“ Address: Ham Street / Ham / Richmond-upon-Thames TW10 7RS / England „
Last year I returned home from Prague having spent a week cramming as much sightseeing into the time I had as possible and feeling quite satisfied that I had seen a lot of the city and made the best of my time there. I resumed my daily life of going to work then going to the same pubs, restaurants and cinema's with my friends. And then I realised that I had probably seen more of Prague than I have of London, where I currently live. That's not quite true, I have done some sightseeing in the past, most of it before I moved here but the fact remained that I rarely take advantage of all of the wonderful places that we have right here in the United Kingdom.
My response to this was to join the National Trust. This isn't my first attempt to motivate myself to see more of London and more of the country. I have joined various schemes before that offer discounts on attractions but this time I was determined to actually use my membership. So, I turned to the London section in the National Trust's guide book and decided to visit all of the places that were located in London. The first on my list was Ham House and Garden in Richmond.
Getting to Ham House and Garden was really easy. I took the train to Richmond station and from there you could either get a bus or walk. It was a beautiful day so we opted to walk and I'm so glad that we did. I would recommend getting a map from the station to the footpath because it can be a little bit confusing and we did have to stop off somewhere for directions. When you get to the Thames Path it's really easy to find Ham House and it's also a really beautiful walk. My only complaint is that the path is not paved so it is quite muddy. The path is along the Thames (hence the name) so it really is a lovely walk.
The house is lovely. I love going to see historical houses and I thought this one was particularly attractive, as you can see from the photo! The inside of the house is equally as beautiful. The ticket (or in my case, membership) will give you access to the ground floor, first floor and the basement. You get to walk through all of the rooms, some of which are decorated in a similar fashion to how they would have been in various periods.
My first impressions of the house were very positive because not only is the house an impressive sight to behold, the staff were so friendly. They greeted us in a very friendly manner and answered a few questions that we had without making us feel like we were imposing. I also witnessed them interacting with a family with children and they were so good with the children, asking them if they wanted to enter a competition and explaining what they would get in return.
I bought two guides, a Ghost Guide for 80p and the short guide to the house for £1. There was also a longer guide but as all I wanted was some brief information to give me an idea about what I was looking at the woman suggested getting the short guide.
There is very little information displayed around the house which was disappointing for me because I love to read about things and find that it really enhances the experience of looking around a house like this. This wasn't such a big deal because I bought the guide which had a small, but adequate, amount of information on each room. I thought the amount of information provided was good because it gave you an overview of what the rooms would have been used for but didn't go overboard with every little detail. I found the leaflet quite difficult to follow but when I finally worked out which room each piece of information related to it was very interesting and useful.
I know that the National Trust is a good cause and I don't begrudge giving them any money but I do feel that if someone pays to get into the house then they shouldn't have to pay extra to have information about what they're seeing.
There was a member of staff in each room talking to people about the history of the house and that room in particular. For the most part this was a very positive thing. I think it's such a nice touch having people around who can answer questions and who you can actually interact with. Most of them were very helpful and friendly.
There was one negative experience and that was in the library. The library was a wonderful room, although it's unfortunate that you can only stand on the edge of the room and not go in properly. Around the room were shelves full of authentic antique books, again a very nice touch. The room was not the problem, the woman working in there was. There was another tourist asking her questions about the room and she asked if the books were real antiques and the woman replied in what I consider to be a very sarcastic way, "well we didn't bring them in for your entertainment." She then went on to explain that they were donated by a collector. The information she provided was very interesting but I felt the manner in which she said it was unnecessary. There's really no need to be sarcastic or make someone feel stupid because they didn't know something.
Some of the rooms are very dark in order to protect the contents of the room. I understand why they have to be dark but I can't stand dim lighting and found it very difficult to read the information that was provided in some of these rooms. Incidently this seemed to be the only place where information was provided free of charge!
Thoughout the house there are a number of portraits. I loved looking at them all and noting the clothing and style in the pictures. I think this helps to bring the house to life because you get to see who lived in the house.
I've tried to think of what my favourite room is but I actually don't have one. I enjoyed looking at the whole house and particularly liked that it was decorated in an authentic way and where possible they had acquired items that would have been used in the house, such as a teapot that was used by the lady of the house.
Ham House advertises itself as one of the most haunted houses in Britain and this was part of the attraction for us. I bought the ghost guide and read through it eagerly only to discover that most of the places that are supposed to be haunted are not accessible to the public, unless you go on one of their ghost tours which costs extra and don't happen very often. I was very disappointed. I think that if you're going to advertise yourself as one of the most haunted houses in Britain then you need to give people access to the places that are supposed to be haunted.
The gardens were actually a lot smaller than I expected them be. They were very pretty and I imagine would be more so in the summer. I can't say that I'm very interested in plants and gardens, if it wasn't for my friends I would have skipped the garden all together. It was quite a relief when the gardens turned out to be a lot smaller than expected, for me at least.
-Food and Drink-
I had lunch in the cafe. A small bottle of coke and a sandwich came to around £5 which is pretty expensive but you expect that when you visit these kinds of places. The sandwich was pretty average, the kind of prepacked sandwich that you can get in any shop.
We also had cream tea. For two cream teas it cost me £9. This may seem expensive but when you look at what you get for it it's actually pretty good value for money. Each cream tea comes with two scones, some clotted cream, jam and of course some tea. Two cream teas were more than enough for the three of us. I have never had cream tea before so I don't really have anything to compare it with but it was wonderful. The scones with the jam and cream tasted heavenly. The tea wasn't as strong as I like it but that would have been easily fixed if I had asked for an extra tea bag.
The cafe closes an hour later than the rest of the house so it does get very busy when the rest of the place has closed. The first time I went in it was pretty empty, the second time the queue was out of the door and we had to wait for a couple of minutes to get a table, so I would recommend trying to get there before the house closes so that you beat the queues. I felt that the cafe could have been cleaner, the tables needed wiping over when I went in the first time while it was mostly empty so you can only imagine how much worse it was when the cafe was busy.
There is a nice patio area with tables and chairs outside of the cafe for those who like to sit out in the sun.
I felt that this was a very child friendly place and I would certainly take my family there. There are activities for the children throughout the house and as I mentioned before they do seem to run a competition for children.
Outside of the cafe there is a lawn where children can play with very large building bricks.
There are ramps leading up to the house and to the gardens but the basement and first floor didn't appear to be accesible. There are some very narrow doorways and some rooms have such a limited space for people to stand that there would be no way of fitting a wheelchair in the room.
There is also a nice little gift shop with some interesting, and surprisingly reasonably priced items for sale.
Overall I had a lovely day out and while there are some things that I feel could be improved this is a lovely house with a lot of things to see and do. I would highly recommend a day out at Ham House for all of the family.
Admission is £9 for adults and £5 for children but if you plan on visiting a couple of properties you may be better off buying an annual membership.
If you are interested I would recommend reading: http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/services-misc/national-trust/1208455/
The Ham House was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I.