The parish church of central Finchley
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Posted May 23rd, 2024

The glories of Kenwood

rhododendrons at kenwood

I was a young bride of a few hours when I arrived in London nearly 50 years ago to set up home in Finchley.

Friends and family back in my former home in the Midlands teased me about coming to live “in the smoke” as London was known. This for someone who was brought up in the Black Country, so named for its mining and industry.

Our love affair with Kenwood and the Heath unfolded on our first outing to Hampstead. We were seduced by its endless green spaces and the abundance of beautiful flowers.

Summer evening concerts from May to September were enchanting.  We never wanted to sit in the formal seats but, with blankets on the grass, enjoyed our picnic basket of delights as the music wafted across the lake. Sometimes it rained so hard we became soaked to the skin but no-one ever complained.

All of us have enjoyed years of pleasure in the environs of what was once a modest house in the 17th century.

Kenwood became a grand mansion and showpiece after it was bought in 1754 by William Murray. Later that year, he embarked on a wild spending spree buying 200 paintings including works by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Van Dyck and Vermeer.

In 1927 Kenwood House, its grounds and art collection were bequeathed to the nation and incorporated into Hampstead Heath. English Heritage took on care of the estate in 1986.

The Radnedge children and grandchildren all enjoyed their first outings to Kenwood as babies. Rain or shine, it is still the favoured setting for birthday parties, particularly during May when the magnificent rhododendron bushes are in bloom.

I once told our first granddaughter that the beautiful pink and purple flowers bloomed every spring in honour of her May birthday. The Radnedge family will be celebrating the stunning display this weekend as we sing Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen to Amelia Colette Radnedge.

— Lynn Radnedge