Peter Ackroyd, the British writer and critic, said of the Dennis Severs House, “The journey through the house becomes a journey through time; with its small rooms and hidden corridors, its whispered asides and sudden revelations, it resembles a pilgrimage through life itself”. The journey Ackroyd describes aptly represents the mysterious path each visitor takes through 18 Folgate Street in the East End of London.
The house is a veritable puzzle of real and constructed stories lain over one another so that the edge of one melts into another, blurring the boundaries of reality and imagination. You become implicated just by entering into Dennis’ world. To enter is to become, in some magical way, part of another story that is uniquely your own. The conspicuous absence of Dennis and the inhabitants he so carefully nurtured has created a vacuum which you are easily drawn into.
First there is the story of Dennis Severs himself. Born in Southern California in the small town of Escondido, Dennis became fascinated by all things English, especially the London light, or as some may say the lack thereof. He saved up money and in 1965, right after graduating from high school, he set out for London, where he remained until his death in 1999.