Inventory Site Record

Kenwood * (Camden)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Kenwood derives from Caen Wood, a monastic wood owned by the Crown in the C16th. It was purchased by Royal Printer John Bill in 1616 whose villa still forms the core of the present house. The historic landscaped park developed in 3 main phases. In the early C18th a formal garden was laid out that by 1745 stretched from the south front to formal fish ponds to the east of Ken Wood, the latter crossed by rides. A more picturesque landscape was then laid out for the 1st Earl of Mansfield, whose heir commissioned Humphry Repton's advice in 1793. This resulted in a landscape of evocative views and surprises designed to be seen from a planned circuit. In the mid C19th adjoining properties were added, also landscaped by Repton. In 1889 the estate began to be divided up; Parliament Hill was sold and added to Hampstead Heath. Despite having a number of different owners the main landscape was saved from development. In 1924 the Kenwood Preservation Trust secured two areas, Kenwood Fields and South Kenwood, which were presented to the LCC and opened to the public in 1925. In 1925 Lord Iveagh purchased the house and remaining grounds, which he bequeathed to the nation with his collection of paintings in 1927.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Caen Wood, Ken Wood
Site location:
Hampstead Lane
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Grounds 8am-4pm (winter)/- 8pm (summer). House: daily 10am (We/Fr10.30) - 6pm Apr-Sep/ -5pm Oct/ -4pm Nov-Mar. Closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan.
Special conditions:
Brew House Café, Steward's Room Cafe; shop, toilets, second-hand bookshop
Numerous events: exhibitions, concerts, events, educational activities; has opened for London Open House
Public transport:
Tube: Archway, Golders Green (Northern) then bus. London Overground: Hampstead Heath. Bus: 210
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/kenwood; http://www.friendsofkenwood.or

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Kenwood derives from Caen Wood, a monastic wood from the C13th-C16th and owned by the Crown between 1532-1565. The wood was purchased by royal printer John Bill in 1616 who built his detached villa here, later renovated c.1749 but still forming the core of the present house, including the orangery with boudoir on the west. In the early C18th it was owned by the Earl of Ilay and let to George Middleton who planted the lime avenue in c.1726 running west from the south front of the house as a continuation of the terrace. The Earl of Ilay and later his nephew, 3rd Earl of Bute planted exotics in the garden which in 1751 was described as being filled with 'every exotick our climate will protect' (Bute). By 1745 formal gardens stretched from the south front to a line of formal fish ponds to the east of Ken Wood, the latter crossed by rides. The house had a large forecourt to the north, a kitchen garden to the west and farm to the east. When William Murray, later 1st Earl of Mansfield, purchased the estate in 1754 he expanded it from 90 to 232 acres and it eventually comprised over 1,500 acres with land leased from the Bishop of London to the north. In c.1767-68 Lord Mansfield commissioned Robert Adam to remodel the house who added the library with anteroom on the east and the north entrance portico, together with an additional 2nd floor on the south front which he remodelled.

Mansfield also laid out pleasure grounds, replacing the formal gardens with a sloping lawn, joining three of the ponds to create Wood Pond, forming the Thousand Pound Pond with Robert Adam's Sham Bridge of c.1767/8, restored late C20th, a timber 3-span façade with balustrade over ornamental water. Trees and shrubs were planted and 2 miles of walks made through the wood. A hothouse for peaches and grapes was erected in the kitchen garden and exotics were grown in a greenhouse to the west of the house. Adam designed summerhouses and a 'Seat' in the wood. At one time the dairy and poultry yard were supervised by Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804), a common hobby at that time for genteel ladies. Dido was the illegitimate daughter of Royal Naval Officer Sir John Lindsay and an African woman, possibly a captured slave, who he met when stationed in the Caribbean. Brought to England as a young child, Dido was entrusted to Lord Mansfield, her father's uncle, and raised at Kenwood as part of his family. A portrait by Scottish painter David Martin of Dido and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray on the terrace at Kenwood is in the collection of the Earl of Mansfield at Scone Palace. She was buried in 1804 at the burial ground of St George’s Hanover Square, now St George’s Fields (q.v.).

After Lord Mansfield's death in 1793 his heir, the 2nd Earl of Mansfield, commissioned Humphry Repton to advise on landscaping and in c.1795 George Saunders as architect for the Earl added the projecting north wings, west veranda, and also the Service wing and kitchens. Repton's landscaping included removing the kitchen garden to the west of the house and extending both ends of the terrace to enclose the lawn. Other landscape works, largely carried out by George Saunders, William Marshall, William Emes and others under the Estate steward Edward Hunter, included new entrances with drives and a forecourt to the north of the house, and a flower garden on the former kitchen garden. In 1840 Fitzroy Park adjoining Kenwood to the east was added and in 1850 property at Evergreen Hill to the north-west, both landscaped by Repton.

In 1889 the estate began to be divided up and the 4th Earl sold Millfield Farm including Parliament Hill so that it could be added to Hampstead Heath (q.v.). From that time the estate had a number of different owners but the main landscape was saved from development, despite the 6th Earl of Mansfield's wish to sell it. He offered first refusal to the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association who were unable to raise the money and in 1924 the Kenwood Preservation Trust secured two areas, Kenwood Fields and South Kenwood. The first section cost of £1,350 an acre, and comprised 90 acres of meadows, ponds, and the kitchen garden on each side of Millfield Lane and money was received from voluntary subscriptions from a number of sources. The second section, 31 acres of woodland, the two large ponds and source of the River Fleet and including the Sham Bridge, cost £1,000 an acre raised through grants from 11 metropolitan borough councils including the MCC and 2 charitable foundations. These lands were presented to the LCC and opened to the public on 18 July 1925.

In 1925 Edward Cecil Guinness, the brewing magnate later Lord Iveagh, purchased the house with the remaining grounds which he bequeathed to the nation with his collection of paintings on his death in 1927. The LCC became the Trustee for the grounds in 1928 and later took over trusteeship of the house in 1949. In 1965 responsibility passed to the GLC who managed it with Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill. In 1986 Kenwood was transferred to English Heritage and the Corporation of London took over the rest of Hampstead Heath. Kenwood House was restored 1955-9.

The Service Wing and outbuildings are now partly converted to a restaurant and were built in 1793-1795 by Saunders, restored in 1959. The 2-storey Lodge House built c.1795 is possibly by Saunders, a brown brick building with slated hipped roof with projecting eaves. The garden wall adjoining the Lodge House is also brown brick with buttresses and stone coping. The Former Dairy buildings to the west of Kenwood House consist of 3 linked cottages forming a courtyard, built c.1795, also possibly by Saunders, now altered, the farm demolished in the early C20th. The flower gardens formed in the C18th kitchen garden was removed in 1964/5 and is now laid out with lawn with a herbaceous border backed by flowering shrubbery to the north on a raised bank and early C19th rhododendron to the west. Barbara Hepworth's 'Monolith (Empyrean)' of 1959 is at the west end of the lawn. Dr Johnson's Summerhouse, moved here in 1968 from Streatham was later burnt down, its site marked by a concrete platform. A large bronze by Henry Moore 'Two Piece Reclining Figure' of 1963-4 surveys the lakes from the lawn. The kitchen garden to the east of the Stables adjoining Hampstead Lane has remains of its boundary walls but the C18th glasshouses were demolished in the C20th. Until relatively recently it was used as a nursery but now is a garden with flower borders, island bed, and a lavender hedge separating two parts and a stone sundial set into lawn.

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Sources consulted:

NHLE Register: J C Loudon 'Suburban Gardener', 1838; LCC Survey of London XVII 1936; Country Life CVII, 1950; N Pevsner, 'London except . . Westminster', 1952; Barbara Jones, 'Follies and Grottoes', 1974; G Carter, T Goode, K Laurie 'Humphry Repton' (1982); Julius Bryant 'Finest Prospects', 1986; J Bryant and C Colson 'The Landscape of Kenwood', (EH) 1990; Malcolm Stokes 'A Walk Along Ancient Boundaries in Kenwood', Hornsey Historical Society, 1995; Stephen Daniels 'Humphry Repton', 1999; 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Michael Waite, Daniel Keech, Meg Game, 'Nature Conservation in Camden', Ecology Handbook 24 (London Ecology Unit), 1993; https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/histories/women-in-history/dido-belle/.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ270874 (527028,187218)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
English Heritage
Site management:
English Heritage/Friends of Kenwood
mid C18th; late C18th/C19th
Late C18th: Humphry Repton/William Marshall/William Emes
Listed structures:
LBI: Kenwood House. LBII*: Service wing and outbuildings to Kenwood House, Sham bridge to south of Kenwood House. LBII: former dairy buildings, the Lodge House and adjoining garden wall
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II*
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Hampstead & Highgate Ridge
Other LA designation:
Site includes SSSI/Ancient Woodland areas

Kenwood *

Kenwood, August 2002. Photo: S Williams

View from Kenwood, August 2002. Photo: S Williams
Kenwood, Barbara Hepworth sculpture 'Monolith (Empyrean)' on the west end of the lawn, March 2001. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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