Sigmund Freud is best known for psychoanalysis, a couch and controversy. What he is less-known for is having been – at least for a short time – a Londoner.

Freud spent the last year of his life at 20 Maresfield Gardens near Finchley Road from 1938 to 1939, after leaving Austria to escape the Nazis. He and his family were allowed to bring his vast collection of antiquities, books and his famous couch to London, and here his belongings have stayed ever since.

Freud’s youngest daughter Anna – herself an acclaimed psychoanalyst – lived in the house for 44 years until her death in 1982. As per her wish, the house was then made into a museum to celebrate her father’s life and work.

Sigmund Freud's blue plaque at 20 Maresfield Gardens, London

It was here that Freud welcomed illustrious visitors such as HG Wells and Virginia Woolf. He died in the study in September 1939. And, incredibly, this room is preserved just as he left it. He was still working, writing and treating patients during his time in London, and as a result his couch still sits in its original place, surrounded by hundreds of books, priceless antiques and his green chair from which he treated his patients. His desk is still littered with papers and a pair of iconic round glasses sit on top, waiting for a man who will never pick them up. 

 

Next to the study is the dining room where you are reminded that you are, in fact, in a working museum. A tiny statue of the man himself sits amongst an introduction to the Freud family, surrounded by Anna’s furniture and paintings gifted to her father. Through the adjoining door sits the conservatory: once a place to relax, now a gift shop.

Upstairs is more modernised, with a room dedicated to Anna Freud’s work and a video room showing never-before-seen footage of the family.

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The significance of this building and the condition that it has been preserved in cannot be understated. Yet drive past and you’re unlikely to notice anything amiss, aside from the two unassuming blue plaques paying homage to ‘The founder of Psychoanalysis’ and his esteemed daughter. This is an ordinary Hampstead street with ordinary neighbours and probably hundreds of passers-by who have no idea they are within a few feet of this incredible space. I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them.

Nearest Tube: Finchley Road

More information: freud.org.uk