The entrance facade
The entrance loggia
Detail of the entrance facade
The early 20th century garden facade of Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts, which was modeled on Ham House.
Built / Designed For: Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I
House & Family History: Ham was built for Sir Thomas Vavasour and later became the property of John Ramsay, 1st Earl of Holderness, a favorite of James I. After Ramsay's death it became the home of William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart (Murray served as whipping boy to the prince of Wales [later Charles I] in his youth). Murray died without male issue and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir Lyonel Tollemache circa 1647. After Sir Lyonel's death in 1669, Elizabeth married, in 1672, John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale. By all accounts the new countess of Lauderdale was ruthless in her pursuit of power, prestige, and money (a trait shared by her husband). She was active in the Royalist cause during the commonwealth and was associated with the Sealed Knot, the secret society that worked for the king's restoration. The Lauderdales enlarged and refurbished Ham in the 1670s and added the famous busts in the walls of the forecourt. John Evelyn described the interiors as being "furnished like a Great Prince's." Ham is particularly noted for its ornate Queen's Closet. The great staircase is composed of carved and pierced panels instead of the usual balusters. Ham was given to the National Trust in 1948 by Sir Lyonel Tollemache, 4th Bt., whose ancestors had been here for 300 years. The house contains more aspects of 17th century life than any other house in the UK. Its architecture has been unchanged since the 1670s and it contains virtually all of its furnishings from the 17th century. Ham House is named after Ham, a section of Richmond-upon-Thames on the River Thames. The name derives from the Old English Hamme, meaning "place in the bend of a river."
Collections: Urns today in the dining room at Basildon Park came from Ham House.
Comments: Ham is considered one of England's most important Stuart houses and one of the most perfectly preserved 17th century houses in Britain.
Garden & Outbuildings: The following is from John Evelyn's diary after a visit to the gardens at Ham in 1678: "After dinner I walked to Ham to see the House and Garden of the Duke of Lauderdale, which is indeed inferior to few of the best Villas in Italy itself; the House furnished like a great Prince's; the Parterres, Flower Gardens, Orangeries, Groves, Avenues, Courts, Status, Perspectives, Fountains, Aviaries, and all this at the banks of the Sweetest River in the World, must needs be surprising." The gardens have remained virtually unaltered since the 17th century.
Architect: John JamesDate: 1742-46
Architect: William SamwellDate: 1672-75
Vitruvius Britannicus: C. IVth, pls. 65, 66, 1739.
John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, p. 223, 1854.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. IV, 1821.
Country Life: XLVII, 372, 404 plan, 440, 1920. XLVII, 410 [Furniture], 447 [Chimney Furniture], 1920. LVIII, 998, 1925. LXVIII, 754 [Furniture], 1930. CIII, 226, 1948. CLXIII, 206 [Model of Queen's Bedroom], 1978. CLXIX, 250, 322, 1981.
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - HARDBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 2008
Reference: pg. 568
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
Year Published: 1990
Reference: pg. P 407
Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
Book Type: Hardback
Title: V&A Guide to Period Styles: 400 Years of British Art and Design, The
Author: Jackson, Anna; Hinton, Morna
Year Published: 2002
Reference: pg. 31
Publisher: London: V&A Publications
Book Type: Hardback
Title: National Trust Magazine, The
Year Published: NA
Reference: No. 99, Summer 2003, pg. 8
Publisher: Swindon: The National Trust
Book Type: Magazine
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II*
Past Seat / Home of: Sir Thomas Vavasour, early 17th century. John Ramsay, 1st Earl of Holderness, 17th century. William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, 17th century. Sir Lyonel Tollemache, 17th century. John Maitland, 1st Duke and 2nd Earl of Lauderdale and 3rd Lord Thirlestane, late 17th century. Lionel William John Tollemache, 8th Earl of Dysart, 1833-78; William John Manners Tollemache, 9th Earl of Dysart, 1878-1935; Sir Lyonel Felix Carteret Eugene Tollemache, 4th Bt., 1935-48.
Current Ownership Type: The National Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction