Kenwood House is considered to be Hampstead Heath’s crowning glory and we were lucky enough to have a fine bright day for our visit on Wednesday 22nd October 2014. Our party of 35 members and friends arrived in time for coffee in The Brew House, formerly the kitchen and service wing to the house. Our guide, Owen gave an excellent talk on the history and points of interest of the house and took us around the outside explaining the many alterations, inside and out, that it had undergone over the years. We were then able to explore the house which has just reopened after having been exquisitely restored by English Heritage.
The house dates from the 17th century but was acquired by William Murray in 1754. He was promoted to Lord Chief Justice and then became Lord Mansfield. He and his wife took in a number of relatives, including Dido Elizabeth Belle whose story is told in the film “Belle”. Mansfield employed the architect Robert Adam to remodel the house. Of the many improvements his finest achievement is considered to be the library or “Great Room” built to counterbalance the Orangery on the opposite side of the house.
The house underwent further changes with succeeding Earls until it was bought in 1924 by the 1st Earl of Iveagh, a member of the Guiness family. He amassed a marvellous collection of paintings which were bequeathed to the nation with the house on his death. We enjoyed works by van Dyck, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Constable, Turner and many others.
After lunch in the Brew House, Owen guided us by coach around Hampstead Garden City and then on a fascinating walking tour around Hampstead Village, pointing out the past and present homes of many famous people. We paused to visit the beautiful and historic Parish Church of St John at Hampstead before walking on to Hampstead High Street. There we were able to take tea before setting out for home.