Tag Archives: Victorian

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.


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


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!

More research at the archives

Last week I visited the archives at Maidstone again to see if I could find out anything more about our garden and its Pulham origins. My plan was to read the diaries of William Courtenay Morland (1818-1909), my great-great-Grandfather, from around the time that we know that he was a client of James Pulham and Son (1868). I knew that my Great Uncle William had given a large number of diaries to the Kent archives before he moved away from Court Lodge in the late 1970s. Looking on the archive database online, I was devastated to see that, of all of WCM’s diaries that are there in the archive, the one that is missing is the one for 1868! His diaries for 1856-1867, 1869-1879, and 1909 are all there, but not that one crucial diary for 1868. Disappointed but not discouraged I carried on, thinking that the best place to start was probably the diary for 1867, the year before WCM became a client of Pulham’s.

Reading these diaries was so interesting! I quickly got used to his handwriting, and the style of each entry was much the same. They were short entries, listing the people he wrote to on each day, and what he wrote to them about, the walks or rides he took, the meetings he had, and often, time he spent with his sons walking, shooting, fishing, or on one occasion, working in the Carpenter’s shop! Finally, each entry ends with a description of the weather. On Sundays he went to church once in the morning and once in the afternoon. For example it would be “Church at Lamberhurst in the morning, at Kiln Down in the afternoon” (note, Kiln Down is now known as Kilndown) A typical entry went something like this:

“Wrote to Arnold to send in seed, G. Hammond to send manure, and Ward as to shooting. Wrote Pomfret as to Parsonage land. Walked with MEM to Little Coldharbour. Worked on accounts. Wind SW to NW gale in morning, heavy rain in afternoon.”

Most days he walked, and Little Coldharbour Farm is about 2 miles away, so he walked significant distances. Also, MEM is his wife, Margaretta Eliza Morland, so she often walked these distances too. He also rode to Maidstone often to attend Gaol committee meetings, and frequently went to London to meet “sundry business persons”. He certainly went to London more often than I’ve managed it since arriving here 8 months ago! Another very touching thing I noticed was that whenever MEM was away from Court Lodge, he wrote to her every day. He also talks fondly of his sons, Charley and Henry. Henry is my great-Grandfather. Charles was the older brother, but he didn’t have any children so Court Lodge passed to his younger brother Henry when he died, and then to his eldest son, my Great Uncle William, who also had no children, so then it passed to my father, Nicholas.

I was looking specifically for anything to do with the garden, and I found some significant mentions of both the garden and the house. First of all, he seems engaged throughout the year on alterations to the house, including spending a good deal of time on drawing up and reviewing plans, and also on installing a “heating apparatus”. I think this means our central heating system dates back to 1867! He also visits somewhere to look at its “dried earth sewage system”, and orders sewage pipes from a pottery in Marden. He is also dissatisfied with the gardener, and how the garden is being managed.

On Monday 12th August he wrote to Pulham about the conservatory. This is significant. We know from the Pulham client list that WCM of Court Lodge, Lamberhurst was a client of Pulham’s for the fernery and, we think, the pond. But Ian and I had also suspected that he may have been responsible for the conservatory too. We have some old photographs of Henry Courtenay Morland and his first wife Alice in the conservatory (dated 1884), and it has many features that are typical of Pulham, specifically, the italianate tiled floor, and the potholders built into the wall, which makes the plants seem to grow out of the wall all the way up to the roof. This mention of Pulham in connection with the conservatory in WCM’s diary establishes a definite link.

Then, all the way through October he was very exercised with writing to people about the conservatory roof. The conservatory was built within a Victorian addition to Court Lodge, so my guess is that these significant changes to Court Lodge took place around this time, and are what WCM is referring to when he talks of the plans for alterations to the house in the 1867 diary.

He also talks quite a bit about the garden. On June 15th he writes, “Saw several people on business, including Brown [underlined twice] to tell him garden is not managed satisfactorily.” In October he rode to Blackhurst to see a garden. There is a large house near Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells called Blackhurst Park. It may have had a Pulham garden, and that may have been what WCM went to look at. Dunorlan Park certainly does have a Pulham rockery, and so do many others in Kent, so he would have been able to see examples of them locally. A quick look at http://www.parksandgardens.org reveals that Blackhurst Park had a pool, a rockery  and a terrace. Court Lodge also has these things, so perhaps WCM went there to gather ideas for his own garden.

