Kenwood House Restored

Posted in on site by Editor on December 16, 2013

From The Guardian:

Nicholas Lezard, “Kenwood House Restored,” The Guardian (13 December 2013).

The refurbishment of Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath is complete and its treasures are once again on show to the public. Nicholas Lezard in praise of a stately pile we all own.

kenwood-south-frontKenwood House, a classically styled Georgian villa perched on top of a hill on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath, commanding a spectacular view over the City of London, might have ceased to be in the early years of the 20th century. In the place of the top-of-the-milk-coloured pile, freely available to all to wander through, there’d be the kind of proto-McMansions you see on the opposite side of Hampstead Lane, no access to the grounds, and the open space of Hampstead Heath would be many acres smaller. . . .

It is hard, from a contemporary view of the super-rich, for us to understand what could possibly have motivated the Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness, great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, to buy the house from the Earl of Mansfield, fill it with one of the most valuable art collections in the country, and then leave it for the free use of the public after his death. But then philanthropy had always been a Guinness tradition. . .

And philanthropy is an integral part of Kenwood’s tradition: the first Earl of Mansfield, Kenwood’s first significant owner, was responsible for a landmark judgment in 1772 that was a step towards the abolition of slavery; he also had a half-black great-niece, Dido Belle, whose freedom he carefully emphasised in his will. (You will see a reproduction of a portrait of her at Kenwood with her cousin, Elizabeth Murray, in which she smilingly touches her cheek just in case you had missed the fact of her skin colour.)

For the last year or so, though, Kenwood House has been closed and under scaffolding: its slates cracked, its facade peeling. It had to be patched up before things got any worse. But what is interesting is the way it has been done: the restoration meant chipping through the layers of paint and gilt accumulated over centuries, and bringing back the house as it would have looked to the first earl. The surprise begins before you even enter: the creamy facade is now a more austere sandstone (or, rather, sandstone effect).

The idea is to make visitors feel that they are entering a home, and not a property from which yards of velvet ropes politely, but unambiguously, exclude them. We are to experience the place as the gentlemen and women of the 18th century would have; which was one of the ideals expressed in Lord Iveagh’s bequest. . . .

The full review is available here»

Alastair Smart’s review for The Telegraph (28 November 2013) is available here»

Patrick Baty was among those who consulted for the project (back in 2010 his blog featured a posting on the paint color Invisible Green for the fencing).

The Library or ‘Great Room’ at Kenwood House was built and decorated to Robert Adam designs between 1767 and 1770 as part of the Scottish architect’s remodeling of the villa. The photo on the left shows a 1960s restoration scheme, recently proved to be inaccurate. The current restoration, pictured on the right, depends upon over 400 paint chip samples, a newly discovered inventory, and some of Adam’s original drawings. Photos from English Heritage.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

The press release (26 November 2013) provides details, and here, Susan Jenkins, Senior Curator at English Heritage, together with Jane Findlay, Kenwood’s Audience Development Manager, offers a video introduction:

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

From English Heritage:

When Lord Iveagh bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927, he did so with the intention that it should be open and free for the public to enjoy. Today English Heritage, with generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of other donors, is furthering his legacy with a major programme of work—Caring for Kenwood. The work saw the house restored and re-presented to be enjoyed by generations to come.

On the new displays (with tense silently updated from future to present). . .

Eight rooms in Kenwood House are represented and reinterpreted. The rooms have been redecorated to focus on the two key areas of historic significance at Kenwood—the principal Adam Rooms and the Iveagh Bequest.

The Adam rooms are represented to show as accurately as possibly the original interior scheme designed and intended by Robert Adam, and visitors will be encouraged to relax and enjoy the new interiors, take in the view and discover the stories of Kenwood through new interpretation devices and archival material. The rooms displaying the Iveagh Bequest are presented to suggest an 18th-century gentleman’s lifestyle—in keeping with Lord Iveagh’s original wishes.

The new interpretive scheme highlights Kenwood’s equally fascinating social and political history, with links to law reform, slavery, brewing and philanthropy told through the lives of the people who lived and worked at Kenwood. With family trails, an interactive dolls house, original letters and architectural designs to leaf through there’s lots of way you can uncover Kenwood’s stories.

To support the project:

Our commemorative mug features a charming illustration of Kenwood House and the Dairy by Emma Bridgewater’s husband, Matthew. It is made of cream-coloured earthenware in Stoke-on Trent, home to pottery manufacturing since the 17th century. Each mug is individually hand-decorated, making each one unique. It is a lovely mug to use, as well as a great way to remember and preserve this important London landmark. This mug has been made exclusively for English Heritage with 50% of sales going directly towards the Caring for Kenwood project. Made in England; hand-decorated; dishwasher and microwave safe; .3 litre/half-pint capacity; 9cm high, 8.5cm wide, £20.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: