i recently saw the film ‘belle’, which is about the story of dido elizabeth belle, a woman born into slavery and later brought up as an aristocrat. i had also been wanting to visit kenwood house because i love me some 18th century living museums.
this film actually had nothing to do with my wanting to visit kenwood house but i was so glad to have watched it before my visit. the house hass been recently restored to reflect how it would have looked when it was bought and re-modelled by william murray, 1st earl of mansfield, the man who would become the guardian of dido belle.
kenwood house is located in the hamstead heath/highgate area of north west london. living in east london, going west is like being in a totally other city. it’s very apparent that london was earlier just a bunch of villages that eventually formed one big city. it’s probably also worth noting that north london is hillier than the south so you can get some nice views in this area.
]after a disastrous trek trying to find the always-closed-on-a-tuesday fenton house, i decided it was best to take the bus that dropped me off directly in front of the heritage site, rather than walk from highgate or archway station. and yes, i had used google maps and it failed me. plus, the bus takes a scenic route and i get to rest my feet. i’m done justifying myself now.
on the day i went, kenwood house was drenched in fog, hiding the farscapes of london so you really felt as if you were out in the country somewhere. there are people in their hunter boots walking their dogs, a lovely pond with ducks, and no modern buildings in sight. it was a welcome break from the jam packed hectic swarm that london can be.
kenwood house is free and was absolutely worth the journey. although a modest size house when compared to palaces and other larger residencies, it boasts housing several turners, gainsboroughs, vermeers, and rembrandts. each room is staffed with a volunteer who is well-versed in the history of the house and the paintings it holds. however, if you’re not feeling particularly social, each room also contains small books about what you’re seeing.
on the first sunday of every month they also open up the dairy houses that are also located not far from the house. there are no cows, however, but you can see how dairy products were stored and supplied to kenwood house. next door to the house is the brewhouse cafe, formerly the kitchen for the house. i didn’t indulge in any of the treats but looking at their prices, they’re quite reasonable and the beverages are cheaper than you’ll find at a pret or costa. i’m going to bet that it tastes better, too.
for more information and to see what events are held, visit their website: