Burgh House

Above: The house seen from Well Walk, which runs along its south side.

Burgh House was constructed in 1704 during the reign of Queen Anne. At that time the Hampstead Wells Spa nearby was flourishing. In 1720 the Spa’s physician, Dr William Gibbons, moved into Burgh House, which he enlarged. He added the present wrought-iron gate which carries his initials

One inhabitant of the house was Israel Lewis, who was an upholsterer, and the property was then known as Lewis House. In 1858 Burgh House was taken over by the Royal East Middlesex Militia and it served as the headquarters and officers’ mess until 1881. The house returned to domestic use in 1884.

From 1906–24 the house was occupied by Dr George Williamson, an international art expert. He commissioned Gertrude Jekyll to design the garden, although only the terrace design now remains from her work. In 1925, a director of Lloyds Bank, Captain Constantine Evelyn Benson CBE, DSO, bought the house for £4,750. He built the present music room on the site of Dr Williamson’s library. During 1933–37, Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, Elsie Bambridge lived in Burgh House with her husband, Captain George Bambridge. Rudyard Kipling’s last outing in 1936 was to visit Burgh House, to see his daughter.

From 1937-46 Burgh House was unoccupied. In 1946 it was bought and restored by Hampstead Borough Council who removed the barrack blocks in front of the building. In 1947 it reopened as a Community Centre with a Citizen’s Advice Bureau in its basement.

The house was again closed indefinitely in 1977 when its new owners, Camden Council, discovered dry rot in the building. Threatened with proposals to use the house for commercial use, local residents formed a charitable trust and launched a ‘Keep Burgh House’ appeal. As a result, Camden Council granted them a lease for the house. On 8 September 1979, the house, restored by the council and refurbished by the trust, opened to the public as the house and museum that it remains today.

In 2006 there was additional restoration. On the first floor is the Hampstead Museum and in the basement is a cafe. The music room is used for lectures and also for occasional music recitals. Burgh House stands in its own garden at New End Square, facing Well Walk, not far from Hampstead High Street. In Inner London, there is really no other venue that is quite like it. It is cherished by Hampstead residents and visitors from further afield who come to enjoy the house and attend the public functions that take place there.


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