History of Lamb House

The Oak parlour at Lamb House Rye

Lamb House has been the inspiration and setting for a vast range of authors and books alike and once played host to George I. Explore the past of this Sussex treasure.

Fit for a king

Lamb House was built in 1722 by James Lamb, a wealthy wine merchant and local politician. George I stayed at the house after a storm drove his ship ashore at Camber in 1726, Lamb House was considered the most suitable accommodation and James Lamb gave up his bed to the King for several days. In 1832 George Augustus Lamb sold the house to a wealthy local banker.

An inspiring place to write

The American novelist Henry James discovered Rye and Lamb House quite by chance whilst visiting an architect friend. He was enchanted by the house and delighted when the chance came to lease it in 1897. He bought it two years later.
James wrote three of his novels here, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. He wrote in the garden room, a self-contained building next to the house built in 1743 as a separate banqueting room and destroyed in 1940 during a bombing raid. Lamb House appeared as Mr Longdon’s home in James’s novel, The Awkward Age.

A home of grand connections

E F Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels were based on Rye with Lamb House starring in a lead role as 'Malllards', the home of Miss Mapp. Varied styles of writing have been penned here and with such central positioning in the town, it's not surprising that local characters and buildings have inspired great bodies of writing. The house has played host to many esteemed guests too.

Literary connections

The house became a centre for Henry James’s wide circle of literary friends, including H.G.Wells, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Max Beerbolm, Hilaire Beloc G.K.Chesterton, Compton Mackenzie and Ford Maddox Ford.
James spent the majority of his time in Rye but died in London in 1916. It was his wish to return to Lamb House during his final days but was too ill to be moved.