What is this strange symbol painted on basement floor?

What is this strange symbol painted on basement floor?

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Given the layers of dirt this symbol and the walkway were found under, I assume it was painted before the 1960s. The house was likely built between 1900-1913, with the basement being dug at the same time. But the concrete used for the floor in each room of the two-room basement is different, with the backroom where the symbol was found having more layers of dirt and what appears to be an older style of concrete. As shown in the illustrations, there is a trapdoor to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs under the dirt a painted path was found (red and green colors as indicated) which led to the back room of the basement.

The path ends at the doorway to the back room, and does not connect directly to the symbol although it shares the same colors.

I did trace the history of the home and did not find any notable family names that could have given easy clues as to the origin of the symbol. The house is one of eight roughly identical one-story brick homes on the block, all built at the same time with similar basements, but winding up with different layouts and materials today. This house was the only one with the symbol. None of the other houses use a trapdoor for internal basement access, but they do have the stairs in a similar location.

The house is located in the Austinburg neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky.

I can provide additional neighborhood history information if you think it would help. I've run this online in the past and have gotten a number of suggestions, usually focusing on a venus symbol or a half anchor. I'm curious whether anyone here can identify the symbol with a credible source.

I'm surprised I'm the first to suggest this, and this is probably a bit of a stretch, but with Covington being right on the border between slave and free states, could this have marked a stop on the underground railroad? I know the construction date of the building was stated as 1900-ish so would be too new, but it mentions the concrete in the back basement as "older" so I speculate maybe this connected to an underground chamber of some earlier building?

Passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act only increased the number of slaves who not only escaped from and through Kentucky, but also continued their journey on to Canada. Several slave narratives document escapes by slaves from other Northern Kentucky communities who passed through the Covington or Newport stations on their way to Canada. -- Kentucky and the Underground Railroad

The so-called "Symbol" looks to me like a map of the Ohio river crossing. Look again at your map and note how you've drawn the river as hooking upward on the right, just as the bottom of the symbol hooks up on the right. Could this symbol really be a crude map showing how to cross the river to an area of safety? At the time, there would have been no bridges, but the vertical line might indicate a path to safety from the ferry drop-off point, across a major road to the next station on the railroad.


I imagine there are land records indicating who owned this property in the 1840-1860 period, and whether there were buildings on this site; if not that would disprove this theory. Also, I'm not sure whether it was common practice to lay concrete floors in basements in that time period - they may have just been dirt floors typically; if that's true this also would blow a hole in my theory.

Hypotesis: A simple toboggan game path.

The game consists in "slidding down the stairs following the colored path to the exact spot with the icon".

Unknown Symbol is a kid on a toboggan.

CRSouser had the right basic idea that it is a variant on an Ankh.

The symbol is almost certainly from the Theosophy movement. The basic emblem of this movement is a stick figure ankh inside of a pentagram. Sometimes this was abbreviated as just a circle with a stem and cross bar. The significance of the lower, ski-shaped crossbar I can't say, but given the time period and nature of the symbol it is highly likely there were Theosophical meetings in the house.

7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel

1. Michelangelo wanted nothing to do with the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.
In 1508, 33-year-old Michelangelo was hard at work on Pope Julius II’s marble tomb, a relatively obscure piece now located in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church. When Julius asked the esteemed artist to switch gears and decorate the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo balked. For one thing, he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter, and he had no experience whatsoever with frescoes. He also had his heart set on finishing the tomb, even as funding for the project dwindled. Nevertheless, Michelangelo reluctantly accepted the commission, spending four years of his life perched on scaffolding with his brush in hand. He would return intermittently to Julius’ monumental tomb over the next few decades.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel, entitled “The Creation of Adam.”

2. Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in a standing position.
When they picture Michelangelo creating his legendary frescoes, most people assume he was lying down. But in fact, the artist and his assistants used wooden scaffolds that allowed them to stand upright and reach above their heads. Michelangelo himself designed the unique system of platforms, which were attached to the walls with brackets. The impression that Michelangelo painted on his back might come from the 1965 film “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” in which Charlton Heston portrayed the genius behind the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

Sections of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

3. Working on the Sistine Chapel was so unpleasant that Michelangelo wrote a poem about his misery.
In 1509, an increasingly uncomfortable Michelangelo described the physical strain of the Sistine Chapel project to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia. “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,” he wrote in a poem that was surely somewhat tongue-in-cheek. He went on to complain that his “stomach’s squashed under my chin,” that his � makes a fine floor for droppings,” that his “skin hangs loose below me” and that his “spine’s all knotted from folding myself over.” He ended with an affirmation that he shouldn’t have changed his day job: “I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.”

4. Michelangelo’s masterpiece has proven highly resilient.
The Sistine Chapel’s frescoed ceiling has held up remarkably well in the five centuries since its completion. Only one small component is missing: part of the sky in the panel depicting Noah’s escape from the great biblical flood. The section of painted plaster fell to the floor and shattered following an explosion at a nearby gunpowder depot in 1797. Despite the ceiling’s apparent hardiness, experts worry that foot traffic from the millions of people who visit the Sistine Chapel each year continues to pose a serious threat.

5. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel art was touched up𠅊nd stripped down—in the 1980s and 1990s.
Between 1980 and 1999, experts restored selected artwork in the Sistine Chapel, including Michelangelo’s ceiling and his famed fresco known as “The Last Judgment,” which he created in his later years. Specialists meticulously dissolved layers of grime, soot and deposits, substantially brightening the colors of the centuries-old paintings. The restoration also undid the work of Pope Pius IV, who ordered the placement of fig leaves and loincloths on Michelangelo’s nudes during the 1560s.

6. The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel might depict a human brain.
In the section entitled “The Creation of Adam,” figures representing God and Adam reach for each other with their arms outstretched. Their almost-touching fingers are one of the world’s most recognizable and widely replicated images. Some theorists think the scene also contains the unmistakable outline of a human brain, formed by the angels and robes surrounding God. According to Frank Lynn Meshberger, a doctor who pioneered this hypothesis, Michelangelo meant to evoke God’s bestowal of intelligence on the first human.

7. New popes are elected in the Sistine Chapel.
Built in the 1470s under Pope Sixtus IV, from whom it takes its name, the Sistine Chapel is more than just Vatican City’s most popular tourist destination. In fact, it serves a crucial religious function. Beginning in 1492, the simple brick building has hosted numerous papal conclaves, during which cardinals gather to vote on a new pope. A special chimney in the roof of the chapel broadcasts the conclave’s results, with white smoke indicating the election of a pope and black smoke signaling that no candidate has yet received a two-thirds majority.

9 Crazy Things People Found Inside Their Walls

The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife chronicles the story of hapless masons who are incapable of building a wall that will last. After years of failure, they learn that in order to make their work last, they must offer up a sacrifice. Once, as their master’s wife passed by, they grabbed her and entombed her in the wall they were building. According to some versions of the ballad, the wall still stands.

While immuring wives in walls is strictly outlawed (and largely fictional), the practice of hiding things behind sheetrock or brick is pervasive. From the illegal to the superstitious to the just plain insane, here are 9 crazy things found stashed inside walls.

1. Babies

In 1850, a mummified baby tumbled out from between the walls of a Parisian apartment. The couple living in the apartment were charged with murder they were later cleared when a physician used insects to determine the time of death. This case marked the first time in French forensic science that entomology was used in a criminal trial. And 28 years later, French pathologist Edmond Perrier Megnin used insects to calculate the time of death of a mummified infant in a similar case.

Mummified infants have been found in walls as recently as 2007, when contractor Bob Kinghorn discovered the body of a child wrapped in newspaper in the walls of a home in East Toronto. Police investigated the infant’s death, but were unable to determine the cause.

2. Urine and Fingernail Clippings

Filled with urine, hair, nail clippings or red thread, Witch Bottles were hidden in walls and buried in the thresholds of homes to counteract a witch's curse. One was found in Greenwich in 2009 that dates back to the 17th century. Researchers were even able to analyze urine found in the bottle, which contained traces of nicotine.

The bottle also contained a piece of leather cut into the shape of a heart and pierced with a leather nail. Scientists are unsure of the symbolism, but in similar finds the bottles have contained heart-shaped cloth pierced by brass pins.

A court record from 1682 documents that a husband who believes his wife to be a witch should boil in a pipkin a quart of her urine, fingernail clippings and hair.

