Friday 29 June 2007

Karl Moritz muses over Ham House - # 153

Only another 300 yards or so as the crow flies, and Karl stops to admire Ham House, standing on its natural hump, raised slightly (but safely enough) above the river bank level. The master builder seems to have been perfectly aware of flood risk, topography and excellent practice in the daring but ultimately safe siting of an important house so close to the river. The same goes for its neighbour, Douglas House, seen yesterday.

(This is an archived shot from last year. Right now the lawns are much greener, on account of the excessive rainfall).

Built in 1610, Ham House was at the centre of politics throughout the Civil War and the Restoration. Only "first rate Big Hitters"....both men and women....were entertained here.

By 1782 things had subsided somewhat to the the level of the Duke writing to his son asking why he needed yet more money to fund him on "the Grand Tour" of the continent of Europe, and "wasn't the modest allowance enough?"

On a domestic note (and let's not forget that Karl became a professor in the field of aesthetics), I am struck by the influence of this design on the "British 1930s suburban semi-detached villa". It has the typical bay window, the classic English brickwork; the same roof line and so on. I look at it every day and think how "homely" it is, although its history is one of hosting the nation's most powerful people and contributing to Richmond's current fortunate status.

From what I know, it is highly likely that Karl Moritz saw this view exactly as we see it here.

(The Moritz tour will continue, but I confess that right now the excessive rain and dark clouds are hampering my efforts and my intentions).


  1. Good photo Chuckeroon - nicely cropped. Does Karl make any reference to flooding? (I haven't been through all the diaries!) I know I've been caught out a few times when I used to walk from Isleworth into Richmond by the lock
    (another massive wortbestätigung to overcome with this post, but I'll do my best)

  2. I didn't take in the bit about 1930's semis first time round. I suppose when the garden suburb was springing up they looked for influences, consciously or subconsciously. However I think the style probably had more to do with practicalities. Brick has always been the favourite in London when using local materials (well there's nothing else, and wood was frowned upon ever since the great fire, even if you could find any) and the pitched roof is the best way to span a domestic space. I tend to think that the bay window was more inspired by the desire for a cottag -like look. Part of the whole escapism of the town planning ideal. However I could be and probably am completely wrong

  3. This beautiful building made me curious and I had a further look on Wikipedia (so now I have also seen the other side and know a bit more about the family who lived there during generations...).

    Also, it's clear that here nothing has changed since Karl's visit!

    This "first rate"... and "second rate" etc. really fascinates me. It somehow sounds so British!

    Hope the weather changes quickly, you may not have too many archive photos left!

  4. So you and Karl has made a weekend pause? ... waiting for the rain to stop.

  5. The perspective in this photo really works for me, as do the clouds and blue sky. Your photo title alludes to a cherry garden. Are those the trees in a line, between the house and the cone garden?

    I had to smile at the use of "homely". Partly because of the American meaning it carries.

    The staggered windows: stairwell?

    On the matter of the harvesting in Villigen, yes some of the crops have been cropped, as you saw in the Rein church photo. We've had a lot of cloud cover and rain here, and I can't make myself show photos with a white sky unless I'm forced to. So, I haven't really been out in the fields, monitoring the progress with my camera.

  6. Since you mention that you have an "in" with the folks at Ham House, can you take photos of the room with the descending (or ascending, depending on your POV) windows? I really want to see what it looks like to see that wall with them.

    I'll be waiting to hear about the cherry garden...

    BTW, I'm in agreement with the Brit homely = Am homey. However, "homely" in American English:
    (of a person) unattractive in appearance