Art project to reveal secrets of Hampstead Heath benches

The benches on Hampstead Heath are a place to rest weary legs and a spot for quiet contemplation, but an artist is on the hunt for the human stories behind the slats of wood.

Kentish Town artist Catriona Gray is appealing for relatives of those remembered on commemorative plates on the benches to come forward and tell their hidden stories.

The 600 or so benches dotted across the beauty spot – some dating back to 1885 – pay tribute to Heath lovers from the past two centuries.

Those remembered include George and Lawerence Jeal, Patrick Minogue and journalist Peter Cliff, whose bench is inscribed with the message “If I don’t do it someone else will”.

Artist Ms Gray, 33, who lives in Grafton Road, said: “These benches are something very personal and emotional to someone out there and I’m just intrigued to find out anything I can about the stories behind the benches.”

The photographer, who trained at Glasgow School of Art before carrying out her apprenticeship in Clerkenwell, is hoping to collect enough tales to put on an art exhibition in a Hampstead gallery.

She will interview and photograph friends and family of those remembered on the commemorative benches, chronicling old Hampstead and Highgate and connecting it with the present day.

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Ms Gray, a regular walker on the beauty spot, said: “Some of the benches up there are really old and hidden away, but it would be great to track down a few good strong stories about people who lived locally and the project would be a great way of remembering them again.”

The freelance photographer, who is fresh from a shoot at Camden Town Brewery, has asked the City of London Corporation for a roster of all the benches scattered across the Heath.

But she has also appealed for those connected with the commemorative benches to come forward and help with the project.

To contact Ms Gray email or telephone 07958 691 643.

For more information about the project visit