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If you’re stuck for things to do in London, the quaint and fascinating Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum is the perfect option for families with children of all ages. This lovely local museum and historic house is set in Hampstead Village, an original Georgian village. It focuses on the history of the Hampstead area, that of the House itself and also displays artwork by locally-based artists. The House boasts a Grade I listed building status and contains a collection of almost 5,000 objects for you and your kids to explore.
Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum has a rich history and was built during the rule of Queen Anne in 1704. In this period the Hampstead area became a haven for the wealthy due to the spas at Hampstead Wells, and the fresh air, which were thought to have significant health benefits.
Many fascinating and often eccentric residents lived in the House, which was a residential property until 1937. Notable examples include William Gibbons, the physician at the Hampstead Wells spa, Victorian miniature portraitist George Williamson, and Elsie Bambridge, the daughter of writer Rudyard Kipling. Kids will love learning about all these different characters at Burgh House, each of whom made their own individual mark on the House. Gibbons, for example, added the wood-panelling that can still be seen today in the Music Room, in addition to the impressive front gates. You can see his initials carved on the gates if you look closely enough!
The Burgh House we know today was given to the Burgh House Trust after local residents spent two years raising money to avoid the historic House being sold. It remains an important centre of community life in the Hampstead areas and is beloved by local families. The Hampstead Museum was founded at Burgh House at this time.
The main collection at Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum is full of captivating objects from the local area that kids will love. The collection is displayed on the first floor and in the Library and illustrates Hampstead throughout the ages. Some of these intriguing items include the High Hill Penguin, which was signed by the founder of Penguin Books himself, an ornate red leather mayor’s seat and a matchstick replica of Burgh House. Curious kids who love learning will adore discovering these many objects, which make up one of the best free exhibitions in London.
Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum also run temporary exhibitions. Previously, these have included everything from an exploration of Hampstead’s reaction to political turmoil in the 20th century to an exhibition focusing on the leisure activities of inhabitants of Hampstead through the ages. If your kids or teens love art and are seeking some inspiration, then Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum is worth a trip. Temporary exhibitions by local artists often feature in the Peggy Jay Gallery on the first floor, such as artist Natalie Sirett’s Medusa inspired artwork displayed in 2019.
There are also many exciting kids activities at Burgh House, making it ideal for a family visit. Children will love the interactive Family Trail, designed by children from a local primary school. This directs you through the museum’s most exciting objects and includes questions which will fully immerse your children in the fascinating world of Burgh House. Younger children will delight in the Kids Corner, which includes historical dress-up costumes and colouring-in, and can be found on the first floor of the House. Special events are also regularly run for kids and older teens at Burgh House, such as photography workshops and art sessions during the school holidays and concerts for babies and toddlers. A three-day Museum Perspectives workshop that teaches older teens (from the age of 14 upwards) museum skills such as curating, and object handling are also run each year. This is perfect for older children who are interested in a career in the world of the arts.
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