This post was written for us by Kelly Spring, one of our Friends committee members
This year’s annual IHR Friends summer outing took us to Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath on 8 July. Closed in 2012 for renovation and conservation of its interior and exterior, the house was reopened to the public in late 2013. Many of the Friends at the outing had previously visited the house, but were eager to see the refurbishments. Others, who had not been there before, took the outing as their opportunity to visit the house.
Prior to the tour, Friends met for tea on the terrace adjoining Kenwood House. We then convened in the entrance hall of the house to meet our tour leader. Our guide provided a wide range of information, covering the history of the house, giving details of its furnishings, and discussing the paintings in the rooms.
Among the owners was William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, who bought the house in 1754. As Lord Chief Justice, Murray is noted for ruling that slavery was illegal in Britain. His half African great-niece, Dido Elizabeth Belle, was recently made cinematically famous with the 2014 release of the film ‘Belle’ which details her life at Kenwood.
Another important resident was Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, whose collection of paintings adorns the walls of Kenwood House.
Paintings that are of particular note include: a self-portrait of Rembrandt (c. 1665), ‘The Guitar Player’ by Vermeer (c. 1672), and ‘Old London Bridge’ by de Jough (c. 1630). Our guide also highlighted the newly installed portraits on the 1st floor of the house by William Larkin which depict members of the court of James I. Although the tour was to last for one hour, it stretched to an hour and a half so that we could take in this special collection of portraits.
Following the extended tour of the house, many of the Friends stayed on to have lunch and discuss the restorations to Kenwood.
More exciting Friends events are planned in the autumn as the Institute returns to its home in the North Block of Senate House. The Annual General Meeting of the Friends will take place on 27 October and will be followed by the Annual Friends Lecture delivered by Professor Sir David Cannadine, former Director of the Institute of Historical Research.
Also planned for this upcoming academic year is a musical evening with the medieval performance group, The Cardinals and the annual film night. Check back at the IHR website for updates on these future events. http://www.history.ac.uk/support-us/get-involved/events