3. Live Children

Two years after he disappeared with his mother, 6-year-old Richard Chekevdia was discovered hidden in the walls of his grandmother’s home in Illinois.

Ricky disappeared in 2007 after a contentious custody dispute between his mother, Shannon Wilfong, and his father, Michael Chekevdia. His grandmother, Diane Dobbs, insists that the boy lived most of his life outside the walls of the home, only hiding when necessary. However, police reports state the boy had rarely been allowed outside. And a judge found that the boy had been denied access to medical care, education and contact with his peers. The police found the boy and his mother crouched in a hiding place behind a bedroom dresser.

4. Cash

In Ohio, contractor Bob Kitts found $182,000 in Depression-era money inside the walls of a bathroom he was renovating. The contractor called the homeowner, Amanda Reece, who offered him 10 percent of the find. He demanded 40 percent and the situation devolved from there.

When the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the case, descendants of the home’s original owner, Patrick Dunne — a wealthy businessman who hid the money during the Great Depression — also filed claim to the money. After the costly court proceedings, all of the people laying claim to the money received only a fraction of the find.

5. Priceless Artwork

In 1502, Italian statesman Piero Soderini commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a scene from the famous Battle of Anghiari. The painting is thought to be 20 feet long and 10 feet high. In the 1550s, Giorgio Vasari was commissioned to paint over the mural, but the painter reportedly couldn’t bring himself to destroy it.

Maurizio Seracini, an art diagnostician at the University of California, San Diego, has been looking for the lost Leonardo da Vinci work for 36 years. Seracini is convinced that Vasari hid it in the wall — and he might be onto something.

His first big break came in 1970, when he discovered the words "cerca trova” painted on a flag on Vasari’s mural. Seracini believes that the phrase, which means “seek and you will find,” indicates that Vasari built a false wall over the painting in order to preserve the mural. Recent technology has enabled researchers to take pictures of the hollow between Vasari’s mural and the wall, where they discovered black pigment believed to be similar to the pigment used in other Leonardo da Vinci paintings. Unfortunately, bureaucracy and political protest have stymied the investigation.

6. Ill-Gotten Gains

In the walls of his home in Oak Brook, Illinois, mobster Frank Calabrese hid jewelry, fire arms and, of course, cash money. Lots of it.

During Calabrese’s 2007 trial, authorities learned that the long-time hit man liked to stash money and weapons into the nooks and crannies in his homes. After the trial, federal agents procured a search warrant and discovered Calabrese’s stash of loot and taped recordings with other mobsters behind the basement’s wood-paneled walls. Calabrese’s lawyer told the Chicago Tribune that he was “concerned” that these items hadn’t been discovered in previous searches of the home.

7. Shoes

A collection of 300-year-old shoes was found in the wall of the Gothic Liedberg Palace in Korschenbroich, Germany. In Lubenham, England, a pair of shoes was built into the wall of Papillion Hall in order to rid a family of decades of misfortune brought on by a curse. And in cottages and churches across Europe and the United States, hundreds of shoes have been found tucked inside the walls. The practice is so common that the Northhampton Borough Council collects recorded instances of concealed footwear. If you find any, let them know.

Some scholars theorize that the practice of immuring shoes is done for good luck and to ward off evil spirits from entering a home.

8. Cats

The practice of hiding cats in walls was an ancient ritual to ward off evil spirits. All over the UK, mummified cats are frequently toppling out from between the walls of 17th and 18th century buildings. One of the most famous instances was in Pendle, Lancashire, when a mummified cat was discovered in the wall of an ancient cottage. The cottage is presumed to be the location at which one of England’s most famous witch covens met. In 1612, 11 men and one woman from the coven were accused of witchcraft and hanged.

9. Unmentionables

The only thing worse than discovering dirty underwear hidden in your home is discovering centuries-old dirty underwear in your walls. Across Western Europe, unsuspecting home owners often find caches of garments (under and over) inside the walls of their homes. In fact, the finds are so common that they are not often reported.

Evidence indicates that the practice of hiding your knickers in the walls dates back to the Middle Ages. The clothes hidden are often worn and contain hidden objects like documents and coins. According to the website for the Deliberately Concealed Garments Project:

“The tradition of concealing clothes can be related to the practice of concealing other objects such as dried cats, witch bottles and charms in buildings. These types of objects have been discovered hidden in similar places. The concealing of these items including garments can be related to folklore and superstitious traditions relating to the ritual protection of a household and its inhabitants.”

Who Was the First President to Live in the White House?

Although Washington chose its location and architect, he was the only president never to live in the White House. President John Adams was the first to move into the residence, in 1800 before it was finished. Since then, every president and his family has lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Two presidents have also died in the White House: William Henry Harrison in 1841 and Zachary Taylor in 1850, as well as three first ladies, Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison and Ellen Wilson.

The main floor plan of the White House, drawn by F. D. Owen. 

Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

3. Prairie Avenue

Close to Soldier Field, this breathtaking residential street was the city’s original Gold Coast in the late 19th century. Some of the world’s most influential architects built Victorian mansions along this avenue for the city’s elite, including Marshall Field, George Pullman, Philip Armour, and John J. Glessner.

Its many ghostly tales arguably begin with the mysterious death of Marshall Field’s son on November 22, 1905. Taking place in the Daniel Burnham-designed family mansion (located at 1919 S. Prairie Ave), the 37-year-old heir to the Field fortune is said to have accidentally shot himself while cleaning his rifle.

Another famous haunting takes place at beautiful Glessner House Museum (1800 S Prairie Ave), where a white entity reportedly wanders the house, creating cold spots as it goes. The culprit, it is believed, is the ghost of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who died just before the mansion’s completion. The Museum offers multiple tours, including architecture tours and exclusive behind-the-scenes visits that may have you running into Richardson’s spirit when you least expect it.

Singer castle

Many would expect castles to be packed full of hidden passageways and rooms, but Singer Castle in New York takes the stereotype to a whole new level.

Secluded on an island, the ancient home features a painting that can be tipped back so people can be spied on from a secret passageway. There are also spying grates on the walls and it has its own dungeon.

Some of the castles paintings allow people to eavesdrop through on the other side


Early years Edit

In the early 17th century the manors of Ham and Petersham were bestowed by James I on his son, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. [6]

The house was completed in 1610 by Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I. It originally comprised an H-plan layout consisting of nine bays and three storeys. The Thames-side location was ideal for Vavasour, allowing him to move between the courts at Richmond, Hampton, London and Windsor as his role required. [7] [8] Prince Henry died in 1612, and the lands passed to James' second son, Charles, several years prior to his coronation in 1625. [6] After Vavasour's death in 1620, the house was granted to John Ramsay, 1st Earl of Holderness until his death in 1626.

William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart Edit

In 1626, Ham House was leased to William Murray, courtier, close childhood friend and alleged whipping boy of Charles I. Murray's initial lease was for 39 years and, in 1631, a further 14 years were added. When Gregory Cole, a neighbouring landowner, had to sell his property in Petersham as part of the enclosure of Richmond Park in 1637, he made over the remaining leases on his land to Murray. Shortly afterwards William and his wife Katherine (or Catherine) engaged the services of skilled craftsmen, including the artist Franz Cleyn, to commence improvements on the house as befitting a Lord of the Manors of Ham and Petersham. He extended the Great Hall and added an arch that leads to the ornate cantilever staircase to create a processional route for guests as they approached the dining room on the first floor. He remodelled the Long Gallery and added the adjoining Green Closet that was influenced by Charles I’s own “Cabbonett Room” at Whitehall Palace, to which Murray had donated two pieces. [9]

In 1640 William was also granted a lease on the Manor of Canbury (Kingston) but in the run-up to civil war in 1641 he signed over the house to Katherine and his four daughters, appointing trustees to safeguard the estate for them. [10] The principal of these was Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin, a relative of his wife and an important Scottish Presbyterian, Parliamentarian supporter and ally of the Puritan party in London. [8]

In 1643, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, the house and estates were sequestrated, [11] but persistent appeals by Katherine regained them in 1646 on payment of a £500 fine. [12] [13] Katherine skilfully defended ownership of the house throughout the Civil War and Commonwealth, and it remained in the family's possession despite Murray's close ties with the Royalist cause. Katherine died at Ham on 18 July 1649 (Charles I had been executed on 30 January of the same year). The Parliamentarians sold off much of the Royal Estate, including the Manors of Ham and Petersham. These, including Ham House, were bought for £1,131.18s on 13 May 1650 by William Adams, the steward acting on behalf of Murray's eldest daughter, Elizabeth and her husband Lionel Tollemache, 3rd Baronet of Helmingham Hall, Suffolk. Ham House became Elizabeth and Lionel's primary residence, as Murray was predominantly exiled in France. [8] [14]

