House is a neo-classical mansion on a hillside facing over
a beautiful park.
There has been a house here since
1616, but the house today was the work of Robert Adam and
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield.
The 1st Earl purchased the house
in 1754 when he was Attorney General, and two years later
he became Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
In 1764 - 73 the 1st Earl commissioned
Robert Adam to remodel and furnish the early-18th century
During the Gordon Riots of 1780
anti-Catholic mobsters stopped off at the Spaniards Inn in
Hampstead on their way to Kenwood House, which they intended
to burn to the ground. The publican plied the rioters with
free beer until they were in no fit state to destroy Kenwood
House. When the army arrived the rioters were disarmed
with no trouble. However, rioters in London were more
successful, they managed to destroy the 1st Earl's town house
in Bloomsbury Square.
The 2nd Earl added wings and
the service buildings, and the Mansfield family lived here
until the 1920s. At this time it was discovered that
the family planned to sell the estate for development, so
an appeal was launched and the estate was bought in stages
for the nation.
In 1925 Kenwood House and the
final 74 acres were bought by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl
of Iveagh. He furnished the house and installed his
collection of paintings here, and on his death in 1927 he
left Kenwood House and its contents to trustees for the nation.
English Heritage now runs Kenwood
House and the Iveagh Bequest; the most important private collection
of paintings ever given to the nation.
From Hampstead Lane, Kenwood
House is reached by a wooded drive. On either side of
the entrance front are the white brick wings, housing the
Music and Dining Rooms, added by George Saunders for the 2nd
The Entrance Hall, hung with
18th century paintings, leads to the East Staircase Hall and
then the Marble Hall, which displays works by Boucher.
The Dining Room contains Lord Iveagh's Old Masters, including
paintings by Vermeer, Van Dyck and Rembrandt.
Lord Mansfield's Library or the
'Great Room' is reached through a pillared ante-room. This
is in one of the wings added by Robert Adam. The Library
is one of the best Adam rooms in existence, rectangular with
a low barrel-vaulted ceiling, with 18th century plasterwork
by Joseph Rose.
The south front rooms nclude
Lord Mansfield's Dressing Room and the long Parlour.
Most of the pieces of furniture, designed by Robert Adam for
the house, have been dispersed over the years but the sideboard
and wine coolers have been brought back and are displayed
in the Parlour. On the walls are Dutch and English paintings,
including works by Turner and Gainsborough.
Through Lady Mansfield's Dressing
Room and the Housekeeper's Room is the Orangery, a plain room
used for concerts, with a portrait by Van Dyck and works by
Gainsborough. The Lobby and Music Room leading from
the Orangery have 18th century portraits, including paintings
by Romney and Reynolds.
Kenwood House is in 112 acres
of park on the edge of Hampstead
Heath. The grounds were landscaped to designs
by Sir Humphry Repton for Lord Mansfield. The lawns
sweep down to a little lake in the valley below, with views
across to central London in the far distance. The grounds
form a perfect setting for the lakeside concerts held here
in the summer.
- donations appreciated