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