Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1936.

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, 'Kenwood', in Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936) pp. 114-132. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

. "Kenwood", in Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936) 114-132. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

. "Kenwood", Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936). 114-132. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,

In this section


Ground Landlord.

The mansion was bequeathed to the Nation by the 1st Earl of Iveagh and is administered by the Iveagh Trustees. It is used as a picture gallery, open to the public. All the other buildings on the estate are administered by the London County Council, and the grounds are utilised as a public open space.

Murray, Earl of Mansfield

General Description and Date of Structure.

Ken Wood, though sometimes described as being at Hampstead, is equally claimed by Highgate, and as it lies almost entirely within the boundaries of the parish of St. Pancras is rightly included in this volume.

Robert Adam was employed by Lord Mansfield to add to a house which formerly belonged to Lord Bute. The extent of the original building can be judged from the hatched portions of the plan printed on Plate 98. In this undertaking (fn. n1) Adam found a work after his own heart, and in his Works (fn. n2) he dwells on the fine placing of the house on the summit of Hampstead, in a way which marks his appreciation of the locality.

"A great body of water covers the bottom, and serves to go round a large natural wood of tall trees rising one above another upon the sides of a hill. Over the vale, through which the water flows, there is a noble view let into the house and terrace, of the City of London, Greenwich Hospital, and the river Thames, the ships passing up and down, with an extensive prospect, but clear and distinct, on both sides of the river. To the north-east and west of the house and terrace, the mountainous villages of Highgate and Hampstead form delightful objects. The whole scene is amazingly gay, magnificent, beautiful and picturesque. The hill and dale are finely diversified; nor is it easy to imagine a situation more striking without, or more agreeably retired and peaceful within." While he ends his description with these words: "The decoration bestowed on this front of the house is suitable to such a scene. The idea is new and has been generally approved."

The scene at Ken Wood, however, has been completely changed by the growth of the trees all around, and the broad terrace along the south front no longer commands the extensive view which Robert Adam describes.

Approaching the house from the north, from the Spaniards Road, the present drive winds through fine trees on steep banks to end in a wide space in front of the great portico. Two wings have been added, but the body of the house, with the portico, remains unchanged and exactly corresponds with Adam's drawings in the Works.

The changes in the surroundings of the house are shown by a survey of 1793 (on which is a neat little sketch of the bridge), and a complete plan of 1797 (see Plates 96 and 97). It is not apparent whether any of the Adams were connected with this reconstruction of the grounds after the death of Robert Adam and of Lord Mansfield. Originally there was a long forecourt in front of the house, probably enclosed by walls, with a central entrance (fn. n3) from the road marked on the plan as "The old road." The present curved road of aproach has been carried across the site of the old stables on the west, and the enclosure marked "Menagerie" (aviary) on the east and cuts away at least one-half of the original depth of the forecourt. The change is important, because the house is no longer visible from the main road, and the former forecourt must have given both importance to the portico and expression to the villa idea of the original Adam design.

In front of the house on the south was a lawn or pleasure garden, also apparently enclosed by walls extending down to an irregularly shaped lake, beyond which, on the east, is an oblong tank marked on the plan (Plate 96) as " The Thousand Pound Pond." The kitchen garden was close to the road on the west, beyond the stable and laundry court. It is shown enclosed by walls ending in a great apse. Beyond these is marked a farmyard. It will be seen, therefore, that the present lodge gates, the octagonal farmyard and buildings and particularly the large block of offices on the east with the stables, all belong to the period subsequent to the deaths of Lord Mansfield and Robert Adam.

Figure 23:

Ken Wood, balustrading to stairs

From the portico we enter the hall (Plate 103). The ceiling, which was painted by Angelica Kauffmann, has ovals in chiaroscuro with reliefs of swags and medallions all bound together in a well-devised scheme. In the west wall is a fireplace of white marble having fluted pilasters and a frieze with a central medallion (carved with the head of Bacchus) between swags. The walls have a frieze enriched with ox-heads in medallions. The furniture delineated by Adam in his plates of Ken Wood published in the Works no longer remains.

East of the hall is the Adam staircase (Plate 112a). It is constructed of oak and has a good balustrade of open ironwork with scrolled uprights and honeysuckle ornaments of cast brass all painted black, and a plain mahogany handrail. The steps have enriched consoles at their ends and a running scroll ornament. The stair hall is open up to the roof and is lighted by an oval lantern decorated with festoons and covered by a glass dome.

The "Marble Hall" (Plate 115) adjoining is a small room with a domed ceiling which belongs to the later construction (circa 1795) and replaces the back court shown on the Adam plan of the house. A pair of doors communicates with the "Vestibule," in the south range, through a colonnade or screen. In this vestibule are two beautiful doorways (Plate 113), of which the more elaborate leads into the Adam Room, the other into the "Breakfast Room." The ceiling of the vestibule is coved and has a circular central panel enriched with festoons and a palm leaf ornament. In the south wall is the "Venetian" window described in the Works. To-day, instead of a niche a pair of great doors in keeping generally with the style of the period lead from under the colonnade into the so-called "Marble Hall" from which the paving of black and white marble squares has been removed. The vista is continued through into the dining-room in the east wing.

The magnificent Adam Room or Library (Plates 104 to 112a) ranks high among the great chambers to be found in England, and takes a leading place in the list of its architect's achievements. It is approached from the Ante-room through a pair of doors in the east wall.

Robert Adam's own account of it runs as follows: "The great room with its ante-room was begun by Lord Mansfield's orders in the year 1767 and was intended both for a Library and a 'room for receiving Company.' The circular recesses were therefore fitted up for the former purpose and the square part, or body of the room, was made suitable to the latter."

He continues by saying that the ceiling of the great room—" is in the form and style of those of the ancients. It is an imitation of a flat arch, which is extremely beautiful and much more perfect than that which is commonly called the coved ceiling when there is a height sufficient to admit of it, as in the present case. . . ."

Adam also tells us that "the stucco work of this ceiling and of the other decorations, is finely executed by Mr. Joseph Rose. The paintings (Plates 109 to 111) are elegantly performed by Mr. Antonio Zucchi, a Venetian painter of great eminence, and the grounds of the pannels and freeses are coloured with light tints of pink and green, so as to take off the glare of white, so common in every ceiling, till of late. This has always appeared to me so cold and unfinished, that I ventured to introduce this variety of ground at once to relieve the ornaments, remove the crudeness of the white, and create a harmony between the ceiling and the side walls, with their hangings pictures and other decorations." The grounds are now all pink.

A main feature of the room is the pair of great apses at the east and west ends, with their screens of Corinthian columns. (fn. n4) Continuity of design between them and the centre bay is promoted by a bold honeysuckle band at the base of the vault and of the apses. It recalls the narrower frieze of the entablature. The apses are fitted with bookshelves (fn. n5) and are decorated above by three painted panels in enriched frames. The half-domes, very difficult to illustrate adequately, are masterly pieces of decorative stucco-work. The main frieze is decorated with running foliage, and lions, urns, and stags' heads alternately: the lions are the supporters and the stags' heads the crest of the family.

The fireplace (Plate 107) in the middle of the north wall in white statuary marble with pilasters, deer heads and sphinxes, remains exactly as illustrated in the Works. Above it was formerly a portrait of the 1st Lord Mansfield by David Martin set in an enriched frame. As shown in Adam's drawings there is a bottom border to balance the top cresting. A mirror which is now in the position formerly occupied by the painting is one of the two that originally occupied the recesses on either side of the fireplace. It is in three bays and has arched filigree ornament, all gilt. The large arched recesses are now book-lined. In the south wall are three sash windows. On the piers between them are two mirrors in carved wood and gilded frames with ornate crestings exactly as illustrated in Adam's Works.

The two oval mirrors which he also shows have disappeared.

The main vault, a large rectangular bay flanked east and west by narrower bays, contains in all fifteen painted panels. The central oval is the largest, filled with a classical or mythological subject. There are semi-oval panels at the edges of the large bay containing pairs of lovers, and between them other panels with similar subjects (Plates 109 to 111). (fn. n6) The narrower side bays have panels with conventional foliage and terminal figures of putti, flanked by painted subjects on polygonal panels. The paintings are very brightly coloured, executed in tones strong enough to stand the rich gilding which forms so large an element in the total effect. The carpet is red and the furniture was of gold and damask, so that it required judgment to ensure a general harmony of colour effect.

No record of the exact date of the earlier house has at present been found, but from the slender evidence left in the fabric itself it may be judged to have been reconstructed some forty or fifty years before it passed into the hands of Lord Mansfield. It seems to have been a long narrow building with an orangery (probably itself an addition) at its west end. Adam added his one-storey saloon at the east end to correspond with the orangery, built the portico, and increased the height of the old south range to agree with that of the northern range. He is said to have constructed the additional storey without removing the old roof—at least until the very end of the work so that occupation of the house was not interrupted during the progress of the alterations.

