by Dawn Woolcott
Imagine an impressionable 10 year old boy, whose family just moved to England. Living in a country surrounded by ancient, atmospheric, and somewhat crumbling castles (this was in the late 1890s before the National Trust came along) and you have one happy little boy dreaming of King Arthur, battling dragons, and brave knights. The love of the medieval world and historic homes was soon part of his being.
But little boys have to eventually grow up. His parents were world travelers who opened his mind up to the many wonderful places and experiences that train the mind to a love of learning. On a business trip, his father later took him to the laboratories of Thomas Edison where he got to meet the man himself at a time when Edison was in his prime. Edison saw the boy’s interest and gave him an extended tour of the facility. This was the beginning of a life-long friendship which helped shape the direction the boy’s life would lead.
The boy was John Hays Hammond who took that love of learning and fascination with invention to take up the study of radio waves. Through his work in this area, he also became friends with and was mentored by Alexander Graham Bell. While Hammond’s name isn’t one of the first names that comes to mind when you think of inventors, John Hammond owned over 400 patents which puts him right on par with his friends Edison and Bell.
In 1926 he began designing and building his new home near his parent’s estate in Gloucester. In his design, he chose to incorporate many styles he felt would be appropriate for his taste in furnishings and artwork. For when one collects 14th century artifacts, one needs an appropriate home in which to display them! John Hammond owned an extensive collection of 14th to 16th century artworks and furnishings which did require an appropriate home. He built the medieval castle of his dreams incorporating many elements including large stone archways, windows, wooden facades, and other old-world elements he had purchased.
The use of original pieces of architecture brought over from Europe, give the building an authentic feel that could not be replicated with the same feeling of age. In the great hall he included one of the world’s largest pipe organs, although he did not play himself. Museum-quality artifacts fill the rooms. Despite the outward appearance of age, the house was perfectly up-to-date as far as conveniences. Medieval life did have its drawbacks, after all.
The home was built for a man who lived working to develop the modern world. His work directly influenced most of what we take for granted today including the common household single button radio dial and tv remote control to sophisticated military guided missile systems. John Hammond helped design the future, while living in the past.
The Hammond Castle is now a museum open to visitors for self-guided tours. It is also used for corporate meetings and weddings.
You can visit Gloucester and this fascinating museum on one of these cruises:
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