New rooms opened at the home of Henry James

Lamb House exterior. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140748001
Lamb House exterior. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140748001

The National Trust has opened up new rooms at the home of Henry James.

From June, visitors to Lamb House, in the heart of historic Rye, have been able to venture up onto the first floor for the first time in 50 years.

Lamb House interior. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140720001

Lamb House interior. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140720001

The newly-conserved spaces reveal more about the lives of the famous literary residents of Lamb House.

They include the Green Room, the winter writing room of Henry James and E F Benson, who also lived here.

There are royal connections in the neighbouring King’s Room, where it is said George I once stayed when seeking shelter from a storm. Used as a bedroom by James, the surviving 18th century panelling and corner chimney piece give a glimpse of the prestige he enjoyed in his private life.

The Closet, a small, historic space, which originally functioned as a dressing room to one of the bedrooms, looks out over the site of the former garden room, which was destroyed in the Second World War.

Lamb House garden. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140734001

Lamb House garden. Photo by Nina Elliot-Newman. SUS-180607-140734001

The newly-open breakfast room leads the way out into Lamb’s historic walled garden, one of the largest open gardens in Rye.

National Trust gardener Guy said: “The garden is a beautiful and unexpected treat in the middle of Rye.

“At the moment, we’re working to restore the garden and courtyard, which is a peaceful spot to enjoy tea, coffee and cakes.”

Over the next three years, more of the rooms at Lamb House will be carefully conserved, bringing to life the stories they contain and the writing they inspired. This will include restoring historic panelling in the oak parlour and the King’s Room, re-displaying the collections, restoring the garden and revisiting how the stories of Henry James and EF Benson are told.

Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, curator and project manager for Lamb House, said: “Part of our work has been to understand the complex history of this house, which was built in the 18th Century as the de facto home of the mayors of Rye.

“The Lamb family, throughout the 1700s, dominated the political life of the town.

“One of the discoveries that we have made are the successive decorative paint schemes that characterised the interiors of the house, including evidence of the earlier shade of green used by James in his winter ‘study’ and large sections of a very early blue paint scheme on the panels in the Closet, which we think might date to the period when the house was lived in by the mayors of Rye.

“Archival imagery also provides key decorative information so that we can tell James’ and Benson’s stories and how they lived more clearly.”

Lamb House is open until October 29, Friday to Monday, from 11am to 5pm.