Ham House - History and Facts | History Hit

Ham House

London, England, United Kingdom

A 17th century mansion, Ham House is an opulent melting pot of British and European Renaissance design.

Lily Johnson

10 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Ham House

An opulent 17th century mansion, Ham House in London was once a bustling political playground for the courtiers of the Stuart dynasty, from the reigns of James I to Charles II.

Ham House history

Built by Sir Thomas Vavasour in 1610, Ham House epitomised the great competition between courtiers rampant during the 17th century, in which the richest of Stuart society fought for the approval and favour of the monarch.

The notable grandeur of the house is probably a reflection of its most formidable resident, Elizabeth Maitland, Duchess of Lauderdale – a woman “restless in her ambition, profuse in her expense and of a most ravenous covetousness.”

A cunning Royalist, she protected the interests of the house during the English Civil War and even befriended Oliver Cromwell to cover her tracks. During the Interregnum however she joined a secret organisation known as the Sealed Knot – commissioned by the future Charles II himself – and plotted for the Restoration of the Monarchy.

Elizabeth even travelled to Europe to meet with the young king, and following his return to the throne in 1660 was rewarded greatly. Over the course of her life she expanded and renovated Ham House, transforming it into the marvel it is today.

Ham House today

Today Ham House is managed by the National Trust and welcomes visitors to view its many intriguing features. An important architectural gem, the House is a melting pot of British and European design and reflects many of the Renaissance‘s stylistic trends.

The material wealth of Ham House, still seen in the impressive collection of original furnishings and textiles, also gives visitors a first-hand understanding of just what wonders were at stake for the glitterati of the English court.

For those brave enough, visitors may risk a meeting with the ghost of the Duchess of Lauderdale through one of the site’s atmospheric ghost tours, while audio tours are also available for those seeking a more relaxed exploration of the House.

Touching the Thames, the gardens are a particular highlight with their peaceful flower meadows and vast variety of wildlife – you may forget you are near the bustling capital city at all! Beautiful and tranquil, Ham House provides a pleasant and informative visit for all the family.

Getting to Ham House

Ham House is located in Richmond-upon-Thames in London, on the south bank of the Thames west of the A307. It is well linked to the M3, M4, and M25, and has free parking 400 yards away in the riverside car park. The nearest train and Underground station is Richmond, a 40-minute walk away, while the 371 and 65 bus services also stop in the nearby area.

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