The independent London newspaper

Sham Bridge on Hampstead Heath ruined by rot

Historic pond decoration near Kenwood to be replaced

22 February, 2018 — By Richard Osley

A “BRIDGE” on Hampstead Heath that you can look at but not walk over is to be dismantled.

Work to replace the “Sham Bridge”, which is a purely ornamental, two-dimensional structure near Kenwood House, is due to begin this summer.

The Historic England Trust say the bridge, which gives the illusion of providing a walkway over the Thousand Pound Pond, is rotting. Plans were unveiled this week to dismantle it by hand, and install a new timber “bridge” faithful to the original design.

The Sham Bridge dates back to the mid-18th century but has had several repair and rebuild jobs since then. It was created as an “eye-catch” for visitors gazing towards London through the Kenwood Estate. An application for planning consent said: “Bearing in mind its status as a significant building on one of English Heritage’s flagship sites, the condition of the Sham Bridge has long been a cause of concern for the Trust.

The structure is a highly visible, decorative landscape feature and it has been decaying progressively since it was last restored in 1993, impacting on the aesthetic and historical values of Kenwood Park as a heritage asset.”

The paperwork added: “The bridge was cleverly designed and, although no more than a false screen or trompe l’oeil to enhance the view of the landscaped gardens from the house, it remains a testament of the ingenuity of the designer and the fashion in landscape design for picturesque and fanciful features which had no practical purpose.”

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