A short (uphill) walk from Hampstead tube station takes you to a little enclave of old houses, where a seventeenth-century merchant’s house and its walled garden occupy a quiet corner. Grade I listed Fenton House, now owned by the National Trust (bequeathed to them in 1952 by Lady Binning, its last owner and resident), is a lovely place to visit on a fine spring day, as Yannick and I recently discovered.
The main entrance is in Hampstead Grove, but we entered through the ornate gate that faces onto Holly Hill then followed the path around the house to the main garden with its manicured lawn and formal planted borders.
The formal garden leads to a sunken rose garden.
Beyond the sunken garden is a three hundred year old apple orchard, containing thirty two different heritage varieties of apples and pears. You can sample the apples on Apple Day, held annually in late September, but at this time of year it’s the bluebells that catch the eye.
The house itself is small as historic houses go, and is apparently perfectly square.
Many of the rooms have been furnished to look as they did when Lady Binning lived there. The bedroom has been restored based on a photo in Country Life in 1950, though the tapestry over the bed is a photographic replica of the original.
The furniture in the drawing room is in the Sheraton style. The two pairs of satinwood display cabinets were commissioned by Lady Binning to display her china.
Lady Binning’s collection of china and ceramics, including Chinese porcelain from the Kangxi period, 18th century Meissen figures and Staffordshire ware, fills the house.
The house also contains a collection of early keyboard instruments and holds lunchtime and evening concerts at which seventeenth and eighteenth-century harpsichords, virginals and spinets from the collection are played.
And Lady Binning’s collection of Stuart needlework pictures is on display in the Rockingham room.
There’s a wonderful view of the garden and the heights of Hampstead from the second floor balcony.
Fenton House is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm.