Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Kenwood: interview with John H.

John H. grew up at Kenwood in the 1980s; that's him on the swing in the Thames At 6 footage. I managed to track him down (or rather, he contacted me; "research" for this blog usually involves little more than periodically checking my in-box).
He was kind enough to provide interesting answers to my inane questions:

Were your family aware of Kenwood's history when they bought it?
My parents did not know that the house belonged to John Lennon when they bought it.
So what attracted them to the place?
They chose between this house and another house. This house had larger rooms and felt a lot more open. Also the view is great from the upper floors. You can see all the way to Guilford from where the blue window had been!
What renovations happened during your time at Kenwood - were there any major changes?
We renovated the sun room into a breakfast room, the kitchen was redone, the upstairs TV-room was renovated (Bedroom no.2), the master bedroom and bathroom were completely redone (master bedroom had an oriental theme and the bathroom was redone into black marble with Jacuzzi and walk in closets). We re-did one of the upstairs bathrooms to an en-suite bathroom for bedroom no.4 (my room).

In the attic area not much was done except that the blue room was repainted and the blue window changed to a normal glass window. Then there were a lot of things we wanted to do but never got round to. Like re-do the pool house and the garage area that was done in 1995. Most of the renovations were done I think in 88/89. The blue room was changed earlier - I think, around ‘85.

Was John's mirrored recess by one of the windows still there in the 80s?
Not sure about the mirror recess.
Can you shed any more light on the sunroom - was it a completely new structure during the 80s, or the same structure as the 60s, but modified?
It was redone during the renovations as mentioned above. Proper heating, double glazed windows and a gas fireplace was installed.

What was John's attic studio room used as during your time there? Was the layout of the rooms the same as in the plan? If so, what were the two small rooms off the hall used for?
The attic looked very much the same as the plan. The difference being that the studio was used as a bedroom and there was a bathroom and large closet to the right when you entered the room. In the studio room both my sisters claim they saw a white figure of a bearded man in that room. They didn’t dare to sleep there for months! The attic room, bed room no. 6, was used as a guest room. Bedroom no.5 was used as storage space. The cats room was also used as a storage space. This room had the old boiler at the far end and was a proper attic, dark, cramped and creepy. There was a half staircase leading up to it.

Did you often get people appearing at the front gate wanting to have a look round the property?
During the better part of living there we didn't use the gate, so people would knock on our door. There was at least a couple of enthusiasts every year who would come by. We didn't let them in but they were allowed to look round the property.
Speaking of the gate, an architect who worked on the place in 1995 has told me that he remembers the Lennon-era gate, covered in graffiti, lying discarded near the then current gate - were there any obvious remnants of the Lennon-era in the grounds?
Yes I remember the gate too, lying beside the entrance. It had writing such as "I love John" etc., which I always thought was amusing since my name is John. The gate was a solid wood gate. When we lived there the gate was metal bars.
By the 1980s, were there any rooms which, to the best of your knowledge, were unchanged since John's time?
I think the layout of many of the rooms were pretty much unchanged. The sunroom I'm sure was much the same, also the pool rooms I think were the same. I guess you would have to check with Bill Martin if he renovated anything during his time.
Could you describe the old, small Tarrant garage? Did it have an upstairs?
The Tarrant garage was a single garage and there was not a top floor.
Have you been back to St George's Hill since you moved out?
I was back in 1998. The thing I thought was a bit of a shame was how they Americanized the house with huge pillars in the front. The whole layout was also redone. It felt a bit like a completely different house. Some of the old charm had gone. But I saw your film of the gardens. Great that they cleared up the bottom half of the garden. It was almost a jungle when we lived there.

Many thanks go to John for taking the time to answer these questions.


  1. That's a composite photo by the pool I put together using photos from my friend Russ Lease's visit to Kenwood in the early 90s. An American couple owned Kenwood and was renting the place and Russ knocked on the door and was allowed to take video and shoot pictures. As fate would have it, the video was accidentally erased but the pictures survived.