More cool facts about Ham House

Last month, I did a mini factfile-type thing about Ham House, where I volunteer as a ‘historic baker’. About two weeks ago, I went on a guided tour of the house, specially organised for the volunteers. So this is inside info I’ve got for you here.

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Ok, first things first, the house was built in 1610 by a man called Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I.

William Murray took over the lease in 1626. He was the whipping boy of Charles I and there is a painting of the king hanging in the Long Gallery, which was given to Murray by Charles.

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It was originally built in the shape of a H. As you can see in the picture above, it still resembles a H shape at the front. The back was filled in during the time of the Duchess of Lauderdale, in the late 1600s.

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(You can sort of see the back of the house here.)

After a time of popularity with influential politicians, the Duke of Lauderdale fell out of favour and the family found that they were no longer entertaining the large crowds that they had once accommodated in the banqueting hall, which ran the length of the middle of the H shape.

To allow more light into the hall downstairs, the Duchess had the floor opened up and created what is now the Round Gallery.

All the gardens were built in patterns which ran along straight lines as that was the fashion then. Order and symmetry was thought to be the most pleasing on the eye.

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The little statues in the walls at the front of the house were rescued when the original wall, which ran between Ham House and the river, was knocked down in the early 1800s.

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There are ghosts in Ham House! Tons, apparently. And quite a few in the kitchen, where I work. Apparently people have seen a dog running down the corridors which is thought to be the Duchess of Lauderdale’s dog as dogs are not actually allowed in the property as it is now.

And last but not least, when tea was first arriving on the scene in the UK, apparently it was drunk very often at Ham House.

Thank you, Ham House. Thank you for showing us the way.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. I may have missed it… But where exactly is ham house in London? I love haunted houses!! Imagine what went on here back in the day!

    Reply

    • It’s just along the river from Richmond, heading out towards Windsor. I’d love to know all the stories from the days when the house was filled with people. Especially the things that happened downstairs with the servants etc because you don’t get to hear about their lives really. You just make guesses from little clues.

      Reply

  2. Someday I will visit Ham House. What is the photo underneath the Round Gallery paragraph?

    Reply

  3. Ah Ham House. How I loved the gardens. We could take children to work in the vegetable garden from school sometimes. My own daughters loved to play hide and seek there and I once went to a memorable training day on teaching history there. Thank you for bringing back so many lovely memories.

    Reply

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Ham House is brilliant. I’ve been volunteering there for a few months. I bake cakes and biscuits using 17th century recipes. A few times a year, children from local schools come in and dress up as servants and bake cakes then they put fancy clothes on and go upstairs and pretend to be lords and ladies of the manor. It looks like tons of fun.

      Reply

  4. […] is a follow on from two earlier posts about the […]

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