This hill in the city’s north rises 136 metres (446 feet) above sea level and is said to take its name from a tollgate the Bishop of London once erected on the summit.
The hill, which stands to the northeast of the expansive Hampstead Heath and south of Highgate Wood, is topped by Highgate Village, long a fashionable residential district which features some significant 18th century buildings. It boasts views of central London.
Landmarks include the famous Highgate Cemetery – resting place to everyone from Karl Max to George Eliot and Douglas Adams – and the Highgate School, established on 1565 to educate the poor and now a rather exclusive – and expensive – establishment (the school, incidentally, was built on the site of an earlier hermitage). TS Eliot was a former master there and students included Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman.
Other buildings of note include The Flask pub, St Michael’s Church (dating from 1831) and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (dating from 1888).
Famous residents have included Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he was originally buried in a crypt below the school’s chapel but his remains were relocated to St Michael’s Church in 1961) while 16th and early 17th century philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon died in what was then called Arundel House (now The Old Hall) in 1626. Classical scholar and poet AE Housman’s former house at 17 North Road is marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque.
Highgate Hill is also famous for being where, so the story goes, Dick Whittington, who was accompanied by his cat, heard the Bow bells and felt called back to London (there’s a monument to Whittington and his cat close to the bottom of Highgate Hill Road).
Located to the north-west of the city, Parliament Hill – with its elevation of 98 metres above sea level – offers expansive views of the city skyline including The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament.
The hill, which can be found in the south-east of Hampstead Heath, was once part of the manor of Hampstead. It was apparently previously known as Traitor’s Hill – some believe it was so-named because it was from here that those involved in the (as it turned out, unsuccessful) Gunpowder Plot of 1605 were to gather to watch Parliament explode.
The current name may also come from that association, or the hill’s association with Parliamentarians who saw it as a defensive strongpoint during the English Civil War.
A tumulus on the north side of the hill, which some have believed to be the grave of Queen Boadicea, was excavated in the 1890s and is thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound.
The hill – which is known to have been a favourite of Romantic poets including Shelley, Keats and Coleridge – was acquired for the public in 1889.
Traditionally used for livestock grazing (and, according to some, having an ancient association with druids), it has also been a popular site for kite-flying. There’s various sporting facilities including a lido, located on the lower slopes of the hill as well as a monument called the Stone of Free Speech which was apparently previously used as a site for public meetings in the past.
The hill is managed by the City of London Corporation.
• Sheep have returned to Hampstead Heath for a week-long trial of an initiative aimed at replacing mowing with more natural grazing. The pilot project, which is being managed by the City of London Corporation in partnership with Heath & Hampstead Society, Heath Hands, Historic England, Mudchute Park & Farm and Rare Breeds Survival Trust, involves five sheep and will focus on The Tumulus on the Heath, an ancient Roman monument. If successful, the sheep – which include Oxford Down and Norfolk Horn – will take their grazing talents to other areas.
• Staff from the Tate galleries are showcasing their own artworks in a new free exhibition at the Tate Modern. The first Tate Staff Biennale, which can be seen for free in Tate Exchange on level five of the Blavatnik Building, features the work of 133 staff members from all four Tate Galleries – Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives – and has been curated by the Inside Job Collective – a group of Tate staff dedicated to championing the work of colleagues who are also practicing artists. The biennale is inspired by ‘movement’, the theme of this year’s Tate Exchange, an experimental platform at the Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool which brings together the public, artists and associate partner organisations. Can be seen until 3rd September. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.
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Once apparently known as Traitor’s Hill, Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath offers stunning views of the City of London and surrounds.
The summit of the hill, the view from which is protected, features a plaque, donated by the Heath and Hampstead Society and installed in 2016, which identifies various London landmarks visible from the site (it updated a similar plaque installed in 1984). Among the landmarks visible from the hill, which lies some six miles from the City in the south-east of the heath, are The Gherkin (St Mary Axe), St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
The hill’s name is somewhat shrouded in mystery. According to one story, it relates to the fact it was defended during the English Civil War by troops loyal to Parliament (hence first Traitor’s, then Parliament, Hill). Another named-related story, generally deemed to be somewhat dubious, has it as the site where Guy Fawkes and co-conspirator Robert Catesby planned to watch the destruction of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Once part of a manor granted by King Henry I to a local baron, the hill was added to the public open space of Hampstead Heath in the late 1880s although manorial rights to the land persisted until the mid-20th century. The City of London Corporation has managed the hill since 1989.
Parliament Hill, these days a popular place for kite flying, is also the site of a short white pillar known as the ‘Stone of Free Speech’, once believed to have been a focal point for religious and political meetings (although its origins, like the hill’s name, are somewhat sketchy).
