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Things to see and do in Carlyle’s House

An image of the parlour at Carlyle's House in London showing the interior of a room with an ornate grey marble fireplace surround with a gold gilt framed mirror above, circular wooden table and richly patterned red tablecloth and floor coverings
The parlour at Carlyle's House in London | © National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

When you enter through the front door at 24 Cheyne Row to explore the home of Thomas and Jane Carlyle, you’re following in the footsteps of Dickens, Ruskin and Tennyson, who were among the 19th century literary greats to visit here. With many of the original fixtures and fittings still in place, including a decoupage screen made by Jane in 1849, this special home has a very authentic feel.

The parlour

Robert Tait's painting A Chelsea Interior shows Thomas and Jane Carlyle in their front parlour in 1857. Jane wrote to a friend: 'My chief impediment has been a weary artist who took the bright idea last spring that he would make a picture of our sitting-room, to be amazingly interesting to posterity a hundred years hence!'

The artist was right, as this painting tells us so much about what the house was like when the Carlyles lived here. The original carpet from the parlour and dining room was lost to time, but thanks to Tait’s painting a hand-made recreation was produced and is in place today.

A painting from c1900 depicting a typical late Victorian interior of a parlour or front room with highly decorated carpet, wallpaper and furnishings
A Chelsea Interior by Robert Tait in the Parlour at Carlyle's House, 24 Cheyne Row, London | © Carlyle's House, Chelsea (The National Trust) ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

The basement kitchen

'...they had no water laid on' wrote Virginia Woolf in an article about Carlyle’s house for Good Housekeeping magazine in 1932. 'Every drop that the Carlyle's used – and they were Scots, fanatical in their cleanliness – had to be pumped by hand from a well in the kitchen...the wide and wasteful old grate upon which all kettles had to be boiled if they wanted a hot bath.'

A treasured necklace

Jane Carlyle was gifted a necklace from famous German writer and stateman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, made with a wrought iron chain and featuring a pendant engraved with a glass portrait of him. It was cherished by Jane and is one of the top items to look out for on your visit to Carlyle’s House.

The Carlyles married in 1826 and a letter dating from around 1827 makes mention of the necklace, suggesting that it was perhaps a wedding gift to Jane.

The necklace, alongside a bracelet and other personal effects, was gifted to the National Trust in 2019, in the memory of Thomas and Jane Carlyle by their great-great nieces Betty Mitchell and Mary Harland. Since the death of Thomas Carlyle the family had been dutifully caring for these objects.

An image of letters and writing equipment laid out on Carlyle's desk at Carlyle's House, London
Letter and writing equipment on Thomas Carlyle's desk at Carlyle's House, London | © National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The attic study

In August 1853 a builder was instructed to build an attic room for Carlyle to work from. The author wrote: 'After deep deliberation, I have decided to have a top storey put upon the house, with double walls, lighted from above and artfully ventilated, into which no sound may come!'

Jane’s dressing room

Few original textiles remain from the Carlyle’s time. A pair of original chintz curtains dating from the late 1840s, and made by Jane herself, went for conservation repair in 2016. Thanks to that specialist work they are now finally hanging back in Jane’s dressing room. The curtains show a repeating pattern of lily of the valley, a favourite flower of Jane’s, with a printed floral border on the leading edge.

A close up detail of a hand sewn tablecloth at Carlyle's House in London with black and red squares interspersed with circles and stitched with white blanket stitch around each shape and star patterns inside each shape

Carlyle’s House's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Carlyle’s House on the National Trust Collections website.

A painting from c1900 depicting a typical late Victorian interior of a parlour or front room with highly decorated carpet, wallpaper and furnishings

The history of Carlyle’s House 

Discover the past at Carlyle's House in Chelsea and find out who Thomas and Jane Carlyle were, and why their home was so important.

Moated medieval manor hall, with blue skies in background, Oxburgh Estate, Norfolk

Houses and buildings 

Historic buildings are a treasure trove of stories, art and collections. Learn more about their histories and plan your next visit.

Detail of the fretwork niches at 575 Wandsworth Road inspired by the carved coral houses on the isle of Lamu. Peeking out from between the niches are beautiful green ceramic dishes from China, adorned with elegant images of birds and flowers.

Houses and buildings in London 

From sprawling mansions to intimate homes and modernist masterpieces, London has it all if you know where to look.