Keats House
Keats House
Romantic poet John Keats lived in this simple Regency house in Hampstead, north London, from 1818-20, and it was here that he wrote his best-loved poetry. The house is now a museum dedicated the poet's life and work.
The Grade I listed white-stuccoed house in Keats Grove, Hampstead, was built in 1815, one of a pair of semi-detached houses called Wentworth Place. In 1818 John Keats rented one of the houses with his friend Charles Brown, paying 5 pounds per month and sharing the liquor bill.

The neighbouring house was occupied by a widow named Frances Brawne and her 3 children. It was not long before Keats met and fell in love with the Brawne's eldest daughter, Fanny, then aged 18. Fanny helped Keats get over his grief at the death of his younger brother Tom from tuberculosis, and in October 1819 the couple became engaged to be married.

The engagement was kept a secret at first, for fears that Mrs Brawne would object. It is not terribly surprising that Keats feared Mrs Brawne's objection, for he had given up on his plans to make a career in medicine in order to devote himself to poetry. He had no financial prospects and no suggestion that his poetic endeavours could help him support a family. When news of the engagement came out, Mrs Brawne withheld her consent until Keats could prove himself financially stable.

During his time at Wentworth Place Keats was at his most productive. He wrote his arguably most famous work, Ode to a Nightingale, under a plum tree in the garden.

17th century mulberry tree in the garden
17th-century mulberry tree in the garden
Unfortunately, the poet's health was on a downward spiral. He became very frail, and doctors advised him to move to Italy to avoid the damp and cold English winter. He died in Italy on 23 February 1821. Keat's sister, also named Fanny, later occupied the house with her husband Valentin Llanos. The two houses were combined into one in 1838 by Miss Chester, an actress and one-time mistress of George IV.

The house was occupied by a succession of tenants until 1925 when it was threatened with demolition. It was saved from destruction by a public appeal for funds and opened to the public as the Keat's Memorial House museum.

The museum holds a wealth of Keats memorabilia, including his death mask, and the engagement ring he gave Fanny Brawne. See the bedroom where Keats was diagnosed with consumption and the garden where he met with Fanny. There are collections of books, letters, paintings, furniture, and everyday household objects that Keats would have used. One of the books is Keats' copy of Milton's Paradise Lost.

There is a poignant medallion containing a lock of the poet's hair, made for his sister Fanny. Also on show are a large number of objects owned by Fanny Brawne, including her hair ribbon, scarf, bodice, needlecase, and a lock of her hair in a frame.

The museum holds an ongoing series of events including public lectures, literature and poetry readings. In the garden is a gnarled mulberry tree, thought to date to the 17th century and possibly part of an old orchard on the site.

Keat's House is close to Hampstead Heath overground rail station, and the nearest underground stations are Belsize Park and Hampstead, both about 750 metres away. There is a small charge for admission, with discounts for National Trust members.