10 unusual parks or gardens in London…6. The Hill Garden and Pergola, Hampstead…

A view of the pergola. PICTURE: Kent Wang (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tucked away in the north-west of Hampstead Heath is a Edwardian-era garden and extravagant pergola that were originally created for a mansion but are now open to the public.

The garden and pergola were created on the orders of the wealthy William H Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, who in 1904 purchased a sizeable Georgian townhouse on the Heath called “The Hill”. Remodelling the house extensively, Lever wanted to also create a garden where he could entertain and sought the help of renowned landscape architect Thomas Mawson to design one on what was steeply sloping land.

Mawson’s plan involved raising the level of the gardens by up to 30 feet and creating a series of terraces. This was made possible due in part to the close proximity of the Hampstead extension of the Northern Line of the Tube – Lever paid to have the spoil which had been dug out to make the Tube tunnels transported the short distance to his garden so it could be used to build it up.

An Italianate pergola was constructed on the boundary between 1905 and 1906, providing views over West Heath while at the same time preventing the general public from looking into the garden. The gardens and pergola were subsequently extended after he bought the neighbouring property in 1911 – the same year Lever was made a baronet – and again in with further works completed in 1925 just months before the now-Lord Leverhulme’s death.

A view of the pergola. PICTURE: Kent Wang (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

The property was sold to Scots shipping magnate Lord Inverforth and, on his death in 1955, was bequeathed it to the private Manor House Hospital. Following a long period of neglect, London County Council bought the pergola and the gardens which had once been those of the neighbouring property, Heath Lodge, and opened them to the public in 1963 as the Hill Garden.

The City of London Corporation took over management with the abolition of the GLC in 1986 and restoration work was carried out. When the hospital closed in 1998 and the house was sold for luxury housing, further works were carried out and the public part of the gardens took on their current form.

WHERE: The Hill Garden and Pergola, Inverforth Close, North End Way, Hampstead (nearest Tube stations are Golders Green or Hampstead Heath); WHEN: 8:30am to 8pm daily; Daily; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/where-to-go-at-hampstead-heath/hill-garden-and-pergola.

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