This weekend, loads of highly decorated doors will be unlocked for a rare chance to see what’s behind their ornate panels.

An ebony cabinet, made in around 1675, decorated with floral marquetry, in the Long Gallery at Ham House, London | (c) National Trust Images/John Hammond

These are a rare collection of wood cabinets that are opened just twice a year for visitors to explore their unique artisanship during the Cabinets Unlocked showcase. The collection of cabinets, held at Ham House near Richmond, includes examples of marquetry, lacquer and inlay, collected from countries including Japan, China, and the Netherlands as well as England.

Most of the cabinets were collected by Elizabeth, Duchess of Lauderdale, with some created by Gerritt Jensen, one of the finest cabinet makers of the time. Most cabinets incorporated secret drawers and compartments, hidden to all but the owner, the maker, and trusted confidantes.

The cabinets in Ham House are on display throughout the year, but the doors are firmly locked shut to protect the interiors from fading in the daylight. Twice a year, those doors are unlocked to let people look inside and compare the vibrant colours inside where they are protected compared to the faded but still impressive exteriors.

The first unlocking for 2024 takes place from Saturday 11th to Friday 24th May.

Ham House is open daily 12-4pm (last entry 3.30) and entry is free for National Trust members, or  £15 for adults (£7.50 per child).

Ham House is about a 40-minute walk from Richmond station, or you can catch the 371 or 65 buses, which will bring you closer to it.

Ham House

Apart from the curious cabinets, there’s also the rest of Ham House and its decorative gardens to explore.


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