Category Archives: Garden

Unexpected challenges

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, and I’m sorry to those of you that enjoy reading about our adventures at Court Lodge. One thing we’ve been working away on in the background for the past couple of years is our planning application to the council asking for permission to use Court Lodge as a venue for functions, weddings, business meetings, and so on. We think it would be ideal as a venue in so many ways, and we know lots of other people do too, as we’ve already had lots of enquiries. But we can’t do anything until we get permission to operate commercially.

The main reason for seeking this permission is so that we can raise sufficient funds to carry out the much-needed repairs to Court Lodge and to the garden. Court Lodge doesn’t generate enough money as an accommodation rental business to carry out repairs; it makes just enough to cover its on-going running costs. So we need to find an additional source of income to enable us to repair the building and prevent it from deteriorating further.

Unfortunately, there has been some quite intense opposition to our plans and we’ve had to confront the very real possibility that we might not get the permission that we need.

What will we do if we are unsuccessful? It has been a very sobering experience to explore what our options would be. My family have lived here for nearly 300 years, but if we are not permitted to generate the revenue necessary to repair and restore the building, we will have no alternative but to sell up, thereby ending my family’s connection with Court Lodge. We certainly wouldn’t choose to burden our children with a Grade II listed historic house that they could not afford to restore.

And if we are no longer managing Court Lodge, we would need alternative employment. So it was with that thought that last year I began applying for jobs lecturing in philosophy, which is what I used to do in New Zealand before we moved back here to take over the reins of Court Lodge. I was fortunate, and thrilled, to be offered a position at the London School of Economics, and I started teaching there in September 2015. It has been great to get back into philosophy, and I’ve really enjoyed the teaching and interaction with students. The commuting, not so much!

While I’ve been commuting up to London, Ian has been managing things at Court Lodge, and we have been joined by the wonderful George who has been doing anything and everything that needs to be done. She started by giving herself the job description “Court Lodge Minion”, which soon became “Court Lodge Mini-Ian”! We call her the Court Lodge Marvel!

And then, just before Christmas 2015, life threw us another curve-ball, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment I have had from the NHS has been outstanding, and I am so grateful to all the staff. I have already had surgery, and have recovered well from that. I’m now awaiting further test results to see whether or not I will be having chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy.

Meanwhile we have been waiting and waiting for news about the planning permission. We’ve now heard that we will have a decision by the end of March, so at least then we will have some certainty, and know whether or not we have a future at Court Lodge.

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Family photo albums at Court Lodge

We were recently contacted by William (Bill) Thompson who has been researching General Thomas Morland, and has produced a book of his letters and diaries. General Thomas Morland was born in Canada, but his family originated in Scotland. I hadn’t heard of him, but according to Bill, he mentions my great grandfather, Henry Courtenay Morland, in his diaries. He says that he came to stay with Henry and, tellingly, that Henry was “A worrying and funny old thing, and not very nice to his wife.” Bill was not sure how our Morlands are related to his Morlands, and I wasn’t able to enlighten him. However, as we have Henry’s diaries at Court Lodge at the moment, as well as his wife Bessie’s diaries, I invited him down to look at them, to see if he could find out anything further.

I’m not sure yet whether Bill’s visit produced any firm information about how our two branches of Morlands are related, but his visit did clear up something for me. He mentioned that General Thomas Morland’s daughters had visited Henry at Court Lodge. Their names were Phyllis and Margie. This reminded me of a photo album I had come across with all sorts of Morlands in it that I knew nothing about. I was sure that one of them was called Phyllis. I went searching!

Phyllis Morland

Phyllis Morland

This little girl is Phyllis Morland. The photo dates from about 1902 when Phyllis would have been 9, so I think that is about right. The puzzling thing is that there is no mention of Margie, and according to Bill the two sisters were always together. There is another girl referred to as A. Morland, who is older than Phyllis, and about the same age as Margie would have been. All very strange.

A and P Morland. The P is Phyllis, but I'm not sure who the A is.

A and P Morland. The P is Phyllis, but I’m not sure who the A is.

