Sunday, December 9, 2018

London: Kenwood House

Day two in London found Jenny and I splitting up with Rick and T, and you'll hear more about doing our own thing next time. But in the morning Jenny and I visited one of the loveliest historic homes in London, Kenwood House. It was a different experience than Gunnersby Park (HERE)  the day before -- both remarkable but very unique in scope and style.

Fans of "Notting Hill" might recognize the exterior from the scene where Julia Roberts is shooting a period movie on location.

One enters the building through a wooded path at the back.

You see the rear of the house first, which is pretty nice -- but doesn't hold a candle to the front!

And then there is the interior! The house was built in the early 17th century but it hit its peak in the mid-1700s when William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, purchased the home and asked legendary architect Robert Adam to remodel it.

The rooms are drop-dead gorgeous with rich details and beautiful and valuable art and artifacts.

Adam added what might be one of my favorite rooms of all time -- the neoclassical library. (Every now and then you realize you should have photographed something horizontally!)

Well, I did a little horizontal -- but it doesn't really show the scope!

It's like a symphony in candy colors -- pale pinks and blues with embossed Grecian-inspired figures, reminiscent of the work of contemporary Josiah Wedgewood.

The ceiling, highly arched and continuing the theme surrounding the room was glorious.

Here's a detail from the ceiling.

And I admired the tall columns supporting the room and how it just "worked" with the colors.

And the details! Oh!

I could have stayed in this room forever.

In 1925, Lord Iveagh, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist and part of the Guinness family purchased the house from the Mansfields and when he died two years later, he left it to the nation. The year after his death it was open to the public. The grounds were protected by the Kenwood Preservation Council.

Lord Iveagh was an enthusiastic art collector and the collection you see at Kenwood is extensive. What might be one of the most valuable paintings in the UK, a self-portrait of Rembrandt, is on display.

You'll also find a Vermeer...

...a Constable...

...Franz Halls, Thomas Gainsborough, Turner and Van Dyck, among others.

The house has also been featured in films besides "Notting Hill," most notably the 1995 feature "Sense and Sensibility." Although the 2013 "Belle," about Wililam Murray's mixed-race daughter, was "set" at Kenwood and its grounds, the movie was actually filmed in a variety of other locations.

One could also find intriguing items like the first wheelchair!

 It was designed by John Joseph Merlin, painted here by Thomas Gainsborough.

The lighting fixtures and work on the stairwell banisters was beautiful. So, too, was the gallery of portrait miniatures and mourning jewelry, though my photos didn't turn out so well on that.

Don't forget to look up!

I did, however, love this Asian-inspired fireplace.

It is a remarkable and lovely experience to see some of the world's great art in the setting of a private home, with furniture and accessories, as opposed to a gallery wall.

We are seeing art the way it was most likely created to be seen -- in a personal space. And it makes a tremendous difference in the feeling one has when observing it.

I would be remiss in not sharing some of the beautiful Kenwood exteriors. The building itself is a stunner, though I didn't get far enough away to capture the entire facade in one photo!

It is set on parkland and I enjoyed seeing people relaxing there.

There was a bit of fall in the air, too. I was missing fall in the states, so while I didn't see a lot of vibrant trees during our trip, this was a day that scored a delightful view!

I loved the little gift shop exterior as well. I may have to paint this one!

All in all, Kenwood is a real treat and highly recommended.

Travel Tips: 

  •  Kenwood House is located in Hampstead and one can make a day of it there. We were fortunate to drive there. It is about a 20 minute walk from the tube (according to Trip Advisor) but the 210 bus takes one closest.
  • If you drive, pay close attention to your parking meter time. They do, as we found out.
  • If you plan to go by public transportation, choose a nice day as you may be walking across the heath.
  • Kenwood House and the grounds are free. One can bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds or Hampstead Heath or purchase food onsite. 
  • We didn't have time to check out the shops but it looked like a charming town to visit as well and might be worth a look.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

London: Lunch at the Rothschild's Place!

You will notice I said "lunch at the Rothschilds," not "lunch with the Rothschilds." I just want to be clear! After the Musical Museum, it was time for a little lunch, a little outdoors and a little museum-going and Gunnersby Park was the perfect spot to do all three.

Gunnersby Park House was the home of the Nathan Mayer Rothschild family, who purchased the property in 1834. But it had a long history before, first as the home of Princess Amelia, George II's daughter. She used the home as her summer retreat and was known for giving elaborate parties.

After her death, the estate was sold off in pieces and the original mansion was demolished. Eventually a gentleman named Henry Holland built the large and smaller mansions, adjacent to one another.

The Rothschilds eventually bought both mansions and extended the estate further. Family members lived there until the death of Nathan's grandson, Leopold, in 1925, when his wife sold the entire estate as a memorial to Nathan with the stipulation that it only be used for leisure.

The Gunnersby Park mansion is situated on 200 acres of land in the Brentford/Chiswick, Ealing and Acton areaa of London, not far from Kew Gardens. In 1965 it was passed on to the London Borough of Hounslow. Gunnersby Park is now a public park area. The home is open at no charge, and while the rooms have not been furnished, they have been restored.

The mansion is now a museum which first opened in 1929 and was recently restored to showcase local history and archaeology, costume and fine art.

It's quite the place, with tall and elaborately painted ceilings. This one, depicting The Four Seasons, was painted in 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris.

Of course there were elegant chandeliers.

Sections of the home have been turned into a museum related to the Hounslow and Ealing districts of London. I enjoyed seeing reminders of Ealing Studios (the "Downton Abbey" kitchen scenes were filmed at Ealing's studios). Gunnersby itself was featured in the film "The Lavender Hill Mob.")

There was a costume exhibit...

...and there was even a spot to try on period fashions.

One does what one must when visiting the Rothschilds!

Other parts of the museum focused on Ealing schools, industry and its people. I loved seeing the chimney pots.

Look at the intricate designs. Who would ever see this from street level, yet they were exquisitely detailed.

And this "wooly bike" fascinated me. It was inspired by a visit to a bicycle factory and research into Victorian spinning wheels. Artist Wayne Lucas created this bicycle to create textiles while one exercises!

The boating pond near the cafe dates fro 1760 and is the only 18th century building still standing in the park.

I have to say I loved this view...

...and the magnificent swans and gulls that were enjoying the sunny autumn day.

Though considered nationally significant, building maintenance costs have led to great decay, particularly in the case of the small mansion.

While these made for some of the most interesting looking photographs... also makes for some of the saddest.

In fact, both the large and small mansions and seven other structures were considered neglected enough to be placed on the risk sub-list which is compiled by the statutory body Historic England.

But when it was beautiful, it was quite beautiful, especially on a perfect blue-sky day.

It's architectural features were clearly evident in the sunshine and in the shadows.

I confess, it was a little hard to leave this spot -- and we could have stayed for hours enjoying the parkland and Orangerie.

But time to move on! After all, we had a dinner plans!

Not a dress-up affair. Sigh...


Gotta fly! (To check out Jenny's post on our visit to Gunnersby and to the Music Museum, head over HERE!)

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