Elizabeth (née Murray: 2nd Countess of Dysart) and Lionel Tollemache, 3rd Baronet of Helmingham Hall Edit

Elizabeth and Lionel Tollemache were married in 1648. He was from a family of Royalists who had estates in Suffolk, Northamptonshire and London, and they celebrated their union at Ham with a display of arms that can be seen in the spandrels of the arch above the main entrance to the house: on the left an earl’s coronet above the Tollemache horse’s head and on the right the Tollemache argent a fret sable quartering Murray. [1]

When her father died in 1655 Elizabeth became 2nd Countess of Dysart in her own right, but at that time during the Interregnum the title would have held little prestige. Of far more interest to the Protectorate authorities was the matter of Elizabeth’s allegiance. Her parents had raised suspicion on both sides with their activities during the Civil War and the mantle passed on to Elizabeth, whose character was further defamed by gossip when she struck up a close relationship with Oliver Cromwell in the early 1650s. Her family and connections provided the perfect cover for an agent, especially a double agent, and her movements were closely monitored by both Royalist and Parliamentarian spies. [15]

Between 1649 and 1661, Elizabeth bore eleven children, five of whom survived to adulthood Lionel, Thomas, William, Elizabeth and Catherine. Elizabeth and Lionel made few substantial changes to the house during this busy time. On the Restoration in 1660, Charles II rewarded Elizabeth with a pension of £800 for life and, whilst many of the Parliamentarian sales of Royal lands were put aside, Elizabeth retained the titles to the Manors of Ham and Petersham. In addition, in about 1665, following William's death, Lionel was granted freehold of 75 acres (30 ha 0.117 sq mi) of land in Ham and Petersham including that surrounding the house and a 61-year lease of 289 acres (117 ha 0.452 sq mi) of demesne lands. The grant was made in trust to Robert Murray for the daughters of the, then, late Earl of Dysart, "in consideration of the service done by the late Earl of Dysart and his Daughter, and of the losses sustained by them by the enclosure of the New Park." [8] [16] Lionel died in 1668, leaving his Ham and Petersham estate to Elizabeth along with Framsden Hall in Suffolk, which had been her jointure on their marriage.

Elizabeth and John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale Edit

Elizabeth seems to have become acquainted with John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale at some time in the 1640s, possibly when he was one of the Scottish Commissioners on the Committee of Both Kingdoms who petitioned for her father’s release on charges of treason in 1646. [17] At any rate she seems to have felt sufficient gratitude towards him to claim in later years that she appealed to Cromwell to show clemency following his capture after the Battle of Worcester, a gesture Maitland repaid in his will when he left her £1,500 in gold for “preserving my life when I was a prisoner in the year 1651”. [1] They became much closer following the death of her husband and he began visiting Ham regularly. Already a favourite of the King, he was appointed High Commissioner for Scotland in August 1669 which, on top of his political influence as Secretary of State and participation in Charles’s Cabal ministry, made him one of the most powerful men in the country. In 1671 Lauderdale was granted by Letters patent full freehold rights to the Manors of Ham and Petersham and the 289 acres of leased land. In 1672 Elizabeth and Lauderdale were married, and soon afterwards he was created Duke of Lauderdale and Knight of the Garter. With Lauderdale's part in the Cabal Ministry, the family remained close to the heart of court intrigue.

As Duchess and consort to a very political Duke, Elizabeth had risen to the peak of Restoration society where she could exercise her many talents and interests. Image was paramount and the Lauderdales began a programme of aggrandisement on their properties - Elizabeth consulted her cousin, William Bruce, and Maitland commissioned William Samwell. [7] Ham was extended on the south front with an enfilade of rooms created each side of a central axis around a new downstairs Dining Room. The plan seems to have been to create the Duchess’s apartments to the left (east) and the Duke’s to the right, she having two closets for privacy and entertainment and he having a staircase connecting his bedroom to the library above, but Elizabeth appears to have changed her mind as the rooms were being built and eventually each came to have a bedchamber within the other’s apartment. One of the reasons may have been because she installed a bathroom downstairs which had to be near the kitchen in the basement, and this was at the Duke’s end of the house. Whatever the reason, she retained her original closets. Most grand houses at that time had apartments laid out in this way, comprising a suite of rooms approached one through the other. Closets formed an exclusive and very private end to the sequence into which only the most important guests were invited. Visitors knew that they would only get a certain distance according to their rank or significance in society, so being entertained in one of Elizabeth’s closets would have been an honour. Her White Closet was something of a showpiece which had a private door into the Cherry Garden. It was decorated in the most advanced tastes of the day and we know from the 1679 inventory that it had “one Indian furnace for tee garnish’d wt silver”, an extraordinary luxury at a time when tea was only beginning to be drunk in private homes. For this reason too Elizabeth kept her tea secure in a “Japan box” in her adjoining Private Closet.

Upstairs the existing State Apartments (Great Dining Room, North Drawing Room and Long Gallery) were extended with the addition of a State Bedroom apartment. The bedchamber itself was being referred to as ‘the Queen’s Bedchamber’ in 1674 which was unusual and suggests that the Queen herself, who was a personal friend of Elizabeth’s, had actually occupied it at least once. This was the most important room in the house and the focal point towards which one progressed on the first floor. [9] Another benefit of transforming the house from single to double-pile had been that it allowed the creation of hidden passages and staircases for servants who could now enter rooms via jib doors rather than by moving through one room to get to another.

The eldest daughter of Elizabeth and Lionel, also named Elizabeth (1659–1735), married Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll in Edinburgh in 1678. Their first child, John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, was born at Ham House in 1680 [18] their second son, Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll was born in the same room a few years later. [8]

The glorious years for the Lauderdales began to wane in 1680 when the Duke had a stroke and his power started to slip away. On Lauderdale's death in 1682 he left the Ham and Petersham property to Elizabeth, thereby securing the estate for the Tollemache dynasty. [8] However, Elizabeth also inherited her husband's debts including mortgages on his former properties in England and Scotland and her latter years were marred by financial dispute with her brother-in-law, Charles. Even the intervention of the newly crowned James II failed to reconcile them and the matter was finally settled in her favour in the Scottish courts in 1688. Whilst this may have suppressed Elizabeth's lavish lifestyle, she went on to make further alterations to the house at Ham, opening the Hall ceiling and creating the Round Gallery in about 1690. [8] As she got older her movements became restricted by gout and she rarely went upstairs, living mainly in what had been the Duke’s apartments, but her intellect remained and she liked to be kept informed about events at court and in politics. [8] Elizabeth Maitland continued to live at Ham House until her death in 1698.

Lionel Tollemache, 3rd Earl of Dysart Edit

Elizabeth and Lionel Tollemache's eldest son and heir, Lionel, became 3rd Earl of Dysart on his mother's death and inherited Ham House, the adjoining estates and the manors of Ham and Petersham. Already the owner of his father's estates in Suffolk and Northamptonshire, he had also acquired 20,000 acres (8,100 ha 31 sq mi) in Cheshire through his marriage in 1680 to Grace, daughter of Sir Thomas Wilbraham, 3rd Baronet. He only spent short periods at Ham, apparently did little for the upkeep of the house though kept the garden well. He did use his wealth to pay off the interest on the outstanding mortgages but was not considered generous, even with his immediate family. His only son, Lionel, predeceased him in 1712 and on his death in 1727 he was succeeded as Earl of Dysart by his grandson, also named Lionel. [8]

Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart Edit

Lionel Tollemache was only 18 years old when he became the 4th Earl of Dysart and head of the family. Shortly after returning from the Grand Tour in 1729 he married Grace Carteret, the 16-year-old daughter of John Carteret 2nd Earl Granville, and began repairing and commissioning new furniture for his properties at Ham and at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk. Ham House had been largely neglected since the death of Elizabeth, so in 1730 he ordered a structural survey of the building which revealed significant problems, especially on the north front. Repairs however did not begin until the 1740s. At the front of the house an ‘Advance’ which extended two stories above a porch over the main entrance had become detached from the wall and was in danger of pulling down the roof. It was removed completely and the stone reused for repairs to the first and second floors. The canted bays on the projections at each end of the house were rebuilt as deeper three window bays, with corresponding alterations made to the bays on the south front. Significant repairs were also made to the roof, where old unfashionable red tiles on the outer pitches were replaced with slate and reused for repairs to the inner pitches where they would not be visible. [1]

