Rewriting Lamb House
As part of a three-year project, Lamb House has been redesigned to give our visitors more access to the house, the stories it contains and the writing it has inspired. This has involved 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
Part of this exciting project involves the opening of previously closed rooms and spaces for visitors of Lamb House to explore and enjoy.
New spaces have been opened up on the ground floor, the tea room. This is accessible from the garden where refreshments are available to purchase. Here visitors enjoy teas, coffees, cakes and light lunches overlooking the courtyard, with additional outdoor seating to enjoy in the finer weather.
Back inside, the ground floor rooms (entrance hall, telephone room, oak parlour and dining room) remain areas for visitors to explore, but the eighteenth century staircase now invites you up to the first floor of Lamb House for the first time.
The King's Room
The King’s Room on the first floor acquired its name when George I [sic] spent a couple of nights there when he was forced ashore at Rye by a storm and so imprinted it forever. Lamb House was the home of the Mayor and the most illustrious place in the town so it was appropriate that he was given the most prestigious room in Rye to stay in.
Although this room was used as Henry James’ guest room (and what we also believe to have been Benson’s) there are no archival images showing how the room was furnished – though the 18th-century panelling and corner chimney piece survive.
The Green Room
A visit to Lamb House now includes the Green Room which was used by both Henry James and EF Benson in the winter as a writing room. Given that the garden room (the room used in the summer to write in) was destroyed in 1940 during the war, the Green Room, retaining some of its historic features, is the only space at Lamb House that is inextricably linked to James’ work in particular. James wrote ‘The Wings of the Dove’ (1902), ‘The Ambassadors’ (1903) and ‘The Golden Bowl’ (1904) in this room
" I sat up late writing letters – in the Green Room – most unusually late…"
This 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. From its window, visitors can see virtually the same view of the streets of Rye that James would have seen. The view would also be recognisable to the fictional Miss Mapp who, from the vantage point of the garden room, spied upon the inhabitants of Benson’s ‘Tilling’. This room will explore the story of the garden room, constructed in 1743 as a banqueting house by Tomas Lamb, later to be a victim of war, destroyed in 1940 by German bombings.
Future Work at Lamb House
We are now working to open further spaces to explore at Lamb House, which will allow us to display new collection acquisitions, and will create exhibition space enabling us to talk about the breadth of Lamb’s history in different ways.