Tag Archives: funding for restoration

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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A visit to Penton Park in Hampshire

When we first moved back here to take over the management of Court Lodge from my parents, Dad gave us some good advice: Join the Historic Houses Association. He has long been a member, and I remember him describing it as a “trade union for country house owners”! His description is apt, as the HHA advocates for country house owners at every level. It also offers help and advice on lots of issues, which has been particularly useful to us as we started out on this journey of trying to make Court Lodge a viable business that can afford to pay for its own upkeep.

Another benefit of belonging to the HHA is that they run seminars and workshops on various topics. Ian and I attended an excellent one last year on getting funding for restoration. It gave us so many ideas, and we are now working towards applying for various grants. I also attended another one recently about applying for Heritage Lottery Funding, and I am now working on putting an application together.

But one of the nicest things about going along to HHA meetings and events is that it gives us the rare chance to meet people in a similar situation to ourselves. It’s always nice to meet someone who understands exactly what you’re going through, but there aren’t many people out there in our situation. However, if such people do exist, you can bet that they are also members of the HHA. At the seminar I attended recently I met Danielle Rolfe who, along with her husband, Guy, and parents-in-law, is in a remarkably similar situation to us here at Court Lodge. Danielle and her family are working on the restoration of Penton Park in Hampshire, and have set up an already thriving business offering it as a venue for weddings, conferences, team-building days, and other functions. It also plays host to a day care centre for disabled adults during the week.

Danielle and Guy are about two years ahead of us in their quest to establish a business at Penton Park, and save it from the ravages of time and the weather. The similarities between our situations is uncanny, although there are some differences too. Talking to Danielle gave me enormous hope and renewed enthusiasm that we will be able to make a success of our enterprise here at Court Lodge. They have faced many of the problems that we face, and have found solutions to many of them.

Last week they held a Conference Showcase, so Ian and I drove down to Hampshire to meet up with Danielle and have a look around Penton Park. It is beautiful, and the restoration work they have done on the ground floor is stunning. Their living accommodation is very much a work-in-progress, but Ian and I were able to see its enormous potential. Given how hard they are working, it is clear that they are going to have fabulous living quarters by the time they are done.

If you are looking for a venue in Hampshire then you could do no better than to visit Penton Park. The rooms are grand and well-appointed, and the layout is extremely versatile.

Penton Park in Hampshire

Penton Park in Hampshire

An added bonus for me in visiting Penton Park is that it is about 3 miles away from the house I grew up in before we moved to Court Lodge. So, after we left Danielle and her family we took a quick look at the house I lived in from when I was 3 until we moved here when I was 12. I haven’t seen it since we left. It is a far cry from Court Lodge, but it brought back some very happy memories.

My childhood home!

My childhood home!

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!

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!!

First evening of the winter series was a success

Last night was the first of our Winter Series of Evening Talks, on the topic of “The Past, Present and Future of Court Lodge”. It was a great success! The tickets had all sold out, and everyone seemed to enjoy the talk and also the wine, canapés and socialising afterwards. We had some fantastic help from various people. Thank you to Vika Gallacher who ran the bar for us, and what a slick operation it was too! Thanks also to Katie Whittingham and Julia Cruse who were on the door, and Julia also chaired at the end as there were a few questions. The Chicks that Chop did fabulous canapés (we’ll be using them again!), and Ruby was a charming waitress (although she kept eating the canapés) and the delicious wine was supplied by Laytons (thanks Neill!) And thank you to everyone who came along and made it such a success.

In the presentation I talked a little bit about Ian and I and our backgrounds – the people we were before we came here – and how we came to make the decision to come back from New Zealand and take over the running of Court Lodge. I then did a potted history of Court Lodge from the 12th Century until the Morland family bought it. I talked a bit more about how Court Lodge passed down through the Morland family, linking the names with portraits that hang in the house, and telling a few titbits of family gossip along the way (although there will be a lot more of that in next week’s talk). Then I focused on Court Lodge in the 20th Century, when it underwent major changes, like being divided up into flats, as a result of the social, political and economic context. Many country houses didn’t survive the challenges of the 20th Century, but Court Lodge did. Now, though, it faces a different set of challenges, and needs to adapt to survive them. I then talked about some of our plans for Court Lodge: opening the gardens to the public, opening a cafe, having furnished holiday lets, and becoming a wedding and conference venue.

Now that we’ve got underway, I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Historic Houses Association Seminar

Yesterday Ian and I attended our very first seminar run by the Historic Houses Association. It was up in Nottinghamshire, at a lovely house called Hodsock Priory. We stayed overnight in their B&B accommodation (thanks Mum for babysitting while we were away!), and were able to take the opportunity to go out for a nice meal the evening before the seminar – what a treat! The seminar itself was amazing. The topic was ‘Funding for Restoration – the Heritage Lottery Fund and Other Options’. The talks were full of useful information and inspiring case studies, and we were able to meet and talk with lots of people who completely understood the strange new situation that we find ourselves in. It was a revelation to discover that there is actually a support group for people like us! We have so many ideas swirling around our heads, and possible plans for future directions for Court Lodge that we need to take some time to let them settle and think them all through. Luckily we are off to France tomorrow for a week’s visit with my sister and family, as it’s half term. I’m definitely ready for a holiday!