Much new furniture was commissioned but the 4th Earl seems to have been committed to preserving existing artefacts, making repairs to fixtures from the Lauderdale period where necessary. The house would certainly have been sumptuously furnished in the mid-18th century. [19] He made three significant changes to the interior of the house itself: the Queen’s Bedchamber on the first floor became the principal drawing room with furniture and tapestries supplied by the London upholsterer and textile producer William Bradshaw the Volury on the ground floor became another drawing room with the addition of tapestries and its distinctive X-framed seat furniture and in the Dining Room the marble floor was replaced with marquetry, with matching gilded leather panels on the walls. [1]

Of their sixteen children only seven lived to maturity. Three of the five sons died in the pursuit of their naval careers. The Countess died in 1755 aged 42 and the Earl in 1770 aged 61. [1] He was survived by Lionel, Lord Huntingtower, Wilbraham, and three daughters Jane, Louisa and Frances. [8]

Lionel Tollemache, 5th Earl of Dysart Edit

Lionel Tollemache, 5th Earl of Dysart succeeded to the title on his father's death. Despite spending on the house, the 4th Earl had kept his own son short of money during his lifetime and he had consequently married without his father's consent. His wife, Charlotte, was the youngest illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole, second son of Robert Walpole and niece of Horace Walpole who lived near to Ham across the Thames at Strawberry Hill.

The 5th Earl seems to have been a reclusive and introverted individual who shunned publicity, preferring to remain on his estates and refusing to allow changes or renovations to either Helmingham or Ham House. [1] By contrast he had two other properties in Northamptonshire and Cheshire completely destroyed, although he maintained the rich farmland which produced a good income. [1] Despite his preference for solitude he continued the family tradition of acquiring fine furniture, most notably a marquetry commode which can be seen in the Queen’s Bedchamber and the sunburst chairs in the White Closet.

Charlotte died, childless, in 1789 and although Lionel remarried he remained without an heir. When this became apparent, the families of his surviving sisters, Louisa and Jane, reverted to the family name of Tollemache in anticipation of potential succession. Lionel’s second marriage in 1791 to Magdalene Lewis, the sister of his brother Wilbraham’s wife, also produced no children. [1] On his death in 1799 his brother, Wilbraham became the 6th Earl of Dysart. [8]

Wilbraham Tollemache, 6th Earl of Dysart Edit

Wilbraham was aged 60 when he inherited the title. One of his first acts was to buy the rights of the Manor of Kingston/Canbury from George Hardinge, extending the Dysarts' property south into Kingston. He had the wall that separated Ham House from the river demolished and replaced by a ha-ha, leaving the gates free-standing. Coade stone pineapples were added to decorate the balustrades and John Bacon's iconic statue of the river god, pictured here, also in Coade stone, dates from this period. Several busts of Roman emperors were relocated from the demolished walls to niches cut into the front of the house. Further restoration of the old furniture also took place as well as addition of Jacobean reproductions. The Dysarts also became patrons of John Constable at this time. Wilbraham's wife died in 1804 and, devastated, he moved away, close to the estate in Cheshire. Wilbraham died, childless, in 1821, aged 82. [8]

Louisa Tollemache, 7th Countess of Dysart Edit

Of the 4th Earl's children, only the eldest daughter, Lady Louisa, by then widow of MP John Manners, still survived. Already heiress to Manners' 30,000 acres (12,000 ha 47 sq mi) at Buckminster Park, [8] Louisa inherited the title and estates at Ham at the age of 76. [8] The remaining Tollemache estates were bequeathed to the heirs of Lady Jane. [10] Louisa continued the patronage of John Constable who was a frequent and welcome visitor to Ham. Increasingly infirm and blind in old age, Louisa lived to the age of 95, dying in 1840. [8]

Lionel Tollemache, 8th Earl of Dysart Edit

Louisa's eldest son, William, had predeceased her in 1833. His eldest son, Lionel William John Tollemache, inherited the title and became the 8th Earl of Dysart. Lionel preferred to live in London and invited his brothers, Frederick and Algernon Gray Tollemache, to manage the estates and Ham and Buckminster. Lionel became increasingly reclusive and eccentric. Lionel's only son, William, a controversial figure, amassed great debts guaranteed by the expectation of inheriting the family fortune, however, he, too, predeceased his father who subsequently bequeathed the estates to his grandson, William John Manners Tollemache, with his brothers, Frederick and Algernon with Charles Hanbury-Tracy acting as trustees for 21 years to 1899. Following the 8th Earl's death in 1878, his son's creditors brought an action in the High Court against the Tollemache family who had to pay a sum of £70,000 to avoid forfeiting much of the Ham estate.

William Tollemache, 9th Earl of Dysart Edit

In his autobiography, Augustus Hare recounts a visit to Ham House in 1879 describing the dilapidation and disrepair contrasting with the evident treasures the house still contained. However, shortly after the 8th Earl's death, the 9th Earl, with agreement from the trustees, undertook extensive renovation of the house and its contents and, by 1885 it was fit to host social activities again, notably a garden party to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. In 1890 Ada Sudeley published her 570 page book Ham House, Belonging to the Earl of Dysart. [20]

On 23 September 1899, full control of the Tollemache estates at Ham and Buckminster was transferred from trustees to 9th Earl, William John Manners Tollemache, then aged about 40, in accordance with his grandfather's will.

By the early 1900s the Dysarts had installed electricity and central heating at the house along with other modern gadgets including, in the Duchess's basement bathroom, a bath with jets and even a wave machine.

The 9th Earl travelled widely, rode despite blindness, invested successfully in the stock market and whilst eccentric and difficult, nonetheless was hospitable and supportive of the local community. His cantankerous nature proved too much for his wife who left him in the early 1900s but he lived on with other family members at Ham for many years. In the 1920s and 1930s he employed a staff of up to 20 including a chauffeur for his four cars including a Lanchester and Rolls Royce. When he died in 1935 he left investments worth £4,800,000 but had no direct heir. He was the last Earl of Dysart to live at the house.

Sir Lyonel Tollemache, 4th Baronet of Hanby Hall Edit

The inheritance passed to the Earl's elder sisters' families. His niece, Wynefrede, daughter of his sister Agnes, inherited the earldom. Wynefrede's cousin, Lyonell, at the age of 81, inherited the baronetcy and the estates at Ham and Buckminster. He and his middle-aged son, Cecil Lyonel Newcomen Tollemache lived at the house, but the lack of available staff during the war added to the difficulty of maintaining it. The nearby aircraft factory was a target for bombing raids and the house and grounds suffered some minor damage. Many of the house's contents were removed to the country for safety. [8] Most of the family papers were deposited in Chancery Lane but, whilst they survived the Blitz, they suffered significant water damage from fire hoses. Thought for some time to have been lost, many papers were subsequently recovered from the Ham House stables in 1953, though many were in poor condition as a result. [10]

National Trust Edit

In 1943, Sir Lyonel invited the National Trust's first Historic Buildings Secretary, James Lees-Milne, to visit the house. Lees-Milne recorded both the melancholy state of the house and grounds but, even though it was devoid of its contents, he could immediately see the splendour of the underlying building and grounds. In 1948, Sir Lyonell and his son donated the house and its grounds to the Trust. The stables and other outlying buildings were sold privately and much of the remaining estate sold at auction in 1949. [8]

The National Trust at first transferred ownership of Ham House to the state on a long lease to the Ministry of Works. The contents of the house were purchased by the government who entrusted them to the Victoria and Albert Museum. By 1950, the house was open to the public and a series of research and restoration works since undertaken, restoring and reproducing much of the house's former splendour. The government relinquished its lease in 1990, and the compensation was used to form a fund to help contribute towards maintenance. [21]

Ham House is a building of two distinctively different architectural styles and periods.The first phase is the original main house facing north east to the river Thames, brick built in 1610 in the early Jacobean English renaissance style on a traditional H-plan for Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal at the court of James I. The second phase is an ambitious expansion to the south or garden side of the original house by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale in 1672 to display their high status in the court of King Charles II. They infilled the space between the wings of the H-plan building, almost doubling the volume of the house. The Caroline façade is loosely based on a classical style introduced from the continent by the architect Inigo Jones. At the time the remodelling project was considered impressive, the façades visually giving the impression of two separate houses. In contrast the interior blends them harmoniously.

