|Ham House and Gardens *||Richmond|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Ham House is the remains of a C17th estate and its gardens. Built in 1610, Ham House was extended in the 1670s for the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, who laid out formal gardens, planting fine approach avenues to the east and south of the house, which also had fine riverside views. The Lauderdales' gardens were praised by John Evelyn in 1678. The house and c.7 hectares of the grounds were given to the National Trust in 1948, and restoration of the gardens to their late C17th form began in the mid-1970s.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/08/2011
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Ham House - Photo: Sarah Jackson
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Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Ham House was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, an H-shaped building with a formal garden. From 1626 it was the home of the first Earl of Dysart. He was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth, Countess of Dysart, whose second husband was the Earl, later Duke, of Lauderdale, for whom the house was remodelled and extended in 1672-74 by William Bruce. In the 1670s it was used mainly as their summer residence where it was 'at the heart of Restoration court life and intrigue' (NT handbook). After the Duke died in 1682, the Duchess lived at Ham until her own death in 1698, when it was inherited by her son, 3rd Earl of Dysart, but the estate was then neglected until his son, the 4th Earl of Dysart, inherited in 1727. In the 1770s a more informal design was given to the gardens with walls removed and walks grassed over, and in 1787 the early C17th stable buildings were enlarged, later converted to housing in 1979/80. In the early C20th the estate had passed to Sir Lyonel Tollemache, a descendent of the Countess of Dysart and her first husband, also Sir Lyonel Tollemache. In 1948 the property was presented to the National Trust by Cecil Tollemache. The Trust initially leased it to the Ministry of Works, and Ham House was maintained in consultation with the V&A Museum, London. Following their neglect in the C18th and C19th, a large private donation from the Stanley Smith Foundation enabled the National Trust to begin restoration of the central gardens from the mid-1970s. In 1992 maintenance of the house reverted to the Trust.
The original approach drives to Ham House were from Petersham to the east, with a lodge and avenue, and from the south with an avenue of 0.75 km, later extended further to the south-east for 1.25 km by Ham Gate Avenue, also with a lodge, and cutting through Ham Common (q.v.). The north gateway with forecourt of 1671 and the gateways on the south front of 1675/6, were also by William Bruce. The Duke of Lauderdale's formal gardens of the 1670s have formed the basis of the recent garden restoration. They were mainly laid out south of the house and included the approach avenues to east and south and the formal view to the north beyond the forecourt. There was a fine view to the Thames and Marble Hill House (q.v.) on the north bank. A terrace ran along the south front of the house with steps down to the main south garden. A central path between the lawn, which was divided into eight squares, leads to the Wilderness, a rectangular area of hedges and trees cut across by geometrical paths and punctuated by statues. In 2000 copies of the C17th statues were installed in the gardens. To the east of the house a small formal area with diamond pattern was also laid out.
EH Register: Country Life, 26/12/1925 p998-1001, 30/1/1948 p226-228, 9/10/1975 p902-903; Victoria County History, Surrey 8, 1911 p525-529; 'Blest Retreats' LB Richmond 1984, p43-45; Ham House guidebook, V & A 1986; J Harris, 'The Artist and the Country House', 1979; G S Thomas 'Gardens of the National Trust', 1979. Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999.