London – Kenwood House – Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant and Guiness!

Seeing movies like Julia Roberts’ and Hugh Grant’s “Notting Hill”, filmed at Kenwood, is part of what draws us to England.  We want to see both its fascinating urban streets and its beautiful country homes. Well Kenwood is a country home which is only about 5 miles from the city’s heart, at Oxford Circus! It’s a gem — and it’s free, too, so put it on your London planner.

Approach Kenwood House via the Heath from either Hampstead or Highgate towns. The estate is idyllic and worth the trip. It is also known as the Iveagh Bequest. Edward Guiness (the heir to the Guiness ale fortune) (also known as the first Lord Iveagh), bought Kenwood in 1920, to save the home from developers. They wanted to destroy it to build other smaller homes for the current wealthy class.

When Iveagh died 2 years later, he bequeathed Kenwood to the nation, along with the fabulous painting collection he housed there.

It is an architectural jewel nestled by mighty Hampstead Heath on its own exquisite grounds. Kenwood was built around 1600, originally.

This glorious stately home was remodeled in the late 18th century by the amazing Robert Adam, for William Murray (1st Lord Mansfield), a prominent lawyer, then Lord Chief Justice. (Mansfield made the great judgment that England had always been free, so when any slave set foot in England, that person was automatically free).

The manor features opulent interiors, but the rooms are largely without the original (and even any) furniture now. Unfortunately, much was sold off in the desperate 1920s, after Kenwood was leased for much of the early twentieth century to the Grand Duke Michael of Russia.

Except for this lack of furniture, Kenwood House does not disappoint its visitors.

Now Kenwood is surrounded by modern “fashionable” homes in Hampstead, but perched on the northern edge of rolling Hampstead Heath (where the peasants had the right to graze their cows, gather firewood, do their washing etc.,) it still outshines them all.

The house has Adams’ stunning white stucco façades, and I prefer the less formal side, facing the pond. The 18th century landscaped grounds preserve many original features, and were designed by famed Humphrey Repton, for the 2nd  Lord Mansfield.

The neoclassical house was built in 2 main stages, and Adams added a 3rd story and wings.

Inside Kenwood, you’ll find one of the most magnificently decorated libraries in the world, both in proportion, style and details. It was designed by Adams.

And, in relative quiet, you can begin to enjoy the Iveagh Bequest – a collection of exquisite oil paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer (including his “The Guitar Player”), Hals, Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough, along with the Suffolk Collection (magnificent portraits of Elizabethan and Stuart celebrities).

You can take the Original London Walk tour to Hampstead Heath or arrive on your own. The local people are happy to help make sure that you understand where to go. A trip to Kenwood (coupled with a relaxed walk across Hampstead Heath) is a wonderful way to spend a half-day in London. The Heath is famous urban natural space with picturesque woods, meadows, hills and ponds.

Learn how to make the 210 bus transfer (from Golders Green tube stop). Its reasonably easy. Once at Kenwood House, the bus will stop directly at the estate’s gate.

The Brewhouse, the estate’s café, opens at 9:00am for breakfast and both the breakfast and lunch are rated outstanding and affordable. Plenty of locals come with their dogs, after walking on the Heath — providing a very quaint snapshot of English country-life, all within London’s boundaries! The café has lovely garden atmosphere.

It’s sites like Kenwood that give London tourists a real chance to enjoy the best of indoor and outdoor city life. Put this beautiful home on your London agenda, as it is a special place!

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