Thomas Carlyle was one of the foremost historians of the 19th century, generally credited with having originated the "Great Man" theory of history, which posits that the flow of human achievement can be traced back to decisions made by just a few elevated individuals or "geniuses." For Carlyle, history was not about the steady progress of ideas, or the clash of social forces, but merely "the biography of great men." He moved to this four-story, 17th-century terrace house in 1843 with his wife, Anne, herself a noted intellectual and letter writer. Their marriage was famously stormy. The author Samuel Butler noted at the time: "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four."

Nonetheless, the house seems to have pleased Anne well enough. She described it as being "of most antique physiognomy, quite to our humour." They worked here together until Anne passed away in 1866. Thomas followed her 25 years later, after which the house and its contents were preserved and turned into a museum.

It's a veritable Victorian time capsule. The decor and furnishings are more or less exactly as Carlyle left them, and the rooms are filled with relics and mementoes from his life. The house's inner sanctum was the attic study, which he tried, largely unsuccessfully, to soundproof against the raucous celebrations of the nearby pleasure gardens.