Inside the Greek Ambassador’s official London residence is a room preserved for nearly 60 years in memory of the man who once worked there and is now open to the public for the first time.

The man was George Seferis, a diplomat, poet, writer and winner of a Nobel Prize, and for a time, the Greek Ambassador to the UK. Rather like most famous people, if you know who George Seferis was, you’re excited, and if you’ve never heard of him, maybe rather less so — and even reading his biography doesn’t convey how important a person he is in modern Greek heritage.

It’s rather like reading a biography of a famous author – you have lots of facts, but do you get the emotional impact that only a fan can feel? Probably not — but you can appreciate their achievements nonetheless.

So, for a few years, one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century, a Nobel laureate, and later Ambassador, resided in London, and when he left London, his room was preserved as it was when he walked out the doors for the last time.

The room was largely untouched until the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou was visiting London to attend the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and arranged for the donation of 32 objects that form the initial core of the exhibition, later arranged for more objects to be donated to the Embassy as well.

The room opened last October and is now open roughly twice a month, to fit in around the Ambassador’s use of the house.

After booking a free ticket, the tour begins with pressing the doorbell, followed by a bout of typical British embarrassment as the door is opened to a Greek welcome. Swiftly switching to English, it became apparent that the Embassy staff’s grasp of English was considerably better than your correspondent’s non-existent Greek.

The sacred room is on the ground floor of the house, preserved as it was when Seferis worked there. You’re invited to wander around the room, looking at the many photographs and newspaper clippings that are now on display. A member of the Embassy staff offered to talk about the exhibition, and it was very much worth accepting the offer, as suddenly, the room came alive with memories.

Although the captions are in English, most of the letters and documents are, unsurprisingly, written in Greek, so the tour guide adds the missing background to why they’re on display.

Some are rather mundane in nature but show the struggles that Ambassadors worldwide will sympathise with, such as the lack of budget to deal with leaks in the old house or carry out repairs.

Nearby is the letter Seferis sent confirming that he had presented his credentials as Ambassador to the Queen and the telegram informing him that he had been awarded a Nobel Prize. You don’t need to be able to read Greek to understand the importance of these documents, and you can still feel the presence of their historical aura in the room.

There are many photos on the walls, and I particularly liked how they placed the official photo of him getting into the horse-drawn carriage to take him to Buckingham Palace when he arrived as Ambassador, contrasted with the small car he used when he left London.

There’s a soon-to-be-completed reading room next door, which might be included in a visit if it’s available — candidly, for this visitor, it’s a grand room, mostly full of Greek books — so more likely to excite someone who speaks the language.

I suspect I spent maybe 30-40 minutes inside, and while I can’t say it added any more to my knowledge about George Seferis than I had already read online, I got a lot more of the emotional hit that’s missing from reading about the man, and that Greeks probably understand far better than I will

However, the visit very much ticked my box marked “visit places you never thought you would visit”, and how often will you be invited inside the Greek Ambassador’s home?

I’ll flag up future dates in the London listings guide as they are announced.


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