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.

Kenwood House
Front (north) facade, 2005
General information
TypeStately home
Architectural styleGeorgian and Neoclassical
LocationHampstead Heath
London, NW3
United Kingdom
Design and construction
ArchitectRobert Adam
Location of Kenwood House in London Borough of Camden
Coordinates51.5713°N 0.1676°W / 51.5713; -0.1676
Builtc. 1616
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name: Kenwood House (Iveagh Bequest)
Designated10 June 1954
Reference no.1379242[1]
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name: Service wing and outbuildings to Kenwood House
Reference no.1379244[2]
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name: Sham bridge to south of Kenwood House
Reference no.1379245[3]
Designated1 October 1987
Reference no.1000142[4]

The house was originally constructed in the 17th century and served as a residence for the Earls of Mansfield through the 18th and 19th centuries. Part of the estate was bought by the Guinness family in the early 20th century, and the whole property and grounds came under ownership of the London County Council and was open to the public by the end of the 1920s. It remains a popular local tourist attraction.


The house is at the north edge of Hampstead Heath, to the south of Hampstead Lane (the B519).[5] It is in the London Borough of Camden, just south of its boundary with the London Borough of Haringey.


Early history

The original house was presumed to have been built by the King's Printer, John Bill in 1616, and was known as Caen Wood House.[5][6] It was acquired by the Surveyor-General of the Ordnance, William Bridges in 1694, who demolished the property and rebuilt it; the original brick structure remains intact under the facade added in the 18th century.[5] The orangery was added in about 1700.[7] Bridges sold the house in 1704, and it went under several owners until 1754, when it was bought by the future Earl of Mansfield, William Murray.[5]

Mansfield family

In 1764, Murray commissioned Robert Adam to remodel the house, who was given complete freedom to design it how he wished. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and accommodate Lord Mansfield's extensive book collection. He also designed the Ionic portico at the entrance.[5] In 1780, the house became a permanent residence.[1]

Following the earl's death in 1793, ownership passed to his nephew David Murray, 2nd Earl of Mansfield. He commissioned an extension of the property, initially by Robert Nasmith, then by George Saunders. Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.[5] A dairy was added at this time to supply Kenwood House with milk and cheese.[8] The main Hampstead - Highgate road was moved to the north between 1793 and 1796 so it did not run directly alongside the property.[1]

The 2nd Earl died in 1796, and ownership passed to his son, David William Murray, 3rd Earl of Mansfield. William Atkinson made several alterations to the property between 1803 and 1839. The property remained part of the Mansfield estate throughout the rest of the century.[5] 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.[9]

Modern history

Part of the grounds were bought by the Kenwood Preservation Council in 1922, after there had been threats that it would be sold to a building syndicate. This land came under control of the London County Council in 1924 and was opened to the public the following year by King George V.[5] Lord Iveagh, a rich Anglo-Irish businessman and philanthropist of the Guinness family, bought the house and the remaining 74 acres (30 ha) not under public ownership from the Mansfield family in 1925 and left it to the nation upon his death in 1927; it was opened to the public the following year. The furnishings had already been sold by then, but some furniture has since been bought back. The paintings are from Iveagh's collection.[5]

Kenwood House was closed at the start of World War II. Following the war, the house came under ownership of the London Council Council, and it re-opened in 1950.[5] The late 18th century extensions by Saunders were restored from 1955-59.[1] Ownership transferred to the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965; following the GLC's demise in 1986, English Heritage took over responsibility for the estate.[5]

The house was closed for major renovations from 2012 until late 2013, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This included repairing the Westmorland slate roof, redisplaying the Iveagh Bequest paintings in the south of the house, and redecorating the structure to closer resemble Adam's original design.[10]

In 2018, 131,126 people visited the house.[11]


There are two drives leading to the house from Hampstead Lane. Each has a gated white-brick lodge. The north, or main entrance front of the house was designed by Robert Adam and is set in Stucco with a central portico. The south front is constructed out of a single Stucco block. It was restored to its original design in 1975. To the east of the house is the service wing, constructed from London stock brick. Opposite this is the brick house, designed as a cold-plunge bath.[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.[5] There is also a garden designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.[12]

The estate is Grade II* listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.[13] 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.

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.[14]


Kenwood House contains a significant number of historic paintings and other works of art, including 63 Old Master paintings.[16] Paintings of note include

Other painters include

Most of the works were acquired by Iveagh in the 1880s–1890s and are mainly 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.[17]

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

In 2002, a selection of the Suffolk Collection of Stuart portraits was moved to Kenwood from Ranger's House, Greenwich.[18]

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.[19][17]

Cultural references

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 had a scene filmed here.

The 1995 British feature film Sense and Sensibility had scenes 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.[20]

A scene from the 2016 novel Swing Time by Zadie Smith is set on the grounds of the estate.



  1. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1379242)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  2. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1379244)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  3. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1379245)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  4. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1000142)". Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  5. Weinreb et al. 2008, p. 455.
  6. FK staff (9 April 2014). "History of Kenwood House and the Friends of Kenwood".
  7. "Kenwood House". Art Fund. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  8. "More than £40,000 needed to restore 18th century Kenwood Dairy". Ham&High. 8 October 2012.
  9. Bryant 1990, p. 68.
  10. "History of Kenwood". English Heritage. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  11. "ALVA - Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  12. "Famous film and TV locations you can visit in the UK". House and Garden. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  13. Historic England, "Kenwood (1000142)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 7 June 2017
  14. "IMG and English Heritage announce stunning line up for Kenwood House Picnic Concerts". Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  15. Bryant, Julius (2003). Kenwood, Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 70–77. ISBN 978-0-300-10206-2.
  16. "The 100 best paintings in London - Kenwood House". Time Out. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  17. "Masterpieces from London's Kenwood House tours the US, brings works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 1 June 2012.
  18. Weinreb et al. 2008, p. 256.
  19. Glentzer, Molly (8 June 2012). "British treasures leave home for the MFAH". Houston Chronicle.
  20. Internet Movie Database. "Belle Filming Locations". Retrieved 1 July 2014.


  • Bryant, Julius (1990). The Iveagh Bequest: Kenwood. Oxford, UK: London Historic House Museums Trust. ISBN 9781850742784.
  • The Buildings of England London 4: North. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner. ISBN 0-300-09653-4.
  • Kenwood: The Iveagh Bequest. Julius Bryant. (English Heritage publication).
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