Hampstead arts group banned from Kenwood House after row over cold coffee

Kenwood House has thrown out the art group after the altercation

Kenwood House has thrown out the art group after the altercation - Credit: Archant

A Hampstead arts society has landed itself in hot water with English Heritage after a row over cold coffee saw the group thrown out of Kenwood House – its home for some 25 years.

The group had enjoyed the stunning interiors of Kenwood House for 25 years

The group had enjoyed the stunning interiors of Kenwood House for 25 years - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Members of the Hampstead Heath Decorative and Fine Arts Society were expecting to enjoy another one of its lunchtime lectures in the stunning 17th century stately home, this time looking at the “Art of Venice” with historian Douglas Skeggs.

But the meet-up couldn’t have gone worse for the group of art lovers after, according to accounts, a heated row broke out with Kenwood staff when some members were served cold coffee.

That same day the group also faced an out-of-order lift, a lack of seating in the restaurant and “inadequate” parking arrangements.

Furious over their plight, a resulting confrontation with staff became so acrimonious one member is said to have pulled on an identification badge hanging round a Kenwood employee’s neck, while two others “remonstrated aggressively” with staff when told they could not park outside the house.

The incident has led English Heritage, which manages the property on the edge of the Heath, to ban the group from ever setting foot in Kenwood House again.

The chairman of the now-homeless group, Gordon Rickard, said in an email to members that the day, back in March, saw a number of “unsatisfactory matters”.

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He added: “[They] naturally gave rise to a degree of frustration, and it is alleged that: some members expressed themselves rudely to staff members in the shop; that two members, due to the unavailability of the buggy, remonstrated aggressively with staff when not permitted to leave their car at the front of the house; and a member pulled at the lanyard carrying a staff member’s identification.

“As a result, Kenwood has terminated our arrangement.”

Mr Rickard, who lives in Golders Green, faces a showdown meeting with English Heritage this week but says he hopes for a resolution.

He told the Ham&High: “We want to stay in Kenwood House and we’ve had a harmonious relationship with them all our time there. We do have some differences at this point.”

A spokesman for English Heritage said they were “reviewing the matter”.

The group, one of 375 chapters around the country, has more than 180 members, about half of whom were said to be present on the day.

It also has an active “Heritage Volunteer team” which has worked for many years conserving the Iveagh Bequest Books in the Adam Library at Kenwood House.

Hoping to put conflict out of mind, the group today head on an outing to Stratfield Saye House – a home acquired by the first Duke of Wellington after winning the Battle of Waterloo.