Introduction Edit

Ham House is unusual in retaining much of its original 17th century interior decoration, offering a rare experience of the style of the courts of Charles I and Charles II. The original house was altered and redecorated for William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart in the late 1630s, creating a new grand staircase and picture closet. As a result of his close association with King Charles I, he was able to employ the finest craftsmen working for the Crown. These included the artist Franz Cleyn, decorator and designer at the Mortlake Tapestry Works, whose overdoor inset paintings and ceiling of the Green Closet are said to be the only surviving examples of his interior decoration. He has also been credited with coordinating the new decorative scheme for William Murray. The finely modelled ceilings created by plaster craftsman Joseph Kinsman are also thought to be his only surviving work.

From 1672/73, the house was enlarged for William’s daughter Elizabeth, who with her second husband the 1st Duke of Lauderdale commissioned the lavishly decorated rooms in the style of the Restoration court of Charles II. Much of this original decor survives in the enfilade of rooms on the south side of the house, with ceilings painted by Antonio Verrio, marble and scagliola fireplace surrounds, overdoor paintings and richly gilded carving.

Ham House is now an Accredited Museum and its rooms display fine collections of 17th century paintings, portraits and miniatures, in addition to cabinets, tapestries and furniture amassed and retained by generations of the Murray and Tollemache families. They furnished with high quality wooden and lacquered cabinets from England, Europe, Japan and China, most of which remain in excellent condition. Cabinets of this quality signalled wealth and taste and so were usually placed in state rooms or public areas where they could be admired. Many of the cabinets offered little in the way of practical storage, but often contained curiosities which might be shown to visitors.

The Great Hall Edit

This room forms part of the original 1610 construction, which during the early 17th century may have been used for both dining and entertainment. The distinctive black and white marble chequerboard flooring is also believed to date from the original construction. By the early 18th century the room had been expanded upwards by opening the ceiling to the room above, now known as the Round Gallery. Significant paintings in the room include:

  • Charlotte Walpole, Countess of Dysart (1738–1789), by Sir Joshua Reynolds was exhibited at The Royal Academy in 1775. [22]
  • , a family friend, was commissioned to make copies of two family portraits: Anna Maria Lewis, Countess of Dysart (1745–1804) as Miranda, painted in 1823 after Joshua Reynolds and Lady Louisa Tollemache, Countess of Dysart (1745–1840), painted in 1823–25 after John Hoppner. [22]
  • Hanging side by side are John Vanderbank’s portraits of Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708–1770) painted in 1730 and of his wife Lady Grace Carteret, Countess of Dysart (1713–1755), signed and dated 1737. [22]

Chapel Edit

Formerly the family’s sitting room, this room was converted to a chapel during the major renovations of the 1670s. The sumptuous and rare 17th century textiles require that the light levels remain low.

The Great Staircase Edit

The Great Staircase, described as “remarkable” and “apparently without a close parallel in the British Isles”, [1] was created for William Murray at the east end of the Great Hall in 1638‒39 as part of a series of improvements to the house which reflected his increasing status at Court. An ornately carved archway marks the entrance from the Great Hall to the stairs, which were designed not only as a means of gaining the upper floors but to serve as a grand processional route to the State Apartments on the first floor. The cantilever staircase rises over three floors above a square stairwell. The balustrade is composed of boldly hand-carved pierced wooden panels depicting trophies of war. Each panel is different, and displays different carvings on each side suggesting the imperial splendour of arms and armour, including a set of horse armour. The wide range of arms includes field guns with cannon balls and barrels of gunpowder, swords, shields, quivers of arrows and halberds. Dolphins, elephant heads, dragons and other fantastical creatures also appear on the dado panelling, together with military drums and trumpets. The martial theme of these panels is interspersed with drops of relief carvings of bay leaves, richly carved newel posts topped with baskets of fruit designed to carry candles or candelabras, and miniature swags decorating the outer string. Originally gilded and grained to resemble walnut, [1] in the 19th century the balustrade and other woodwork were picked out in bronze, traces of which survive. “There is no other architectural wood carving on this scale and of such sophistication surviving from the late 1630s.” [1]

A collection of 17th century copies of Old Master paintings in their original carved frames hangs on the staircase wall. Two were copied from originals in the collection of King Charles I, Venus with Mercury and Cupid (The School of Love) by Correggio at the base of the stairs (the original in the National Gallery, London), and on the first floor landing a copy of The Venus Del Pardo (Venus and a Satyr) by Titian (the original in the Louvre, Paris). [22]

The Round Gallery Edit

Prior to the upward expansion of the Great Hall this room had served as the Great Dining Room, as created by William Murray in the 1630s.The ornate white plaster ceiling was created by Joseph Kinsman, master craftsman and member of The London Plasterers’ Company. Engaged by the Royal Works at Goldsmith’s Hall, Whitehall and Somerset House, he was employed by William Murray at Ham House during the 1637 renovation and creation of the State Apartments. The ceilings at Ham are the only surviving example of his work, showing the influence of Inigo Jones (1573–1652) in their design of deep beams with rosettes at the intersections, enclosing geometric compartments. The white plaster high relief oval swags of luscious fruit, flowers and ribbons, including the odd worm, contrasted with the elaborate frieze which was originally coloured blue and gold.

Notable paintings include John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale and Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart and Duchess of Lauderdale painted c. 1675 by Sir Peter Lely, as well as Lely’s final portrait of Elizabeth, painted c. 1680. [22]

The North Drawing Room Edit

After dinner in the adjacent dining room, guests would have retired to the North Drawing Room for conversation. This room was decorated at the same time as the Great Dining Room, and was later hung with tapestries. Kinsman continued his elaborate plasterwork in the white ceiling in this room. Deep beams enclose rectangles bursting with individually crafted fruit and flowers. The hemispherical rosettes at the intersections are unusual, possibly unique.

A notable piece of furniture in this room is the ivory cabinet: veneered in rippled ivory panels on the exterior and the interior, this large oak and cedar cabinet opens to reveal 14 drawers. An inner door conceals small drawers, further secret drawers and a compartment. It was recorded to have been moved to the prestigious Queen’s Bedchamber shortly after its appearance in the 1677 inventory and is considered to have been the most impressive piece of furniture in the house (with the exception of the State Bed, which no longer exists). The cabinet may have been made in the Northern Netherlands based on ivory veneered furniture brought back in 1644 by the former Dutch Governor to Brazil for his home, now called the Mauritshuis, in The Hague.

Also notable in the room are a vibrant set of tapestries. James I established the Mortlake Tapestry Works in 1619 just three miles from Ham House, from which the Lauderdales purchased a set of season tapestries incorporating gold thread for the Queen’s Bedchamber. While these are no longer at the house, the 4th Earl of Dysart acquired a set woven in Lambeth in 1699–1719 by the ex-Mortlake weaver Stephen de May, probably to the Mortlake design. Altered to hang in the North Drawing Room, this set of The Seasons was commissioned by the 1st Lord of Shelburne but possibly not used as they bear his arms, which were superseded in 1719 when he became Earl. Tapestries were important in Europe for comfort in draughty manor houses and as status objects due to their expense. The season or months design was quite popular in Europe and had a number of variations depicting appropriate seasonal activities such as milking for April, ploughing and sowing for September and wine-making for October.

