Throwback Thursday – Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

Every year of the International Training Programme brings new and exciting experiences both for our fellows and the ITP team.  However, some of the highlights of the programme are the projects and visits that happen every year which can be shared across our global network.  One of these are the trips we’ve made every summer to Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath followed by a magnificent afternoon tea with Frances Carey, a long-time supporter of the International Training Programme.

While the weather hasn’t always been kind to us – the beauty of the house and gardens, the lovely walk across the heath with the incredible views of London and the warm hospitality at France’s home – have made the weekend trip an unforgettable experience.

Our day usually begins with a visit to historic Kenwood House, a Victorian merchant’s house with period furniture and beautiful paintings, managed by English Heritage who care for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and places – from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of an empire to a Cold War bunker.  

Set on the edge of the heath and surrounded by tranquil landscaped gardens, Kenwood House is one of London’s hidden gems with beautiful interiors and a stunning art collection. Entry is free for everyone to enjoy and discover and the vast array of masterpieces, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Gainsborough and Landseer, are astonishing.

The house was once the home of the judge Lord Mansfield, who was key to the abolition of slavery in Britain, and his family including his British-West Indian niece Dido Elizabeth Belle, the topic of the film, Belle, released in 2014.

After our visit to Kenwood House we walk across Hampstead Heath enjoying the woodlands, the magnificent panorama of the city and watching families enjoying one of London’s most beautiful and expansive open spaces.

To end the afternoon, our ITP Fellows are invited to tea and cake with Frances Carey. The visit is always a real treat for all of us. As a group we have the chance to relax and chat – perhaps share a little of the programme gossip!! – and is a wonderful opportunity to unwind and enjoy each other’s company in a rare moment of tranquillity during a hectic six-weeks.

And I can’t end a Throwback Thursday on our weekend trips to Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath without giving huge thanks to Frances for the incredible range of sweet treats she makes for us.  Her generosity and hospitality really do make a magical end to a wonderful day.