Robert Beddard shows how a sumptuous mansion by the Thames became a hive of intrigue and activity for its Stuart courtier owners.
Ham House, situated on the River Thames, outside Richmond, in Surrey, is a house with a tale to tell. For three centuries it was the home of the Tollemache earls of Dysart, a title in the Scottish peerage. Since 1948 the house has been in the safekeeping of the National Trust, which in co-operation with the Victoria and Albert Museum, the guardian of its contents, has restored it to its former splendour. Set in the midst of its level lawns and peaceful gardens, Ham House presents itself today as an oasis of calm surrounded by the noisy, westward sprawl of the metropolis. Yet, its present cosetted tranquility belies its bustling past, for it was once a hive of activity – political, social and cultural.