The Long Gallery Edit

This expansive space was part of the original 1610 house, but was extensively redecorated in 1639 by William Murray. It has been used as an exercise space as well as a gallery to showcase portraits of family and important royal connections. Notable paintings include:

  • Sir John Maitland, 1st Baron Maitland of Thirlestane (1543–1595), aged 44 attributed to Adrian Vanson. [22] In late 2016 an X-ray revealed a concealed, unfinished portrait of a woman “whose appearance indicates she is likely to be Mary, Queen of Scots”. The portrait is inscribed with the date 1589, two years after her execution. “The unfinished portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots . shows that portraits of the queen were being copied and presumably displayed in Scotland around the time of her execution, a highly contentious and potentially dangerous thing to be seen doing.” [23]
  • King Charles I (1600–1649) by Sir Anthony van Dyck. In recognition of their friendship this painting in its frame was given by Charles I in 1638/39 to William Murray. In the 1638/39 Memorandum of pictures bought by the King from Van Dyck: 'Le Roi vestu de noir' given to 'Monsr Morre' [Murray] by the King, 'avec sa mollure' [in this very frame]'. [22]
  • Of the 15 portraits by Sir Peter Lely in Ham House, 11 are hung in the Long Gallery. These include Elizabeth Murray with a Black Servant, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale (1616–1682) in Garter Robes, and Thomas Clifford, 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh KG (1630–1673) in Garter Robes. [22][24] The latter two were painted in the 1670s. [24]
  • Colonel The Hon. John Russell (1620–1681) by John Michael Wright is signed and dated 1659. [22]

Picture frames at Ham House date from the 17th century and its Long Gallery portraits are a showcase of elaborately carved, gilded frames in the auricular style (literally 'of the ear'). Two frames date from the 1630s, Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Later frames, for instance on the portraits of Elizabeth Murray with a Black Servant and Lady Margaret Murray, Lady Maynard are in a similar auricular style with straight sight edges. From the 1660s and 1670s there was a further development of the auricular style where the frames have a shield centred at top and a grotesque mask at bottom. These frames, referred to as Sunderland frames, are distinguished by their irregular sight edges. They take their name from the 2nd Earl of Sunderland, many of whose pictures at Althorp are framed in this style. In no other English frame type does the sight edge cut into the space of the picture in such an irregular way. There are examples of Sunderland frames on the portraits of John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale (1616–1682) in Garter Robes and Colonel The Hon. John Russell (1620–1681). [22]

This room also displays some notable furniture:

  • Floral marquetry cabinet: Ham House has a number of fine tables and cabinets decorated with floral marquetry including this, the earliest inventoried example in England, dating from 1675. The naturalistic representations of flowers and fruit are cut from contrasting woods such as ebony, walnut and stained fruitwood and laid onto the carcass. The woods and other materials were often dyed to create a greater range of colours and the green leaves on this piece are made from stained ivory or bone. This cabinet, as well as other tables and a mirror in the house, is attributed by the National Trust to Gerrit Jensen, who was the cabinet maker in ordinary to Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II.
  • Japanese lacquered cabinet: Japanese lacquered furniture was fashionable in the 17th century and this cabinet from 1650 remains in the Long Gallery where it has stood since then. Decorated with hills, trees and birds in raised gold and silver lacquer, the doors open on engraved brass hinges to reveal 10 drawers. The giltwood stand has four legs carved as elephant trunks topped with winged cherub busts.
  • Chinese lacquered chest: China was another Asian source of lacquered furniture in the 17th century. Decorated with watery landscapes and branches, this chest is lacquered in gold and red on a dark crimson ground. It was a standard form of storage chest for linens and other textiles. The English stand c. 1730 is Japanned, a technique developed by English and European craftsmen to approximate the hard, smooth and shiny surfaces of popular Asian lacquered goods.

The Green Closet Edit

Used for the display of miniature paintings and smaller-scale furniture, this room is a very rare survival of a room in the style of Charles I’s court. In the 1630s the Green Closet was specifically designed by William Murray to display miniatures and small paintings. Today it contains 87 items including Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) painted c. 1590 by Nicholas Hilliard and A Man consumed by Flames painted c. 1610 by Isaac Oliver. [22]

The Library Edit

The library dates from the 1672–74 enlargement of the house. Although some shelves were moved from what is now the Queen’s Antechamber, most of the cedar fixed furniture, including the secretaire, was provided by Henry Harlow. The Duke of Lauderdale added significantly to the contents: he was an avid reader and collector (so much so that his Highgate house was said to be in danger of collapse due to the weight of his substantial book collection), and he owed huge sums to booksellers when he died. Partly as a result of the Duchess’s money difficulties consequent upon his death, many books were sold at auctions between 1690 and 1692. Later members of the family rebuilt the collection, notably the 4th Earl who bought at the Harleian auction and elsewhere. He acquired 12 books printed by Caxton and many other incunabula in 1904 a visitor, William Younger Fletcher, described the library as containing books of greater value, in proportion to its size, than any other in Europe. Most of the books were sold in 1938, and the bulk of the remainder after the Second World War. A notable exception, a Book of Common Prayer from Whitehall Palace, is sometimes on display in the chapel.

After the war Norman Norris, a south coast book dealer, assembled what can be considered atypical country house library, about 3,000 volumes. He bequeathed his books to the National Trust and they eventually came to Ham, where about 2,000 of them may be seen. One, Jus Parliamentarium, which displays the Dysart coat of arms on its cover, is from the Dysart collection.

In the library, the ceiling and friezes display a lively naturalism. The two globes and their rare leather covers (acquired in 1745 and 1746) and the two firescreens (1743) merit attention.

The Queen's Apartments Edit

This suite of three rooms, now referred to as the Queen’s Apartments, was created by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale when the house was enlarged in 1673. Intended for use by King Charles II’s wife, Queen Catherine of Braganza, they reflect the latest innovation from France, where royalty received important visitors in the State Bedchamber. The rooms are decorated with increasing splendour, beginning with the relatively modest Antechamber, culminating in the small but richly gilded and decorated Queen's Closet.

Antechamber Edit

The first of the suite of rooms, where visitors would wait for an audience with the Queen. The ceiling of this waiting room is the first of the three ceilings by plaster craftsman Henry Wells. A circular garland of leaves is thickly studded with small flowers, surrounded by four spandrels containing foliage and ribbons. The oak parquet floor, an innovation from France, continues through to the far side of the Queen’s Bedchamber where it is then replaced with a more elaborate marquetry design where the State Bed would have stood.

Queen's Bedchamber Edit

This room, built on the central axis of the house, was designed for the reception of guests and visiting dignitaries who would have waited to be summoned from the Antechamber. The State Bed stood prominently on a raised dais at the east end of the room facing the door. A balustrade separated the bed from the main area of the room where visitors may have gathered for their audience with the Queen. The bed was on an elaborate marquetry floor inlaid with the cipher and ducal coronet of the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, their initials J, E and L entwined in cedar and walnut, a feature that repeats in the Queens’s Closet.The floor remains in excellent condition. This ceiling has the richest plaster decoration in the house, a large deep oval of bay leaves dotted with roses. These cluster more densely at the east end, above the area of the Queen’s State Bed. The spandrels are also more decorative, acanthus leaves swirl to fill the panels, each corner hiding a grotesque figure among the foliage or bursting from the flowers.

The bed had been removed by 1728 and the rooms were closed and rarely used, contributing to their excellent state of preservation. The change of use to a drawing room took place in the mid‑18th century with the lowering of the dais in line with the rest of the floor, and the purchase of new furniture and a set of William Bradshaw’s popular early 18th century pastoral tapestries. Woven in 1734–40 for Henry O’Brien, 8th Earl of Thomond, and purchased in 1742 for £184 on behalf of the 4th Earl of Dysart, the tapestries needed only slight alterations to fit three of the walls of his newly decorated drawing room. Bradshaw’s signature can be seen on The Dance tapestry. Woven in Soho, London, the four wool and silk tapestries have narrow borders in the style of picture frames and are thought to incorporate several different images from works by the French painters Antoine Watteau, Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste Pater.

The Queen's Closet Edit

The smallest, most intimate of the suite of rooms, the third and final room was designed for private use and could be closed off, away from the business of the State Bedchamber. Rarely used and well preserved intact, the decoration, textiles and furniture give a unique record of late 17th century interior decoration. The marquetry floor incorporating the ducal coronet and cipher continues from the Bedchamber into the Closet. The ceiling painting of Ganymede and the Eagle is in the style of the Italian artist Antonio Verrio (1636–1707). Framed by a plaster garland, following the designs of the previous rooms, the richness of the effect is emphasised by gilding of the roses. Three ceiling paintings in the style of Antonio Verrio, of cupids sprinkling flowers, are partly hidden from view above the alcove. The elaborate chimney piece, hearth and windowsill, again including the Lauderdale cipher and ducal coronet, are made from scagliola, possibly the earliest documented example of scagliola in this country.

The Private Closet Edit

This was the Duchess’s most private and intimate room where she would read, write and entertain her closest family and friends. The elaborate oil on plaster ceilings in both of the Duchess’s closets are by Antonio Verrio. They are among his earliest commissions in England, and his earliest surviving work following his arrival from France in 1672. As his reputation grew he was commissioned by royal and aristocratic clients for larger projects including for King Charles II at Windsor Castle, interiors for the Earl of Exeter at Burghley House and for William III at Hampton Court.

