I had high expectations of Hampstead Heath Pergola. I wanted a serene, other-worldly secret garden fit for ambling walks and dramatic pathways that wouldn’t look out of place on a hill-top in Capri. Luckily, that’s exactly what it is.
This quiet, secluded garden was the brainchild of Lord Leverhulme in the early 1900s. The wealthy philanthropist (who lived in the sprawling mansion house that sits ‘next-door’) envisaged a spectacular space for extravagant Edwardian parties and long summer evenings with his family.
His dream was realised in 1906 when the first phase of the work on his Pergola was completed.
It may look like an Italian paradise, but the pergola has Hampstead to its core: the landscape of this special place was created with the help of soil dug up during the extension of the Northern Line to Hampstead.
After the Pergola was extended in 1911, work was interrupted by The Great War. The project was finally completed after another extension shortly before Leverhulme’s death in 1925.
The garden became run-down during World War II and by the time Hampstead Heath was taken over by the City of London Corporation in 1989, many of the original timbers of the Pergola were twisted, rotted and covered in climbing plants.
Much of the stonework was missing or damaged and Leverhulme’s grand Pergola was a shadow of its former glory.
The Hill Garden and Pergola (as it’s now known) has since been restored. Although there’s more work to be done, in my opinion it hasn’t lost any of its charm.
The sweeping views of the gardens are fit for one of London’s Historic Royal Palaces and the overgrown plants winding their way around the stonework of the Pergola only serve to make it look more exquisite.
Lord Leverhulme, I like your style.
Opening hours: 8.30am until early evening (check the City of London website for specific times)
Nearest Tube: Hampstead
More information: See the City of London’s guide to the Pergola’s history (link opens a PDF).
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