Lamb House opens its doors

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Henry James looks down

Lamb House, the National Trust (NT) property at the top of West Street, opens its doors for 2019 this Friday, March 1 at 11am. Formerly the home of the writers Henry James and EF Benson, and originally built by James Lamb in the 18th century, the house and garden have been extensively refurbished and reorganised by the NT following the departure of the final tenant in 2018. Last year, the visitors to the house numbered 13,000, a dramatic increase from when it was a tenanted home, though it has obviously been open more often.

The guides, new and old, were invited to a pre-opening coffee morning and tour to see the improvements that have continued to be made over the winter months. It was discovered that the staircase, previously only used by the families in the house, was suffering badly from the increased footfall, and this has now been put right. Of course, this can’t be seen, but obviously had an impact on funds available for other improvements.

The dining room is looking very attractive, with the table gleaming with glass and cutlery and Henry James’ portrait looking down on it. The oak-panelled drawing room is now a book room, with chairs to sit on and hopefully books on sale to be read.

The telephone room where Henry James put in the first phone to be seen in Rye, looks like a study and a place to use a new instrument like that.

View from bedchamber

Upstairs, another room is being opened up to show how the project of refurbishment is progressing, and the wig room will be having some different items but is a work in progress. The bed chamber still holds the magnificent four-poster bed and has some additional items of furniture as well. The wonderful view of the church, as always, catches the eye all over again.

The tea room has been open for a year now, and on moving into the garden, it is obvious that a lot of hard work has been undertaken. It will be very interesting to see the growth as the year progresses. The trees have been pruned and even the mulberry tree is showing signs of recovery! This garden is one of the reasons to visit this house, right in the centre of the town as it is.

Jennifer Hatton, Senior Visitor Experience Officer

The property looks more homely – after all, it has been someone’s home for centuries – and is shining with polish and good housekeeping. It is definitely worth another visit, even if seen last year, as it is much improved and new visitors will enjoy it all the more. The entrance hall even has a table of gentlemen’s hats of the early 20th century for children (and others) to try on.

Lamb House is open from March 1 until October 29 every day except Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11am until 5pm.
If you are interested in volunteering, email Jenny Hatton (pictured) at Jennifer.hatton@nationaltrust.org.uk, she would love to hear from you.

Image Credits: Gillian Roder.

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