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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 James

    Date: 1742-46
    Designed: Extensive repairs, especially to north facade, for 4th Earl of Dysart.

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    Architect: Bodley & Garner

    Date: 19th century
    Designed: Restored house

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    Architect: William Samwell

    Date: 1672-75
    Designed: Enlarged (added suite of rooms on south facade)

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    Architect: William Bruce

    Date: 1670s
    Designed: Consulted by the Countess of Lauderdale for redesigns of house

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  • 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
    ISBN: 9780300125085
    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.)
    ISBN: 0312046405
    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
    ISBN: 0810965909
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: National Trust Magazine, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: No. 99, Summer 2003, pg. 8
    Publisher: Swindon: The National Trust
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II*

  • "84 Charing Cross Road" (1986 - as the staircase Anthony Hopkins climbs to buy books during a country house sale). "Spice World" (1997). "Lorna Doone" (2000). "To Kill a King" (2003). "Agatha Christie: Poirot" (2006 - TV series, as the stables where Poirot confronts Major Despard in the episode "Cards on the Table"). "Ballet Shoes" (2007 - TV). "Sense and Sensibility" (2008 - TV mini series, as Cleveland exteriors and Norland interiors). "The Young Victoria" (2009 - as exterior and interiors of Kensington Palace). "Never Let Me Go" (2010 - as the exterior of Hailsham School). "Anna Karenina" (2012 - as Vronksy's apartment). "A Little Chaos" (2014 - as André Le Nôtre's home). "The Scandalous Lady W" (2015 - TV movie). "Victoria and Abdul" (2017). "The Great" (2020 - TV series). "Mary & George" (2024 - TV mini series).
  • 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

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 02089-401-950

    Fax: 02083-326-903

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No