On the edge of Hampstead Heath and surrounded by tranquil landscaped gardens, Kenwood House is one of London’s hidden gems. The breathtaking interiors and stunning world-class art collection are free for everyone to enjoy. With children’s activities, a café to relax in and acres of grounds to stretch your legs, there are treats in store for every visitor.
The original house dates from the early 17th century, the orangery having been added in about 1700. In 1754 the house was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, who commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it. The library has become one of the designer’s most famous interiors, described by his contemporaries as ‘superior to anything of the kind in England’
Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness family, bought the house from the Mansfield family in 1925 but was never able to live in it as he died just two years later. Thanks to the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood was donated to the nation, its text stipulating that it should be opened to the public free of charge, with the ‘mansion and its content… preserved as a fine example of the artistic home of a gentleman of the 18th century’. Unfortunately the furnishings had already been sold by then so 18th-century furniture was subsequently replaced.
The paintings on display are mainly from Iveagh’s collection. Lord Iveagh was a prolific collector of Old Master and British paintings, which were donated to the nation as part of the Iveagh Bequest in 1929. This collection of 63 works includes prominent pieces by Joshua Reynolds, Pieter van den Broecke and Thomas Gainsborough, as well as The Guitar Player by Johannes Vermeer and Self Portrait with Two Circles, a late work of Rembrandt’s. The Art Fund has helped buy a further 26 works for display at Kenwood House, including Joseph Wright of Derby’s Dressing the Kitten and the Portrait of John Joseph Merlin by Thomas Gainsborough.
For details of the exact address, opening times and transport links go to www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood
For accommodation go to www.chsrentals.com/london.