The rooms on the ground floor of the south range were fitted with new fireplaces, but were otherwise little altered. The "Breakfast Room" west of the ante-room has a typical fireplace of white marble decorated with urns and bulls' heads above the pilasters. The room is lighted by two south windows. The "Library" next to it on the west has four south windows, but was originally divided into two apartments called on the Adam plan the drawing-room and parlour. The old "Tea Room" was also at one time divided into two with an angle fireplace in the principal apartment. Next comes the "Boudoir" (originally the housekeeper's room), corresponding to Adam's vestibule and with a similar Venetian window. Unfortunately the window has been robbed of most of its sash bars and its appearance has suffered thereby. In the north wall of this chamber are three round-headed recesses, the middle one containing a door to the western or back stair-hall. This range of rooms is connected by doors adjoining the north or inner wall. In the Adam plan these doors are on the opposite side of the fireplaces by the outer wall.


A doorway in the Boudoir now opens into the long orangery (once entered only from the garden by a door in its western wall) which has nothing very distinctive about it except that it is lighted by five round-headed windows in the south wall. The plaster ceiling is flat with a moulded cornice.

In the north range the large back stair-hall is a very plain structure rising to the second floor and of much later date. Above it is an oval lantern. Originally it was partly a store-room and partly a passage to the back-stairs which once butted against the eastern wall by the portico. North of the stair-hall is a narrow chamber known as the "Prayer Room" lighted by three north windows. In the two north angles are coved recesses. This room was formed out of the butler's pantry and the staircase referred to above.

On the first floor the large room over the entrance hall has doorways leading on to both staircases with doors of the Adam type. It is lighted by three windows below the north portico. In the west wall is a wooden fireplace (Plate 116a) in the Chinese style, differing from the Adam work and probably a later insertion or alteration. (fn. n7) It is treated with coloured panels in enamel: the pilasters are carved with terminal figures of men holding wyverns. The shelf or cornice is coved and enriched with a kind of palm-leaf ornament. The ceiling has a coved cornice with egg-and-tongue ornament.

Of the rooms in the south range, the eastern bedroom entered from the Adam staircase contains a large alcove with panelled doors on either side enclosing cupboards. In the west wall is a fireplace of wood treated with honeysuckle ornament. The walls have a plain frieze and a cornice enriched with egg-and-tongue ornament.

The adjoining chamber on the west was Lord Mansfield's bedroom. In the east wall is an Adam fireplace (see Plate 114b) of white marble, with twin Ionic fluted pilasters and a frieze decorated with pateræ in beaded rings divided by double honeysuckle patterns. The next room has another typical fireplace of wood and pilasters with festoons and lintel with a honeysuckle and urn design. A small bathroom with a single south window leads out of this room and has a low ceiling with a coved and enriched cornice.

The eastern portion of the house which is entered off the west staircase contains a private office and an old staircase leading up to the second floor. This latter staircase (Plate 102) which may very well have been part of the original main staircase to the house dates probably from about 1720–30. It has a moulded handrail of that period filled in below with close panelling instead of balusters. As no early plan of the house above the main floor exists it is difficult to say what alterations may have taken place.

On the second floor there is a series of rooms in each of the two ranges. Those over the south range have their floor 17 inches higher than those of the north range, although the ceilings to the first floor are level with each other. This variation in the levels no doubt was caused by the necessity for leaving the old roof in position until Adam could complete the new roof. It is probable that this deeper floor space contains the earlier tiebeams left in place after the upper timbers of the original trusses were removed.

There are several Adam fireplaces with typical ornament in these rooms, one with bulls' heads, another with a lion's head and a third with rams' heads as decorations to the lintels: they are all of wood and retain the original hob-grates with urns and pine cones as ornaments.

Adam's roof construction is very simple: there is a great truss of king- and queen-post type between the two ranges in the middle.

Subsequent additions to the house were made about 1795 by the 2nd Earl of Mansfield, who does not seem to have employed the successors of Robert Adam, possibly because of some disagreement. He threw out two wings on the north front, thus recessing the Adam front which had previously appeared as a projection on the older south range. The rooms are treated more or less after the Adam style but with a difference that only enhances the Adam craftsmanship. The western wing replaces the old kitchen and offices and the laundry court and leads into the orangery through and Ionic colonnade similar to that to the ante-room.

The north portico with its four fluted Ionic columns of wood sanded to represent stone carries an entablature which has its frieze decorated with swags. Above is a pediment in which is a circular panel containing a figure subject. The soffit is coffered. The main wall, which is also treated in cement, is of three storeys and has plain square windows, a fluted frieze and cornice. At the first-floor level is a plaster string course with guilloche ornament. The later north wings, to which reference has just been made, are built of a white brick above the ground level. Both end walls have Venetian windows to the ground floor and plain square upper windows.

The south front has its lowest storey treated with imitation rusticated masonry. Above it the wall has flat Ionic pilasters and a central pediment. The panels between the pilasters are plain, although shown in the Adam drawings as containing some form of decoration. The windows have plain square heads. The orangery and the Adam Room are treated alike in elevation: each having five round-headed bays divided by Ionic pilasters carrying a plain entablature.

In the lower level east of the house the basement of the north-east wing is built of a pleasant red-brown brick which has an earlier appearance than the white brick above, but is of the same period. The east wing is a two-storeyed building of the same red-brown brick containing the great kitchen, a fine large chamber, and other offices. It was once directly connected with the house, but is now entirely separated.

The two large rooms used as public refreshment rooms were originally the brewery and laundry. These offices took the place of an earlier range on the west side of the entrance forecourt. The kitchen in the days of the 1st Lord Mansfield butted against the north wall of the orangery.

The fruit and vegetable garden that lies alongside Hampstead Lane eastwards from the stables-block was probably formed between 1793 and 1797. The garden wall beside the lane which has been preserved by the London County Council is of interest as being one of the few examples extant near London of a wall designed for fruit-growing. It was not uncommon before the days of glasshouses to insert in such walls flues in which fires could be lighted to protect the trees from the effects of frosts in the spring. These flues and flue-doors can be seen at intervals along the length of the wall. Greenhouses, as indicated in the Ordnance Survey plans of 1875, were added later to a short length of the walling on the section nearest to Highgate.

A reference to the estate plan of 1797 shows three groups of outbuildings apart from the block of new offices adjoining the house itself. On the western boundary of the estate not far from The Spaniards was a farm planned as an octagon, of which only a fragment remains to-day (see Plate 119). To the south of this farm stood the dairy, consisting of three small buildings grouped round a forecourt, the one to the north being the dairy itself. These remain almost unchanged; Plate 118 gives the plan and elevation and Plate 117b a view of the centre building and the dairy block, picturesque brick structures with heavily overhanging eaves. Right away on the eastern boundary stand the stables, a view of which is given in Plate 117a. They were also built of brick round a square yard, the principal range being in two storeys; a large opening in the centre having a semicircular light above it crowned by a pediment. All the ground-floor windows show semicircular heads. These outbuildings are under the control of the London County Council and have been converted into tenements for the use of the staff employed upon the estate.

Condition of Repair.


Historical Notes.

For three centuries the Monastery of Christ Church, Aldgate, owned a large tract of wood and heath at the north-west corner of the parish of St. Pancras, including the present Ken Wood estate. In determining the acreage of it the ancient deeds of conveyance afford little help, the only boundaries which can be immediately identified being the boundaries of the parish where it abuts on Hampstead, Finchley and Hornsey. The greater part was occupied with the ancient "Cane Wood," which covered about 200 acres in the middle of the 16th century. The estate of Lord Mansfield as shown on the map of the parish in 1804 covered 230-odd acres, and may be taken as roughly co-extensive with the monastic property. It is probable that the southern boundary of the Christ Church property was where Mansfield Road now runs along the site of an ancient footpath from Kentish Town to Hampstead and that the wood itself extended southward to Parliament Hill. From the earliest times a farm lay to the south of the wood, but how near the eastern boundary of the estate approached the road (West Hill and Highgate Road) is uncertain. Millfield Lane and Sherricks Farm bounded it on the north-east. According to a terrier and survey (fn. 118a) of the manor of Tottenhall made in 1761 for the Hon. Charles Fitzroy (afterwards first Baron Southampton), Ken Wood as well as the adjoining estate of Sherricks lay within that manor. This is doubtless correct since it is impossible to believe that the manor (which certainly included Sherricks) did not originally include all the northern part of the parish outside the Manor of Cantlowes. If so, there must have been a grant from the Prebendary of Tottenhall to William de Blemont or his predecessor, but none has been found.

Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate

In the reign of Henry III the owners of this land were the great London family of Blémont or Cornhill (fn. 118b) (it will be observed that these two names are really the same, one being French and the other English). Hubert, who is said to have come from Caen, had at least three sons, namely:

1. Alan, ancestor of the Fitz-Alan family;

2. Gervase of Cornhill, Justiciar of London in 1182, who died about 1184;

3. William de Blemont or Blemund, alias le viel (elder).

Of these sons we are only concerned here with the last named. He had two sons, viz.:

1. William de Blemont, afterwards a Canon of Holy Trinity or Christ Church;

2. Theodoric or Terry, who married Rose, daughter of Arnald le Rus, who was Sheriff in 1197;

And possibly a daughter, Denyse, who married Arnald Fitz-Arnald her brother-in-law, son of Arnald le Rus.

It is possible that John Bucointe or Buccauncta (oily mouth), another important citizen, was predecessor of the Blemonts at Ken Wood; an inference drawn from the fact that in 1202 he conveyed to William de Blemont a carucate of land about three miles away, subsequently known as the manor of Blemundsbury, the present-day Bloomsbury. (fn. n8) Arnald Fitz-Arnald and Denyse his wife are of local interest since their descendants were lords of Bibsworth, a sub-manor of the adjacent Bishop of London's manor of Finchley.

"Cane Wood" does not appear under that name before the reign of Henry VIII, when it was in the possession of the Priory of Holy Trinity or Christ Church, Aldgate, which was founded by Matilda, wife of Henry I, in 1108, as a House of Augustinian Canons. Our only knowledge of Ken Wood in early days amounts to what we can glean from the documents by which it was conveyed to that monastery.

Although no record has been found showing that William de Blemund le viel owned Ken Wood, the dealings of his sons with it, as will appear, certainly imply that it came to them by inheritance. In an undated deed Theodoric, son of William de Blemont, quitclaimed to Sir William, his brother, his heath with the appurtenances, which his brother had granted to him for life, which heath lay between the wood of the canons of Holy Trinity, London, and the land which he (Theodoric) held outside the ditch likewise granted him by his brother on the south and between the wood of Hamstede and the land of William Dispensator on the east. For this grant he received 40s. (fn. 118c) In 1226 Theodoric de Blemont granted and confirmed to Sir William de Blemont his brother all his rights in lands, men, rents, services, hedges and ditches and appurtenances, next the wood of the Canons of Holy Trinity, London, in "Kentistun," in the parish of St. Pancras, in return for 17s. rent which Elwin Chese paid. (fn. 119) At that time such deeds were seldom dated exactly, and the time when they were executed can only be deduced from the names of the witnesses. The first-mentioned deed was witnessed by Robert de Halewic (Halliwic was in Friern Barnet), Eilwin Chese, William Dispensator, Peter Carect' (Carter), Robert de Haliwell, Terric Sokeling, Robert Remild, William de Stapelherst, Gilbert Safughel and others. Several of these can be recognised as local landowners, suggesting that the deed was witnessed in the manor court of Tottenhall or of Bloomsbury, but they do not enable us to fix the exact year. The second deed was witnessed by Richard Renger, mayor of London, Roger Duce, Martin Fitz-William, sheriffs of London, Andrew Bukerel, M. clerk (the sheriff of Middlesex), Henry Bokointe, Henry Fitz-William, Stephen de Strand, Master Robert de Tefont, Solomon his son, Eilwin Chese, William Dispensator, Ralph, servant of Terry, Edmund of Holy Trinity. From these names it would appear that the deed was executed in the Court of Hustings. After these preliminaries William, son of William de Blemont, in 1226, for the welfare of his soul and the souls of his ancestors and successors, granted and confirmed to Richard the Prior and the Convent of Holy Trinity (or Christ Church, Aldgate), London, all he possessed in the vil of "Kentiston" in the parish of St. Pancras, in wood and heath, men, homage, rents, services, liberties, common of pasture, ways, feeding-grounds, hedges and ditches and appurtenances, in free and perpetual alms, they to render him and his heirs half a mark yearly by instalments of 40d. at Michaelmas and 40d. at Easter. (fn. 120) In the same year Theodoric de Blemont confirmed his brother's grant in return for half a mark yearly payable at the church of Holy Trinity by payments of 40d. at Easter and 40d. at Michaelmas, and two marks paid down. (fn. 121) By another deed Theodoric de Blemont for the welfare of his soul and the souls of his ancestors and successors, confirmed to Richard the Prior and the Canons of Holy Trinity, London, the wood and heath, lands, rents and services which they had of the gift of Sir William de Blemont his brother in "Kentestun" in the parish of St. Pancras, rendering him and his heirs two marks yearly and also 37s. rent which they had of the gift of the same William in the city of London, in free and perpetual alms. Then Richard, Abbot of Westminster, granted and confirmed to Richard, the Prior, and the Convent of Holy Trinity, London, the wood, heath, lands, rents, service, homage, etc., which they had by reason of the gift of William de Blemont in the parish of St. Pancras of "Kentiston." (fn. 122) Finally, by charter dated 8th February, 1227, King Henry confirmed to the Priory all their wood and heath as enclosed on all sides with a ditch in the parish of St. Pancras of "Kentisseton," next the park of the Lord Bishop of London, towards the south, and William Uggel and his heirs and services. (fn. 123)

Theodoric de Blemont must have died soon after making over his interest to the Priory, since his widow, Rose, in 1229 entered an action against the Prior of Holy Trinity to secure her dower right (which she had with the assent of William de Blemont) in 26 acres of land, 60 acres of wood and 18s. rent in "Kentisseton." (fn. 124) Although William de Blemont conveyed all his rights to the Priory, some of the land was apparently not in his own possession. In 1226 he demised, granted and confirmed to Safugle, son of Dering, and his heirs, 12 acres lying next to the grove of Sirewic for a rent of 2s. 6d. yearly by quarterly payments of 7½d., as well as 4s. down "in gersumma." (fn. 125) According to an endorsement on this deed Safugle was the father of Gilbert, evidently the Gilbert mentioned in the next deed and a witness to the first deed mentioned above. Until recent times there was a "Sherricks Wood" and farm lying between Ken Wood and Highgate Village; the grove of Sirewic mentioned here is therefore very interesting since it must refer to Sherricks. By a deed of uncertain date, but obviously following the last mentioned, Robert de Tephont with the assent and free will of his wife, Lucy, confirmed to Richard de Stanes and Margery, his wife, all his land in "St. Pancras of Kentisseton" of the fee of William de Blemont, as well as the land which Gilbert Safugle demised and granted to him and his wife, Lucy, called la Dune, and a croft which he held of William, son of Robert Spencer (Dispensator), next the same land. (fn. 126) The croft of William Spencer mentioned must be related to the "land of William Spencer" mentioned in the release by Theodoric to his brother. Spencer's land would appear to have been south of Sherricks, fronting West Hill. In 1325 Richard de Stanes and Margery, his wife, conveyed to Richard, the Prior, and the Convent of Holy Trinity, all her right in 24 acres in "Cantisseton." (fn. 127) This grant was confirmed by Margery after the death of her husband to John the Prior (successor of Prior Richard) and to the Convent. (fn. 128)

There was still another portion of Blemont's land, dealt with in the following undated deed. Agnes, formerly the wife of John Wallis of "Kentissetun," sold to Richard the Prior and the Canons of Holy Trinity, London, all her dower of the tenements which her late husband held in the said town of the fee of William de Blemont. For this she received 8s. The names of the witnesses show that this must have been soon after Blemont's donation. Master Robert de Teffunt, John and Solomon, sons of Master John de Lyesnes, Roger de Beuchedrey, Robert Hunte, William Stephen, Ralph his son, William Huggel, Richard his son, Richard Bruy, Gilbert, Nicholas, Ralph, brothers. William Huggel is possibly the William Uggel of the royal charter of 1227, and the names also suggest that the deed was witnessed at the Priory. (fn. 129)

William de Blemont's son, Terry, had a daughter, Egidia, who married firstly Richard Viel and secondly William de Kent. She had a son, Thomas Viel, and a daughter, Margery de Kent. (fn. 130) The Manor of Bloomsbury descended to Thomas Viel when his father died, whilst he was still under age, but was forfeited because it was alleged that he was one of the King's enemies and associated with the barons who rebelled under Simon de Montfort against Henry III. He afterwards pleaded that during the time of these disturbances he was in the custody of Stephen Buckerel, (fn. 131) and ought not to have incurred a forfeiture of his lands. Egidia Blemund is noted as holding a fee in the soke of Blemund in 1242–3, (fn. 132) some 21 years before the Battle of Lewes, which means that she was then a widow; her son, Thomas Viel, seems to have come of age about 1254. William Belet, one of the serjeants of the King's table and a knight who held much property in Norfolk and elsewhere, had been given the forfeited Manor of Bloomsbury by Henry III in 1265. As a result of Thomas Viel's plea in 1277, William Belet in 1278 conveyed to him for life rents amounting to £3 13s. 4d., including the half-mark from Ken Wood, but kept the manor of Bloomsbury. In 1288 Margery de Kent, sister and heir of Thomas Viel, citizen of London, remised to the Priory of Holy Trinity the wood, etc., formerly of William de Blemont her ancestor, in Kentish Town in St. Pancras, and this half a mark rent. (fn. 133) In an assessment of ecclesiastical property made in 1291 the goods of the Priory in "Kentisseton" were valued at £3 19s. 3d. (fn. 134)