In the smaller Private Closet, the ceiling painting of The Penitent Magdalene Surrounded by Putti Holding Emblems of Time, Death and Eternity was completed around 1674. [1] The central figure floats above the room, circled by three putti carrying symbols of time (an hourglass), death (a skull), and eternity (a snake eating its own tail). Verrio linked the ceiling design to the room by enclosing it in a narrow painted grey marble surround, matching the marble fireplace.

Also notable: Catherine Bruce, Mrs William Murray (d. 1649) by John Hoskins the Elder is a watercolour on vellum in an ebony travelling case, signed and dated 1638. [22]

The White Closet Edit

Adjoining the Private Closet and richly decorated, this room was used by the Duchess for relaxing and entertaining, its double glazed door leading out to the Cherry Garden. The coved ceiling of this glamorous room, originally decorated with white silk hangings and marble effect walls, emphasises the advanced taste of the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale in a room intended for their most important visitors. Painted by Verrio in oil on plaster in 1673/74 it is described as “decorated with one of the earliest examples of Baroque illusionism to have been executed in a domestic setting in this country”. [9] Putti climb up over a trompe l’oeil balustrade to reach the figure of Divine Wisdom Presiding Over The Liberal Arts, represented by seven mainly female figures bearing the symbols of Verrio’s version of the liberal arts. The figure of Wisdom floats on clouds pointing to the all seeing eye in the open sky above. Verrio linked the ceiling design to the room by enclosing it in a narrow painted red marble surround, matching the red marble fireplace, as in the Private Closet. The heavily gilded coving includes medallions of the four Cardinal Virtues. Notable collection items include:

  • Ham House from the South (1675–79) by Hendrick Danckerts depicts a finely dressed couple (possibly the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale) in front of the south front and formal gardens, and was set into the chimneypiece in the White Closet shortly after the building was completed. [22]
  • Escritoire of kingwood oysterwork: this elegant oak scriptor (c. 1672–75) is veneered with South American kingwood using the oystering technique and features silver mounts. Made for the Duchess of Lauderdale, it is listed in the 1679 inventory of Ham House and is believed to have been made in London by a French or Dutch craftsman. Kingwood was one of the most expensive woods used in furniture making in the 17th century.

Marble Dining Room Edit

Since 1675 the walls of the Marble Dining Room have been decorated with leather panels. Today visitors can see two distinct designs. The earlier design of 1675 complemented the original black and white marble floor, for which the room is named, with brightly coloured Flemish leather panels of fruits and flowers such as tulips and roses mixed with birds and butterflies on a white background. These had been embossed and some elements gilded, giving the room a sumptuous look.

In 1756 the 4th Earl removed the marble floor and replaced it with a fine marquetry floor of tropical hardwoods. He also commissioned James Sutton of London to make a new set of leather wall hangings with an embossed diaper rosette surrounded by four leaves. The parts of the design which are now brown would originally have appeared to be gold, made by varnishing silver leaf in yellow.

The fashion for leather wall decoration originated in Spain and the Spanish Netherlands in the 17th century and was considered ideal for dining rooms as leather did not become impregnated with the odours of food like the fabric of a tapestry. Earlier Ham House inventories of 1655 indicate the “two parlers facing the river were hung with gilt leather.” [1]

The Withdrawing Room Edit

After dining in the adjacent Marble Dining Room, guests would retire to this space for entertainment and conversation. It also served as an antechamber to the adjacent bedchamber. Notable in this room is the ebony and tortoiseshell cabinet: this cabinet (c. 1650–75) on a possibly 19th century stand features red tortoiseshell decoration on a somewhat austere ebonised pine exterior that does not prepare the viewer for the ornate interior. Two doors open to reveal multiple shallow drawers on either side of an architectural exterior, which then opens to a theatrical set framed by golden pillars and mirrors. Known as the Antwerp cabinet, it is embellished with ivory, pietra paesina (a type of naturally patterned limestone) and gilt bronze and brass.

The Duchess’s Bedchamber Edit

Originally the Duke’s bedchamber, it is believed it became the Duchess’s bedchamber following the installation of the bathroom which is accessed via the door to the left of the bed alcove. The ceiling above the bed in the alcove is painted in the style of Antonio Verrio and shows the partially clothed Flora Attended by Cupids floating above the tester of the four poster bed. The monogram initials J, E and L (John, Elizabeth, Lauderdale) are entwined in each corner. Notable paintings include:

  • Elizabeth Murray (1626–1698) painted by Sir Peter Lely in 1648, the year of her marriage to Lionel Tollemache. [22]
  • A set of four overdoor maritime paintings by Willem van de Velde the Younger, signed and dated 1673, including Calm: An English Frigate at Anchor Firing a Salute.

The Back Parlour Edit

This was the room in which senior male staff would have eaten their meals and spent any free time. Hanging in this room is: Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart (1626–1698), with her First Husband, Sir Lionel Tollemache (1624–1669), and her Sister, Margaret Murray, Lady Maynard (c. 1638–1682) painted c. 1648 by Joan Carlile. [22]

The formal listed avenues leading to the house from the A307 are formed by more than 250 trees stretching east from the house to the arched gate house at Petersham, and south across the open expanse of Ham Common where it is flanked by a pair of more modest gatehouses. A third avenue to the west of the house no longer exists, whilst the view to and from the Thames completes the principal approaches to the house.

From the initial survey drawings produced by Robert Smythson and son in 1609 [25] it is clear that the garden design was considered as important as that of the house and that the two were intended to be in harmony. [1] The original design shows the house set within a range of walled gardens, each with different formal designs, as well as an orchard and vegetable garden. However, uncertainty remains as to how much of the original design was actually realised. [26] Nevertheless, the plans illustrate the influence of French garden design of the time, with its emphasis on visual effects and perspectives. [27]

The 1671 plans for the renovation undertaken by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, which have been attributed to John Slezer and Jan Wyck, demonstrate the continued importance of the garden design, with many features that can be experienced today such as the Orangery, the Cherry Garden, the Wilderness and eight grass squares (plats) on the south side of the house. [26] Both the private apartments for the Duke and Duchess and the State Apartments added to the South Front of the house were designed to overlook the formal gardens, an innovation that was highly commended by contemporaries. [1] John Evelyn remarked favourably on the garden design observed during his 1678 visit, noting “. the Parterres, Flower Gardens, Orangeries, Growves, Avenues, Courts, Statues, Perspectives, Fountaines, Aviaries…”. [28] The Duchess also commissioned a set of iron gates for the north entrance to the property, which remain in place today. [1]

The 3rd and 4th Earls of Dysart who subsequently inherited the estate maintained the formal garden features into the 18th century, while also planting avenues of trees in the wider vicinity. [26] After inheriting the estate in 1799, the 6th Earl opened the north front of the property to the river and installed the Coade stone statue of the River God at the front of the house. [1] He also created the sunken ha-ha which runs along the north entrance of the property. [1] Louisa Manners, 7th Countess of Dysart, inherited the estate upon her brother’s death and was acquainted with the artist John Constable, who completed a sketch of Ham House from the south gardens during a visit in 1835. [1]

By 1972, the gardens had become significantly overgrown – large bay trees at the front blocked the view of the busts in their niches, the south lawn had reverted to a single large expanse of grass and the Wilderness was overgrown with rhododendrons and sycamore trees. [29] Work to restore the 17th century design to the eastern and southern parts of the garden began in 1975. [26] In 1974, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled "The Destruction of the Country House" had included a model of Ham House with its gardens shown according to the 1672 plans created by Ms. Lucy (Henderson) Askew. [30] This model illustrated the details of the 17th-century design in terms of both layout and plant selection and was used to garner support for the restoration project. [30] By 1977, the grass plats and the structure of the Wilderness to the south of the house were re-established. [31] The 1675 painting by Henry Danckaerts showing the Duke and Duchess in the south gardens was used to guide the restoration of the furniture and statues now in place. [31]

In approaching the restoration of the “cherry garden” on the east side of the house, there was less documentary evidence available to guide the design. [31] A set of diagonally-set parterres outlined by box hedges and cones were planted with lavender, with the whole garden being enclosed by tunnel arbours and double yew hedges. [31] However, later archaeological studies completed in the 1980s indicated no evidence of formal gardens in this area prior to the 20th century. [31] Despite this finding, the National Trust’s Gardens Panel decided not to remove the garden, but rather allow it to remain so long as visitors to the property were clearly informed of its origins. [31]

The focus of garden restoration since 2000 has been the walled garden to the west of the house, to restore its use as a supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. [31] The produce is used in the Orangery cafe, while the flowers are used to decorate the house. The garden itself is also used as an exhibition space, with information about tulip varieties and the range of edible flowers.

