It’s likely that many a casual walker on Hampstead Heath has made the strange yet serene discovery that is the Pergola. With trellises and stone pillar draped in vines and exotic flowers, it provides a unique space for a quiet wander, and a grand venue for photo shoots.
The Pergola was the product of William H Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, who made his fortune from selling soap. Having become monumentally rich, he purchased The Hill, a large house on Hampstead Heath. Buying up more land around his estate, he hired a landscape architect to improve the expanded gardens. Its centerpiece would be a raised walkway: the Pergola.
Construction began in 1905, but building the Pergola was no easy task. The whole level of the garden needed to be raised, requiring a huge amount of soil and numerous workers—with no aid from mechanical diggers or earth-movers. Fortuitously, it was during the time that the Hampstead extension to the Northern Line was being dug. Ever the shrewd businessman, Lord Leverhulme negotiated for the spoil from the tunneling to be delivered to his land, for which he was even paid a nominal fee!
The first part of the Pergola was completed by 1906, and Lord Leverhulme would later purchase more land, enabling him to extend the Pergola in both 1911 and 1925. After his death, the subsequent owners of The Hill were less invested in the Pergola, and its grandeur declined to the point that the once-grand walkway was almost falling down when the London County Council took the structure and surrounding gardens into its care in 1960. In the many years since, the Pergola has undergone significant restoration.
Today, it is open to all. The Pergola is a great place to escape the rush of London, as it’s a quiet space draped in blossoms during spring, bursting with green in summer, and covered with a carpet of orange and red leaves in autumn. Or perhaps it would be a good place to perambulate and discuss betrayal, being rather reminiscent of the gardens in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Know Before You Go
The garden opens daily at 8:30 a.m. Its closing time varies greatly throughout the year, see its website for details.