Talk by Gordon Elsden on the Royal Manor House of Ham

Date(s) - Monday 13 March 2023
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Duke Street Church

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Gordon Elsden, a local historian, writer and businessman, has been trying to resurrect (in public consciousness, at least) the long-forgotten 15th-century Manor House of Ham which predated Ham House by some 200 years. In this talk he told us how he did it. 

Gordon took us through the background of a dairy farm, known locally as Secrett’s Farm that was located on Ham Street directly opposite Grey Court Secondary School and less than 1 km south of Ham House.

The farm was demolished in 1958 but, part way through the demolition, they discovered the fabric of a medieval manor house. A field archaeologist was sent to make notes and sketches of the site and take some photographs. He estimated that the building was a 15th century medieval manor house. Fortunately, though there is no record of the medieval house in Richmond, the records, though somewhat faded, have survived in the Surrey History Centre in Woking. Later on this site, an architecturally forgettable block of shops and flats was built without any reference to the history of the site.

Gordon then took the audience through an interesting account of the medieval kings and queens who were connected in some way to Shene (now Richmond), Kingston and Ham.

In 1415, Henry V purchased the manor of Petersham from Chertsey Abbey and the Manor of Ham from the Burnell family. By so doing, he consolidated his royal estate around the palace being built at Shene. He appointed, as the Clerk of King’s Works, a man by the name of John Arderne. Under the reign of Henry VI, John Arderne was also rewarded with the rent from the consolidated farm of Shene, Petersham & Ham. Arderne, the foremost builder in the land, had the resources, the materials and the labour force to build the medieval manor house at Ham.

Gordon has commissioned architects with specialist knowledge of medieval buildings to review all the demolition documents. They came to the view that its special features, including its gothic windows, made it a manor house of the Royal estate. They provided detailed drawings that bring to life both the house and the farmyard including the stables.

A chance discovery disclosed that Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII also kept a stable at Ham (at the Manor House).

Gordon is concerned that Richmond Council pays little attention to the rich ancient historical legacy of Ham. To his great disappointment, despite repeated representations, a large development immediately adjacent to the plot has been given the go ahead without any historic reference to the ancient site. Ham is burdened with yet another architecturally unmemorable development.

Gordon hopes, through his talks, to raise public awareness of the site so that in the future when the exact site of the Royal medieval manor house is redeveloped, there will be a building more sympathetic to its fascinating history.

There is a video recording of Gordon’s talk on our YouTube channel.