On the edge of Hampstead Heath, welcome to one of London’s hidden gems where everything is well-kept to complement the aura therein. From some fine antique artworks and architecture, great English delicacies and tranquillity unmatched, Kenwood House has every right to remain every adventurer and sightseer’s haven. Of course, this spot is regularly abuzz with dog walkers, families and everyone else looking for a piece of countryside within this big city.
A brief history of this marvel
The first Kenwood House, probably an ancient brick structure, was built by John Bill around 1616. Before the notable ownership, the originally red-brick house changed hands a few times. William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, bought it in 1754 and embarked on redesigning it to suit his preferences. He hired Robert Adam who did an impeccable work, creating a series of pleasurable surprises and transforming it into a neoclassical villa. The building’s library is the designer’s most famous interiors, although George Saunder added the offices, kitchen buildings and a brewery later in the 1790s.
In 1925, Lord Iveagh acquired it from the Mansfield family, but died two years later. Upon his death, the house was donated to the nation as a free public viewing monument. Much of its contents had been auctioned off by then, but some was bought back.
Kenwood House was preserved to exhibit an “artistic home of a gentleman of the 18th century” (The Iveagh Bequest Act of 1929).
Almost a century later, after months of the historic building’s restoration to match the iconic library’s original colour palette and old artistry, in 2013 a new era for the house finally began.
Planning a visit, here’s what to expect
Discover the attractions behind this ancient wonder home including Lord Iveagh’s collection of Old Masters and British paintings, the repainted façade and stately rooms full of memories from the past. The visitors are made felt welcome the moment they enter the house, with the most cosiest entranced hall – with a warm Turkish carpet and vibrancy of the open fire in the grate. They are greeted not just by some of the Kenwood House’s staff, many of which are volunteers, but also by the 1st Earl of Mansfield himself, who watches anyone who comes in from a painting above.
From ephemera to linen-bound written guides, Kenwood House indeed has everything for everyone. While there are a lot to sample inside, many thrills are available outside as well. There are acres of grounds to stretch your legs and you can walk along the meandering pathways, exploring the ancient, but still beautiful woodlands offering something different each season, but particularly enhancing with blooming flowers in spring. The house’s grounds not only hold beautiful horticulture but also sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Eugene Dodeigne.
This area is particularly loved by dog owners with numerous could be seen any time of the day. Even The Brew House Café, held in the former brewery rooms, keeps bowls of water outside for its four-legged visitors.
Actually a trip to the Kenwood House would not be complete without a visit to The Brew House Café itself. The menu reflects its surroundings, starting with English breakfast up to afternoon tea. You may treat yourself to a whole meal there, or just a piece of their delicious treats – coffee, walnut, carrot cake, lemon drizzle or scones can particularly be enjoyed at one of the tables outside on a sunny day.
And if you wonder what to wear, you may want to follow the spirit of the place and put on your wellington boots. It is almost guaranteed that despite what the weather may be like, you will always spot many other walkers wearing them.
Did you know that Kenwood House is also known by another name? The Iveagh Bequest