Ham House enters into the Christmas spirit

Ham House has embraced the festive season with the return of much-loved Christmas decorations.

The National Trust property has opted for a natural look, with 20 real Christmas trees, pine branches from the gardens and dried oranges accompanying plenty of fairy lights and candles adorning the 17th-century halls.

Sarah McGrady, senior collections and house officer at Ham, told the Kingston Courier: “All the candles and lights […] give a really nice cosy, festive feel.

“People do say that they love coming here. Every Christmas, we have a number of locals that come year on year as part of their family tradition, which is really nice.”

It took a team of staff and volunteers two weeks to complete the Christmas transformation of the house and gardens, but everyone agrees all the effort has been worth it.

Lucy Holman, volunteering and community officer at the property, said: “[The decorating] was a nice opportunity for the volunteers to come in from all different parts of the site to help. […] One volunteer even said it was the best day of her year, so it’s really lovely that we’re able to have that sort of impact.”

This year, the Christmas trees were sourced from the National Trust’s own Whitley Common in Surrey for the first time, contributing to the property’s sustainability efforts.

The festive period is a popular time for Ham House, with visitor rates booming.  It’s also a hit for families – despite Father Christmas’ absence this year due to Covid, there is a Percy the Parkkeeper winter trail around the grounds to enjoy. 

The Christmas decorations will be available to see until January 2 2022.

Ham House is ensuring visitors are kept safe during the pandemic. Photo: Kate Byng-Hall

Appeal for volunteers

The property has seen a slight dip in volunteer numbers due to the pandemic and the cold winter temperatures, so is currently forced to shut the house on Mondays. This means it is looking for keen new recruits.

Holman said: “[By volunteering,] you get to meet so many people who are enthusiastic about Ham House and the placement it has within the community.

“The passion for the place is really clear in our volunteers because a lot of them have come back [since lockdown]. It’s really reassuring that people were still thinking about us.”

She pointed out that volunteering at a property like Ham is also a great opportunity to find out more about the heritage industry, and the kinds of jobs that are available in the sector.

Anthea Young, a volunteer who has been at Ham House for almost ten years, said: “There’s a lovely atmosphere here, it’s charming.  When I moved here, I knew no one, but I’ve met plenty of friends at Ham.”

“When I stopped working, I feel like I’d lost my point a bit. But coming here gives me a purpose. […] There’s something lovely about the place that I can’t quite put my finger on,” she said.

Another volunteer Domenico Strano, who has only been at the property since May, said it had allowed him to learn more about art history, and communicate his “passion” to the public.  He said he did not need prior knowledge to give volunteering a go.

“Working at the House gives you the opportunity to be amongst the beautiful things, and learn so much about them and their history. […] It’s a wonderful thing to volunteer for the National Trust,” he said.

Anthea’s main piece of advice is to “try it and you’ll probably enjoy it. I don’t know anyone who tried it and didn’t come back”.

From February, vacancies for volunteers in room guiding, collection care and visitor welcoming will be open. Find out more here.

Ham House café and gardens are open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm, while the house itself is open 12-4pm. Booking is no longer required.

The house will be closed in January and February, but the rest of the site will remain open.

All photos by Kate Byng-Hall.

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