Monday, 26 February 2018

Finishing Handel's House

Plans for the restored frontage to Handel's house in Brook Street
Plans for the restored frontage to Handel's house in Brook Street
On Friday 23 February 2018, Handel's birthday, I went along to the Handel's House in Brook Street (part of Handel & Handrix in London) to find out about the museum's exciting plans for both Handel's house and the Jimi Hendrix flat next door. The Handel House Trust has launch the Hallelujah Project: Making Handel's House Happen which is intended to re-integrate the whole of Handel's house into a single historic space used as a museum.

Plans for the restored front parlour at Handel's house in Brook Street
Plans for the restored front parlour at
Handel's house in Brook Street
Though the trust owns the freehold to the house at 25 Brook Street (where Handel lived from 1723 to his death in 1759, and where he wrote and rehearsed many of his major works), the ground floor and basement are sublet to a shop and only the upper floors are displayed as a museum. The new project aims to take the lower floors into the museum, re-create the historic facade and display the rooms as they would have been in Handel's day. The ground floor parlours will be restored to their state when Handel lived there, received visitors and even sold his music there, and the basement will include a re-creation of Handel's kitchen (we know what was in it thanks to the inventory taken at Handel's death).

At the moment visitors to the museum either come in the front door on Brook Street, and then go straight upstairs, or enter via the new block created in the mews behind the museum. The new project will not only restore the frontage and the original railings, but will mean that visitors enter the house in the same way that Handel's own visitors.

Of course, such projects come at a cost. Not just the expense of doing the restorations, but the income from the current letting is a valuable revenue stream for the museum. So the new project has had to be carefully costed. The modern rear extension (not part of Handel's original house) will be turned into a two-story sub-let to provide income, in addition the project includes the creation of an endowment fund. Also, though the recreation of the interiors will be done to the highest historical standards, they will also be done in a way which will enable the rooms to be let to provide the museum with another revenue stream.

The project will also enable the staircase to be restored in the building nextdoor with Jimi Hendrix's flat in it, which gives the prospect of far better circulation around the two museums, and there will also be additional space on the second floor below Jimi Hendrix's flat.

Plans for the restored rear parlour at Handel's house in Brook Street
Plans for the restored rear parlour at Handel's house in Brook Street
This is not a quick project, the current sub-lease on the ground floor and basement does not expire until December 2021, but this gives plenty of time for the financial elements to be put in place, and during 2019 there will also be a Symposion at the Georgian Group to gather experts on 18th century houses and music to inform the final presentation of the house. And all will be revealed in 2023.

Full details from the Halleluja Project website.

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