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Georgian House Newsletter!

Kenwood House

See the pictures of the beautiful Iveagh Bequest and visit the Picnic Concerts

Kenwood house (or the Iveagh Bequest) is a beautiful neoclassical mansion standing at the edge of Hampstead Heath in North London. Set in lush tranquil parklands with a lake in front of it, this former stately home houses one of the most important private painting collections ever given to the nation.
Kenwood House - Iveagh Bequest

The Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood House

Kenwood House and its estate of 112 acres were bequeathed to the nation in 1928 by the first Earl of Iveagh – Edward Cecil Guinness (who was the head of the Guinness brewing family). The contents of the manor at the time (as the original contents had been sold or removed), comprised of a collection of paintings, furniture, tapestries, books, ceramics and prints were also included.

The Iveagh Bequest is a collection of 63 paintings acquired by the first Earl of Iveagh around 1890 and displayed at Kenwood House. Some of the paintings are of international importance, and additions to the collection have been made so that it now numbers around 130. Blow is a list of the most famous paintings:

  • The Guitar Player – Johannes Vermeer (whose most famous painting is The Girl with the Pearl Earring)
  • Countess Howe, William Pitt the Younger, Greyhounds Coursing a Fox, Miss Brummell – Thomas Gainsborough
  • The Iveagh Seapiece – JMW Turner
  • Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra – Sir Joshua Reynolds
  • Self Portrait – Rembrandt Van Rijn
  • Self Portrait, The Laughing Girl – Sir Joshua Reynolds
  • View of Kenwood – George Robertson
  • Margaret Hyde Countess of Suffolk – John Singer Sargent

History of Kenwood House and its Estate

Kenwood House was originally a large farmhouse built in 1616 on a ridge with views overlooking London. At this time, Hampstead was still a village near London.

In 1754 the Earl of Mansfield, William Murray, acquired the farmhouse and commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it into a luxurious villa. This transformation was not completed until the 1790s when the second Earl of Mansfield added to the house and gave the estate more privacy by diverting the Hampstead to Highgate road.

William Murray had looked on Kenwood House as a convenient rural retreat – a place near to his work (as an up and coming lawyer) and a great place to entertain guests. Robert Adam was given free reign with the house and chose to give Kenwood House the luxurious neo classical look. It was part of his portfolio and was set in the ideal location to advertise his expertise.

Humphrey Repton laid out the gardens in 1793 when both Kenwood House and the family title was passed down to William Murray’s nephew. He occupied the residence for three years, adding the white brick wings to Kenwood House.

The third Earl oversaw any restoration work needed at Kenwood House as well as finishing off his father’s extensions with lavishly decorated interiors. The third Earl preferred to stay at his ancestral home in Scotland (Scone Palace), however he had entertained both the Russian Grand Duke in 1818 and a royal visit from William IV and Queen Adelaide.

Saving and Preserving Kenwood House and its Estates

After the First World War when the house was used as a Royal Navy Anti Aircraft Mobile Brigade base, the sixth Earl of Mansfield had decided to sell the whole estate for the building of houses. Although a Kenwood Preservation Council was formed to save Kenwood House for future generations, they only managed to purchase 32 acres of the estate, but not the actual Kenwood House. This led to the house contents being sold in 1922.

Luckily the rest of the estate (the remaining 74 acres including Kenwood House) was saved from demolition by Edward Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh. Lord Iveagh gave the house to the Nation as the Iveagh Bequest on his death in 1927 and is now managed by the English Heritage. Kenwood House is now a Grade I listed building and a registered museum and the grounds are listed as Grade II and classified as ancient woodland due to its remaining unchanged since the 1600s.

Kenwood House Picnic Concerts

Boasting such beautiful landscaped gardens, it is no wonder that Kenwood House is a great setting for open air concerts. The world class music and breathtaking setting makes the Kenwood House Picnic Concerts the perfect way to enjoy a summer’s evening with friends and family.

The Kenwood House Picnic Concerts are described as exquisite open-air “wine and cheese” affairs and are held in the bowl by the lake. These concerts take place on Saturday evenings from late June to September.

For more information visit

Georgian House Hotel is ideally situated in a very central location, so visiting sights all over London is quick and easy. Why not book Georgian House Hotel when you plan to visit Kenwood House? You can book online or email to make a reservation on, or telephone on 0044(0)207 834 1438