Monthly Archives: July 2014

Court Lodge to feature in BBC WWI broadcast

A couple of months ago I was interviewed by a journalist, Steven George, from BBC Radio Kent for their World War One at Home series. They were interested in the fact that Court Lodge was used as a hospital during World War One, and wanted to include an item on it. Steven was here for a couple of hours, while I told him all I knew about this time.

I told him about Charles and Ada who were head of the household during World War One, and who, by all accounts, were lovely people. I had read Ada’s diary from 1914, which is in the Maidstone Archives, where she talks about clearing the rooms for hospital beds and for the operating theatre, and also working in the hospital. I also mentioned the fact that Siegfried Sassoon, the famous World War I poet, used to play golf here with Charles. Really I just wittered on for a couple of hours while Steven listened very patiently!

A couple of days ago I received a CD in the post of the results of that interview. Steven had masterfully edited my witterings down to almost 9 minutes of audio, and I have to say the result is amazing! I sound much better than I remember sounding! They have very cleverly put it together so that it is a complete story about Charles and Ada during the war. They used actors to voice Ada’s diary entries and the vicar’s sermon from her funeral. It was all very moving.

They say it will be aired in November to coincide with the centenary of the Armistice. As soon as I know more about when it will be aired I will post it here. In the meantime, here are some photographs from that time:

Nurses working in the courtyard outside the Coach House (which is now home to my family!)

Nurses working in the courtyard outside the Coach House (which is now home to my family!)

Nurses and wounded soldiers

Nurses and wounded soldiers on the terrace at Court Lodge

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Visit from Pulham experts

We discovered before we moved back to Court Lodge that our sunken garden, the pond, and possibly even more of the garden, were originally designed by the well-known Victorian firm of garden designers James Pulham and Son. They were also responsible for gardens at Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, Fonthill Abbey and St James’s Park, so Court Lodge is in very good company! We have continued to find out more about this part of the garden’s history since we’ve been here, and it is one of the most exciting aspects of the research that we’ve been carrying out.

The pond and summerhouse as they looked c.1905

The pond and summerhouse at Court Lodge as they looked c.1905

Pulham summerhouse at Sandringham. This Pulham garden was done in the same year as the one at Court Lodge - 1868

A Pulham summerhouse at Sandringham. This Pulham garden was done in the same year as the one at Court Lodge – 1868. Photograph by Jenny Lilly.

The Sunken Garden at Court Lodge

The Sunken Garden at Court Lodge

The sunken garden as it looked c.1884

The sunken garden at Court Lodge as it looked c.1884

The other day we were visited by two experts on Pulham gardens: Claude Hitching and Val Christman. Claude has written a book about the Pulham family and their work which includes many historical photos as well as current photos of Pulham gardens. It is called Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy, and is the most complete work on Pulham gardens in existence. There is lots of information, and many photographs, and you can also buy the book, from Claude’s website: http://pulham.org.uk.

Claude is the UK’s expert on Pulham gardens as a result of all the research he has done. Very few of the firm’s records survive, so his work is immensely important in preserving what we know about these gardens and their history. His grandfather, and four of his other ancestors, worked for the firm as ‘Rock builders’, which was the fact that inspired his interest in them.

Val also has her roots in the firm of James Pulham and Son. She is descended directly from the Pulham family. Interestingly she didn’t discover this fact about her family origins until after she had set up a successful business in landscape design, specialising in the construction of rock gardens and water features! Clearly the interest runs very deep. With her expertise she will be able to give us invaluable advice on the restoration of our garden.

An example of Pulham rock work at Sheffield Park

An example of Pulham rock work at Sheffield Park

A view of the Sunken Garden at Court Lodge

A view of the Sunken Garden at Court Lodge

We contacted Claude a couple of months ago to tell him what we had found out about our garden and its origins, and fortunately he and Val were able to visit fairly quickly. They were both very excited to see a Pulham garden that they had previously not known about. They both pointed out features of the garden that we hadn’t noticed before, and gave us lots of advice and recommendations about how to proceed in its restoration.

We have a huge job on our hands, but are really excited about it, and very happy now that we have the the help and advice of Claude and Val to call on.

Since their visit here Claude has been approached by the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), who have recently opened a new area of archival research for Pulham Gardens. They are looking for properties that contain a Pulham garden, and which may be a suitable subject for archival research by their volunteers. Claude very kindly passed along our details, so I’m hopeful that we may soon benefit from further research into our garden by people with expertise in Pulham gardens. This will really help us in our bid to restore our garden and also in our applications for funding to help us in the restoration journey. All very exciting!