Monday, 26 May 2014

Strange happenings in the Long Gallery

Last February, whilst on holiday in London, we decided to pop down to Richmond and visit Ham House:

The front:

The very handsome rear view:

As with most old country houses, Ham House has a very interesting history.
Having been built at the beginning of the early seventeenth century (about 1610), the house was leased by King Charles I to his good friend, William Murray.
I should point out here that William Murray had been Charles' whipping boy when CHarles was a young prince.  In the 15th and 16th Century, only the King was allowed to punish or whip his sons because they had the potential to become kings themselves, and in the Stuart era, when the Divine Right of Kings was rampant, no one would dare to strike a king (or a king-in-waiting) and yet sometimes, even princes needed punishment.  This is where the whipping boy came in - taking the punishment meant for the prince.  Luckily, it would appear that Charles was a relatively well-behaved child and so William Murray rarely suffered punishment.
Of course there were benefits to being the whipping boy.  Living with the prince's household, sharing his schooling and, as in the case of William and Charles, forming a close friendship: A very profitable situation to be in!
When they were grown up and Charles was King, William not only received Ham House but an earldom as well...

* * * * * *

These days Ham House is run by the National Trust and is closed for much of the Winter.  On the day we attended, they had opened a few rooms as a preliminary to 'The Season'.  As these times, entry is only permissible for those who choose to go on a guided tour.  We were okay with that and duly joined the group waiting at the front door.

The 'thing' about Ham House is that it is said to be haunted.  The star among the ghosts is Elizabeth, daughter of William, and Duchess of Lauderdale.  

Here she is with her second husband, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale:,_1st_duke_of_Lauderdale,_and_his_wife_Elizabeth_Murry,_Duchess_of_Lauderdale_(3977704407).jpg

Surviving both of her husbands, Elizabeth stayed on at Ham House, and died there.  Her ghost is said to often be heard and sometimes seen on the stairs . . .

. . . and in various other parts of the house as well.  Her dog is said to do the rounds with her; and the Duke of Lauderdale haunts one of the main rooms, so it is very much a family affair!


We went in through the front door with the others on the tour:

We walked through the various rooms and looked at the treasures they contained:

Soon we were up in the Long Gallery, where various wonderful paintings are to be seen:

One in particular is this:
'Self Portrait with Sunflower' by Antony van Dyk - I do like this painting.

Then AGA saw this portrait of the Duchess of Lauderdale and asked me to take a photo because given the subject matter, he intended to use it as in example of slavery, in a unit of inquiry he was teaching.  For some reason I felt a little uneasy as I took the photo:

Everyone else left the room, including AGA but I (and another chap) lingered to take a few more photos while the guide stood at the doorway.  I particularly wanted to take this one of King Charles I.
The portrait faces that of the Duchess, and as I took the photo, I had the strangest feeling come over me.

It is hard to explain accurately but I felt as if I had been passed through by something. My energy was completely drained and I thought I was going to pass out.  I remember closing my eyes and saying silently to myself: 'pull yourself together!'  
The sensation was brief and I soon felt absolutely fine.  The others seemed unaware that anything had happened and so I left with them, went back through the gallery with AGA and the rest, then down the stairs.  our tour concluded soon afterwards.
When we were well out of earshot of anyone else I told AGA what had happened.  He is a very no-nonsense, scientific sort of chap.  He told me in all seriousness that he had had exactly the same feeling on the stairs as we were leaving:

When I checked the guide book it said that the gallery and the stairs were supposedly the most haunted parts of the house. . .

So there you have it.
Perhaps the Duchess was saying 'hello'.
Then again, perhaps she heard the somewhat uncharitable remarks we had made about her possible personality while viewing her portrait and decided to give us a fright . . .
Whatever it was, it was certainly most unusual and in time to come when we are very old, we will entertain the younger generations with talks of our visit to one of the most haunted houses in England.

By the way, even in winter, the gardens of Ham look nice:

And I think that this might appeal to David Cowell over at the Willowbrook Park blog:

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Staggering about.

A few months ago, I experienced a blog 'implosion' of sorts.  

So many things started happening at the same time.  

I didn't know if I was coming or going. . .  

Thankfully, it hasn't been anything too serious but our lives have certainly been busy, and action-packed: work; family; and the preparations for our big move.  All have filled up so much of my time and thoughts.

Have you ever experienced a time like that?  At the end of the day one gets into bed and feels like pulling the bed covers over ones head and sleeping for ever!

Having said that, though, and before I make things sound too dramatic, I should add that it has not all been work and no play...

There has been eating:

A lot of eating:

And sightseeing:

And shopping:

And more sightseeing:

So what with one thing and another my blog has had the shutters closed and the curtains drawn.


Things are gradually returning to normal and I am slowly starting to sit back and take it easy.  I expect to return 'full time' to my blog in the next week or so, but until then 'adieu', and in the meantime, please help yourself to a 'tarte framboise' (raspberry tart)...