- Advert in Country Life for the sale of Ham Spray House, 5 Jan 1924 for £3,000.
Ham Spray House:
Ham Spray house was a Bloomsbury home and refuge for 36 years between 1924 and 1960. For much of this time it was the home of Lytton Strachey, Dora Carrington and Ralph Partridge. Many of the Bloomsbury Group visited the house during this time.
Ham Spray House is about 4-5 miles south of Hungerford, just east of the village of Ham, and just south of the road between Ham and Inkpen.
Carrington discovered Ham Spray in October 1923 when visiting Wiltshire. It was for sale (from Major Huth) for the freehold price of £3,000. Lytton eventually purchased it on 5 Jan 1924 for £2,300 - but it was registered in Ralph's name for security, since he was younger and also Carrington's husband.
It was a mid-Victorian farmhouse with no drains or electricity and in need of much restoration. At that time it was approached by a long, straight avenue of lofty wych-elms, but owing to Dutch elm disease, those elms no longer exist. Along nearly the whole of the south front was a covered verandah but this has now been reduced to a porch over the central doorway.
Even today the house has cess pool drainage and its own well water supply. To pander to Lytton's aversion to the cold, central heating was installed and a big open fireplace was installed in the main sitting room. A loft at the east end was converted into a studio for Carrington and Lytton had a study upstairs where he wrote all his books.
As the house was in need of considerable restoration every room was gradually transformed with typical "Bloomsbury" decorations by Carrington, Henry Lamb, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and others. As they preferred shades of green, mauve, cloudy yellow and thick brown it was not a very cheerful aspect.
Original tiles, painted by Carrington, surround the fireplace in Strachey's bedroom. A trompe l'oeil bookcase painted on a door leading from Strachey's bedroom still exists, otherwise nothing of this sombre decoration now exists and the house is now light and airy.
There were many visitors to Ham Spray over the year 1924 to 1931.
Strachey died at Ham Spray in January 1932 arid Carrington committed suicide there six weeks later. Following the tragedy of these two deaths, Ralph Partridge went on to marry his lover Frances Marshall in 1933. The Partridges lived there until 1960 when Ralph died (on 1 Dec 1960) and Frances sold the house in 1961. It was bought by the Elwes family for £9,500, and later by Mr and Mrs Robert Gray.
(Partly from notes by Pam Haseltine, Feb 1992)
- Below Stairs at Ham Spray House, by Robin Buchanan-Dunlop
- "Ham Spray: Lytton and Carrington's Country Retreat" by Philip Neale, 2005