There is also a lovely photo of my great auntie Vi with Phyllis and someone who’s name I can’t read. I think it must be the same girl as the A. Morland above, but neither Bill nor I can work out who she is. Vi would have been about 18 in this photo, and Phyllis about 12.

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Looking at our family tree, Phyllis and her father can only be connected to us by going back several generations, as all of the members in our direct family tree are accounted for. I think that you would have to go back to the father of William Morland (1692-1774), who was the first Morland to take on Court Lodge, to find other branches of the Morland family that General Thomas Morland might have descended from. So what strikes me as odd is that these distantly related cousins were still obviously very connected, to the extent that the children came to stay. Sadly, that connection has not lasted into our generation, as my father had no idea about these distant cousins, and so, neither had I.

There were also pictures of other Morlands whose connection to us I have no idea about.

E. M. Morland and Gunn. No idea who either of them are.

E. M. Morland and Gunn. No idea who either of them are.

Dick and Jack Morland. We've no idea who they were.

Dick and Jack Morland. We’ve no idea who they were.

There are also photos of people that aren’t named, so they may be cousins, or friends. We’ve no idea. But they are all very evocative of the era, the first few years of the twentieth century.

Some children in bathing costumes circa 1904

Some children in bathing costumes circa 1904

The really lovely thing about these discoveries was that it gave me the opportunity to rummage through old photograph albums again. I find that every time I have a rummage through them I recognise more people and more places, as more of the overall picture of the history of the Morlands and Court Lodge falls into place. So here are some of the photographs I discovered, and how they fit into the bigger picture.

This is Ballard and Ashby. We know that Ballard was the Butler at Court Lodge at this time, and that he lived at 7 Manor Cottages in the village. My great great grandfather, William Courtenay Morland, had built the seven Manor Cottages in the 1870s for his staff. He reputedly housed them in order of status, so Ballard the butler was at number 7, at the top of the hill and nearest to Court Lodge. The next house down was occupied by the chauffeur, and so on down in descending order of status.

Ballard the butler and Ashby, probably the housekeeper.

Ballard the butler and Ashby, probably the housekeeper.

Ballard and Ashby would have been Court Lodge’s answer to Downton Abbey’s Carson and Mrs Hughes!

Next, I was delighted by this photograph of a group of children. They are probably cousins and friends of the Morlands, but what I love about this photograph is all the hats, and the white clothes. So different from today’s children, and so reminiscent of the Railway Children, and all those other lovely children’s novels from the early twentieth century.

Children in hats!

Children in hats!

Then there are many photographs of family members just living their ordinary lives, rather than posing stiffly as so many in photographs from this era are. These photos paint a rare and honest portrait of family members talking, chatting, and generally just living their day-to-day lives. This photo is of William Courtenay Morland, my great great grandfather, his eldest son Charles, Charles’s wife Ada, and I’m not sure who the other woman is. I think the dog was called Bumper though, as there are several other photos of him!

A relaxed family scene, so unusual in photographs from this era.

A relaxed family scene, so unusual in photographs from this era.

And then there are some positively bizarre photographs, like this one of Ada, Charles’s wife, walking across the lawn carrying a cockatoo!

Ada Morland carrying... a cockatoo?

Ada Morland carrying… a cockatoo?

There are some lovely photos of old Lamberhurst at the turn of the last century, again, depicting a slice of real life over a hundred years ago.

Lamberhurst, circa 1902

Lamberhurst, circa 1902

Lamberhurst circa 1902

Lamberhurst circa 1902

And then there are some lovely photographs of some of the rooms in the house as they were then. Here are two pictures of the library.

The library in 1904

The library in 1904

The library in 1904

The library in 1904

There are also some interesting pictures of the garden, which may reveal more about its history. On the left in the picture below you can make out what looks like a tiered circular feature. There is a similar feature depicted in one of the hand-painted plates of the garden, which is in about the same spot. We recently discovered some remnants of what looks like Pulhamite inside one of the shrubberies that is located about where this feature would have been. This suggests to us that this was part of James Pulham and Son’s original design for the Court Lodge garden.

