What Is Burgh House?

A. Gamm
A. Gamm
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Burgh House is a mansion turned museum that once had a wide variety of occupants. From the time it was built in 1704 to the time it became an official museum in 1979 eccentric people well-known in the community moved in and out of the house, each making small changes to the mansion. It was briefly occupied by the Royal East Middlesex Militia and also once held a community center. The local community's interest in the building helped to turn Burgh House into a museum when threats of it being used commercially were presented. As of 2011 it is an active family-orientated museum that uses modern technology to preserve the history of the mansion and its local area.

The first owners of Burgh House were Henry and Hannah Sewell who lived there until 1920, at which point Dr. William Gibbons bought the house and made the first additions including a wrought iron gate with his initials that still exists as of 2011. From 1740 onward a large collection of people moved in and out of the house, many of whom were known for their slight eccentricities. The Royal East Middlesex Militia took over the house in 1858, and it was not until 1884 that it became a residential home again. Then from 1937 until 1946, the house remained unoccupied until the Hampstead Borough Council acquired the house and reopened it as a community center with a Citizen's Advice Bureau located in the basement.

The center closed in 1977 under the ownership of the Camden Council when rot was found in the wood. Soon, the council threatened that Burgh House may open for commercial use, and as a result the local community opened a trust to save the mansion. They managed to raise £50,000, which was the equivalent of $87,275 US Dollars (USD) in 1977, and the house reopened as a museum. This museum required more refurbishment in the 21st century and reopened in 2006.

Displays of what Burgh House may have looked liked centuries ago cover the museum’s first floor. The rest of the museum comprises artifacts that focus on the art and life surrounding Hampstead. Burgh House claims it traced the history of the area back to prehistoric times. The majority of the museum is centered on the areas of social history, notable residents and fine art. Unlike many British museums, Burgh House also has a database of oral history, which contains taped interviews of past museum employees and local residents who experienced the changes in the community first hand.

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