Ham House dates from 1610 and was commissioned by Sir Thomas Vavasour, a court official for James I. He didnít live in it for long as he died in 1620, and it was rented out in 1626 to William Murray. He was a friend of Charles I, having grown up taking punishment for Charlesís misdemeanors as was the custom at the time.
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Between 1637 and 1639 Murray remodelled the interior, in particular, inserting a great staircase and state rooms. He also collected artwork. Charles I gave him the title 1st earl of Dysart in 1651. Murray died in 1655, and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, inherited. She had 11 children with her first husband, Sir Lyonel Tollemache, and in 1672 married her second husband, John Maitland, second earl of Lauderdale. He became the lord high commissioner for Scotland and was known for his corruption. They did further renovation and remodelling of Ham House and added furniture, pictures, and wall hangings.
When Elizabeth and John died the house passed to her eldest son who wasnít interested in it. It was his grandson who took over the house on his inheritance in 1727. He had to do extensive repairs to make it habitable. At the end of the 1800s the 9th earl did major restoration work on the furniture and house, and in 1948 it was gifted to the National Trust by Sir Lyonel Tollemache and his son Cecil.
The H-plan house looks across the Thames river. The original two-storey projecting porch and domed turrets are no longer there. In the 1670s the space between the two wings on the south front was filled in, providing a place to view the formal garden. In 1730 the porch was taken down. In the 19th century the brick walls that enclosed the north courtyard were removed. The pineapples along the railings are of Coade stone.
The garden reflects the 17th century style. A cherry garden has lavender and box and yew hedges. The south terrace is in the formal 17th century style. The wilderness garden is formal with hedges and four circular summer-houses. There is a kitchen garden, and an orangery, now a cafe.
Items to note on a house tour:
Great hall: the main room in the 1600s but later a reception area only; 18th century hall chairs, fireplace with carved figures; portraits of wife of 5th earl by Joshua Reynolds, and 4th earl and countess by John Venderbank.
Chapel: once the main family parlour; two box pews for the family still in place; original 17th century altar cloth and hangings; panels of 16th century embroidery.
Inner hall: early 18th century harpsichord; painting of battle of Lepanto attributed to Cornelious Vroom.
Great staircase: built in late 1630s with pierced panel work; panels carved with war trophies; copies of original paintings.
Museum room: once a bedroom, now houses a display of historic textiles.
Hall gallery: served as a great dining room before 1698, floor then removed; ceiling in the style of Inigo Jones dated 1637-39; portrait of duke and duchess of Lauderdale by Sir Peter Lely.
North drawing room: once the withdrawing room it later served as a reception room; set of chairs dated 1670-80 known as the dolphin suite; ivory cabinet of c1660; Indian 1650s floor carpet; early 18th century Mortlake tapestries.
Long gallery: panelling of late 1630s; lacquer cabinet; portraits of Charles I and II.
Green closet: dates from Charles Iís reign; painted ceiling by Franz Cleyn; collection of miniatures (one of Elizabeth I) and small Ďcabinetí paintings; 17th century furniture.
Library closet and library: collection of books; mid 18th century library steps; engravings and prints; 17th century plan of the house.
Antechamber to Queenís bedchamber: decorated for Charles IIís consortís visit; blue damask hangings embroidered with gold thread; simulated olivewood graining; lacquer cabinet; English japanned chairs.
Queenís bedchamber: where official visitors came to conduct business; parquetry floor; fireplace with silver-mounted ash pan and fire irons; became a drawing room in the 1730s; tapestries; gilt pier-tables and glasses; fruitwood furniture.
Queenís closet: served as the final state room; most of original decorations and furniture intact; sleeping chair; decorated fireplace; ceiling painting by Antonio Verrio.
Duchessís private closet: original teapot; Javanese lacquer table; 16th century Venetian paintings; set of English lacquer chairs of 1675.
White closet: painted decoration and hangings; used by the duchess to entertain private guests; 1675 walnut English desk; painted ceiling by Antonio Verrio.
Volury: birdcages in the window bay in the 17th century gave the room its name; 4th earlís pier tables and glasses; 17th century Flemish tapestries.
Withdrawing room: Antwerp cabinet made of ebony inlaid with tortoise shell; pier table; candle stands.
Marble dining room: parquetry floor; leather wall-hangings.
Dukeís dressing room: Dutch ebony cabinet; ebonised stands, table and wall mirror; three biblical paintings.
Duchessís bedchamber: maritime paintings; bed is modern reconstruction of 17th century one; ebony and silver-mounted mirror.
Dukeís closet: overmantel by Thomas Wyck; Dutch writing desk of c1675.
Gentlemenís dining room and back parlour: originally used by upper servants; furnished with various pieces of furniture; family portraits.
Buttery: used to store linen, plate and glasses.
Basement: kitchen fitted out in late 19th century style; 18th century model range and stove; 86 cooking pans and utensils; Duchessís bathroom with original marble floor.
Tel. 020 8940 1950
Garden tours 2nd and 3rd Wednesdays
Program of events; shop; cafe
Located on the south bank of the Thames, west of the A307 between Richmond and Kingston; Thames path passes main entrance; seasonal ferry from Twickenham; bus to within 10 minute walk; parking 400 yards.
Open: house 3rd week March-end Oct, Mon, Tue, Wed, and weekends, 1-5pm; garden all year from 11am-6pm, same days; cafe weekends only Jan-mid March and Nov-mid Dec, otherwise same as house; for full details check the National Trust website.
Note: Unfortunately we cannot show you any interior photos as the National Trust did not allow them to be taken when we visited.