At this distance of time and in the absence of other records one cannot pretend to place on the map exactly the separate properties dealt with in these ancient deeds. What William de Blemont gave to the Priory was his rights as landlord, but the interests of those who held under him and of his relatives had to be gathered in separately. In 1328 Henry de Seccheford, citizen of London, conveyed to John de Oxford, vintner and citizen of London, a messuage and six acres of land and meadow in the vil of "Kentisshetonn." (fn. 135) Henry de Seccheford, mercer, was Alderman of Aldersgate Ward 1319 to 1336 and of Cripplegate Ward in 1336, and M.P. for London in 1324, 1325, 1327 and 1336. John of Oxford was sheriff in 1323 and Mayor in 1341, when he died. He was evidently a very wealthy man, judging from the bequests in his will. In 1335 he had licence to alienate to the Priory of Holy Trinity two tofts of land, one mill, 50 acres of land and two acres of wood in Kentish Town, of the yearly value of 20s. 3d. (fn. 136) This, presumably including the six acres purchased from Henry Seccheford, was said to be holden of the Monastery in chief by John of Oxford by service of 8s. 7d. a year. (fn. 137)

The whole estate dealt with in the records cited above remained in the possession of the monastery of Christchurch, Aldgate, and there is nothing to record until the Dissolution two hundred years later, except a grant by Nicholas, the Prior, and the Convent, to Nicholas Gray, yeoman, of Highgate, on 15th August, 1525, of the office of woodwardship, bailyship and keeping of their two woods of "Cane Wood" and "Gyll Holt." (fn. 138) Omitting the legal phrases, the effect of this long and interesting document is as follows. Nicholas Gray was to oversee the woods, and if any cattle or beasts came into them he was to drive, bring or carry (if not prevented) all such cattle and beasts to the Lord's pound, there to remain until the masters or owners agreed with him for the damage done. He was to receive for his diligence all the profit of distraining beasts or cattle so pounded. If any person was to hew, cut, fell or carry away any woods, underwoods, boughs or poles, Nicholas was to take them if he could, or to report their names to the Prior. He was to receive for his diligence any wood so cut and the tools used. The ditches, hedges and fences belonging to the two woods and also the great ditch between the upper end of the two fields called Mylfeld and Huntfeld and Hamsted Heth, he was to make, scour, cleanse and amend as he should think necessary at the cost of the Priory. For ditching a new ditch he was to receive 12d. a pole, for mending or scouring a ditch 8d. He was to take in the woods any stuff required for mending the hedges, ditches and fences. From 1st November to 30th April every year he might fell, cut down, make and square longwood, polewood, lashbaven, talwood and timber to the number of 290 loads or more, 200 being for the use of the monastery according to the old custom. For every load of polewood and longwood he was to receive 3d. felling money; for every load of talwood and baven 4d. felling money, and for every timber tree felled and made in loads 4d. His annual fee was 25s. 8d. paid quarterly, with one load of talwood, two loads of longwood or polewood and all faggots called bush baven made of holy thorns, brambles, briers, bushes and tops of trees, all manner of bark, windfalls and chips. He had all the profit of the grass, herbage, feeding and pannage. The Priory was to give him three broad yards and a half yard good measure of woollen cloth for a coat 21 days before the following Easter, and four broad yards and a half good measure of woollen cloth for a gown 21 days before Easter, 1526, or they were to pay him 14s. in lieu of the coat cloth and 20s. in lieu of the gown cloth. Once a year for six days (six days warning being given by the Prior) he was to ride with the Prior when he kept courts, finding himself horse, saddle and bridle. The Priory would find him honest meat, drink and lodging with good and sufficient bate, provin and litter for his horse during these six days. Four times in the year he was to wait on the Prior in the monastery, from Christmas Day to Twelfth Day, three holy days in Easter week, three holy days in Whitsun week and on Trinity Sunday. At these four times he was to have within the monastery honest, good and sufficient meat and drink and to sit at mess, meat and table with the cellerer or rentgatherer and to have assigned to him a chamber and "wooddraught," with honest bedding and all other stuff necessary. The grant of this office was for life, and for a year after the Michaelmas following his death. Talwood mentioned in this grant meant wood in billets for firewood, and bavin was a bundle of brushwood or other light combustible matter for kindling, fencing, draining, etc. For centuries the predecessors of Nicholas Gray had been working in these woods according to the regulations set out, felling timber in the winter months from November to April, preparing timber for building and the smaller wood for fuel, keeping the watercourses clear and the hedges mended. The office was one of considerable importance and it will be noticed that his precedence in the retinue of the Prior is laid down with reference to his place at table with the cellarer and rentgatherer, and that he had a uniform or livery to wear.

Waltham Abbey

Nicholas Gray was the last woodward appointed by the Priory. In 1532 it was dissolved and its possessions vested in the Crown. Soon afterwards King Henry VIII granted "a serteyne ferme called Cane Feildes and the woode called Cane woodes" to the monastery of Waltham Holy Cross in exchange for Copped Hall Park, which he wished to own for "the great consolacon and comforde of his moste royall person." (fn. 139) In his accounts for the two years ended Michaelmas, 1535, the Receiver of Rents, William Cavendish, claimed to be allowed £5 off the amount due from him on account of the "manor of Canefeldes," because it had been taken out of his hands and granted to the Abbot of Waltham. (fn. 140) Our next record concerns the farm that lay southward of Ken Wood, which must have covered what is now Parliament Hill Fields. On 10th March, 1535, the Abbot of Waltham leased to John Palmer of "Kentychtown" lands in St. Pancras on the south side of "Cane Wood and Gyllys Hawte, now called Millefeldes or Canewode Feyldes otherwise Myllefeyldes, Huntsfeld, Fernefeld, Gutterfeyld and Knyzhtes Grove," and certain small crofts adjoining, lately in the tenure of Nicholas Gray by lease from the Prior of Christ Church, London, all of which abutted on Hatch Lane and "Canewode Lane" and the lands of John Palmer on the east, and the said "Canewode" and "Gyllys Hawte" on the north and "Hampstead Heyth" on the west, and on land late of "Whetnalles" on the south, for 41 years at £5 a year. The monastery of Waltham Holy Cross was dissolved in its turn in 1540 and Ken Wood again came into the king's hands, John Hyghame, Receiver-General, accounting for £13 for the year ended Michaelmas, 1540, on account of "Canelandes."

The first portion of the estate disposed of by the Crown was the farm land on the south leased to John Palmer. John Taw, esquire, and Edward Taylor, esquire, on 12th July, 1543, signed what would be called now a "contract note" to purchase "Canefeldes" with the woods growing there, "parcell of ye possessions of the late monasterye of Walthame" of the yearly value of £5. Allowing for tithe 10s. the net income was £4 10s., which, rated at 20 years' purchase, amounted to £90 to be paid by them. In the surveyor's note it is stated that the lands were "no parcel of any manor, lordship or farm" and lay within four miles of London or thereabouts. (fn. 141) The purchase was concluded by the issue to them of letters patent dated 14th September, 1543. The tithe of 10s. reserved on the land was granted by patent dated 23rd September, 1546, to Thomas Wriothesley, lord Wriothesley. On 8th January, 1546, Messrs. Taw and Taylor took out a licence to alienate this property to the said Thomas Wriothesley, K.G., Lord Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor. Taw and Taylor had many similar grants of monastic lands and appear to have been speculators.