He also wrote to various people throughout the year about gardeners. In October, “wrote Joyce that the gardener is too young”. In November, “wrote Stedolph that I do not want gardener”, “Barney as to gardener”, and “Fortescue as to gardener”. Another tantalising allusion is several references to the “folly lake”. He twice wrote to “Marryatt and Lake as to Folly Lake”. It may be that our pond, as we affectionately call it, that no longer holds water, was completely man made, and was created at this time – a Folly Lake.

Finally, in late November he again wrote to Pulham, but infuriatingly I just could not make out his handwriting to see what he wrote to him about!

It was also unbelievably infuriating that the diary for 1868 was not there in the archives. It must be somewhere, as he certainly must have written one for that year. Given how much I learned from the 1867 diary, there must be priceless information about the garden in the 1868 diary. I feel like turning the house upside down until I find it!

This was such an interesting experience. I felt that I really began to get to know WCM from reading about his daily activities. He was, I think, a good Victorian. He was concerned about the Estate, and worked hard on it, managing it to the best of his ability. He was an innovator; he installed central heating, and a sewage system. He ordered a steam plough and an “electrical machine” – I think this must have been the generator that occupied the building that is now our workshop and office. He also took the responsibilities that came with his place in society seriously. And he cared deeply about his wife and sons.

When I got back home I went into the main flat where Mum and Dad live, to find a portrait of WCM, so that I could put a face to this man that I was beginning to know. I’ve seen photos of him as an old man, but wanted to know what he looked like when he was younger. Mum pointed me towards what is one of the loveliest portraits in the house. It depicts WCM, Margaretta, and their eldest son Charley when he was about 5. I took a photo of it, which appears below. This portrait is from 1854 when WCM was 36 years old. In 1867 when he was writing the diary that I read, he was 49.

This experience has made me think about the value of writing a diary. I’ve learned so much from just these cursory descriptions of daily life. And now I feel inspired to write a diary of my own. Maybe one day my descendants will want to discover what life was like managing Court Lodge in the early 21st Century.


The pond – or is it the folly lake?


WCM with his wife Margaretta and his eldest son Charles


It looks like our garden is a monument!

We made a very exciting discovery today, after spending some time researching our garden. We have gradually been finding out more about the history of our garden over the last couple of years. It turns out that the pond and the sunken garden (or fernery, as we are now calling it) was designed and created by James Pulham and Sons in 1868, a firm of garden designers, who invented a type of artificial rock called pulhamite. They specialised in ferneries and rockeries. We found this out when we came across an English Heritage pamphlet called “Durability Guaranteed”, which is all about the Pulham family, their gardens, and pulhamite. In this pamphlet there was a list of their clients, and the gardens they were responsible for. It listed William Courtenay Morland of Court Lodge, Lamberhurst as one of their clients. William Courtenay Morland was my great great grandfather. They were also responsible for gardens at Buckingham Palace, London Zoo, and lots of other stately homes around the country. There’s one at Gatton Park near Reigate, which has recently been restored. We plan to visit this very soon to get an idea of what ours should look like.

Anyhow, on to today’s discovery… Ian found out that the fernery in our garden is listed on the English Heritage website as a monument!! It has its very own monument number: 1501369. It states, however, that “it is not certain whether the feature still survives”. Well, it certainly survives, although it is in dire need of restoration. This is one of the things we plan to do, and the HHA seminar we attended a couple of weeks ago gave us plenty of ideas about applying for grants to carry out this restoration.

Our research might also suggest that the entire garden was laid out by Pulham, as they also did walled gardens and bothies (both of which we have here at Court Lodge), and the garden is laid out in a very cohesive way, suggesting it was designed in its entirety. Another hint is that we have come across other garden decorations: stone faces, with twisted beards (found abandoned in a workshop), vases, stone details within the walls for holding plants, and many of these items have also featured in Pulham gardens. We’re very excited to find out more about the origins and history of our garden!

So it turns out that the rocks in the sunken garden could be artificial rocks; pulhamite. This is quite funny, as the story among the family has always been that the sunken garden was the quarry which supplied the stone to build Court Lodge. We shall have to find out where those stones really came from, but that is research for another day.

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