Last week the Ancestry.co.uk team went to Ham House in Richmond to volunteer our services and help preserve the beautiful 17th century house for a day. The volunteering took shape in a number of guises – removing tree suckers from lime trees, polishing brass pots and pans, and re-potting seedlings.
Built in 1620 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I, this grand house sits majestically alongside the Thames and boasts a history as rich as the atmosphere. To give you a brief glimpse into this history, Ham house was given to a gentleman called William Murray in 1626, who was a close friend of Charles I. Interestingly, this gentleman had in fact been the future King’s ‘whipping boy’, meaning that he would take the young prince’s punishments because royalty was not allowed to be beaten. The two men became firm friends, their friendship further consolidated by the same tastes in architecture and art.
When William died in 1655, Ham House passed to his daughter Elizabeth who became the Countess of Dysart. Known for being very beautiful, ambitious and political, she is thought to have belonged to the Sealed Knot, a secret organisation which supported the exiled King and was very contraversial in the day. She re-married the 1st Duke of Lauderdale, Secretary of State for Scotland, following the death of her first husband, and had Ham refurnished and made into the luxurious house it is known as today.
This stunning house continued to be passed down through the generations until the Sir Lyonel Tollemache and his son Cecil gave Ham House and Garden to the National Trust in 1948.
One of the things that struck me most about Ham was the grounds and gardens maintained by an army of skilled and knowledgeable gardeners, conservators, technicians and stewards to name but a few. Their vegetable garden is certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, featuring an explosion of colours and smells and powering the kitchens that make food for those visiting the beautiful property.
The Ancestry team removed tree suckers from lime trees in front of the grand house, encouraging growth in the crown of the tree; and spent much of the afternoon polishing some of the old brass pots and pans which now adorn the shelves of the kitchen, typically in the basement.
Spending the day at such a historical location and being talked through some of the stories which have survived the test of time, was very special for the Ancestry team, so here are a few photos we took to share with our members.
Ancestry.co.uk and the National Trust are working together to inspire people to discover their heritage by exploring their family history. The UK’s towns and cities, grand homes and humble dwellings, and the individuals and families who have inhabited them over the centuries are part of our country’s rich heritage. By combining these historical resources with modern expertise we hope to raise awareness of conserving our UK heritage and the stories that shape it.