Turning now to the northern portion, Ken Wood itself, we find that the Monastery of Waltham Holy Cross had leased it to John Slannyng of Hampstead on 20th May, 1536, for 40 years, at £8 a year. Slannyng came from Devonshire, where he owned considerable property near Plymouth. There is no doubt that Slanning acquired the woods as an investment pure and simple, and he found that it was more profitable to sell the timber on the land and employ the cleared site for grazing than to preserve the woods. The diminution of woods was a frequent complaint by writers of that time, and Parliament in 1543 passed an Act intended to compel owners to maintain woods in the public interest. Mr. Slannyng's activities are recorded in a presentment made presumably to Quarter Sessions on 28th March, 1556, by "William Gennings and his fellows of all such offences as do come to their knowledge." They presented "John Slannyng for keeping 140 acres in Hampsteed and also for keeping to pasture another farm called Chawcotts [Chalk Farm] containing 120 acres in the same parish, which land he lets to butchers and innholders of London. For selling and felling woods without leaving 'storyars' according to the statute, John Slannyng of Hampsteed, gentleman, for cutting down 20 acres of wood in a wood called Cayne Wood two years since and for now suffering horses and mares and other cattell as doth appeare to destroy the springes of the same wood" and also "for cutting down 14 acres of wood in Wyldes Wood for two years past and putting on his cattle. . . ." (fn. 142) Similar presentments of destruction of Woods were made about this time at the manor courts of Hornsey and Tottenham. The Act had provided that in woods felled at 24 years' growing or under there should be left standing for every acre of wood felled 12 standils or storers of oak likely to be timber trees or an equal number of elm, ash, asp or beech if no oak trees were growing there. Such trees were not to be felled before they had attained the size of ten inches square within three foot of the ground. Also all trees under the age of 14 years were to be protected from destruction by cattle or beasts. By neglecting to leave standing twelve storers in each of the 20 acres felled in "Cayne Wood" Slannyng had incurred a penalty of 3s. 4d. for each one felled, and a like penalty for every rood left unprotected from cattle.

Whether the statutory penalties were exacted from Slannyng we do not know, but there is an undated plan in the Public Record Office (fn. 143) which may have been made at this time. On it is written: "This woode is knowen by the name of Cane woode and conteyneth one hundred fowerer score and tenne acres, all wast and pathes deducted, and is devided into Tenne falls of diuerse groathes with the valew of evearie fall at Tenne years groath." The ten falls with their respective acreage, value per acre and total value are set out in a table, which may be summarised as follows: (1) 18 acres, 50s.-£45; (2) 18 acres, 50s.-£45; (3) 18 acres, 53s. 4d.-£48; (4) 18 acres, 53s. 4d.-£48; (5) 18 acres, 53s. 4d.-£48; (6) 18 acres, 53s. 4d.-£48; (7) 18 acres, 53s. 4d.-£48; (8) 23 acres, 33s. 4d.-£ 35 6s. 8d.; (9) 23 acres, 33s. 4d.-£35 6s. 8d.; (10) 18 acres, 50s.-£45; Total £445 13s. 4d. Then follows: "Note that there was 500 principalls felled at the last fall which by the Statute ought to have been preserved and were worth 16d. a pece . . . £33 6s. 8d." The plan, which measures about 17 inches by 13 inches, consists entirely of straight lines, each of the ten "falls" being marked with its number and the acreage. Outside the northern boundary is written "Hornesey Park," the western boundary "White Burche," the north-eastern "Sherewick," the eastern "Sherewick Lane" and south-eastern "Millfield." These meagre topographical details can be identified on the modern map. "White Burche" is in Hampstead against the parish boundary and it is notable that in a valuation of that manor made in 1312 (fn. 144) are mentioned "woods called Wytebirche, Brockehole and Tymberhurst in sevralty in which is neither pasture nor pannage." In the survey of Tottenhall, mentioned above (p. 121), Brockhill is marked in the field that contained Parliament Hill, to the south of the land which was opposite "White Burch." We can therefore locate the wood called Brockhole in 1312 as in the neighbourhood of South Hill Gardens, Hampstead, and Wytebirche as north of that between Spaniards Road and Ken Wood. There were thus three woods adjoining, Sherricks Wood to the east (named after an early owner), White Birch Wood to the west (obviously so called from the trees growing in it) and Ken Wood or Cane Wood between them. In Anglo-Norman-French "keynes en le boys" meant "oaks in the wood," in modern French "bois de chenes" is an oak wood, and it does not seem far-fetched to suppose that Cane Wood, the earliest form of the name so far found, simply means "oakwood." (fn. n9) Sherewick Lane was the present Millfield Lane, and Sherewick approximately lay within a triangle formed by lines adjoining Caenwood Towers, Beechwood and Southampton Lodge. Hornesey Park abutted on Ken Wood along the parish boundary from Sherricks to The Spaniards.

John Slannyng died on 28th September, 1558, (fn. 145) and left to Dorothy Mallett, a daughter of Michael Mallett, property at Umberleigh in Devon and his lease of "Cane Wood." (fn. 146) Dorothy Mallet married John Wood on 22nd August, 1564. (fn. 147) The freehold of the property belonged to the Crown until the year 1565 when it was bought by one Robert Hall at 30 years' purchase, namely £240. (fn. 148) Hall was a nominee of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton of Congleton, Warwick, whose son Robert Throckmorton, gentleman, of London, sold it in 1588 for £300 to Roger Puleston, gentleman, of Highgate. (fn. 149) He was elected a governor of the Grammar School in 1586 and died intestate on 11th May, 1592, leaving a widow, Dionisia. Her first husband had been William Hodges, who was elected a governor of the Grammar School on 16th June, 1581, and died on 9th January, 1582. His daughter, Anne, married William Birchinshaw, gentleman, and apparently she was married a second time, to the Rev. Thomas Westfield, afterwards Bishop of Bristol. William Birchinshaw and Anne had four daughters, Sarah, Margaret, Anne and Susanna, of whom Sarah married Robert Story, citizen and clothworker of London, and dying in the lifetime of her mother, left a daughter, Anne, aged five in 1622. The estate was sold in 1616 to John Bill, the King's Printer. It was conveyed to him by Thomas Westfield, S.T.P., and Anne his wife, Robert Story and Sarah his wife, Margaret, Anne and Susannah Birchinshaw. The property was then described as containing 30 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture, 350 acres of wood and 20 acres of furze and heath, in St. Pancras, Kentish Town, Hampstead and Hornsey. This was far more than the Ken Wood estate and it undoubtedly included a leasehold interest in part of the Great Park in Hornsey from the Bishop of London. (fn. 150)

It will be observed that in the conveyances up to this date no mention is made of a house. We may therefore conclude that the first house there was built by Mr. Bill. The following information concerning him is taken from an excellent account communicated by Colonel Prideaux to Notes and Queries in 1897. John Bill was a man of some mark in his day. From a comparatively humble position he was enabled, by his industry and ability, to attain the highest rank in his calling, and to take a place amongst the gentry of Middlesex, while his son and successor not only made his mark in the political world, but became allied with one of the most distinguished families among the aristocracy of England. He was born in 1576 the son of Walter Bill of Spittle Street, Much Wenlock, Salop, husbandman, and came to London at 15 years of age being then apprenticed to John Norton, citizen and stationer of London, for the term of eight years. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, in 1601, he was admitted a freeman of the Company of Stationers. The date of his first registered publication was in 1604 and some years afterwards, in conjunction with Bonham Norton, he purchased the office of King's Printer from the Barker family. His printing office seems originally to have been situated in St. Paul's Churchyard and was afterwards removed to Blackfriars, on the site of the present Printing House Square. His first wife was Anne, daughter of Thomas Mountford, D.D., vicar of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, who was famous for her skill in music. She died on 3rd May, 1621, aged 33. His second wife was Jane, daughter of Henry Franklin, who survived him. He died on 13th May, 1630, leaving an annuity of £300 to his wife. (fn. 151) To Robert Graves and Grace his wife, he left 40s. for their care at "Canewood." His eldest son, John Bill, who was born on 30th May, 1614, succeeded him in the business and in the ownership of Ken Wood. In the October following his death, Mrs. Jane Bill had become the wife of Sir Thomas Bludder.

When John Bill the second was 28 years of age the Civil War began and he joined the royal army. Four years later he addressed a petition dated 18th April, 1646, to the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents as follows: "That your petitioner was master of a regiment of horse under the command of the Lord Hopton, in which service he acted until about the month of March last upon the Treaty of Truro with his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax he deserted his employment promising never to bear arms against the Parliament. That he is heartily sorrowful for his errors and humbly submits to the mercy of Parliament and prayeth he may be admitted to a favourable composition for the discharge of the sequestration of his estate."

