Ham House and Garden
- | 020 8940 1950
- | www.nationaltrust.org.uk
- Free entry with National Art Pass.
- View venue & entry details
One of a series of grand houses alongside the River Thames, Ham House and Garden is an unusually complete survivor of the 17th century.
Rich in history and atmosphere, Ham was largely the vision of Elizabeth Murray, the Duchess of Lauderdale (later the Countess of Dysart), who played an important role in the machinations of the English Civil War and later the restoration of the monarchy.
The house is one of the most haunted in Britain; it was subject to a year long investigation by the Ghost Club which recorded a number of phenomena that remain 'unexplained'. Visitors attest to sightings of the Duchess of Lauderdale and her dog, which is reported to have been seen running down the corridors – despite the fact no dogs are allowed in the building. It is also said that the aroma of the sweet Virginia pipe tobacco that the Duke smoked after meals can be detected in the dining room.
Outdoors the photogenic Cherry Garden is a particular highlight, while the walnut and chestnut trees in the outer courtyard have become roosting sites for an exotic flock of green parakeets.
The permanent collection includes furniture, textiles and paintings surviving from Elizabeth Murray's day. There is also a rare Chinese teapot, said to have been used by the Duchess herself.
Art Funded works
In 1994 a donation was made through the Art Fund of a 17th-century teapot and a Chinese Imari chamberpot to Ham House. The teapot is displayed in the room known as 'her Grace's Private Closet'. Much of the furniture in the Duchess's closet was lacquered in the eastern style, the Orient being the source of the tea which was drunk in the room.
The chamberpot is displayed in the museum room described in 1679 as the 'Roome over ye Chappel'. This room was originally used as a bedroom and hung with tapestry. The Chinese Imari chamber pot has a compressed globular body and everted lip, the body painted in red, blue and gold with pagoda buildings in a river landscape.
The garden café is set in one of the first examples of an Orangery; however it was not an ideal building for plants to grow as the windows are small, meaning very little light could reach the citrus trees.