We all got stuck in to digging things up today, in our different ways. Ian was joined in the garden by our first two volunteers – thank you George and Debs! – calling themselves the CLVs (that’s Court Lodge Volunteers). We are putting the word out there to anyone else who might be interested, so hopefully the team of CLVs will soon grow. We’ve been looking through old photo albums, and suitcases full of old photos and documents that we found in the safe recently, and we came across some lovely photos of the garden in its hey day. George and Debs got stuck in to clearing out one of the beds above the old tennis court, in which the existing shrubs and plants have grown far bigger than they should be. It seems to be a common feature throughout the garden that everything, from borders and shrubs to trees, has grown to a monstrous size, which it was never intended to be. We’re not aiming for a totally manicured look, but we would like to bring things back to a manageable size. And with the help of the CLVs we stand a chance of getting there!
Meanwhile, I went off to Maidstone to look up the Morland family archives at the Kent History and Library Centre. It was my first visit, and I didn’t know quite what to expect, so I knew that I would spend some of the time finding my way around and getting used to how it all works. But I still managed to read through some fascinating, and ancient, material. There is an entire catalogue entry for the manorial records, deeds and family papers of the Morland family of Lamberhurst, with so many sub-categories and documents within it that it will take many days (or perhaps weeks?) to trawl through it all. So, I started at the beginning – well not quite the beginning, as that was the Court Roll from 1370-1377; I’ll save that for when I’m feeling brave – but I did look at some very old documents. There was a parchment with a huge royal seal of James I granting to Robert, Viscount Lisle, the Manor of Lamberhurst in 1607. Then another of Charles I granting to John Porter the Manor of Lamberhurst in 1628. Then, in 1731, documents relating to when Court Lodge came into the possession of the Morland family. I saw some letters to and from various ancestors relating to the drawing up of the pedigree of Morland – a big leather bound book that still resides in the library in my parents’ part of the house.
But all this was really just dipping my toe in as there is so much more, and in particular, there is much more about more recent years, from the 1800s onwards. There are dozens of diaries written by my great-great-grandfather William Courtenay Morland, his sons Charles William Morland and Henry Courtenay Morland, and my grandfather, John Courtenay Morland. There are also diaries that I am especially keen to read, to hear the women’s perspective on life at Court Lodge through history, written by my great grandmother Bessie Josephine Morland, daughter of John Laird, the shipbuilder of Birkenhead, and Ada Mary Morland, wife of Charles William Morland.
What I’d like to do is read as much as I can, and then piece together the history of the Morland family and Court Lodge. I’ll share interesting bits of information on the blog as I go along, and try and write the story up in a user-friendly way. Hopefully my academic training will stand me in good stead, although I’ve never done historical research before. We’re also hoping that we can use all this information when we come to apply for grants for the restoration of the house and garden. Watch this space!