Kenwood to shut its doors for Olympics

Kenwood House set to undergo year-long restoration works which will start weeks before the Olympics

ENGLISH HERITAGE will close Kenwood House for a year from early summer 2012 – just weeks before the Olympics draw hundreds of thousands of spectators to the capital.

Bad timing was the cry from the community this week when they heard of plans to restore Robert Adam’s 18th century masterpiece by repairing the roof and reviving the house’s exterior.

The move is a second blow to Hampstead and Highgate’s participation in the London Olympics after the route for the cycling road race, which was due to go through Highgate and past Whitestone Pond, was relocated.

The announcement came days after members of the Highgate Society met with Camden Council’s tourist department to discuss how to promote the area’s historical buildings during the Games.

Heath and Hampstead Society chairman Tony Hillier said: “The local community should have been consulted and on the face of it the timing is bad. It does not make sense. They need to do repairs but the timing seems crazy with all the extra visitors in London. This is an own goal by English Heritage.”

Michael Hammerson, from the Highgate Society, said: “Why don’t they start it after the Olympics. It seems foolish. I suppose we should be glad they have the money to do it.”

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Hampstead councillor Chris Knight said Kenwood House is one of two big attractions, along withCamden Market, which attract tourists to the borough and it is hugely disappointing that it will close before the Games begin.

“It could not be a worse time,” he said. “We have visitors coming from all over. Unless there is a dire need, the restoration could surely start at the end of the summer?”

The programme of works at Kenwood House will be divided into two phases, the first of which starts in winter 2011 and focuses on the Brew House and Service Wing. Repair work on the house will start in summer 2012 and will last for just over a year with the House re-opening in summer 2013.

The opening of the grounds and the schedule for the Kenwood concerts will remain unaffected.

The repairs include the roof, gutters, skylights, leadwork, timber, the brickwork and chimneys, restoring and redecorating the facades which are peeling and cracked and repairing the damaged joinery on windows and doors.

Paul Griffiths, head of visitor operations in London for English Heritage, said: “We have always carried out regular maintenance. But the years and the elements do take their toll and there is a point at which a building of this age needs to take some time out.”

A spokeswoman added: “These works are essential. It is something which has been deliberated on very carefully. We are in the process of informing the community and the stakeholders and we will be holding meetings for people to come to speak to our experts about the project as well as organising special tours and talks.”