Discovering London with House Historian Melanie Backe-Hansen

Discovering London with House Historian Melanie Backe-Hansen

By Sandra Porto

London is irrevocably one of the most glorious and historical cities in the world. The cosmopolitan melting pot, beacon of freedom and influence, hosts a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, tribes and… architecture.

In the midst of its luscious parks lies a wealth of trendy, affluent, exotic and extraordinary neighbourhoods bursting with history, which may be beyond reach to the naked eye.

But nothing escapes the acute investigative instinct of House Historian Melanie Backe-Hansen.
Mel sparked our curiosity when we first heard of the term House Historian: we conceded it to be a rather exquisite and dare we say, glamorous, profession. However, unlike many of other ‘standard’ careers, Mel carved a place for herself in the London landscape as being the “first and only historian to be employed by a UK estate agent to research the history of houses and street.”

The historian, writer and speaker, is a member of the Royal Historical Society, an honorary teaching fellow at the University of Dundee, and an accomplished author with two published books: House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door (2011) and Historic Streets and Squares: The Secrets on Your Doorstep (2013).
Originally from Australia but enviably pronouncing an impeccable British accent, Mel embraces the culture, beauty and history of her chosen home country.

Naturally elegant, her eyes brighten alight when talking about one of her favourite places to visit in London.
The Sambourne Family Home at 18, Stafford Terrace in Kensington, stands in a tranquil street just behind the hustle and bustle of High Street Kensington.
The serenity of the place is in pure contrast with the next corner; the silence is only broken by the delighted museum visitors arriving at the iconic address, residents going about their routines and a rather polite group of builders who succeeded in maintaining the entire site in silence at our request. We are still grateful and stunned.

With the rain subsiding, it gave way to a gentle sunlight which shone for our outdoors interview with Mel, allowing us to sit just by the stairs of the iconic address: it feels natural to Mel who blends seamlessly into the landscape as she tells us about 18 Stafford Terrace.

The Sambourne Family Home is considered an exceptional sample of an untouched “Aesthetic interior” or “House Beautiful” style. In Victorian times, this highly desirable aesthetic incorporated foreign influences in décor, drawing from exotic designs from distant cultures, mostly from the East, such as Japan, China and the Middle East. Despite being a Victorian site, the place has maintained its original interiors in a rare live opportunity to have an insight into the lives of the Victorians’ homes.
Watch the exclusive short interview, in which Mel discusses her exquisite profession, aspirations and why 18 Stafford Terrace (The Sambourne Family Home) in Kensington, is one remarkable space to visit in London.