The property is a popular period location for film and television productions, on account of its 17th- and 18th- century architecture, interiors and gardens. The house has also featured in documentary TV and radio. [32] [33]

Film Edit

  • Spice World (1997)
  • The Young Victoria (2009) – The exterior was used as Kensington Palace.
  • An Englishman in New York (2009)
  • Never Let Me Go (2010) – The house was used as the setting for Hailsham Boarding School in the 2010 film Never Let Me Go, which starred Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley. [34] (2012) – Ham's interior provided the location for Vronsky's rooms in Joe Wright's 2012 film Anna Karenina. [35] (2012) – Ham House's interior featured in Disney's version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian adventure, John Carter. (2014) (2017)
  • Downton Abbey (2019)
  • The Last Vermeer (2019)
  • Rebecca (2020)

Television Edit

    (1959) (1964) – The BBC comedy series Steptoe and Son featured wintertime exterior shots in the episode "Homes Fit For Heroes" (1964). (2003) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010–2015) (2015) (2017) (2018) (2018–2019) (2020) (2020) (2020) (2020)

The house can be reached by public transport, being in Transport for London travel zone 4 from Richmond station (London) the 65 bus service serves Petersham Road and the 371 bus service serves Sandy Lane. These routes terminate near Kingston station.

There is a free council car park north-west of the house, next to the Thames. Hammerton's Ferry, to the north-east, links to a playground between Orleans House Gallery and Marble Hill House below Twickenham's central embankment. The house is accessible to pedestrians and cyclists via Thames Path national trail.

5. Strange Dreams and Nightly Terrors

Sleep paralysis, or hypnagogia, can explain away a lot of various and terrifying sensations — awakening to a feeling of terror or a presence in your room, hearing footsteps, and even feeling the weight of a wicked witch pressing down upon your chest. But strange dreams involving people you don’t know and recurring night terrors are said to be a sign that something else may be afoot. Are spirits trying to contact you from the other side?


There are three ways to access the Basement.

The first way to access the Basement is to use the doorway close to the Main Door. To find this door, the Player must go down the stairs outside the Starting Bedroom and then go left until they see a door other than the Main Door.

The second route to the Basement requires the Player to make their way to the Dining Room, and then jump through the Window to access the Backyard. From there, the Player needs to go into the Shed, and a wooden platform should automatically shift away from the Player when they stand close to it. Doing so reveals the entrance to the Hidden Tunnel. From there, the Player must crouch and crawl through the Hidden Tunnel and towards the Hidden Room. When the Player reaches the Hidden Room, they will see an open doorway infront of them. However, it is blocked by a set of Boxes, which must knock over. To do this, the Player must crouch and crawl into the boxes, and then through the open doorway. The Player will then find themselves in the Basement, but be careful, as Granny will hear the boxes fall over.

The third way to access the Basement is to go through the Secret Area. To do this, the Player has to make their way from the Starting Bedroom towards Bedroom 1. From there, the Player must continue forward towards the Walk-In Closet, where they will find a stack of 3 Cardboard Boxes. The Player then has to knock over the Boxes and head into the Secret Area. The Player should then follow all of the staircases down in the Secret Area until they reach the bottom floor of the Secret Area. In this room they will find the other side of the Secret Tunnel, which they should crawl through until they reach a Metal Panel covering the other side of the tunnel. The Player should then knock over this Metal Panel, and they will find themselves in the Basement. Be careful when you knock over the Metal Panel as it will make noise.

15 Facts About Hans Holbein's 'The Ambassadors'

Long before wearing 3D glasses or looking for Easter eggs became popular, Renaissance painters figured out to get their audiences to look at pieces from new angles by playing with perspective. One of the most famous examples of the technique is Hans Holbein the Younger's double portrait The Ambassadors, which possesses a history as rich as the many details hidden in its brushstrokes.


Following in the footsteps of his father Hans Holbein the Elder, the Bavarian-born artist made his name by dedicating his talents to religious subjects like The Body of the Dead Christ In The Tomb. As he neared his 30s, Holbein was making a successful living in this oeuvre, but he still decided to take a chance on new subject matter. He traveled to England, then Switzerland, and back to London, expanding into more secular portraits.


The Dutch intellectual introduced Holbein to his humanist circles, winning the artist commissions from members of the English court like council to the king, Thomas More, and Anne Boleyn.


The figure on the left side of The Ambassadors is Jean de Dinteville, the French ambassador to England. He was nearing his 30 th birthday at the time of this double portrait. His friend and fellow diplomat Georges de Selve, pictured on the right, was only 25 at the time and had already served as the French ambassador to the Republic of Venice on several occasions.


Look closely at the dagger held by Dinteville, and you'll spot a 29 on its ornate scabbard. Similarly, the book under Selve's elbow has "25" written upon its side. These props were also employed as symbols of their character. The book signifies Selve's contemplative nature, while the dagger declares Dinteville a man of action.


In addition to marveling at Holbein's eye for detail, art historians praise the work's ability to make it seem like the viewer could step right into the canvas. But there's an added layer of meaning, as this famous floor is meant to represent the macrocosm. By extension, it places these men in the grander scheme of the universe as a whole.

It’s possible that de Dinteville saw this pattern on the floor of Westminster Abbey during the coronation of Anne Boleyn. But some art historians think that it’s intended to represent similar floors in Rome, indicating the Catholic nature of the two subjects.


Even on a computer screen The Ambassadors can impress, with Holbein's attention to realistically capturing texture and minute details. But in person it has an even bigger impact, measuring in at 81.5 × 82.5 inches.


Dinteville commissioned the piece to immortalize himself and his friend. Following the tradition of such portraits, Holbein presented them in finery and furs and surrounded the duo with symbols of knowledge, like books, globes, and musical instruments. However, the thoughtful painter also included symbols that pointed to the troubles these men faced.


Part of Dinteville's job was to report back to France about the goings on of the English court. And with Henry VIII in the process of separating from Catherine of Aragon so he might marry Anne Boleyn, there was plenty going on. Those events also included the English King's rejection of the Catholic Church and its pope, as well as the creation of the Church of England. The Ambassadors was completed in 1533, the same year Boleyn gave birth to Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth I.


In the middle of The Ambassadors, Holbein depicts a lute. But a keen eye will note that one of its strings is snapped, creating a visual representation of "discord."


The German painter traveled to London in 1532 in hopes of securing some wealthy patrons—and it worked. Despite the secret Catholic symbolism present in The Ambassadors, the King hired Holbein to be his personal painter circa 1535. Two years later, Holbein completed Portrait of Henry VIII, and although the original was destroyed in a fire in 1698, copies remain the most defining portraits of the controversial monarch.


Anamorphosis is the depiction of an object in a way that purposely distorts its perspective, requiring a specific viewing point to see it properly. Examples of anamorphic art date back to the 15th century, and include a Leonardo da Vinci sketch known today as Leonardo's Eye. If you look at The Ambassadors at an acute angle, the white and black smudge that cuts across the bottom of the painting becomes a fully realized human skull.


The medieval Latin theory focuses on man's inescapable mortality as a means of urging practitioners to reject vanity and the short-lived joys of earthly goods. And the hidden skull was a symbol of the inevitability of death. A skull might seem like an ominous sign to place between two young gentlemen, who were draped in luxury, but Dinteville, who commissioned the painting, was a memento mori admirer. His personal motto was "remember thou shalt die."


In the upper left corner, behind the lush green curtain, you'll find Jesus in an iconic pose. Some art historians believe this divine cameo is tied to the memento mori skull and that it alludes to a place past mortality. It's a symbol meant to suggest that there is more than death, meaning an afterlife through Christ. Others believe the hidden icon represents the division of the church that Henry VIII was inflicting on his countrymen.


According to some art critics, the bottom level—where the anamorphic skull lies on a macrocosm floor—depicts death, looming and large. The middle layer of the shelf—which is populated by a terrestrial globe, a hymn of Martin Luther's, and musical instruments—presents the living world, full of joy and endeavor. Lastly, the top shelf with its celestial globe, astronomy tools, and hidden crucifix symbolizes the heavens and redemption through Christ.


The oil on oak portrait was made to hang in the halls of Dinteville's home. However, The National Gallery has displayed Holbein's mind-bending painting since 1890. For more than 125 years, it has been one of the London museum's most prized exhibits.

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