Traces of the 9th Earl

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Great Hall at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Occasionally dipping into the great new book about Ham House, I was just reading Michael Hall’s article about the work done to the house by William Tollemache, 9th Earl of Dysart (1859-1935).

Radiator cover in the Great Hall at Ham, designed by Bodley and Garner. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Radiator cover in the Great Hall at Ham, designed by Bodley and Garner. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As I mentioned in a previous post about the 4th Earl of Dysart, Ham somehow acquired the reputation of being a ‘sleeping beauty’, whereas in fact several generations of owners made substantial changes. It is just that their modernisations tended to be fairly subtle and soon blended into the historical whole.

The Queen's Antechamber at Ham, with wall hangings repaired and recreated by Watts & Co. in the 1880s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Queen’s Antechamber at Ham, with wall hangings repaired and recreated by Watts & Co. in the 1880s. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The 9th Earl appears to have been a somewhat tragic but simultaneously rather determined figure. He was born partially sighted and later in life became increasingly deaf, yet he seems to have had a highly developed visual sense and was a keen opera buff, playing Wagner loudly on his radiogram. His nervous disposition did not prevent him from being an able stock market investor, amassing £4.8 million at the time of his death.

'Ravenna' pattern flock wallpaper by Watts & Co, in the White Closet at Ham. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

‘Ravenna’ pattern flock wallpaper by Watts & Co, in the White Closet at Ham. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

When the 9th Earl inherited Ham in 1878 at the age of 19 it had been neglected for almost half a century. He employed the Gothic revival architects G.F. Bodley (1827-1907) and Thomas Garner (1839-1906) to help restore and refurnish the house.

Bodley and Garner added many elements to the interior which at first sight would seem to date from the seventeenth century, such as the coffering underneath the gallery in the Great Hall and the splendid baroque-style radiator cover nearby.

'Pear' pattern flock wallpaper by Watts & Co in the Duchess's Private Closet at Ham. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

‘Pear’ pattern flock wallpaper by Watts & Co in the Duchess’s Private Closet at Ham. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Bodley and Garner founded a company, Watts & Co, to produce furniture, wallpapers and textiles. Watts & Co supplied a number of wallpapers to Ham, some based on seventeenth-century originals found in the house. In this way the interiors at Ham are not just a record of baroque style, but also of the exquisite antiquarianism of the late nineteenth century.

7 Responses to “Traces of the 9th Earl”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    That radiator cover is extremely fine. It is so rare to find retro-fitted central heating dealt with sympathetically or stylishly, even in the greatest houses.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Surely original 17th century radiator covers are about as rare as original 17th century radiators!

    Watts & Co? http://www.wattsandco.com/aboutwattco Apparently also George Gilbert Scott junior, in addition to Bodley and Garner .

    I have a soft spot for his second cousin and heir, Sir Lyonel Tollemache, Bt, son of the eccentric clergyman.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, I agree.

    Andrew, yes the lack of central heating in the seventeenth century slightly gives the game away, doesn’t it? :) As Michael Hall writes in his article, it is the aesthetics of baroque gates à la Tijou applied to Edwardian plumbing.

    Thanks for that link. And yes the Tollemache family is full of fascinating personalities.

  4. Simply Grand Says:

    The beautiful moody photo at the bottom seems to show one of my favorite things–the interesting time-warp effect that occurs when pieces of an earlier date (or, maybe, merely an earlier stylein this case, if Watts & Co supplied the furnishings as well as the wall coverings) are arranged in a manner typical of a later period. Despite the apparent age of all the component pieces, the cozy domesticity of this intimate little grouping seems to have the fingerprints of the 1880s all over it. This isn’t necessarily a style I’d want to live with, but the feel is right.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Simply Grand, yes nothing is quite what it seems at houses like Ham :) Watts & Co are said to have repaired a lot of the furniture at Ham and introduced some new ones as well. But in this particular shot most of the items are seventeenth century: the paneling, the pictures (although there would have been more of them originally), the cabinet, the chairs and the teapot. The table is later and of course the wallpaper is by Watts. I suppose it makes a cosy impression because it is one of the ‘closets’ at Ham, the smallest and most private rooms in the house.

  6. deana Says:

    Having just been there last week, I must say I am dying to get the book.

    It is splendid and the restoration done with a light and practiced hand. It may not be historically accurate but it is done respectfully. Watts did a brilliant job with the textiles.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Great you managed to see this Deana – and I am sorry I didn’t manage to meet up with you, it has been crazily busy.

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