Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

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Ham House – Fashionable but Fierce

Leased to the childhood friend and whipping boy of Charles I, William Murray, Ham House in Richmond, Surrey, is said to be one of the very last examples of 17th century decadence and influence. Built for the luxurious to show off how loaded they were, it still stands today as proud as it was built to be in 1610.

Surrounded by wildly overgrown woods and romantic gardens, it peaks out between the bushes along the River Thames and intrigues passers-by on the water. Imposing and quite brutal close up, amongst the most popular of the National Trust’s collection, Ham House is a place I go back to again and again.

Ham House

Fit for a whipping boy

Murray had been (yes, you did read that right,) the favourite whipping boy of the young Charles and was given the slave’s role of being at the mercy of corporal punishment on behalf of the little prince when caught being naughty. Not a hugely fabulous job for a child. These days, more than shocking.

Ham HouseYet the punishment was still meant for the littler master rather than the slave, as it was thought that as the boys had usually formed a strong and emotional bond.  The mere fact that their slave friend was being flogged for something they had done instead of him, was seen to be punishment enough and thus a deterrent to misbehaviours in future.

It wasn’t ever seen as a position of detriment but rather a role that the poorer classes would aspire to. It was a chance to get close to royal position and in some cases (only some mind) whipping boys were graciously provided for in later life, especially if the friendship had been strong between the boys and the little master became king. Hence Ham House was given to Murray for his ‘former employment.’

 

ham houseInterior of Ham House

One place where I do like to hang out the most inside the house is the great staircase where guests would be greeted from the main door.

You can imagine the family sweeping down the great darkly clad stairs to a fanfare of well… what ever you fancied. The heavily dusty black chandeliers swing in a ghost like manner from the centre of the stair well.

It is simply breathtaking and for a Goth, the ideal area to hang out for several hours at a time.

Second best place to hang out is the green room off from the long hall on the first floor of the building. The room is like a privy closet in Hampton Court full of deep green cladded walls decorated with miniatures of people you will recognise and those you won’t.

The room is tiny but ornate in gold leaf and detail. Another great place to hang out is the library which is usually the first place to close when there is a lack of volunteers so Spring or Summer is often better to see this room which is the master’s study.

Wander around the endless volumes of Victorian literature and guess how many copies you can find of Pickwick Papers while you’re at it…

Film and Television

The house both interior and exteriors have been used to depict other notable buildings on recent years. More recently, the exterior was used as one of the scene of Kensington Palace for Young Victoria (2009) and the interior used as the boarding school in the 2011 film, Never Let Me Go.

 

ham house

The Library

Visiting Ham House

Ham House is one of the rare National Trust properties open all year round, although the opening times of the house do vary but to only a few daylight hours during the winter. The cafe is worth a visit, especially on a darkly Victorian day as it has an open fire in one of the upper floors where you can while away the afternoon surrounded by antique books on poetry and the occult.

 

Goth points: I am giving Ham House 7 out of 10 simply because I find the best time to visit is in the dead of winter when there are only a few brave dog walkers along the river path around.

Best to visit in the colder, darker days as because it is baron walking up to the gates of the house in the biting cold, I imagine it puts the less hardened visitors off. The National Trust volunteers stand outside looking blue in the biting wind that seems to howl relentlessly around the grounds. It is ideal for a wintry walk amongst the hundreds of aging trees and walled gardens.

Ham House

 

More information and visiting hours and access can be found HERE

 

Want to find out about more recommended Goth days out?

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire

Wells Cathedral, Somerset

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

More on Goth days out

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Brilliantly Dark Gothic Places To Roam And Be Whistful – Salisbury Cathedral

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Salisbury Cathedral has got to be one of the most stunning Gothic places to visit in the West of the UK.

gothic places to visit in the UK

Massive, imposing and just about as creepy as they get, this beautiful Cathedral might not house the most Gothic of notables (although you will find the stone for Ted Heath here) yet this place with its medieval past and present needs to be a must on your Gothic trail.

You will find, four copies of the Magna Carta (one of which was almost successfully stolen in 2018) as well as one of the oldest surviving clocks in the world which has been ticking since 1386.

gothic places to visit in the UK

The world’s oldest clock (or at least one of them)

Having no hands or face (clocks didn’t have such things originally) it actually looks nothing like a clock, yet it’s endearing and it will have you staring at it for a long time! It has been moved a couple of times during renovations and the like, and even spent a few decades in the loft (if Cathedrals have lofts) until it was restored and brought back to the public in the 1950’s.

gothic places to visit in the UK

Salisbury hasn’t had the best of press in recent months (I shan’t go into detail here) and this historic and beautiful city has struggled to maintain its appeal. Christmas was unusually quiet for this giant market town and despite all efforts to keep up the free park and ride into town, the locals have seen a decline in the town’s popularity.

I would strongly encourage to visit this gem of a city. Goth or non-Goth alike. The cobbled streets and dainty Victorian shop fronts mixed in with streets of Tudor buildings, you will be pushed on what to step back and wonder at first.

gothic places to visit in the UK

There is so much to see in the town or Salisbury, but for the purposes of this blog post, let’s stick to the ever so Goth Cathedral…

The initial stones were layed in 1220 and the whole building took 38 year to complete into pretty much what you see today.

 

Who is buried there?

If you are like me and love nothing better than wistfully gazing across the graves of darkly romantic and tortured historic figures, you might be a little disappointed with Salisbury Cathedral as apart from a Prime Minister who resided not far from the Cathedral itself, there are very few interesting people buried here, unless you love Bishops.

The only interesting character here (and most interested tomb) is that of Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford who might not strike any bells with you so far, but was the nephew of the doomed Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII.

Apart from being the nephew of the King’s favourite wife, he was probably best remembered for whipping up the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth I’s because he kept marrying his wives in secret.

His first wife was Lady Catherine Grey, the pretty and younger sister of the infamous Lady Jane Grey who met her death being beheaded after only being

edward seymour

on the throne for 9 days.

Seymour spent his far share in the Tower of London also during his life but avoided any grizzly endings unlike those of the people around him.

He and his male relatives spent most of their lives dodging persecution and arrest of one level or another for many years.

Goth Points: I love that the cathedral is open to the public 365 days a year. Like all cathedrals should be (with a cafe in the walls of the place open too.) So I’m giving it 8 out of 10.

Opening times: can be found HERE. I strongly recommend checking the site before you go. Due to the fact that it’s 800 years old and holds the Magna Carta, opening times to the public might be restricted because of tours.