This is the case of a movie stand-in. While Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath in north London (pictured above) was the real life home of late 18th century figure Dido Elizabeth Belle, the subject of the 2014 Amma Asante-directed film Belle – the movie wasn’t actually shot there.
Thanks to the fact that parts of Kenwood House – in particular the famed Robert Adam interiors – were undergoing restoration at the time, the scenes representing the home’s interiors were instead shot at three other London properties – Chiswick House, Syon Park and Osterley Park, all located in London’s west (West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, meanwhile, was used for the exterior).
While some other scenes were also filmed in London – Bedford Square represented Bloomsbury Square where the London home of Lord Mansfield was located, for example, other locations were also used to represent London – scenes depicting Kentish Town, Vauxhall Gardens and the bank of the River Thames were all actually shot on the Isle of Man, for example.
When the real life Belle – the illegitimate mixed race daughter of an English naval captain who was raised by her great-uncle William Murray, Lord Mansfield (she was played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the film; Lord Mansfield by Tom Wilkinson) – is believed to have lived at Kenwood, it was the weekend retreat of Lord Mansfield, then Lord Chief Justice of England (for more on her life, see our previous post here).
Interestingly, the property was also once home to a 1779 painting (previously attributed to Johann Zoffany but now said to be “unsigned”) which depicts Belle and which was apparently the inspiration for the movie. While a copy of the painting still hands at Kenwood, the original now lives at Scone Palace in Scotland.
A painting of James Adam, unseen for almost 150 years, has gone on show at Kenwood House in London’s north.
Antonio Zucchi’s Portrait of James Adam, dating from 1763, depicts Adam who, along with his brother Robert, created the splendid villa which now sits on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath between 1767 and about 1779.
The Adams’ first encountered Zucchi while on a “grand tour” in Italy and engaged him as their draughtsman, recording what they were seeing.
They subsequently had him decorate ceilings and walls at Kenwood and his signature was also recently discovered on the painting of Adam – the only known portrait the artist completed – after it was cleaned.
The painting depicts Adam as both architect and “man of fashion” and shows his interest in classical statues and ornamentation, showing the famous Medici vase in the background.
The painting hadn’t been seen by the public since 1867. The painting, loaned to English Heritage – managers of Kenwood House – by Adam Williams Fine Art Ltd in New York, can be seen until 4th January.
WHERE: Kenwood House, off Hampstead Lane, Hampstead Heath (nearest Tube stations are Golders Green and Archway/nearest rail is Gospel Oak and Hampstead Heath); WHEN: daily, 10am to 5pm; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/kenwood.
Stories abound about this historic Hampstead pub – one of London’s oldest, not the least about the origins of its name.
Theories about the name include that it was named for a Spanish ambassador attending the court of King James I who sought shelter here during an outbreak of plaque. Others suggest it was named for a Spanish landlord – Francisco Perrero – or for two brothers who once owned it (that is, until one of them died in a duel they fought over a woman).
Whatever the truth, the atmospheric pub, located on the edge of Hampstead Heath, has apparently been around since 1585 and the stories about its connections with the famous (and infamous) number even more than those about its origins.
Highwayman Dick Turpin is associated with the pub (some stories suggest he was born here, although this seems unlikely) and the establishment is known to have played an important role in sparing nearby Kenwood House, then the home of Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice, during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780 – apparently it was the action of the landlord, Giles Thomas, in throwing open the cellars which diverted the attention of would-be rioters from the task at hand to one perhaps more enjoyable.
The pub also features in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and in Bram Stoker’s Dracula while among those who frequented it were painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lord Byron as well as John Keats who, the story goes, wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the rather extensive garden.
Located in Spaniards Road, this Grade II-listed pub, as well as the main building, features an old toll house on the other side of the road which contains a horse trough (it has been suggested that Turpin stabled Black Bess there but take such claims with a grain of salt!).
• The Mayor’s Thames Festival kicks off tomorrow and runs for 10 days until 15th September. This year’s highlight’s include the day long A Ship’s Opera which culminates in a sound and light “spectacular” at Tower Bridge, large-scale artworks placed on boards along the river, an exhibition of more than 50 artworks inspired by the Diamond Jubilee Pageant along the Thames, a film celebrating the people who live and work on the river which will be shown for free on an outdoor screen, riverside choral performances, boat races – including the world’s slowest river race and the longest race on the Thames – and the Source to Sea River Relay in which a bottle of Thames water, filled at the Thames’ source, will be relayed by walkers, swimmers, rower and sailors for the entire length of the river. Most activities will be focused on the stretch of river between Lambeth Bridge and St Katharine Docks. For a full program of all events, check out www.thamesfestival.org.
