Its name derives from the Old English word Hamme meaning place in the bend in the river.
The earliest known written record of Ham as a separate village dates from the 12th century when Hamma was included in the royal demesne as a member of Kingston, contributing 43s. 4d. in 1168 towards the marriage of Matilda, the eldest daughter of Henry II.
Situated between the Royal Courts at Richmond and Hampton Court, the predominantly agricultural area developed from the beginning of the 17th century, with the construction of Ham House in 1610, the best preserved survivor of the period. The related history of the Earls of Dysart dominated the development of Ham and Petersham for the following four centuries.
Ham's modern eastern boundary is formed by Richmond Park. When the park was enclosed by Charles I in 1637, Ham parish lost the most of the affected land, over 800 acres (3.2 km2) stretching towards Robin Hood Gate and Kingston Hill, almost half of which was common land. In return for this, a deed was struck which has effectively protected most of the remaining common land, Ham Common, to the present day.
Between 1838 and 1848, Ham Common was the site of a utopian spiritual community and free school called Alcott House (or the "Ham Common Concordium"), founded by educational reformer and "sacred socialist" James Pierrepont Greaves and his followers.
Ham is governed as part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Ham is situated about 9.25 miles (14.89 km) to the south-west of the centre of London. Together with Petersham, Ham lies to the east of the bend in the river south of Richmond and north of Kingston. It is connected to Teddington by Teddington Lock Footbridge at Teddington Lock and, during the summer months Hammerton's Ferry, a pedestrian ferry, links to Marble Hill House, Twickenham. Neighbouring settlements include Petersham and Richmond, and on the opposite side of the river (linked by the lock and the ferry) Teddington, Strawberry Hill and Twickenham.
Ham is bounded on the west, along the bank of the River Thames, by the strip of land known as Ham Riverside Lands. Part of this former meadow land was used for gravel extraction. The last remnant of these gravel pits now forms an artificial lake, connected to the river by a lock. In this area is Thames Young Mariners 10 acres (0.04 km2) site operated as a water activity centre by Surrey County Council. The area along the riverside is preserved as a public amenity and nature reserve. A riverside towpath runs along the whole of this stretch of the bank between Richmond and Kingston.
Situated mostly on low-lying river terrace, Ham is bounded to the east by Richmond Park where the land rises at the escarpment of Richmond and Kingston hills. Small streams draining this higher ground, flow into a stream that flows south-north along the foot of the hill, known as the Latchmere stream to the south and Sudbrook to the north. Now subterranean for most of its course, it emerges in Ham Common, near Ham Gate and flows briefly through Richmond Park and exits into Sudbrook Park Golf Course, returning underground before discharging into the Thames at Petersham.
Other notable period houses in Ham cluster around the Common including the Cassel Hospital and Ormeley Lodge, which is currently owned by Lady Annabel Goldsmith. Victorian buildings include Latchmere House.
Ham and Petersham Cricket Club was established in 1815 and cricket is still played throughout the summer on Ham Common.
Ham Polo Club is situated at the end of a driveway off the Petersham Road. Though the club has been in existence since 1926 it was in 1954 that the old orchard of Ham House was converted into a polo ground for the club.
The former meadow land along the Thames near to Ham House became the location of a King George's Field in the 1930s. Covering 10 acres (4.0 ha), it provides cricket, football and tennis. Several sports clubs and activities are based on and near to it.
Ham and Petersham Rifle and Pistol Club, dating from 1907 or perhaps earlier, are located near to Ham House, with both indoor and outdoor ranges and cater for archery, pistol and rifle shooting.
Kew and Ham Sports Association provide football and baseball facilities on the playing fields between Ham House and Thames Young Mariners.
Thames Young Mariners provide sailing, canoeing, open-water swimming and other sport and outdoor activity facilities.
See also 
- "Kingston Hundred". Open Domesday. 1086. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- Malden, H.E., ed. (1911). "Kingston-upon-Thames: Manors, churches and charities". A History of the County of Surrey 3. Institute of Historical Research.
- "Thames Young Mariners". Surrey County Council. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
- Hawkins, Duncan; Green, Christopher (2007). "A product of its environment: revising Roman Kingston" (PDF). London Archaeologist 11 (8): 199–203.
- Wilkie, Kim; Battaggia, Marco; Batey, Mavis; Lambert, David; Buttery, Henrietta; Pearce, Jenny; Goode, David; Bentley, David (1994). "Landscape Character Reach No 8: Ham". Thames Landscape Strategy Document (Thames Landscape Strategy).
- "Ham and Petersham LTC is a friendly tennis club". Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- "Park details - King Georges Field - London Borough of Richmond upon Thames". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- "Area analysis Ham and Petersham". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. 2006.
- "About the Club | Ham and Petersham RPC | A target shooting club in south london |accessdate=8 December 2012".
- "Kew and Ham Sports Association - Home". Retrieved 8 December 2012.
- Fison, Vanessa (2009). The Matchless Vale: the story of Ham and Petersham and their people. Ham and Petersham Association. ISBN 978-0-9563244-0-5.
- Green, James; Greenwood, Silvia (1980). Ham and Petersham as it was. Richmond Society (Richmond upon Thames, London, England). History Section. ISBN 0-86067-057-0.
- Pritchard, Evelyn (1999). A portrait of Ham in Early Victorian times 1840-1860 (2 ed.). Alma Books. ISBN 978-0-9517497-5-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ham, London|
- Hundreds of photos of Ham with brief descriptions at Ham Photos blog
- The Ham and Petersham Association