Visitors to National Trust Site Fenton House in London’s Hampstead Village will be transported into the bucolic past via glorious gardens, stately architecture and the melodies of prized early keyboards.
Wander down a quiet lane, away from the cafes and boutiques on the High Street. The entrance to Fenton House, circa 1686, is through an ornate metal gate, past lines of false acacia trees. This noble red and brown brick building is fitted with tall, white double-hung windows and massive chimneys that hover over the tiled rooftop.
Famous National Trust Garden at Fenton House
Pass under the yew arbour into the award-winning garden. The grass is precisely mowed in alternating rows and the grounds are still “enclos’d with a substantial Brick Wall,” as listed on a 1765 notice of sale for Fenton House. Only now the wall is overgrown with ivy, bay and acanthus plants. At the end of the yard, benches appear in sunken gardens fragrant with lavender and rosemary. Magnificent mauve wisteria blossoms hang over pea gravel paths that are bordered by clipped boxwood.
Varigated holly bushes, pruned into cone shapes, become extravagant Christmas trees while a centuries-old orchard still produces more than thirty varieties of English apple.
Antique Keyboards from the Benton Fletcher Collection
Step inside to find that this merchant house is as elegant as the surrounding property. And Fenton House holds a special treat – an exceptional collection of early keyboards.
In 1952 Fenton House and a fine assortment of porcelain, paintings and furniture were bequeathed by owner and avid collector Lady Katherine Binning. However, according to the National Trust, beds and dressers were excluded from the will. These were taken by her heirs. The Trust filled the gaps with antique keyboards from the 1937 bequest of Major Benton Fletcher. All of the instruments are maintained in playing order and on a recital day, the house may fill with the unique sounds of a clavichord, spinet or virginal.
Lady Katherine Binning and Fenton House
On the main floor, the Oriental Room holds Chinese porcelain from the ninth to 18th centuries and is painted a soothing celadon green. An ancient bowl brims with dried lavender from the garden. Descriptions of the items are printed on cards which may be read at leisure.
Lady Binning’s collection of blue-and-white china from the Kangxi period of 1662 to 1722 is displayed in her bedroom upstairs while the drawing room next door is appointed with Sheraton-style satinwood furniture. Caroline chintz curtains, inspired by early 18th-century draperies in the Kasteel Duivenvoorde in Holland, are edged in fluttering pink and white fabric petals.
On the third floor, former servants’ quarters are now a small gift shop. From this vantage point, on a clear day, the modern office towers of London are visible. But on a hazy day, especially with Baroque music in the background, the past is still very present at Fenton House.
Information on Fenton House and Nearby Attractions
Tickets to Fenton House are available for garden only, house and garden or joint with nearby National Trust property 2 Willow Road.
Visitors to Fenton House might also enjoy touring the wonderful works of art in the stately Hertford House Wallace Collection , also in London.
© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.