Tag Archives: Lamberhurst

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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A lost building of Lamberhurst

A week ago I posted this picture on the Court Lodge Estate Facebook page, asking if anyone knew where in Lamberhurst it was. I found the photo in one of our photo albums that belonged to my great great grandfather, William Courtenay Morland. The photos in this album that are dated are from 1902-1905.

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A few helpful people commented, and it soon became clear that it was a Kentish Wealden Hall House called Walsinghams that was demolished a long time ago. It was located on Town Hill in Lamberhurst, on a site now occupied by a house that looks like it dates back to the 1960s.

I was then sent some more photos of Walsinghams by someone who once came to stay in one of our holiday cottages, and whose husband grew up in Lamberhurst. He remembers Walsinghams being demolished, and just the chimney stack left standing for a long time.

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It was a beautiful old Kentish house. I wonder about the families that lived in it. It must have been one of the more substantial houses in Lamberhurst, so was probably home to a wealthy family. I also wonder why it was demolished. At least we still have these photos.

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.

Bringing home my ancestors’ diaries

During the 20th Century my great uncle, William Morland, deposited many old documents that he had found in Court Lodge with the Kent archives. These documents included old estate maps, accounts, letters dating back as far as the 18th century, strange documents such as the hair powder licenses I wrote about a while ago, and lots and lots of diaries. My ancestors were evidently great diary keepers. There are 24 volumes of my great great grandfather, William Courtenay Morland’s diaries, and I have visited the archives in Maidstone several times to read some of them. There are also diaries by my great grandmother, Bessie Morland (née Laird), and Ada Morland who was the lady of the house during World War One. I have written about her diary from 1914, when the house was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers, here. There is also a lovely radio piece by BBC Radio Kent about the use of Court Lodge during World War One that you can listen to here.

I’ve been corresponding with the archives for some time about the possibility of bringing the diaries back to Court Lodge temporarily so that we can get them all fully transcribed. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who come here regularly and were eager to start delving into the history of Court Lodge through these diaries. The archives needed various documentation from me, to prove that I am descended from the depositor of the diaries, which I eventually managed to procure. Finally, one week ago, all the hoops had been duly jumped through, and Ian and I were able to collect the diaries and bring them home.

Boxes of diaries

Boxes of diaries

WCMs diaries from the 19th Century

WCMs diaries from the 19th Century

It seems that each year he bought the same Lett’s diary, and recorded his daily life in it on pretty much every day.

As well as reading the whole of WCM’s diaries, I’m particularly looking forward to reading the diaries of Bessie and Ada, to find out more about what women’s life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We have also finally got round to sorting through various old boxes of keys that we found in the house. Some of these are very old. Most, we think, no longer open anything in the house. But they are a historical record in their own right.

Boxes of old keys

Boxes of old keys

This key is labelled "Gaol Committee Room" and the key next to it is from the Bayham Estate

This key is labelled “Gaol Committee Room” and the key next to it is from the Bayham Estate

The key to the Gaol Committee Room must have been WCM’s as he writes frequently in his diary of travelling to Maidstone to attend the Gaol Committee meetings. He was a Justice of the Peace for the district. There are also several keys to the Bayham Estate. I’m not quite sure how they ended up here!

This set of keys was for the Silver Chest. Sadly, we no longer have a silver chest.

These keys are labelled "Silver Chest"

These keys are labelled “Silver Chest”

Along with the keys we also found this money bag from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo! Empty, alas!

This money bag is from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo

This money bag is from the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in Cairo

One thing I love about being at Court Lodge is unearthing all this evidence of its history, and the people who lived here.

Getting on with the restoration of Court Lodge as best we can

There has been a lot going on at Court Lodge lately, and some good progress has been made on restoring parts of the house and garden. There is always so much to do though that it does seem to be a herculean task at times. Still, the only way we can make progress is by doing it in small, manageable (and affordable!) steps.

One job that was quite urgent was repairing and repointing the stonework on the southwest corner of the house. This seemed to be the area where the most damage has been done by the weather. The scaffolding went up a few weeks ago, and then the work began.

Scaffolding goes up and EB Sculpture set to work

Scaffolding goes up and EB Sculpture set to work

As with so many other jobs at Court Lodge, once the work got started, the problem was revealed to be much worse than we had initially thought, and consequently it has taken much longer, and will be much more expensive, to fix.

A wall of loose stones

A wall of loose stones

Much of the stonework was just loose, weathered stones.

Much of the stonework was just loose, weathered stones.

There was nothing holding many of these stones together. We were lucky they had stayed in place as long as they had.

There was nothing holding many of these stones together. We were lucky they had stayed in place as long as they had.