The annual value of his St. Pancras property before the Civil War was stated to be £79 9s. 6d., consisting of certain lands and woodlands called "Cainewood." In Hornsey he had a lease or rather sub-lease of part of the Great Park, worth £30 a year, out of which he paid John Oldbury a ground rent of £19 6s. 6d. He held jointly with Mr. Roger Norton the King's Printing House at Blackfriars, part being occupied as a dwelling house by Sir Samuel Luke and part by the printing works. His half share of the office of King's Printer was said to be worth £600 per annum "before these troubles." There were two printing presses with type formerly sent to York by the King's command and afterwards to Exeter, where they fell into the hands of the Parliamentarians and were sold to Mr. Egelesfeild of London, bookseller. His debt amounted to £2,000. (fn. 152) Despite the heavy fine he had to pay for his "delinquency" he took part in another effort on behalf of the royal cause, and his estate was again sequestered, on 16th October, 1648. After having been for some time imprisoned in Peter House, Aldersgate Street, he was removed in November, 1648, to the Counter, in Southwark. (fn. 153) On 17th April, 1649, John Bill again petitioned the Parliamentary Commissioners, stating that "since his former composition with the Honourable Committee he hath been unhappily engaged in the late Insurrection in Surrey with the late Earl of Holland against the Parliament." "Cainewood" was now worth only £49 a year to him because he had been obliged to lease it for 40 years towards raising the money to pay his fine. This time he was ordered to pay £1,500. From another petition received from him on 27th September, 1651, when he is described as of Reigate, Surrey, he appears to have claimed £1,500 as owing to him by Sir Walter Roberts, baronet, and suggested that the Commissioners for Kent should levy the money out of the rents of Sir Walter and hand over the surplus to him for subsistence. Roberts denied all knowledge of the debt. A reminder that in John Bill's time his land abutted north on the road following the boundary between St. Pancras and Hornsey Park appears in a presentment made by the jury of the Hornsey Court Leet in 1653: "Mr. Bill and Mr. Siddon for setting up gates for passage into the way that leadeth from Hamsteed Heath to Highgate through Holliocke Hill Wood are amerced for each gate ten shillings apiece." Mr. Siddon was the tenant of Sherricks Farm at that time. (fn. 22)

On the authority of some modern transcripts (now in St. Pancras Public Library) of papers said to have belonged to the Vane family, it has been stated that Sir James Harington sold Ken Wood to John Bill at the Restoration. In 1658, it is said, Sir Harry Vane (who lived at Hampstead) wrote to John Bill: "The estate at Ken Wood appeared to him to require handling well, the home domain being peculiarly good, and capable of much improvement but he felt that the price asked too great by £100 . . . as that little castle of ruinous brick and stone could only be used for material to build another house, near thirty acres in waste, as ponds and the moate, a deal of great trees to be cut down and many serious expenses he had not yet considered." In June 1660 Mr. Bill purchased the estate of Sir James Harington. It then consisted of 280 acres of land well covered with large timber, and is set out as a capital messuage of brick, wood and plaster, eight cottages, a farm-house and windmill, fishponds, etc. Mr. Bill states he had formed a place that he could live in with comfort and surrounded 25 acres with a brick wall. All this is entirely lacking in any evidence to show how far it is authentic and there must be something wrong with the story in face of the known facts. Ken Wood belonged to John Bill by bequest from his father, and there is no evidence that he ever sold it to Sir James or anybody else. He owned it as we have seen in 1645 and still owned the reversion in 1649. The statement, therefore, that Sir James sold it to him requires corroboration. Turning to Sir James Harington we find that he had children baptised at Highgate in 1640 and 1642, implying residence there then. In 1643 Sir Edmund Wright, of Swakeleys, his father-in-law, died, leaving that house to his daughter, Harington's wife. In 1647, 1653 and 1654, children of Sir James were buried at Swakeleys; his father also was buried there in 1652. It is evident, then, that Sir James Harington went to live at Swakeleys in 1643 or soon after (fn. 87). In 1653 it was Mr. Bill who was fined ten shillings for making a gate from Ken Wood and not Harington.

Sir John Finch, writing to Lord Conway on 11th January, 1661, stated that on Sunday, 50 Fifth Monarchy men went to Mr. Johnson, a bookseller, near St. Paul's, and demanded the church keys. Being refused they broke open the door and setting sentries demanded of passengers whom they were for; one answered for King Charles, on which they replied they were for King Jesus, and shot him through the heart; they put to flight some musketeers sent to reduce them and the Lord Mayor came in person with his troop, whereupon they retreated to Highgate; on Wednesday morning they returned to the city with mad courage, fell on the guard, and beat the Life Guard and a whole regiment in half an hour, refusing all quarter. Venner their Captain was taken with nine more, and 20 slain; six got into a house, and refusing all quarter, were slain. (fn. 154) Other accounts show that it was at "Cane Wood" these fanatics bivouacked.

In the Hearth Tax assessments John Bill's house was rated at 24 hearths in 1665 and 20 in 1674, showing that his house was nearly as large as Dorchester House. He married Diana, daughter of Mildmay Fane, 2nd Earl of Westmorland, and widow of Edward Pelham of Brocklesby, Lincs, esquire. In 1661, Diana, their daughter, was baptised at "Caen Wood." John Bill was buried at Hampstead on 4th October, 1680. It is evident from his will (fn. 155) that he was in a good financial position at his death, 32 years after his second "delinquency" in fighting for King Charles. A hint of family disagreement is seen in the half-crown he left to his "unkind brother," Henry Bill, but he left Henry's two sons, John and Henry, £50 and £20 respectively. His daughter, Diana (mentioned above), who had become the wife of Captain Darcy Savage, got £2,000. His son, Charles, was to have his printing business and everything at "Caine Wood" after his mother's death. On 25th April, 1681, Charles, then about 19 years old, had licence to marry Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Hampson, Serjeant at law. (fn. 156)

In 1685 Lady Diana Bill for £6,000 surrendered to her son, Charles Bill "of St. Giles-inthe-Fields," esquire, her rights in "Canewood," viz. a "capital messuage at Canewood, and a farm house called Little Canewood and the woods called Canewood and Gills Haute, late in the occupation of John Bill and William Nicholls, containing 155 acres." (fn. 157) In 1658 William Nicolls of "Cane Wood" was presented at the Hornsey Court Leet for pasturing sheep upon the common in that manor and amerced ten shillings. (fn. 22) In 1685 again Brook Bridges, esquire, and Samuel Bridges, suffered a "recovery" of two messuages, 108 acres of land, 100 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture and 60 acres of wood, in St. Pancras, Hornsey and Hampstead, Diana Bill, widow, Charles Bill and Elizabeth his wife, warranting the title." (fn. 158) This included Ken Wood, and indicates, possibly, a mortgage by Charles Bill to Bridges. In 1690, after his mother's death, Charles Bill of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, esq., son and heir of John Bill, late of "Canewood," esquire, deceased, by the Right Hon. the Lady Diana his wife, deceased, and Elizabeth Bill now the wife of Charles Bill, conveyed to Brook Bridges of St. Andrew's, Holborn, esquire, for £3,400, the capital messuage at Ken Wood with the gardens, containing 4 acres 3 roods, the farm-house called "Little Canewood" with Barnefeild containing 2 acres 2 roods, Barnefeild South, 3 acres, Long Cherry Ground 1 acre 1 rood, an arable close of 5 acres, Eight Acre close 8 acres 2 roods, Eighteen Acre close, 20 acres, Gills Hart 5 acres 1 rood, Gills Hart 6 acres, Cane Wood Pasture 10 acres 1 rood, Small Gains 3 acres, Fourteen Acre Field 12 acres, Great Broomfeild 7 acres 3 roods, Broomfeild 5 acres, Five Acre Mead 8 acres 1 rood, Little Cherry Ground 1 acre, Great Cherry Ground 3 acres 3 roods, Cane Wood 61 acres, part of which was lately grubbed up. In all 169 acres 3 roods. (fn. 159) The equity of redemption was mentioned.

Apparently Brook Bridges was a relative of "William Bridges of Canewood," the next owner, son of Robert Bridges and Mary (Woodcock) his wife. William Bridges was elected a governor of the Grammar School on 21st May, 1694. He was Surveyor-General of the Ordnance at the Tower of London, and M.P. for Liskeard. He died on 23rd October, 1714. In 1705 (fn. 160) William Bridges sold Ken Wood to John Walter of London, merchant, and in 1711 John Walter for £3,600 sold to William, 4th Lord Berkeley of Stratton in Cornwall, "Cane Wood House" with four ponds containing two acres, land adjoining the kitchen garden containing two acres, and woodland containing 22 acres, and £5 rent, part of £15 rent receivable from the owners of the Waterworks on the Ponds under their lease. (fn. 161)

