John Simon's home

Sir John Simon lived in this house in London (40 Kensington Square) for more than thirty years. The Blue Plaque placed on the facade by the London County Council states: "SIR / JOHN / SIMON / 1816-1904 / Pioneer of / Public Health / lived here".

In his "Personal recollections", Simon tells that, after a short period in a suburban residence in Blackheath, which proved distasteful to his wife, "in 1867, we returned to London, where we settled in our present [1897] and presumably final home, at No. 40, Kensington Square"1.

"[O]f late years our new friendships have ranged but little beyond the Square in which we dwell. Here, however, in this small Square, and among the other friends who still remain to us, we see in constant exercise, at all ages, samples of the human qualities which mankind has to respect and love, and we rejoice that we are still able to behold, even on this scale, the continuing life and promise of the world"2.

This, according to a modern biographer of Simon, sounds a bit of an understatement: "It was in this house," - in fact - "its walls covered with Morris wallpapers and hung with Pre-Raphaelite paintings and water-colours by Turner and Ruskin, that the Simons re-established their small but distinguished salon. (…) The regular acquaintances who gathered at the dinners and soirĂ©es at Cumberland Street [their previous house] and the Square reveal the breadth of interest of the Simons. There were, of course, John's medical friends (…); his sanitary associates-including Edwin Chadwick; and men of science-chief of whom was Charles Darwin; and his political friends (…). When in London, friends from the Continent entered the group-von Pettenkofer the sanitarian, Claude Bernard, the physiologist, and Renon the philosopher and historian. But the salon was primarily artistic. (…) the core of the circle compromised a group of people more or less associated with Pre-Raphaelitism"3, including Rossetti, Morris, Ruskin and Burne-Jones.

  • Photos by ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#ihgroB acuL (July 2011)

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