Friday, 17 April 2015


Kenwood is a great neo-classical villa on the edge of Hampstead Heath, in the late 18th century, weekend retreat of William Murray, Lord Chief Justice, 1st Earl of Mansfield. He engaged  Robert Adam in the 1760's and 1770's to remodel his house. On the garden facade Adam used pilasters beneath an elegant pediment. The orangery on the west side was built in the 1740's by a previous owner, Lord Bute. Robert Adam added the library on the east side, with the same volume as the orangery, to create the symmetrical facade.

On the northern front Adam used impressive Ionic columns in his entrance portico of 1764. He also modernized the existing interiors and added attic bedrooms.There are four surviving Adam interiors at Kenwood, the entrance hall, the great stairs, the antechamber and the library.

Robert Adam modernised the entrance hall in 1773. The entrance hall was used by Lord Mansfield as a dining room.

The Entrance Hall

The Great Stair

The Antechamber or Vestibule

The Library or 'Great Room' (1767-1769) at Kenwood is considered one of Robert Adam's greatest interiors. The decorative frieze and ceiling are by Antonio Zucchi.

The Library

Lord Mansfield had no children, but Dido Eliabeth Belle (1761-1804) the mixed race daughter of his nephew Sir John Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (c1763-1823) grew up together their uncle's  household at Kenwood. Lord Mansfield considered to be one of Britain's greatest judges is often remembered for his rulings in favour of black plaintiffs.

Johann Zoffany: Dido Elizabeth Belle and Elizabeth Murray

In 1793 Lord Mansfield's nephew and heir Lord Stormont after inheriting and becoming the 2nd Earl  of Mansfield commissioned George Saunders to build the north-east and north-west wings, housing the dining and music rooms. The 2nd Earl of Mansfield wanted a dedicated dining room rather than having to use the entrance hall, where the 1st earl had entertained his guests.

The later earls of Mansfield only made sporadic visits to Kenwood, preferring their Scottish seat, Scone Palace near Perth. In the early 20th century Kenwood was let out to tenants, including grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch of Russia, grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

The 6th Earl of Mansfield decided to sell Kenwood and in 1925 the house was bought by Edward Cecil Guiness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847-1927). At his death two years later he bequeathed Kenwood and part of his art collection to the nation.

The Dining Room contains many of the finest works from Lord Iveagh's Bequest, including the Portrait of James Stuart, 1st Duke of Richmond and Lennox by Sir Anthony van Dyk, Pieter van den Broeke by Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer's The Guitar Player and perhaps the most famous painting at Kenwood Rembrandt's Portrait of the Artist.

The Breakfast Room was originally two rooms, the drawing room and the parlour. today the room is hung with paintings from the Iveagh Bequest including a view of Hampstead Heath by John Constable and Gainsborough's Two Shepherd Boys with Dogs Fighting.

The Breakfast Room

Lord Mansfield's Dressing Room also served as a study for the 1st Earl and is now hung with paintings from the Iveagh Bequest.

Thomas Gainsborough: John Joseph Merlin (1781)
He was a Belgian born mechanical prodigy and inventor,
who is credited with the invention of roller skates.

Lord Mansfield's Dressing Room

Lady Mansfield's Dressing Room was used by the 1st Countess for dressing , receiving guests and for reading. The room now contains furniture and paintings from the Iveagh Bequest.

Lady Mansfield's Dressing Room

Louis duc de Bourgogne

The elegant music room was built between 1794-1796. it now contains some of the most famous paintings from the iveagh Bequest, many of them considered to be among the greatest British portraits of the 18th century, includings works by Gainsborough,  Reynolds and Romney.

The Music Room

The Upper Hall was the main reception room before Adam added the library to the ground floor. Today this and the other upstairs rooms house paintings from the Suffolk Collection, a group of works commissioned by the earls of Suffolk and Berkshire which were gifted to the nation in 1975

The Upper Hall

Kenwood having been recently refurbished under the care of English Heritage, housing the fabulous works from the Iveagh Bequest and the Suffolk Collection is one of the best places to visit for 'nourishment' in London. And what is more it is furnished with comfortable seating and it is free.