Textile treasures at Ham

Silk damask on an armchair at Ham House. ©NTPL/John Bethell

A little while ago Janet Blyberg lamented the fact that she couldn’t find many images of the textiles at Ham House (in this post on her blog). So I have tried to show some here, but it is true that images of the most dramatic textiles at Ham are difficult to find. Perhaps the colleagues at the National Trust Photo Library will consider adding this subject to their (very long) list of potential shoots?

The entrance front of Ham House. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Ham House, on the banks of the Thames near Richmond in Surrey, was given to the National Trust in 1948 by Sir Lionel Tollemache, 4th Baronet, and his son Cecil. In those days the National Trust had hardly any curatorial staff, so it was decided that the Victoria and Albert Museum should administer the house. The museum’s curators did pioneering research into the seventeenth-century interiors at Ham. The Trust took over the running of the house and its collection in 1990.

Portrait of Elizabeth Murray (1626-1698) by Peter Lely. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The dominant spirit at Ham is that of Elizabeth Murray, described as ‘a woman of beauty … restless in her ambition, profuse in her expense, and of a most ravenous covetousness.’ After marrying the powerful Duke of Lauderdale, minister under King William III, Elizabeth and her husband made the interiors at Ham into a feast of baroque opulence.

French armchair dating to the 1670s, part of a set of twelve in the North Drawing Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As Janet noted, the baroque atmosphere at Ham has been preserved to a remarkable degree, although later generations did make some changes.

Wall hanging in the Queen’s Antechamber. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

 The wall hangings in the Queen’s Antechamber were originally put up in around 1680. The blue velvet border is original, but the blue damask central panels were replaced with new pink damask in the 1880s (now faded to brown). The appliqué  corner motifs were transferred from the original material. The walls were originally protected with case curtains of ‘yealow stript Indian Sarsnet’.

The Marble Dining Room. ©NTPL/John Hammond

 Of related interest are the stamped leather wall hangings in the Marble Dining Room which were supplied to Elizabeth’s great-grandson, the 4th Earl of Dysart, in 1756. Leather was used in dining rooms because it was thought not to retain food smells.

Detail of the leather wall hangings in the Marble Dining Room. ©NTPL/John Bethell

3 Responses to “Textile treasures at Ham”

  1. style court Says:

    Delighted to learn about the leather wall hangings. Such a terrific example of centuries-old design that feels contemporary.

  2. Janet Says:

    Oh, the armchairs. The fringe alone makes me swoon. I had forgotten about the leather wall hangings in the dining room…but I do recall chuckling when the guide apologized for those more “recent” updates.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes the sense of time in some of the these places is rather stretched-out. When Mrs Irene Whitmore-Jones first opened Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, to the public in the late 1940s she used to tell visitors that the family had lost their money in ‘the war’. By this she meant not the Second or even the First World War, but the English Civil War. I am glad you like the images.

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