Lord Berkeley of Stratton

Writing on 29th July, 1712, to Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Lord Berkeley said: "You cannot imagine how I enjoy myself at Cane Wood, after this hurry, and how quiet and pleasant it is." A few days later he wrote to the same correspondent (12th August): "Your Lordship will wonder to hear I have sold Cane Wood. A Lord Blantyre of Scotland offer'd me 4000 pounds for it, which I thought worth hearkening to, considering the little time I stay out of town, and that a place of half that sum might serve me. I wish I may get a house in your neighbourhood of Twitnam, for I was always fond of that part of the country. I am still at Cane Wood, but would be glad to remove since it is none of my own. It seems 'tis the D. of Argyle hath bought it under another name, and I am desir'd to stay till the goods are valued, part of which he desires to buy. . . ." (fn. 162) Anne, daughter of the said Duke of Argyll, married William, the son of Lord Strafford. Berkeley conveyed the estate to Walter, Lord Blantyre, on 2nd August. (fn. 163) Three days later Lord Blantyre conveyed it to John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. (fn. 164) Three years later the Duke conveyed it to his brother, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Ilay, P.C., and his brother-in-law, James Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute, who had married their sister, Anne. (fn. 165) Five years later, on 13th May, 1720, they sold it to William Dale of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, esquire, for £3,150. Writing about this time, Daniel Defoe, under the name of Macky, says, "Adjoining to this village [Hampstead] the Duke of Argyle has a fine seat called Caen Wood. . . . It now belongs to one Dale, an upholsterer, who bought it out of the Bubbles." (fn. 166) On 7th April, 1720, the famous South Sea Act was passed for redeeming the National Debt, and the Directors of the South Sea Company by various means raised the original £100 shares to the price of £1,050. By 29th September it had sunk to £150 and thousands of families were reduced to beggary. William Dale was one of the victims. On 15th October, 1720, he mortgaged Ken Wood House for £1,575 to Archibald, Earl of Ilay. His daughter, Dorothy, who is said to have lost £20,000 in the South Sea Bubble, married William Forbes, 13th Baron Forbes, during this year, and he lent his father-in-law another £1,000 on the property. Neither principal nor interest was paid by Dale. In February, 1721, the Earl of Ilay filed a bill in Chancery stating that Dale, who owed him £1,575, gave him a bond dated 27th May, 1720, and afterwards mortgaged the estate as better security. (fn. 167) He said that Dale had suffered the house to run to ruin, had felled a great quantity of timber, committed great waste and threatened to commit more. Dale said that he was ready to pay off the mortgage as soon as he was able to raise the money and that the premises were worth double the amount owing to the plaintiff. He denied committing waste and prayed for a reasonable time to redeem the mortgage. On 29th October, 1724, judgment to foreclose was given against Dale, and on 4th February, 1725, against Lord Forbes on his second mortgage. Lord Ilay got back the estate, but it was certainly worth much more than the £2,575 advanced by him and Lord Forbes, with interest added.

Stuart, Lord Bute

After the disappearance of the unfortunate Dale the house appears to have been occupied by a George Middleton. In 1746 Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll, conveyed his interest to his nephew, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, son of Anne, the Duke's sister. (fn. 168) This Earl of Bute is known to fame as the most unpopular Prime Minister England has ever known and, more creditably, as the son-in-law of the celebrated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. He was born in 1713 and married Mary, only daughter of Edward Wortley Montagu, esquire, of Wortley, Yorks, and Mary his wife, daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, esquire, afterwards Duke of Kingston. Lord Bute was a minister of the Crown from 1737 until he resigned in 1763. Lady Bute's mother, who was living in Italy, writing on 20th August, 1749, to the Countess of Oxford said: "My daughter writes me word she has fitted up that house near Hampstead, which I once had the honour to see with your ladyship; I hope it is a proof she is in no want of money." Writing two days later to her daughter she said: "I very well remember Caenwood House, and cannot wish you a more agreeable place. It would be a great pleasure to me to see my grandchildren run about in the gardens. I do not question Lord Bute's good taste in the improvements round it, or yours in the choice of the furniture." In the following November she remarks: "I believe you have some leisure hours at Caenwood, where anything new is welcome," and writing on 16th February, 1752: "I hope it will find you at Caenwood; your solitude there will permit you to peruse, and even to forgive all the impertinence of your most affectionate mother." (fn. 169)

On 8th August, 1754, Lord Bute conveyed the estate to William Murray, esquire, H.M. Attorney-General, for £4,000. The rest of the 170 acres formerly owned successively by Bill, and Bridges, was sold by Walter in 1715 to William Cox of Bouldham, Kent, gentleman, and now forms a considerable part of Parliament Hill Fields as well as of Ken Wood. In the tenure of Mrs. Carter, formerly of John Walter and afterwards of John Carter, was a messuage and two acres and a pond containing one rood. In the tenure of Richard Watts and the Company for the Waterworks and John Cox of Stanstead, Kent, gentleman, a messuage, barn, two stables, yards, gardens, etc., and Barnfield, 4 acres 2 roods, Brickfield 2 acres 2 roods, Arable closes 2 acres, Eight Acre close 8 acres, Eighteen Acre close 18 acres, Great Gills Heart and Little Gills Heart 11 acres, and two ponds in Eighteen Acre close containing two acres. In the tenure of John Cox, formerly in the tenure of William Bilson, late of Edward Fletcher, was "Cane Wood Pasture" containing 18 acres. Finally, in the tenure of John Cox, formerly in the tenure of Jeffery Gibbons, late of Edward Fletcher and—Ambridge, Wallfield 6 acres, Little Broomfield 7 acres, Great Broomfield 14 acres, Small Gains 4 acres, Little Woodfield 5 acres, Peafield 10 acres, and Great Woodfield 14½ acres. All this was subsequently acquired by William Murray, who became Baron Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice of England on 8th November, 1756. He became Earl of Mansfield in 1776. His first purchase from the Cox estates was in September, 1757, when he acquired from John Cox of Fairseat, Stanstead, Kent, esquire, only son and heir of John Cox late of Fairseat, 1 acre 1 rood 15 perches of land adjoining "Cane Wood" House on the west and on the east a road from Hampstead Lane to "Cane Wood" Farm House. (fn. 170)

Lord Mansfield was a younger son of David Murray, 5th Viscount Stormont and 3rd Lord Balvaird by Margery his wife, only daughter of David Scott of Scottarvet, Fifeshire, and was born at Scone on 2nd March, 1705. He was educated at Westminister School and became a barrister in 1730. As the youngest son of an impecunious Scottish nobleman his advancement in life must have depended on his own exertions and abilities, but a Westminister schoolboy who spent his holiday in the house of the married daughter of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, and was befriended by Bishop Atterbury, can hardly have lacked influential friends. He possessed a pleasant voice, and practised elocution under Alexander Pope, and was called "the silver-tongued Murray." In 1745 it became his duty as Solicitor-General to act as counsel for the government against his cousin, Lord Lovat, who was implicated in the rising in favour of the Young Pretender. Lord Lovat himself at the trial characterised Mr. Murray as an honour to his country and said he had heard him with pleasure, though he was against him. There is no doubt that he was a brilliant and accomplished advocate, and after he became Lord Chief Justice exhibited on the Bench great independence and strong common sense, delivering many judgments advantageous to the cause of freedom and religious toleration. A decision in favour of the right of a Catholic priest to say mass led the mob in the 1780 Gordon Riots to burn his house in Bloomsbury Square, destroying his valuable law library. Some critics have accused him of being grasping in money matters, yet he refused and pecuniary compensation from public funds for this loss. When the mob went to Ken Wood with the intention of burning down that house also, they were headed off by the expedient of supplying them with all the intoxicants they liked to take at The Spaniards. By the time a party of soldiers arrived they were in no condition to resist. Lord Mansfield married in 1738, Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel, Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham, but died without issue on 20th March, 1793, in his 89th year.

The first Lord Mansfield was succeeded by his nephew, David, 7th Viscount Stormont, son of David, 6th Viscount Stormont, brother of the 1st Earl. David, 2nd Earl of Mansfield, was born 9th October, 1727. He married as his second wife in 1776, Louisa, 3rd daughter of Charles, 9th Lord Cathcart, by whom he had three sons and a daughter. He died on 1st September, 1796, and was succeeded by his son, William, as 3rd Earl of Mansfield.

Tracing the ownership of Ken Wood we are in contact with the main current of English history from the days of Henry III to Victoria. In William de Blemond we have a characteristic member of the military aristocracy ruling the city of London in early days. Retiring from the world and becoming a canon of the monastery of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, he reminds us of those religious institutions that occupied such a great place in the nation's life until they were swept away by the outburst we call the Renaissance and Reformation. For centuries the essentials of life appeared to change but little, and Ken Wood in monastic ownership reflected that static life. Then it suddenly came into lay hands. The old order of things implied in the woodwardship of Nicholas Gray disappeared, the estate was split up and its new owners proceeded to commercialise it according to the new spirit of the age. In the indictment of Slannyng for felling and grubbing up the wood we see an incident in the initial stages of the struggle then commencing between the interests of enterprising financiers and the welfare of the community. During its ownership by three successive King's Printers, its story is interwoven with that of the Civil War, first in the downfall of John Bill, the second, with the royalty he fought for, and secondly in his triumphant reinstatement with the restored king. The Bridges family following represented the quasi-aristocratic class of place-men then growing rich and providing one of the strongest bulwarks of the Hanoverian régime with which their welfare was identified. The Duke of Argyll was a foremost general under the triumphant Marlborough, and in the interlude of Dale we are brought into touch with the famous South Sea Bubble. Lord Bute, again, filled a prominent place in the struggle of royalty to rule and the efforts of the middle classes to acquire political power. Even with the replacement of Bute by Lord Mansfield we see the emergence of one who is said to have laid the foundation of that commercial law and civil freedom required by developing wealth and commerce. Finally the supersession of Lord Mansfield as a representative of the land-holding class by the London County Council on behalf of the people of London, may be regarded as significant of the times. The people now own this beautiful corner of England and may study its history as a mirror of the nation's life through the ages.

