Here is Ham House, a jewel of a house and a stately pile if there ever was one
. Set in the midst of its level lawns and peaceful gardens, Ham House presents itself today as an oasis of calm surrounded by the noisy, westward sprawl of the metropolis. Yet, its present cosetted tranquility belies its bustling past, for it was once a hive of activity – political, social and cultural.
To understand why, you need to go back in time to the reign of the Stuarts in Great Britain. That reign began by accident, in a way, accident of a lack of birth — the last Tudor, Elizabeth I had no children and so the first Stuart, James I came to the throne from Scotland.
Built by a courtier in the reign of James I, i(Ham House) remained a courtier’s house well into the reign of his grandson, Charles II. Better than any other furnished mansion that has survived from the seventeenth century it conveys a sense of what life was like for those who were industrious and fortunate enough to work their way to the top of Stuart government and society. Moreover, it does this, not merely for one particular period of the seventeenth century, but repeatedly for the major part of it.