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Perched on a hill on the Kenwood Estate lies a forgotten piece of Hampstead’s history.

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Built by the 2nd Earl and Countess of Mansfield, a little-known dairy provided Kenwood House with high quality milk, cream, butter and cheese during the 18th century.

Now, more than 200 years later, it is being restored to its former glory and will become a home for Hampstead Heath’s community groups.

“It is extraordinary that it has survived this long,” said Annabel Wilson, chairwoman of the Kenwood Dairy Restoration Trust.

“This is a forgotten slice of the Heath and Kenwood. The Duke of Wellington even came here.

“People would come as guests and, as part of the entertainment, they would visit the dairy.”

Designed by George Saunders in the Swiss chalet style, the dairy was originally three separate buildings around a central courtyard. A pretty cottage forms the middle of the three pavilions and was the home of the dairymaid while to the right was the main room or buttery, where the milk was brought to settle.

The churning and scalding rooms were found on the left along with a little, ornate octagonal tea room where the Countess – after inspecting the dairy – would sit with her guests and enjoy a glass of fresh cream and other dairy delicacies. The dairy itself was deliberately built on a hillock commanding views of the pastoral landscape of West Meadow and orientated towards the Sham Bridge.

It was reached by a path directly from the flower garden and linked by a bridge with the farm.

Though there were several early alterations to the complex, the dairy remained relatively unchanged until 1929 when it was converted to residential use by London County Council which acquired the estate after the First World War.

This week work begins on restoring all three buildings and transforming them into a new home for community groups including Heath Hands and the RSPB. However, £41,000 still needs to be raised to finish the work.

The Kenwood Dairy Restoration Trust is working with English Heritage to raise the final amount.

Mrs Wilson said: “We are calling on anyone who loves the Heath – its landscape, its wildlife, its architecture – to dig into their pockets and support this base for the volunteers whose dedication makes the Heath a better place for all of us.”

Jamie Jenkins, chairman of Heath Hands, a volunteer organisation which carries out conservation work on Hampstead Heath, said: “We are very excited about the opportunities for volunteering this will open up for everyone in the community and encourage everyone to support the fundraising efforts.”

Kenwood Dairy, Kenwood House and the estate are cared for by English Heritage.

The restoration of the dairy is part of English Heritage’s overall Caring for Kenwood programme of major repairs and restoration.

Tim Reeve, English Heritage’s director of historic properties, said: “We simply could not cover the entire cost of the Caring for Kenwood project on our own and so it is heartening to see the community come out once more to help.”

Comedian and conservationist Griff Rhys Jones will give a talk in support of Kenwood Dairy at Highgate Primary School in Storey Road, North Hill, at 7pm on November 27. Tickets cost £25 and include a wine reception.

n To donate to the Kenwood Dairy Restoration Trust, visit www.kenwooddairy.org.uk

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