Kenwood House is a former stately home that sits on the northern boundary of the picturesque Hampstead Heath in London. I visited the house on a beautiful autumn day at the end of October. I decided to take the Overground train to Gospel Oak station and walk across the heath to reach the house.
Hampstead Heath is beautiful at this time of the year and as I came to the top of Parliament Hill I was rewarded with some spectacular views of the city.
It didn’t take me long to reach Kenwood, because of the way I’d walked across the heath I approached the house from the back, a very impressive sight.
Kenwood was built in the early 17th century when it was known as Caen Wood House. In 1754, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield bought the house. In 1764 he commissioned Robert Adam who transformed the house into the neoclassical villa that can be seen today.
In 1906 the 6th Earl of Mansfield inherited Kenwood, the family didn’t use it and the house had been rented out to various tenants including the Grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch second cousin to the last Tzar of Russia. In November 1922 the house and some of its contents were sold in a four day sale. The house and 74 acres immediately surrounding it were bought by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh. Upon his death in 1927 the house was left to the nation including the Earl’s art collection of 63 Old Masters and British paintings.
Inside the house there are some beautiful rooms including the famous Grand Library added by architect Robert Adams. Other rooms of interest include the Orangery and the Music Room.
Kenwood is probably best known for its art collection. Most of the works were acquired by Lord Iveagh in the 1880’s and 1890’s and focus on Old Master portraits, landscapes and 17th century Dutch and Flemish works and British artists. In the collection you can find work by Turner, Rembrandt, and Gainsborough as well as many others.
Kenwood also has some lovely gardens to wander around with a pretty lake and some ancient woodland. Nearer the house there are some works of modern sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Eugene Dodeigne.
London is filled with stately homes and large mansions but to me Kenwood is quite unique in its setting on the edge of Hampstead Heath, it’s a lovely place and well worth a visit and best of all it’s completely free!