George Frideric Handel's home for 36 years of his 50-year association with London is an elegant, Georgian bachelor pad. The composer died here 245 years ago on Wednesday, and it was here that he composed Messiah, with its musical depiction of Christ's Nativity, and Easter Passion and Resurrection. Also created here were anthems including Zadok the Priest, other oratorios, dozens of operas such as the newly popular Rodelinda, Ariodante and Theodora, and volumes of instrumental music. Originally one of only four, new-build townhouses near a running brook, it is now at the heart of the capital's chic Bond Street area shopping experience, next to perfumery Molton Brown and occupying floors above trendy LK Bennett. The composer would have approved: he may have written sacred music and played the organ of nearby St George's, Hanover Square, but he liked the earthly pleasures of food, drink and fine clothes.
Something for the children
If they've ever played Handel's Water Music on the recorder, they can walk in the composer's footsteps and visit the little first-floor room where he composed. Handel would try out new work with performers in the larger, adjoining, front room on the same floor, where young musicians from the London music colleges now drop by to rehearse at the harpsichord, in front of visitors. Teenagers may be more impressed by the house's connection with rock legend Jimi Hendrix, who lived next door. His months at No 23 in 1968 and 1969, shortly before his death, are recalled in photographs spanning his career on show now in a temporary exhibition in rooms off Handel's own, until 6 June. Hendrix was sufficiently impressed by the genius who once lived next door to pop out for recordings of Messiah and Water Music.
Something for adults
Imagine whole operas being tried out for the first time in the first-floor room that doubled as a dining room, perhaps with the composer's favourite performer, Mrs Cibber, among the sight-readers. The house has infinitely more musical associations than, for example, Mozart's much-visited childhood home in Salzburg. Manuscripts include a letter to the librettist of Messiah. Recitals are held every Thursday at 6pm and 7pm. Occasional afternoon events include a lecture on the 18th-century black composer Ignatius Sancho, next Sunday, 18 April, and storytelling based on the plot of Orlando, intended for the whole family, on Saturday 24 April.
Every possible corner of the little house is given over to recreating the composer's home and there is no café, so for refreshment head to South Molton Street: the Widow Applebaum's Deli and Bagel Academy lives up to its name, with pasta and pizza, too. There are branches of Starbucks and Coffee Republic, and a pub, The Hog in the Pound. Or stay at the back of the house for Mediterranean menus in the cluster of restaurants and wine bars around Lancashire Court.
History of music books and biographies of Handel for adults and for children. Music-themed cards, stationery, and T-shirts, books on Georgian architecture, but few pocket-money bargains.
Admission and access
Despite being in the heart of Mayfair, the house is only lightly visited, and you could have the place to yourself. Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10am-6pm; Thursday, 10am-8pm; Sunday, noon-6pm. Admission: adults £4.50, children under 16 £2, and free on Saturdays. There is full access for disabled visitors, who pay admission of £3.50, and one carer is admitted free, but phone ahead for the best assistance. A large-print leaflet is available.
How to get there
Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, London W1K 4HB (020-7495 1685; www.handelhouse.org).
By car: inside the congestion-charge zone, with limited on-street, metered parking
By public transport: Bond Street or Oxford Circus tube stations, or any bus stopping in Bond Street, Regent Street or Oxford Street.
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