Its acquisition may be regarded as the consummation of the efforts which have been made over a long series of years to preserve the northern heights of London as open spaces. It is just over a century since the first agitation for the preservation of Hampstead Heath commenced, culminating in the Hampstead Heath Act of 1871, some 40 years after public feeling had been first aroused by the threatened conversion of this famous pleasure resort into a building estate. By this Act about 240 acres of land were secured at a cost of £45,000. In 1889 a further 267 acres of Parliament Hill Fields were purchased, at a cost of £302,000, of which more than half was contributed by the Metropolitan Board of Works. In 1897 came the purchase of Golders Hill Park of 37 acres for £38,500, the whole of the money being raised by private subscription, and a few years later Wylde's Farm of 80 acres was added to the Heath at a cost of £36,000.

In 1914 it became known that Lord Mansfield was negotiating for the sale of Ken Wood to a building syndicate. Steps were taken to form a purchasing committee, but the war put a stop to further proceedings at that time.

From 1916 onwards, however, the efforts were continued at intervals which eventually resulted in the purchase of 121 acres and in the protection by stringent restrictive covenants of a further nine acres. The 121 acres included the whole of the tract of woodland known as Ken Wood and the adjacent lakes, and on the 27th May, 1924, the London County Council agreed to take over as a public open space the portions of the estate offered to it by the purchasing committee, which was known as the Kenwood Preservation Council, while on the 18th July, 1925, the newly acquired area was opened to the public by His late Majesty King George V, accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Mary.

Guinness, Earl of Lveagh

But a further act of generosity was to follow when the house itself and 89 acres of the surrounding woodlands were purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, at a cost of £189,000, who bequeathed the whole estate to the nation at his death or at the expiration of ten years. He died (within a short while of making the purchase) in October, 1927, and on 16th July, 1928, the house, slightly altered to its new purpose, was opened to the public. It contains a magnificent collection of pictures, principally of the Flemish, Dutch and English Schools, with furniture and other objects of art. The 89 acres of meadow and woodland were added to the area already administered by the London County Council.


  • n1. For the description of Adam's work we are largely indebted to Mr. Arthur T. Bolton, who has kindly granted permission for us to make use of his chapter on Ken Wood in The Architecture of Robert and James Adam.
  • n2. The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1778–9, referred to briefly as the Works.
  • n3. The entrance has been omitted in the view reproduced on Plate .
  • n4. The columns originally white are now painted a dark marbled brown: the capitals are gilded.
  • n5. Now carried down to the floor filling the formerly solid dado.
  • n6. The five photographs of panels painted by Zucchi from the ceiling of the Adam Room are reproduced by the courtesy of Trustees of the Iveagh Bequest, who gave permission for them to be photographed in 1933 by Dr. Nissen of Sweden for a work on Zucchi. The story of how the painter fell in love for the second time with Angelica Kauffmann while they were both working on the decoration of Ken Wood is well known.
  • n7. Mr. Arthur T. Bolton informs us that the 2nd Earl seems to have employed the painter I. C. Ibbetson (1759 to 1817) to make some alterations to the house and this fireplace may have been his work.
  • n8. The story of this estate and of the Blemund family can now be read in an article on the University site by Miss E. Jeffries Davis in the London Topographical Record, Volume XVII, 1936.
  • n9. Various attempts have been made to explain the origin and meaning of the name—Cane till the 18th century, then Caen or Ken—attached to this estate, but none has met with general acceptance. Dr. Mawer, Hon. Secretary of the Place-Name Society, writes: "We have not got sufficient evidence to come to any positive conclusion as to the right etymology." Mr. E. Williams, the venerable author of Early Holborn (1927), whose extensive studies in St. Pancras topography inspire respect, firmly maintains that the stream flowing from the ponds through Kentish Town must have been called the Ken, hence Kentish Town and Ken Wood. Mr. J. G. Muddiman has energetically urged "Caen" Wood, which was also the view of Mr. J. H. Lloyd. Mr. Fred Hitchin Kemp, going farther back, suggests a still more far-fetched derivation, from the British "Iceni." Miss Jeffries Davis has tentatively put forward "Canons'" Wood as the origin, but is now inclined to agree with Mr. John Neville Keynes, who proposed the derivation mentioned in the text.
  • 22. Court Rolls of the Bishop of London's Manor of Hornsey, W. McB. and F. Marcham (1929).
  • 87. Swakeleys, Ickenham, Walter Godfrey, F.S.A. (1933). London Survey Committee.
  • 118a. a. Muniments of Lord Southampton.
  • 118b. b. Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14252, fo. 127d.
  • 118c. c. P.R.O., E 40/A 8778.
  • 119. Ibid., A 2233.
  • 120. Ibid., A 2231.
  • 121. Ibid., A 2243.
  • 122. Ibid., A 2238, A 2244.
  • 123. P.R.O., C53/18 m34.
  • 124. P.R.O., K.B. 26/101. m8d.
  • 125. P.R.O., E 40/A 2230.
  • 126. Ibid., A 2234.
  • 127. P.R.O., C.P., 25, H.III/121.
  • 128. Ibid., A 2237.
  • 129. P.R.O., E 40/A2092.
  • 130. Lond. Topog. Record XVII.
  • 131. P.R.O., K.B. 27/29. m.3.
  • 132. Book of Fees (Testa de Nevill), 1923 ed. pp. 897, 899.
  • 133. P.R.O., C.P. 40/70/m. 19.
  • 134. Taxatio Ecclesiastica. (1802).
  • 135. P.R.O., E 40/A 2235.
  • 136. P.R.O., C 66/185. m27.
  • 137. P.R.O., C 143/235/13.
  • 138. P.R.O., E 303/London 3.
  • 139. Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 3739, ff. 427–9, Statutes of the Realm 3.529.
  • 140. P.R.O., E 315/, vol. 279 fo. 5 and E 303/Essex, 214.
  • 141. P.R.O., E 318/1104.
  • 142. Hist. MSS. Com. 15th Report, pp. 258–261.
  • 143. P.R.O., S.P. Dom. James I, vol. 190, no. 5.
  • 144. The Manor and Parish Church of Hampstead, J. Kennedy (1906), p. 118.
  • 145. P.R.O., C 142/vol. 130, no. 39.
  • 146. Will of John Slannyng. P.C.C. 63 Noodes.
  • 147. P.R.O., C 3/197/49.
  • 148. P.R.O., E 318/2365 and C 66/1027 (6).
  • 149. P.R.O., C 54/1324 and C.P. 25/31/2 Eliz. Mich.
  • 150. P.R.O., C.P. 43/135. m. 60.
  • 151. Will of John Bill. P.C.C. 124 Bath, and P.R.O., C 142/768/20.
  • 152. P.R.O., S.P. Dom. Interr., vols. G 188 (35), G 188 (44), G 188 (51).
  • 153. P.R.O., S.P. Dom. Interr. G. 68. p. 267, 271, 273.
  • 154. Cal. of S.P. Dom., Chas. II, 1660–1 (1860), p. 270–1.
  • 155. Will of John Bill. P.C.C. 124 Bath. His widow appears to have got into financial difficulties, even to the extent of being imprisoned for debt (P.R.O., C 8/415/28).
  • 156. Vicar Gen. Marr. Lic. Harl. Soc. vol. 60 (1890).
  • 157. P.R.O., C.P. 43/409.m.9d.
  • 158. Ibid., 411.m.24.
  • 159. P.R.O., C 54/4713(35).
  • 160. Ibid., 4930(4).
  • 161. Ibid., 5015(1).
  • 162. Wentworth Papers, 1705–1739. James J. Cartwright (1883).
  • 163. P.R.O., C 54/5032(18).
  • 164. P.R.O., C. 54/5032(17).
  • 165. Deed in St. Pancras Library.
  • 166. P.R.O., C 54/5160(27).
  • 167. Land Reg. Midd. Mem., 1720/1/253; P.R.O., C 11/2380/36; P.R.O., C 33/343, pp. 4, 107.
  • 168. Land Reg. Midd. Mem., 1746/2/730.
  • 169. Letters from the Right Hon. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1709–1762. Everyman Edition (1914), pp. 379, 380, 382, 409.
  • 170. Land Reg. Midd. Mem., 1754/3/75; 1754/4/427; 1757/4/351; 1715/5/26.