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Kenwood House

File:Kenwood House front with extensions 2005.jpg
Front (north) facade of Kenwood House
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Rear (south) facade of Kenwood House
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Detail of the rear (south) facade of Kenwood House
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Elevations of the north and south fronts of Kenwood by Robert and James Adam
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The library of Kenwood House

Kenwood House (also known as the Iveagh Bequest) is a former stately home, in Hampstead, London, on the northern boundary of Hampstead Heath. It is managed by English Heritage, and normally open to the public. The house was closed for major renovations from 2012 until late 2013.[1]

The house is best known for the artwork it houses.


The original house dates from the early 17th century when it was known as Caen Wood House.[2] The orangery was added in about 1700. In 1754 it was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. He commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it from 1764–1779. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and added the Ionic portico at the entrance. In 1793-6 George Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.

The 2nd Earl and Countess of Mansfield added a dairy to supply Kenwood House with milk and cheese.[3] After two years of negotiations, the 6th Earl of Mansfield leased the house to the exiled Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and his wife Countess Sophie of Merenberg in 1910.[4]

Lord Iveagh, a wealthy Anglo-Irish businessman and philanthropist (of the Guinness family), bought the house from the Mansfield family in 1925 and left it to the nation upon his death in 1927; it was opened to the public in 1928. The furnishings had already been sold by then, but some furniture has since been bought back. The paintings are from Iveagh's collection. Part of the grounds were bought by the Kenwood Preservation Council in 1922, after there had been threats that it would be sold for building. In the late 1990s the house received approximately 150,000 visitors a year and an estimated 1 million people visited the grounds each year.[5]


The estate has a designed landscape with gardens near the house, probably originally designed by Humphry Repton, contrasting with some surrounding woodland, and the naturalistic Hampstead Heath to the south. There is also a new garden by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.

One third of the estate is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, particularly the ancient woodlands. These are home to many birds and insects and the largest Pipistrelle bat roost in London.

There are sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Eugène Dodeigne in the gardens near the house.

File:Henry Moore - Two Piece Reclining Figure 5 - Kenwood.jpg
Two Piece Reclining Figure, No. 5, 1963–1964 by Henry Moore

Music concerts, originally classical but in more recent years predominantly pop concerts, were held by the lake on Saturday evenings every summer from 1951 until 2006, attracting thousands of people to picnic and enjoy the music, scenery and spectacular fireworks. In February 2007, English Heritage decided to abandon these concerts owing to restrictions placed on them after protests from some local residents. On 19 March 2008, it was announced that the concerts would return to a new location on the Pasture Ground within the Kenwood Estate, with the number of concerts limited to eight per season.[6]

In popular culture

The house was the subject of a Margaret Calkin James poster in the 1930s, seen by many commuters on the London Underground.

The 1999 British feature film Notting Hill was partly filmed here.

Many scenes in the 2013 film Belle, in which William Murray figures as a character, are set in the house or its grounds, although filmed elsewhere.[7]

Paintings and other collections

Paintings of note include

Other painters include

Most of the works were acquired by Iveagh in the 1880s–1890s and focus on Old Master portraits, landscapes and 17th century Dutch and Flemish works and British artists. Others were not part of the Iveagh Bequest but were added to the collection after his death because of a connection with Kenwood House.[8]

There is also a collection of shoe buckles, jewellery and portrait miniatures.

In 2012 an exhibition of works from the art collection 'Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London' began a tour of museums in the United States while Kenwood House was undergoing renovations; many of the works had never been outside Britain. The exhibit opened 6 June 2013 in Little Rock, Arkansas at the Arkansas Arts Center.[9][8]


  1. ^ "History of Kenwood". English Heritage. Retrieved 26 February 2014. Following an extensive repair and conservation project begun in 2012, part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Kenwood reopened in late 2013. Work included repairing the Westmorland slate roof and redecorating the exterior and interior of the house, based on new paint research on the original Adam scheme, and a redisplay of the Iveagh Bequest paintings in the south front rooms. 
  2. ^ FK staff (9 April 2014). "History of Kenwood House and the Friends of Kenwood". 
  3. ^ "More than £40,000 needed to restore 18th century Kenwood Dairy". Ham&High. 8 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Bryant, Julius (1990). The Iveagh Bequest: Kenwood. Oxford, UK: London Historic House Museums Trust. p. 68. ISBN 9781850742784. 
  5. ^ Kenwood: Information for Tutors and Students of Tourism Studies, English Heritage booklet 2002 revision, page 5.
  6. ^ "IMG and English Heritage announce stunning line up for Kenwood House Picnic Concerts". Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  7. ^ Internet Movie Database. "Belle Filming Locations". Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  8. ^ a b "Masterpieces from London's Kenwood House tours the US, brings works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 1 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Glentzer, Molly (8 June 2012). "British treasures leave home for the MFAH". Houston Chronicle. 


External links

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