History of the House
John Keats was born in 1795 and began to write poetry from the age of 18.
Encouraged by his school friend, Charles Cowden Clarke, Keats abandoned his profession as an apothecary surgeon to concentrate on poetry full time. Heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Milton, Keats became one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
During his lifetime, Keats was attacked by the critics and branded as a 'cockney poet', but his posthumous influence has been significant.
Keats wrote some of his best poems at Wentworth Place and it was here that he met and fell in love with 'the girl next door', Fanny Brawne.
Keats House, or Wentworth Place as it was then known, was built from 1814 to 1816 by William Woods, a local builer. It was originally two separate homes, first occupied by Charles Wentworth Dilke and his family, while the smaller, eastern side was occupied by Charles Brown. In December 1818, Keats came to live in Brown’s side of the house, staying here for just 17 months before travelling to Italy where he died.
Eliza Jane Chester moves in
In 1838, the actress Eliza Jane Chester bought the house and knocked through the walls to create a single home. She also added the drawing room at the eastern end of the house (the Chester Room).
Keats's home under threat
The house continued to be a private residence until the early years of the 20th century. In 1920, it was threatened with demolition but a Memorial Committee was formed to save it. After a successful fundraising effort in Britain and the United States, the property was formally acquired on 24th March 1921.
Keats House as a museum
In April 1922, the Committee offered the house to Hampstead Borough Council, who opened it to the public on 9th May 1925.
On 17th July 1931, the library building opened to display the collections.
In 1974-5 the London Borough of Camden undertook a restoration programme, with the aid of a grant from the Historic Buildings Council.
In 1998, the City of London assumed responsibility for Keats House. A programme of conservation work began in 1999 and in 2007 the house was awarded £424,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to allow for the internal restoration of the building. In 2014 Keats House was awarded a grant by Arts Council England to redisplay the house and make the collections more accessible to the public.
Keats House today
Today, Keats House is a registered charity (number 1053381), provided by the City of London Corporation as part of its contribution to the cultural life of London and the nation.