|Hampstead Heath St Fenton H. H. Grove J. Straw's C. Vale Health Kenwood H. Viewpoint Kenwood Dedication Read Me|
Since at least the 17th Century, Hampstead in North London was regarded as a healthy place to live. It therefore attracted - and continues to attract - many of the rich and famous and also sometimes the "eccentric". The time-honoured houses in Hampstead Village and nearby Kenwood House across Hampstead Heath are all testimony to an interesting history; many of their past residents made an important contribution to British life. Hampstead is only about 4 miles (6.4 Km) from the centre of London (Charing Cross), but together with Hampstead Heath and Kenwood engenders a real sense of rus in urbe.
I grew to love both Hampstead, Kenwood and Hampstead Heath, when, as a child I made weekend day visits from the centre of London to this area with my parents. They taught me an appreciation of history, of art and of nature. What you will see on this page are the pictures I took almost ten years ago on my visit on Saturday, 16 September, 2008. Why should I let these pictures "gather dust" in my archive, when I can share them with a wider audience? You will see the result on this web page. The pictures, while not providing an in-depth description of Hampstead and Kenwood, will, I hope, give you, the visitor to this web page, a flavour of this interesting part of the Capital.
There are factors which influenced the choice of pictures you see here, as well as their technical aspects. The pictures were taken almost 10 years ago in 2008, and the first two of the Footnotes aim to draw your attention to these issues.
Heath Street is the connecting link between Hampstead tube station and the pond and Jack Straw's Castle, both on the top of the hill. Around Heath Street, you'll also see some of the associated smaller streets, yards and alley ways. Many of the houses are Georgian or early Victorian.
Fenton House - in Hampstead Grove - was built in 1686 by a rich London merchant. It is Grade I listed. Its last owner and resident - a Lady Binning - bequeathed it in 1952 to the National Trust. When I visited the house, I was impressed by the large collection of musical instruments - harpsichords and spinets - on display within. I found that the furnishings and pictures were also worth seeing. At the time, photography within National Trust properties was not allowed. However, the gardens - formal, sunken, rose and kitchen - certainly provided worthy subjects for my camera.
While Fenton House is on Hampstead Grove, there is quite a maze of narrow lanes in the area. The traditional houses are mainly Georgian or early Victorian. Close by are Grove House and Grove Lodge, erstwhile residences of the architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, and the novelist and playwright, John Galsworthy, respectively.
Jack Straw's Castle is a Grade II listed building and former public house which was built in 1965; it replaced an earlier public house of the same name which was badly damaged in the Blitz in WWII. Now Jack Straw's Castle is no longer a pub, but contains a number of luxury apartments and a gymnasium. Jack Straw led the Peasants' Revolt in 1381 and is supposed to have lived on the site.
Below Jack Straw's Castle is the "Vale of Health", both an area and the name of a cul de sac with expensive houses. The "Vale" was originally a malarial marsh. In 1777 the London Water Company made a pond to drain the marsh so that houses could be built. The name "Vale of Health" was first recorded in 1801. The road increased in popularity - after all, with such a name what could one expect? - and its famous residents subsequently included DH Lawrence, Compton Mackenzie, Edgar Wallace, Rabindranath Tagore and Liam Gallagher.
Kenwood House was built in its original form in the early 17th century, when it was called Caen Wood House (see map below). The orangery dates to about 1700. However, the house has a very strong Adam influence which came in the second half of the 18th Century. Between 1764–1779, Robert Adam was commissioned to remodel the house, adding the library with its famous interior and also adding the Ionic portico that graces the entrance. Elevations of north and south fronts are by Robert and James Adam.
Lord Iveagh, a rich businessman of the Guinness family, bought the house from its then owners, the Mansfield family, in 1925. On his death, shortly afterwards in 1927, the house was left to the nation. The following year, it was opened to the public.
The Kenwood Preservation Council bought part of the grounds in 1922, in order to counter threats from building developers. The estate is Grade II* listed; the landscape was probably designed by Humphrey Repton.
Kenwood House and nearby Highgate are on higher ground which affords distant views across to the Capital. A small ornate shelter was erected to the south-east of the house to mark a convenient spot from which visitors can appreciate the views, unimpeded by the surrounding trees and bushes.
Most country houses would have a kitchen garden to provide fresh vegetables, fruit and, of course, herbs. Kenwood House was no exception. Today, of course, the Kitchen Garden no longer serves its original culinary purpose. Instead, flower beds provide a colourful display.
A slope descends from the house to the two lakes, which border on Kenwood. From 1951 to 2006 the area by the lakes was the location for Summer Saturday Evening Concerts ("The Concert Bowl"); from 2008, the concerts were moved to elsewhere on the estate. The mock bridge across the end of one of the lakes has been in place ever since I visited Kenwood, but I don't really know anything about its origins. Kenwood is the wooded area to the south of the lakes. A great part of Kenwood appears to be allowed to grow wild, but there are some fenced-off paths through the wood and some open spaces at its southern end.
From the gate at the southern end of Kenwood, a main path leads back above the Vale of Health to Jack Straw's Castle. From the "Castle", it's a short walk to Heath Street and to Hampstead Tube. Thus, finishes our short walk through Hampstead Village and to Kenwood House. I hope you enjoyed your on-line visit!
I dedicate this page to my parents who, in my tender years, showed me a great deal of Hampstead, the Heath and Kenwood. It is from them that I developed an appreciation of history, of art and of nature. Hampstead was one of the places where I was able to develop this appreciation.
I also dedicate this page to June Neilson who was at one time a librarian at the former Westfield College (originally part of the University of London) in nearby Kidderpore Avenue. Her destiny in life would be the erstwhile industrial town of Kilmarnock, south of Glasgow. Hence, she probably will not find a ready occasion to return to her former haunts in Hampstead.
Choice of Pictures. In 2008 there were still restrictions on photography inside properties belonging to English Heritage and to the National Trust. Hence, you will see here only the exteriors of the buildings. Photography restrictions were eased a few years ago, and so, at a later date, I propose to get pictures inside the relevant buildings. This will give this page added value.
Camera. Here is a quick note on the camera I used. In terms of digital technology, 2008 may be ancient history. However, the Samsung S730 camera which I used, was a good digital camera at the time. It produced 7MP pictures - 3072 x 2304 pixels to be precise - and could adapt quite well to the ambient lighting conditions. Bearing in mind that the sun made a rather timid appearance on that Saturday ten years ago, I think you'll find that the camera coped quite well.
Map of Middlesex. Cruchley's Railway and Telegraphic County Map of Middlesex. G.F. Cruchley, Map Publisher and Globe Manufacturer, 81, Fleet Street, London. Date: probably between 1860 and 1862.
"Dedication Frieze". I think that this looks nice here, especially as Kenwood House and many buildings in old Hampstead bear a strong 18th century hallmark. The frieze was found in: "Miscellaneous Works, in Verse and Prose, of the Late Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; London: J. and R. Tonson in the Strand. 1736.". As a matter of interest, being 1736, the master woodcut was hand crafted; this would explain why the resultant print, which you see here, is not completely symmetrical about its central vertical axis.