Last month, Kenwood House in Hampstead reopened in style. Everyone, from The Prince of Wales downwards, was there to celebrate the revival of Robert Adam’s rooms, which looked their glamorous best in lighting that imitated candles.
It was a chance to remember, with gratitude, the Iveagh Bequest, by which the brewing peer the Earl of Iveagh left, not only Kenwood to the nation in 1927, but also an astounding collection of masterpieces. In his speech, The Prince of Wales- slightly hoarse after his trip to India and Sri Lanka- expressed his conviction that the restoration of heritage is not a fuddy-duddy preoccupation, but that it can regenerate communities, create jobs and attract investment. This has been demonstrated through his own engagement with Dumfries House, in the depressed Ayrshire coalfields. Old military buildings and redundant lunatic asylums can have an equally beneficial effect.
We figuratively lifted a glass-perhaps, in some cases, more than one-to the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act. We also steadied our nerves in the face of the amoeba-like division of English Heritage into two separate organisms, one charged with caring for the properties, the other with listing buildings and planning. Will this moment be celebrated in another 100 years? The mood was uncertain.
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