Still, the men from EB Sculpture, who have restored many heritage buildings, have been doing a fantastic job. The stonework on the southwest corner will soon be repaired, weatherproof, and set to last for another hundred years or more.

We have also been very lucky to have been able to hire some really handy handymen over the last few weeks. We were joined by Matthew Poole for a couple of weeks, who did lots of mowing and lots of odd jobs that Ian hasn’t been able to get round to. Sadly for us, Matthew was so good that he has landed himself a job, so won’t be able to do much more for us at Court Lodge. We really enjoyed having him around, and we wish him well for the future.

We also have Elwyn Scott who is an ace decorator. He decorated some bedrooms, and is now working on various window frames around the building.

We were also lucky enough to hire Bryan Ellis for a week of carpentry and various other jobs. His work is of such high quality that he is in very high demand, so we’re really pleased we could have him for a week. One of the jobs he did was to remove some old brick and slate tables from the Conservatory, which will make it a much more usable space. We were very pleased to see that the Pulham tiled floor beneath the tables was still in tact.

It might have been a bit heavy for Ian!

It might have been a bit heavy for Ian!

They got the conservatory cleared pretty quickly, and it looks great.

They got the conservatory cleared pretty quickly, and it looks great.

So things are moving on at Court Lodge. We are making progress and the house is responding well to the love and attention it is getting from us and our fantastic team.

Architectural connections between Court Lodge and Kendal

I wrote recently about our stopover in Kendal on the way back home from Bonny Scotland, and how we found many historical family connections there. But there was another dimension to our trip to Kendal: an architectural one.

There has been a house on the site of Court Lodge since at least the 12th Century, but the current house was, we believe, built by my ancestor William Morland in 1730. We think that he tore down the (probably Jacobean) house that was on the site, and built the current house, probably from stone quarried from the site. He built it in the Queen Anne style, that was much more common in Westmorland than here in Kent. A typical Kentish manor house looks something like this:

Kentish Wealden Hall

Kentish Wealden Hall

Court Lodge, by contrast, looks like this:

South facade of Court Lodge

South facade of Court Lodge

Notice the arched windows; this will become relevant in a moment. We love the arched windows, and in fact, chose to incorporate them into our logo for Court Lodge when we first arrived back here:

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The colour of the logo is taken from the stonework of the building.

Court Lodge is therefore quite different from typical Kentish buildings. When we arrived in Kendal, however, it became abundantly clear where the inspiration for the architecture of Court Lodge came from. These are some of the buildings we saw:

Georgian building on Highgate, Kendal

Georgian building on Highgate, Kendal

Another Georgian building in Kendal, with arched windows

Another Georgian building in Kendal, with arched windows

The large blocks of stone, the Georgian sash windows, and the arched windows are all a recurring theme, and something these buildings have very much in common with Court Lodge.

We visited a very nice pub for lunch while in Kendal, the Globe Inn, and got chatting with the landlord about the reasons for our visit. We mentioned the architecture, and he told us that there is a particular type of window called a Westmorland window. It is an arched window that extends beyond one storey of the building, often in a stairwell. I looked around Kendal for examples of Westmorland windows, and found several. Here are a couple:

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This was very exciting, because we realised straight away that Court Lodge has a Westmorland window!

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The arched window here in the centre of the East facade looks onto the stairwell of the main stairs, and clearly goes between two storeys, so it fits the description of a Westmorland window. My ancestor, William Morland, certainly took his architectural inspiration from Westmorland, and incorporated a Westmorland window into the design of the building. The only thing that seems not quite right is that this window does not have the traditional Georgian glazing that the other arched windows have. I suspect it was rebuilt at some point during its history, and that it was originally glazed in the same way that the other arched windows are.

Another thing I had discovered before our trip to Kendal was that Ann Morland, pictured below, had moved back to Kendal after her husband died.

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland as a young woman

Ann Morland as an older woman, perhaps at the time she was living in Kendal

Ann Morland as an older woman, perhaps at the time she was living in Kendal

I found this out purely by chance when I discovered some old hair powder licenses among the Morland documents in the archives. See this post for more about that discovery. These documents cite Ann Morland, her sister Margaret Matson, and her daughters Anna Eleanora, Mary, Eliza and Margaretta, all living on Highgate in Kendal.

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I don’t know which house on Highgate they lived on, but it is lined with many substantial Georgian houses. I plan to contact the Kendal library’s archivist to see if there is any way of finding out where precisely they lived on this street.

Highgate, Kendal

Highgate, Kendal

Once again, I feel that this brief trip to Kendal has helped make more sense of Court Lodge as a building to me. It’s history tells a story of the origins of the Morland family, and that story is written into its architecture.