A striking neo-classical villa on the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood is home to a world-class art collection, including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds and Turner.
First built in the early 17th century by John Bill, printer to King James I, Kenwood was transformed in the late 18th century into a neo-classical masterpiece by the great Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam for William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. The house created by Adam between 1764 and 1779 boasts some of his finest surviving interiors, including the spectacular Great Library. The house was extended again in the 1790s and the grounds redesigned by celebrated landscape gardener Humphry Repton.
For more than a century, Kenwood was the London retreat of the Earls of Mansfield until 1925 when the house and estate was sold to Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh. On his death two years later, Kenwood was bequeathed to the nation, along with part of Lord Iveagh’s renowned collection of Old Master and British paintings. The terms of the Iveagh Bequest stipulated that Kenwood should be open free of charge to the public with ‘mansion and its contents … preserved as a fine example of the artistic home of a gentleman of the eighteenth century’.
Following an extensive repair and conservation project begun in 2012, part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Kenwood reopened in late 2013. Work included repairing the Westmorland slate roof and redecorating the exterior and interior of the house, based on new paint research on the original Adam scheme, and a redisplay of the Iveagh Bequest paintings in the south front rooms.
Among the 63 paintings left to the nation as part of the Iveagh Bequest are masterpieces by Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, as well as Kenwood’s star attractions – The Guitar Player by Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt’s Self Portrait with Two Circles.
Though the original contents of the house were sold by the 6th Earl of Mansfield in 1922, Kenwood is today home to a significant collection of 18th-century furniture and decorative arts, including works by André Charles Boulle, Benjamin Vulliamy and Louis-François Roubiliac. Since Kenwood opened its doors to the public in 1929 several important items of furniture designed by Robert Adam for Lord Mansfield have been returned to the house and are displayed alongside important pieces made for other properties by Adam and his contemporaries.
The Hull-Grundy Jewellery Collection, the Draper Collection of portrait miniatures and Lady Maufe’s unique collection of 18th and 19th-century shoe buckles are also on display at Kenwood.
In the grounds at Kenwood, visitors will discover 20th-century sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Eugène Dodeigne.