A view of the St Mary's Church from the Court Lodge Garden. On the left you can see a circular garden feature. We think this is made from Pulhamite.

A view of St Mary’s Church from the Court Lodge Garden. On the left you can see a circular garden feature. We think this was made from Pulhamite.

Here is what we think is the very same feature depicted in one of the plates.

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I’ve really enjoyed having a good look through all these old photographs, and continuing to piece the story of the Morlands and Court Lodge together. There are many more photo albums in the house waiting for me to find the time to have a good look through them, so I’m sure I’ll be posting more of them here in the future. Watch this space!

More evidence of Pulham in the garden

Since we found out about the involvement of James Pulham and Son (famous Victorian garden designers, particularly known for their rock gardens) in the Court Lodge garden, we have been unsure how much of the garden they were responsible for. Renowned Pulham historian Claude Hitching has hypothesised that they may have been responsible for most, or even all, of the layout of the garden. He said it was not uncommon for the Pulhams to do a job for a client, and the come back some years later and do further jobs, or even a complete garden redesign. And there are so many elements of our garden that are consistent with Pulham design, that this may well have been the case here.

We know that Pulham did the fernery in 1868, as this is recorded in a listing of Pulham’s clients. The only remaining part of the fernery is the conservatory, which still has the Pulham tiled floor.

The conservatory floor

The conservatory floor

The conservatory

The conservatory

Pulham also did the sunken rock garden and pond in the garden, which may have all been an elaborate water feature. Claude Hitching thinks these were probably done in the 1870s. Here are some photos of the pond and sunken garden as they are now, and as they were in the 1880s.

The rock work to the left of the steps revealed!

The fernery with one of our wonderful volunteers working on revealing the rockwork

The pond no longer holds water, and is overgrown and full of bulrushes

The pond no longer holds water, and is overgrown and full of bulrushes

The pond in its heyday

The pond in its heyday

The Pulham rock garden in 1884. We think that this is shortly after it was first designed and installed.

The Pulham rock garden in 1884. We think that this is shortly after it was first designed and installed.

We also have in the house a set of handpainted plates, painted in 1877, of the garden. There are 18 of them, and they depict every feature of the garden. It seems to us that the most likely reason for commissioning these plates would have been that the garden was a recent achievement, and something to be proud of and celebrated. If that’s right, then it suggests that the garden was designed in its entirety just prior to 1877, and very possibly by James Pulham and Son. Here are some of those plates:

The sunken garden

The sunken garden

The east face of the house

The east face of the house

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

A view over the pond to the Church

A view over the pond to the Church

A view across the pond to the summer house

A view across the pond to the summer house

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

Recently, Ian came across some chunks of aggregate in one of the shrubberies. It looks very much like Pulhamite – the artificial rock that Pulham developed when creating garden features.

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If this is Pulhamite, then there would have been a garden feature just where this (now overgrown) shrubbery is. Looking at the plates suggests the most likely candidate:

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This feature is positioned just where the shrubbery is, where Ian found the Pulhamite. The wall beyond it is the wall above the sunken garden, and in the distance you can see Goudhurst church on the hill, which is not visible from the same spot now because of all the overgrowth. This is more evidence that James Pulham and Son were responsible for our entire garden.

We just hope we are able to secure some funding, or find some other source of income, to enable us to restore the garden properly, especially now that we know it is so historically significant.

Cutting back an out-of-control hedge in the garden

Over the last 18 months the garden has really responded to the hard work, talent and dedication of our head gardener, Hamish Bett, and our amazing team of volunteers. There is still lots to do (in fact there will always be lots to do!), but progress is definitely being made.

One job that we have made a start on is removing the overgrown yew hedge around the knot garden. It had grown so big that it was pushing over the stone wall that surrounds the knot garden. We want to restore the stone wall, so we had to get rid of the yew.

The yew hedge started life as four small yew bushes evenly spaced along the knot garden wall, as you can see in this picture from the 19th Century:

View of the south facade of Court Lodge from what is now the golf course. You can clearly see the wall around the knot garden and, if you zoom in, four evenly spaced yew balls within it.

