In Brook Street, Mayfair there is an extraordinary couple of houses – turned into a museum. Numbers 23 and 25 were homes to two musicians 200 years apart; Jimi Hendrix in London and the house of George Frideric Handel!
We visited in recently and were blown away by the museum.
G F Handel was born in Germany in 1685. He moved to London age 38 in 1723 – and stayed all his life. He is Britain’s most famous composer of classical music. His house (no. 25) was close to the theatres of Covent Garden and Soho – and the Royal family at Kensington Palace. Back then, Brook Street was just like it is today – residential and retail premises; mainly perfumeries, gin shops, coffee houses, apothecaries. But unlike today is was described as ‘middle-class’ tradesmen. In the ‘composition room’ Handel created his work; including the ‘Messiah’ and the Coronation Anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ (that you’ll recognise from your visit to the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London). In the bedroom you can imagine where Handel spent 36 years sleeping – and where on the 14 April 1759, he died. The bed is short by today’s standards – because the practice was to sleep sitting up (if you lay down you looked dead!). Contemporary accounts state that Handel was quick witted, humorous and hot-tempered. But his diary and letters do not survive, so it’s difficult to know for sure. Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Hendrix in London Flat
At the top of the Handel’s house you’ll cross over into the next door property; Hendrix’s top floor flat and bedroom! Hendrix lived here with his English girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham from January to March 1969. It is faithfully restored with around 30 period artefacts; vibrant red bedspread, the bed, guitar – a copy, a wooden captain chair (seen in many Hendrix photographs), wall hangings, albums, a turntable, TV set, flowers, cigarettes and a BOAC airline bag plus Hendrix’s favourite wine; Mateus rose! Hendrix wrote in 1968: ‘This is my first real home of my own’! Sadly, Hendrix died shortly thereafter, under mysterious circumstances, in Notting Hill.