Tag Archives: Heritage Lottery grants

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!

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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!!

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!