Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published September 22nd 2010
There are lots of nice houses in Hampstead, but Fenton House is a bit special. It was built in the 17th Century by a merchant, and has not only been kept very much in its original state - complete with a large walled garden - but it's also been lived in for almost the whole time. It's now owned by the National Trust – which is bad for the house's history of being a residence, but good for the rest of us who wouldn't have been able to have a look in otherwise.
The last owner of the house was Lady Katherine Binning who lived here until she died in 1952, and she's the one who bequeathed it to the rest of us unwashed masses.
Fenton House was one of the first houses built in Hampstead, and though it looks auspicious, there aren't any records of the architect who designed it or who it was built for. Lady Katherine bought the house in 1936, and moved herself, and her extensive collection of European, Oriental and English porcelain, and 17th Century needlework in. She also brought with her her mother's collection of Georgian furniture. Since her departure her collection has been augmented by a collection of early keyboards accumulated by a Major Benton Fletcher – there are harpsichords, clavichords, virginals, spinets and pianos, and the musical amongst you can audition for permission to play them.
The charming, split level garden has also been little altered since its planting. The formal garden is on the upper level near the perimeter terrace and has a sunken rose garden. Below the sunken roses there are more stairs down to the lower level which is where the orchard, glasshouse and kitchen garden are. This garden always had fruit trees incorporated into the design, but it's also uses herbs to create a border between vegetables that looks like a miniature version of the hedges in the formal garden above. It's a clever idea...
But one of the most impressive things about this garden is the number of different kinds of apples grown. How many kinds of apples do you think there are in the world? 45 maybe? Well, this orchard has 30 varieties – some of them grown only in tiny pockets and becoming very rare. In September they have apple related events where you can come taste some of the rarer varieties.
It's hard to imagine someone having this much of Hampstead's land to themselves today, so if you live nearby it might be worth considering buying a season pass to the garden for only £5.50 – then you could pretend it's your own.
Fenton House is only open between March and October. Weekends it's open 11 – 5, and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it's open 2 – 5.