• Last year’s Olympics and Paralympics will be celebrated again in events taking place this weekend. On Saturday – a year since the Paralympic Games closed – disabled athletes and performers will descend on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a day of celebration to mark National Paralympic Day. Part of the Mayor’s Liberty Festival, an annual showcase of deaf and disabled artists, highlights will include an aerial and sway performance – ‘The Limbless Knight’ – and the ‘Miracoco Luminarium’, an interactive light sculpture. The free day runs from noon to 8pm. For more information, see queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/events/2013/6/disability-sport (note that registration is required to watch paralympians in action in the newly reopened venue, the Copper Box). Meanwhile on Sunday, Hampstead Heath will host the annual Give it a Go! Olympic legacy festival. Kids will have the chance to take part in everything from penalty shootouts and street dance, boxing and fancy dress and circus workshops as well as martial arts and rugby sessions, and free tennis lessons. The day runs from 1pm to 5.45pm. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/hampsteadheath.
• Victorian revivalism is under examination in a new exhibition at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery. The multi-media, multi-sensory show Victoriana: The Art of Revival explores the work of contemporary artists inspired by the 19th century – including Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry and Paula Rego – and features graphic design, film, photography, ceramics, taxidermy, furniture, textiles and fine art. More than 70 works are included – among them is a piece created specially for the show, Paul St George’s ‘Geistlich Tube’ – and they’re grouped under four themes – the Neo-Victorian Identity, Time Travel, The Cute and the Curious, and The Reimagined Parlour. The exhibition opens on Saturday and runs until 8th December. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/victoriana.
• The 1863 FA Minute Book forms the centrepiece of a new display at the British Library marking the 150th anniversary of The Football Association. Handwritten by Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the minute book contained the 13 original rules of football and is valued at £2.5 million. It is being displayed along with other football related artefacts – such as a Guide for Referees from the 1930s – in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery alongside the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s First Folio and Captain Scott’s diary and is the first time the library has had a football-themed display. The Football Association was formed on 26th October, 1863, at the Freemason’s Tavern in London with the meeting documented in the minute book which also records the establishment of The FA Cup and the first international football match. Football Rules, entry to which is free, runs at the British Library in King’s Cross until 17th December. For more, see www.bl.uk. For more on the FA’s 150th anniversary, check out www.thefa.com.
• As mentioned last week, Hidden London kicks off today and runs over this August bank holiday weekend. The second year it’s been held, the initiative is your chance to see some of the country’s finest museum collections and archives. To see what’s on, head to www.hiddentreasures.org.uk/?page_id=118.
• The National Maritime Museum tomorrow marks International Slavery Remembrance Day tomorrow with a series of free family-oriented events. The programme, which takes place at the museum and around Greenwich, involves music, workshops, talks and walking tours and will culminate in a commemorative ceremony by the River Thames. The day falls on the date of the first successful slave uprising in the western hemisphere which took place in Haiti on 23rd August, 1791, and led to the island’s independence. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum/.
• English Heritage’s season of concerts at Kenwood House beside Hampstead Heath kicks off this weekend.Live by the Lake features artists including Suede and Keane, an outdoor live screening of Singin’ in the Rain featuring the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Opera Alfresco and An Evening of Gershwin. Events run until 1st September. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/kenwood-house/.
• Pastel portraits by Bob Dylan go on show at the National Portrait Gallery in the West End from Saturday.Bob Dylan: Face Value features 12 new works by singer/songwriter and the portraits represent characters, some of which are real and some fictitious. Dylan, who has 110 million record sales to his name, has been sketching and drawing since childhood but only starting exhibiting his portraits six years ago. The exhibition, in Room 40, is free and runs until 5th January. For more, check www.npg.org.uk.
• The next month represents the last chance to visit Kew Gardens’ historic Temperate House – the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse – for five years. The Grade I-listed building is about to undergo a five year restoration project, funded by a £14.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is home to Kew’s rarest plant, the South African cycad Encephalartos woodii while other rarities include the St Helena ebony (Trochetiopsis ebenus). The Temperate House will close on 4th August and won’t reopen until May 2018. For more, see www.kew.org.
• On Now: Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure. Opened yesterday, this landmark exhibition at the National Gallery explores the motif of music in Dutch painting, in particular in the works of Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries. Displayed alongside actual examples of 17th century virginals, guitars, lutes and other instruments, visitors will be able to see for themselves how accurate the painters were and discover why they may have taken artistic liberties. At the centre of the exhibition are three works by Vermeer – A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (both of which form part of the gallery’s collection) and The Guitar Player (on loan from Kenwood House). A fourth Vermeer, The Music Lesson, has been loaned from the Queen. Other artists featured in the exhibition include Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken. Live musicians from the Academy of Ancient Music will be playing at the gallery three days each week. Runs until 8th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.