Monday, 12 January 2009

Ham House

The CILIP in London summer outing (which I was kindly invited to) was at Ham House in Richmond on 12 August 2008. It was a really interesting day and the weather was also very sunny. It was the first time I had ever visited Richmond and it was certainly a day to remember. Richmond was very unusual for a London setting because of how natural it was and how peaceful it felt.

I learnt that the Ham House building was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, whose family had remained at the building up until 1948. Up to this point much restoration and renewals had taken place such as electricity and heat installation in the building. It was given to the National Trust in 1948. I found out that a ghost/ghostly presence has been reported there.

The Ham House building is very much part of our British heritage and British History. I really like Jane Austen, so was very interested to find out that Jane Austen’s 'Sense and Sensibility' had been filmed in the building. I myself had guessed beforehand, when walking up to it, and around it, that the area looked like a Jane Austen setting. During the 17th Century this kind of location was central to Europe’s fashion and power. The house has changed little since it was first built. The building also contains many paintings and old furniture which is ideal for keeping the sense of old English tradition. The paintings and furniture collections are rare and the level of light is to avoid any damage to these collections. William Murray took charge of the Ham House in 1626 and remodeled the great Hall (now the Hall gallery) where he placed paintings. He was very fond of art and architecture. William Murray joined the Civil War and unfortunately died in 1655.

Ham House has a fascinating library (which had been donated to it) which is extremely old and well preserved. It also has a complicated history. We had a chance to see the library and there was a presentation of the library which I found very interesting. The presentation involved a women showing us old books and giving us an idea of how the library was used. She said it was a ‘Gentleman’s Library’ and that the subjects in the collection represented the interests of the donor gentleman. She was very knowledgeable and obviously really enjoyed her work. There has also been an article written about the Ham House library by Mark Purcell which is named ‘The library at Ham House: National Trust Libraries 2’. It covers the period 1610-1900 and can be obtained from the British Library.

The Ham House building additionally has gardens which are extremely pretty. Amazingly the garden was one of a few formal gardens to survive the English landscape movement. It has a very pleasant and calming atmosphere which compliments the building itself. The walk from Richmond to the house, along the River Thames is beautiful and generally was very pleasant and enjoyable.

I took some photos of the Ham House gardens and along the River Thames as well and one of these pictures is on this blog.

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