Kenwood’s Sham Bridge: Pond decoration’s restoration ‘almost complete’ say English Heritage

Kenwood's Sham Bridge, pre-restoration. Picture: Sylvia Daly

Kenwood's Sham Bridge, pre-restoration. Picture: Sylvia Daly - Credit: Archant

Renovation of the so-called Sham Bridge at Kenwood House could be finished as soon as this week, according to English Heritage, which manages the historic property on the Heath.

One of landscape design’s longest running practical jokes, the bridge-that-is-not-a-bridge had fallen into disrepair, repeatedly, over the centuries.

But now its latest facelift is almost complete and a spokesperson for English Heritage told the Ham&High: “We are aiming for completion early February for this work, which has gone extremely well.”

The work was initially due to finish at the end of 2018, after beginning in the summer when permission was granted to rebuild and restore the Grade II-listed feature.

According to the Friends of Kenwood House, the new bridge should be more durable and resistant to the rot that set in after its previous 1993 restoration.

This is because it is now made from accoya, a wood more suited to damp locations.

Regular Kenwood visitor Etienne Patrick Daly told Heathwatch it looked like the work had been a success.

Most Read

He said: “We were up there last week and I spoke to some of the people working on it. It looks much improved.”

Etienne has a personal connection to Kenwood. In 2017 he discovered and restored the graves of Charles Daviniere, his younger brother William Daviniere and his son Charles George Daviniere in Kensal Green cemetery.

The three men were the sons and grandson of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race woman who was born into slavery but raised at Kenwood.

Dido, who has since been subject of a feature film, features in a portrait by David Martin with the Sham Bridge behind her.

The Sham Bridge has divided opinions at Kenwood for more than 200 years.

As long ago as 1793, renowned gardener Humphrey Repton derided it as “below the dignity of Kenwood”, just a decade or so after it had been erected by the Adams brothers for the second Earl Mansfield.

Repton had proposed replacing the facade with an actual bridge between two ponds.

Luckily for visitors and humourists today, the Mansfields rejected some of Repton’s plans.