View of the south facade of Court Lodge from what is now the golf course. You can clearly see the wall around the knot garden and, if you zoom in, four evenly spaced yew balls within it.

Over time those four yew bushes had grown so huge, and merged into one another that the result, looking out from the south terrace, looked like this:

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Although the knot garden looks beautiful, you can’t see the wall at all for the surrounding yew hedge. You can see the four original yew balls, and how they have merged to make one enormous yew hedge that was at least 3 metres deep.

The effect of the hedge on the stone wall can be seen here:

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The wall is Grade II listed, as is Court Lodge, and all the structures in the garden, so we have to restore and maintain it. Back in February, Ian and Hamish decided to take drastic action and take down the yew. Here are some pictures of that process:

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There was a massive amount of yew hedge to get rid of, so we had several nights of bonfires, but you can see the wall being revealed from under the hedge. The final result shows how much the view has opened up for us now:

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The cherry tree in the middle is also going to have to come down, as its roots are also interfering with the wall, but we will let it blossom one last time. Once it’s gone though, and the wall is restored, the view across the golf course from Court Lodge will be magnificent.

 

Court Lodge on the front page again!

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Opening the post yesterday I was very excited to see the latest edition of the Kent Gardens Trust newsletter, featuring Court Lodge on the front page. During the course of the year one of the researchers from the Kent Gardens Trust, Mike O’Brien, carried out some really in-depth research into the history of Court Lodge, with a particular focus on the garden. The final report was published a few months ago, and now the Trust has featured Mike’s work in its newsletter.

Mike’s report traces the history of Court Lodge back to the reign of King John (1199-1216). It wouldn’t have been the very same building that stands today, but there has clearly been a manor house on this site for over 800 years.

His research was so thorough, that working with him was very instructive. One thing he enjoyed about the project was the fact that there was so much archival material available to him. There are boxes of documents in the house, as well as many old family photograph albums, and there are also the diaries in the archives. We also have a series of 19th century hand painted plates on the walls around the staircase documenting the garden in its heyday.

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

The south face of the house overlooking the knot garden

A view across the pond to the summer house

A view across the pond to the summer house

A view over the pond to the Church

A view over the pond to the Church

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

A path alongside the sunken garden leading to the Church

The east face of the house

The east face of the house

The sunken garden

The sunken garden

Mike found out so much more about the garden during his research, including many things we didn’t know. He came across an obituary for a gardener named Cephus Nye who was “gardener to the Morland family for 69 years” according to the Times, and who died in 1951 aged 85, which means he must have been a teenager when he started working in the garden, and continued working in the garden practically until the day he died! When I was reading my great uncle William’s diary for 1949, I came across a few comments referring to Nye:

“Nye is still digging in the kitchen garden, and considering his 81 years he is very remarkable.”

“Nye highly indignant with Manser because he had worked all through the rain and got soaking wet out of doors when there were lots of jobs for him to do indoors.”

“Nye pruning the roses – obviously in a bad temper.”

It is fascinating to see the story of Court Lodge, and of the garden, pieced together by Mike’s discoveries, and the diaries kept by my ancestors, and to see the characters emerge from the page and come to life.

Great Uncle William clearly felt the same too, as I also read in his diary for 1949, which is the year after his mother died, that he too spent time reading his grandfather’s diaries. He writes, “Read some of Grandpapa Morland’s diaries. He sailed through life with a magnificent confidence with plenty of interests, and enthusiasm and love of his home and estate. Life cannot have been so bad in those days for the likes of him and I am sure he made the world around him a better place.” I drew a similar conclusion reading the same diaries, those of William Courtenay Morland, my great great grandfather, earlier this year.

Great Uncle William goes on, “One could wish some of the entries were elaborated. What did he mean by “night school” in 1856? Did he go to learn or to teach? What did he and various friends lecture on, and to whom? What were the chemical experiments with which he amused Charley? Reading old diaries and letters and press cuttings is humiliating. And salutary.”

