were around 200 years old, it became apparent that Hewson had been using the bodies in dissections to further his anatomical studies. As procuring bodies for dissection did not become fully legal until 1832, the practice required an aspect of secrecy. It is therefore likely that Hewson sourced some of his subjects from ‘resurrectionists’ – otherwise known as bodysnatchers!
Benjamin Franklin House today
Today the site is a Grade I listed building and operates as a museum examining the time Franklin spent in London as well as his wider life and work. Many of the house’s original features remain, such as the floorboards, ceilings, and staircases, allowing visitors to walk the very footsteps of the famous statesman.
Artefacts belonging to Franklin are currently on display at the house, such as his leather wallet and a letter to his sister, while a number of other items relating to him may be viewed. A replica glass armonica based on Franklin’s design can be played, while some of the bones used in Hewson’s anatomical work are also on display.
One of the best ways to visit Benjamin Franklin House is through their ticketed events. These include the Historical Experience, in which the house becomes a stage for the theatrical retelling of Franklin’s story, and the Architectural tour, in which the story of the Georgian building itself is explored.
Getting to Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House is located in Central London near Strand, with Charing Cross station a 2-minute walk away. Regular Underground and overground trains stop at Charing Cross, while a number of bus services also run to Strand, a 2-minute walk away.
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