House used by first cabal to reopen

WHEN THE Dutch Old Master paintings at Ham House near Richmond were taken down recently, neat vellum labels were discovered on the backs valuing the pictures for the pawnbroker.

The Duke of Lauderdale, the 17th-century owner of the house in south-west London, was an extremely wealthy and powerful man, but after his death his widow became involved in an expensive lawsuit.

'The lawsuit lasted for 16 years and nearly ruined the duchess,' Nino Strachey, a historian working for the National Trust, which owns the house, said. 'The pictures went in and out of pawn so the Duchess could meet her bills.' After a gap of two years, Ham House, built about 1610, will open once more to the public on 30 March, following a restoration costing pounds 2.5m. It took nine months for all the pictures to be taken down and boxed before contractors were allowed in to strip and treat floors and repaint walls.

Nowhere else in England has 17th-century domestic history been preserved in such stunning detail. Once again visitors will be able to walk into the room where meetings of the first cabal, the kitchen cabinet of Charles II, were held in the 1670s.

The cabal - named after its members: Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington and Lauderdale - fixed matters of state while they sat in heavy carved gilt chairs beside an elegant marble fireplace surrounded by twisted Baroque pillars.

When the cabal wearied of their deliberations they could walk in the long gallery next door where family portraits were hung. The pictures have been rehung above head height as they would have been in the 17th century.

At the end of the long gallery is the library, which houses about 4,000 17th- and 18th-century books bequeathed to the National Trust.

The Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale were extremely well connected. The duke was the King's viceroy in Scotland and the duchess was descended from Lord Dysart, a childhood friend of Charles II. The duchess made her reputation with the Royals during Cromwell's protectorate when, as a member of the secret society the Sealed Knot, she sent coded messages to France.

Information flowed in both directions. During a visit to France the Duchess discovered bathrooms and decided she must have one of her own. And so the first bathroom in England was built at Ham House.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map