Mike O’Brien’s research into the history of Court Lodge has really helped us to move forwards in uncovering the story of Court Lodge. There is, and always will be, more to find out, and we are lucky to have so much archival material to draw on. If only we had more time to spend reading it.

Anyone wanting to read Mike’s report on the Court Lodge garden will be able to do so soon (hopefully!) on either the Kent Gardens Trust website (www.kentgardenstrust.org.uk/) or the Parks and Gardens website (http://www.parksandgardens.org/).

Uncovering the Pulham rock garden

Some of our amazing garden volunteers, in particular Mandy and Hilary, have been itching to get their hands on the sunken garden (our rock garden designed by James Pulham and Son in, we think, the early 1880s). Now that autumn has properly set in they have had more time in the garden to get stuck in to it, and the results are stunning! Let me tease you with some ‘before’ photos:

The steps leading down into the sunken garden before any work was done

The steps leading down into the sunken garden before any work was done

This photo was taken early last year, and you can see that the rocks to the right of the steps are completely covered in ivy, while those to the left are overgrown with ferns and weeds.

All overgrown, with lots of build-up of earth

All overgrown, with lots of build-up of earth

This is a photo of the same steps taken from a little further back. You can see how overgrown the rocks are, and also the incredible build-up of earth over all of the rocks. It is this that Mandy and Hilary have been painstakingly clearing away to reveal the structure of the rock work. They have been like archaeologists brushing away the earth and leaf mould to see what lies beneath!

They have been working away at the rock work to the left of the steps, and here is a photo of how it looks now:

The rock work to the left of the steps revealed!

The rock work to the left of the steps revealed!

It is these rocks that Claude Hitching, Pulham expert, thinks may have carried a cascade of water down into a pool at their feet. It looks stunning, and gives us a real taste of what the whole sunken garden must have looked like when it was first designed and built.

The rocks are arranged in a particular way to allow for ferns and carefully chosen plants to be planted among them. Mandy and Hilary have now revealed some of these ‘planters’ so they are really uncovering the origins of this garden:

The rocks are arranged so as to allow planting between them

The rocks are arranged so as to allow planting between them

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This work is so exciting! Our Pulham garden is one of the hidden treasures at Court Lodge. We’ve known it was there, and we have photographs of how it once looked, but we are now getting an idea of how it might be able to look again! Thank you Mandy and Hilary, and all our Court Lodge Volunteers!

The Pulham rock garden in 1884. We think that this is shortly after it was first designed and installed.

The Pulham rock garden in 1884. We think that this is shortly after it was first designed and installed.

 

Our Pulham garden is “Site of the Month”

There is a growing interest in gardens designed and built by the Victorian firm James Pulham and Son, and those of you following this blog will know that our garden is a Pulham garden, although in need of much restoration and repair.

We recently made contact with Claude Hitching, author of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy, who came to visit our garden, along with Val Christman who is descended from the Pulhams and has her own garden design business specialising in rockeries. Claude and Val were very excited by what they saw here at Court Lodge, and have been a great source of support and enthusiasm for the restoration of our garden. So much so, in fact, that Claude has featured us as his “Site of the Month” on his website dedicated to all things Pulham. Have a read of it here:

Site of the Month: Court Lodge, Lamberhurst, Kent

It’s a great write up and contains lots of really fascinating insights into our garden by someone with in-depth knowledge of, and familiarity with, Pulham gardens. It’s really interesting that he thinks that the walled garden was probably built by the Pulhams in 1868, at the same time as the fernery. We are about to apply for Heritage Lottery funding to restore the walled garden, so this will really help our case. He also thinks that the rock garden and pond were probably built by the Pulhams later, on a return visit to Court Lodge, possibly in the early 1880s. This gives us a good reason to return to the archives to read more of my ancestors’ diaries. We had initially thought that the rock garden was built in 1868. When I went to the Maidstone archives I was devastated to find that this was the only diary written by my great great grandfather, WCM, that they did not have. I can’t wait to get back there and immerse myself in his diaries once again!