Tag Archives: fernery

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.

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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!

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!

Here comes spring!

Exactly one year ago today we had an icy blast from the north and a fresh covering of snow. Today the temperature here in Lamberhurst reached a balmy 13 degrees! After picking Damian up from school, we went round the garden to take some photos of the spring flowers, and the garden coming to life. Here is what we saw:

The daffodils are not quite in full bloom

The daffodils are not quite in full bloom

Daffodils around the Italian garden

Daffodils around the Italian garden

A beautiful camellia in the sunshine

A beautiful camellia in the sunshine

Not sure what this is, but it's pretty!

Not sure what this is, but it’s pretty!

Damian photographing the daffodils

Damian photographing the daffodils

The new raised beds in the walled garden

The new raised beds in the walled garden

New bark chip filled paths in the walled garden

New bark chip filled paths in the walled garden

New paths looking smart

New paths looking smart

Evidence of the conservatory’s past

Mike O’Brien from the Kent Gardens Trust has been researching the history and the historical significance of our garden. This has been a mammoth task for him, and has effectively meant he has researched much of the history of Court Lodge and the Morland family along the way, as you can’t really separate them out from the history of the garden. He is writing a report for us, which should be ready in a couple of months. We’ve seen a first draft and it’s looking really great. Once it’s finished we will look into the possibility of using it to help us apply for grants to restore the garden.

During a recent visit by Mike, we were looking at some old photographs of the conservatory, which we think was designed by James Pulham and Son, along with the fernery and the pond. In the diaries of William Courtenay Morland, my great great grandfather, he writes of “writing to Pulham as to conservatory” in the year before we know he was a client of Pulham’s.

We were looking at these two photos of my great grandfather Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice sitting in the conservatory. Henry was WCM’s youngest son:

Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice Maud Nevill reclining in the conservatory at Court Lodge

Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice Maud Nevill reclining in the conservatory at Court Lodge

Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice Maud Nevill in the conservatory at Court Lodge

Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice Maud Nevill in the conservatory at Court Lodge

This part of the conservatory no longer exists as a conservatory. Instead, this part of Court Lodge is occupied by my parents’ kitchen. It no longer has a glass roof, but I do wonder whether the tiled floor still exists under the kitchen floor. Anyhow, we were perusing these photos with Mike when Ian noticed the pot stands that appear to be attached to the wall on the left hand side of the photos, and have pot plants sitting on them. Here are some close-ups from these photos:

Close up of the pot stand hanging from the wall

Close up of the pot stand hanging from the wall

Close up of pot stand

Close up of pot stand

Close up of pot stand

Close up of pot stand

The reason they caught his eye is because he had recently come across this in the garden:

One of two pot stands we found in the garden. Could they have originated in the conservatory?

One of two pot stands we found in the garden. Could they have originated in the conservatory?

They look like pretty good candidates for being the very pot stands depicted in those photographs from 1884. This is very exciting because if Pulham was responsible for the conservatory, it’s more than likely that these pot stands are made from Pulhamite. Have we found another piece of the puzzle?

 

Research at Court Lodge

There are lots of strands of research going on at Court Lodge at the moment which is all very exciting. First of all there is the archive research that I have been carrying out, both in the documents and photos that are in the house, and at the Maidstone archives. The talks that we held at the end of last year were a distillation of all the research that I had done in the year since we arrived here. I’m currently writing them up into illustrated documents.

We also have Mike O’Brien from the Kent Gardens Trust researching the historical significance of the garden at the moment. We got in touch with the Kent Gardens Trust because although we had already begun to discover things about the history and historical significance of the garden, we thought it would be good to bring in some people with more experience of this sort of reseach to help us. We eventually want to apply for grants to restore the garden, so if we had a professional report written about our garden we thought it would really help support our case. Mike has already found out quite a lot about the garden, and spent quite a lot of time here in the garden and looking through our old photographs and documents. We’re very excited about his report, which should be ready in a couple of months.

We also have two wonderful volunteers who are going to help research the history of Court Lodge, and also help me archive all of the letters, photos and documents that we have in boxes and suitcases in the house. Julia Cruse and Geoffrey Forster both have good local knowledge and lots of research experience. They are also both passionate about uncovering the history of Court Lodge with me. Both of them have spent time working at Scotney Castle, and of course the history of both estates are very intertwined, so they already have a good base of knowledge about Court Lodge. I had a meeting with them today to talk about how this research is going to progress. We plan to focus to start with on putting together the history of Court Lodge as far back as we can trace it. Then we’ll focus on the history of Court Lodge since the Morland family acquired it. I’m particularly interested to know the circumstances in which my ancestors bought Court Lodge, and how they made their money. Finally we will fill in the details of the history with all of the documents, letters and photographs, archiving and cataloguing them as we go. Quite a job! It will just be one of those ongoing jobs that never really gets finished, but progress will always be made.

While Ian and Mark Truman were clearing out the cellar a couple of months ago, they came across some really interesting architectural features there. These features suggested to Ian that there are remnants of an older house beneath the existing one. There is, for example, a stone mullioned window in a coal bunker that has been bricked up, but there is no room or even space behind it as far as we can tell. There are also remnants of a timber floor half way between the ground floor and basement level, with what looks like painted skirting. In two of the larger rooms in the cellar there are what look like semi-circular bay window details to the south elevation that have been partially filled in. It’s all fascinating but, as with the garden, we don’t really have the expertise to take this any further.

I had originally thought of contacting an Archaeology Department at a nearby University to see if they would be interested in looking into this for us, perhaps as a student research project, but during my meeting with Julia and Geoffrey today, Julia suggested the Kent Archaelogical Society as a first point of contact. She showed me a copy of their publication, in which some researchers had carried out an archaeological survey of Scotney Castle. It was very in-depth and detailed, and looked like exactly the sort of thing we would ultimately like for Court Lodge. The writers of the report were affiliated with Archaeology South-East, so I decided to send them an email explaining our situation.

Within a couple of hours I had a phonecall from Archaeology South-East! They sounded very interested, but thought that the work required would be too specialised for students. We could commission them to do an initial survey and report, which would be useful for things like supporting our applications for listed building consent, and would also give us a good starting point for more detailed research directions in the future. It would cost money, which we are sorely lacking at the moment, but it might be worth it. We will have to think about it. All very exciting!!