Tucked in a side street not far from Hampstead Heath lies Keats’ House. A museum and monument dedicated to the famous British poet John Keats, it was also the residence of the writer between 1818 and 1820. These were perhaps Keats’ must productive years, and his most famous poem ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ was supposedly composed underneath the plum tree in the garden. While he lived there he also became engaged to Fanny Brawne, who also happened to be his neighbour. Sadly, Keats became ill with tuberculosis, and died in Italy in 1821, unmarried.
These days, Keats’ House is a museum to the Romantic poet and his short life. You can explore his life and work through exhibits of original manuscripts and artefacts, the engagement ring Keats offered to Fanny Brawne and a copy of his death mask. The museum also runs regular poetry and literary events for lovers of poetry.
Hampstead’s blue plaques
The blue plaques that you see on buildings throughout London are part of a project that started in 1866, with the aim of linking the buildings of the present with the people of the past. You can find out where people were born, lived, worked and died simply by looking up whenever you see a plaque.
William Blake (1757-1827) and John Linnell (1792-1882)
English landscape and portrait painter John Linell lived at the Old Wyldes, a quaint cottage on the fringes of Hampstead in the 19th century. His friend, the celebrated poet and painter William Blake, stayed with him at this house as a guest.
The notable Huxley family lived at 16 Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. The father, Leonard Huxley (1860-1933), was an eminent writer and school teacher, and he had two celebrated sons: Julian Huxley (1887-1975), a biologist, and Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), an author.
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Famous novelist D.H. Lawrence lived at 1 Byron Villas in 1915. Noted for his works on the dehumanising effects of modernisation and industrialisation, he was already a celebrated novelist when he stayed in Hampstead. His book The Rainbow was also published that year.
Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
On the fringes of the Heath, New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield lived with her husband John Middleton Murray at 17 East Heath Road, Hampstead. She was notable for her short stories in the Modernist genre.
George Du Maurier (1834-1896)
British cartoonist and author George Du Maurier lived at New Grove House, Hampstead, between 1874 and 1895. He became famous as a cartoonist for the magazine Punch in the 19th century, as well as three novels, which he wrote in Hampstead.