The banks of the River Thames to the south-west of London are dotted with stately homes and grand palaces. From Kew Palace to the Duke of Northumberland’s Syon Park, to Marble Hill House and the majestic Hampton Court Palace.
So when I was browsing through the National Trust’s handbook and came across Ham House and Garden, also on the banks of the Thames, just south of Richmond, I decided it was the perfect place for a day trip with my Mum.
Ham House is a large 17th century stately home, built in 1610 by Sir Thomas Vavasour. Not long after, it passed into the hands of the courtier William Murray, and then onto his daughter Elizabeth and her descendants, the Tollemache family. In 1948 it was acquired by the National Trust.
The house is a grand affair, unusual in the fact that much of its decor and furnishings date back to the 17th century.
On going inside, we made our way through the hall and up the great stairway to the first floor and from there, began working our way through the stately pile’s many rooms.
The house is still furnished much as it would have been during the time of Elizabeth Murray and her second husband John Maitland, the Duke of Lauderdale.
The pair were close to King Charles II, and at the time, their home was one of the grandest in Restoration England.
The pair travelled widely, and many of the objects and furnishings on display were pieces the couple collected on their travels or commissioned.
One of my favourite rooms was the long gallery on the first floor (above). Its walls were encased in wood panelling and lined with a series of portraits.
The house has featured in a number of films and television programmes over the years, and the long gallery is so striking, I vividly remembered it from Anna Karenina.
There was a natural route through the house, and we followed it around the first floor, down to the ground floor and from there into the basement.
The latter was home to a large wine cellar, a bathroom featuring an innovative 17th century shower and an impressive kitchen with an enormous work bench (below).
Having seen everything in the house, we made our way outside and began touring the extensive gardens that surround the property.
We strolled around the formal gardens, including the small garden to the side of the house filled with lavender bushes and perfectly manicured pyramid-shaped hedges (below).
We then ambled through the wilderness, a huge space with no formal planting behind the house, before making our way to the walled kitchen gardens beside the orangery, which now houses the estate’s tea room. There’s also a small ice house, dairy and shop within the grounds.
I enjoyed Ham House and its very pleasant gardens. I haven’t visited many stately homes from the 17th century, so it was interesting to see the architecture and the decor from that era, and to learn more about how the other half lived during the Restoration period.
Ham House made for a lovely day out – and my Mum had a great time, too!
Ham House is around 30 minutes’ walk or a short bus ride (hop on the 371) from Richmond Station. To get there on foot, make your way through the centre of Richmond to the River Thames, then follow the Thames Path west to Ham.
It’s a lovely walk when the weather’s fine, so if it’s a nice day and you have plenty of time, I’d recommend factoring in a stroll to and from the property along the Thames Path.
Ham House, Ham Street, Ham, Surrey TW10 7RS
Open 10am to 4pm (November to January), 10am to 5pm (February to October)
£13.25 adults, £6.75 children
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