Tag Archives: volunteers

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.

FullSizeRender

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:

Image 7

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.

Advertisements

Getting festive @CourtLodgeEst

Things are starting to get a little bit festive here at Court Lodge. Today our 10 ft Christmas tree was delivered by the lovely people at Hartley Dyke Farm Shop just outside Cranbrook. We put it up in the library, and this evening the children, Mum, Ian and I all decorated it. We think it looks great.

We were also very honoured to receive our dolls house back from one of our incredible volunteers, Geoffrey Forster, who has done an amazing job restoring it. It is a Georgian dolls house, made for Hamley’s in 1906, and bought for my grandmother who was 4 years old at the time. I will post some more photos of the dolls house’s restoration next time, but for now, enjoy the Christmassy scene:

IMG_4170

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

IMG_1570

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.

 

Volunteers’ Pimms Party

We were very excited yesterday to host a Pimms party for all our wonderful volunteers at Court Lodge Estate. We are privileged to have more than 20 volunteers on our books who help us out with anything from gardening to archiving all our old documents. The party was our chance to say thank you, and to pass on all our news about what’s been happening at Court Lodge over the past few months.

Waiting for me to say a few words - while Damian upstaged me!

Waiting for me to say a few words – while Damian upstaged me!

We had every intention of taking lots of photos during the party, but unfortunately, the only person who took any photos was our six-year-old son, Damian. He was up on his dad’s shoulders when he took this one, which is out of focus, but most of the photos were taken from the perspective of a 6 year old:

Glenys, John and Polly, part of our archiving contingent

Glenys, John and Polly, part of our archiving contingent

He also made sure to take a lovely photo of his favourite person at the party: Baby Adam Bicimli

Damian's favourite guest at the party - Adam

Damian’s favourite guest at the party – Adam

He did, however, take lots of photos of the food:

Damian's best photos were of the food!

Damian’s best photos were of the food!

Canapes

Canapés

…and the flowers and produce that Mum laid out for the volunteers to help themselves to:

Some flowers and produce for the volunteers

Some flowers and produce for the volunteers

You can see a sneak preview of the new library curtains in some of these photos. The pelmets aren’t up yet, but the curtains are looking sumptuous and luxurious, as we hoped they would. When the pelmets are ready I will put some more photos of them up.

We also had some polo shirts to give to the volunteers with the Court Lodge Estate logo on them, and ‘Volunteer’ across the back!

Most importantly, everyone had a great time, and a chance to look around and enjoy the garden, and it gave us a chance to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to our wonderful volunteers. Without you we wouldn’t be making anywhere near as much progress as we are.

Volunteers’ tea party

Yesterday was a great day at Court Lodge. A few weeks ago we placed some ads in the local paper, and in some local Parish magazines, asking for anyone who is interested in helping out at Court Lodge with various projects to get in touch. We had a fantastic response from lots of local people keen to be involved and join us on our restoration journey. These are people who have a bit of time on their hands that they are willing to give to us, and who are interested in gardening, local history, historic buildings and British heritage. We were so overwhelmed by this response that we thought we would organise a volunteers’ tea party so we could meet everyone, and the willing volunteers could see Court Lodge for themselves, and find out what sorts of projects are going on here to get involved with.

17 volunteers came to our tea party, and what a lovely bunch of people they are! It was a fantastic afternoon. Hamish, our head gardener, was here and showed them round the garden to give them an idea of what sorts of gardening projects there are to do. I talked a little bit about the archiving work that I’d love to get some help with. As well as working on the various projects, we also plan to have other occasions like the tea party, to celebrate with, and thank the volunteers as we go along this path.

What struck me was the generosity of people and their genuine interest in this house and the people who have lived in it. These are people who care about houses like Court Lodge because they are an important part of our heritage, and they have lots of relevant experience that they can bring to Court Lodge to help us on our path towards its restoration. It’s a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship, as we need their help, and they want to be involved. With a community of volunteers like this to help us, bringing a wealth of life experience to our projects, we can’t go far wrong.

The Heroes of Court Lodge Estate!

Most days working at Court Lodge are varied and interesting, but every so often things go a little crazy and nothing would surprise me. Today was one of those days. It started off with an immersion heater failing in one of the flats (a surprisingly common occurrence, I might add), so our poor resident had to start the day with a cold shower. We called a plumber, but he couldn’t come out until tomorrow, so we called Christian Hawkins, our electrician, as immersions are a joint plumber/electrician job. Christian came out straight away and fixed the immersion (hooray!), but as he and his assistant were leaving they noticed a leak in the ceiling of the entrance hall. After further investigation it turned out to be a washing machine that had been badly installed in another of the flats, and had been leaking for about 6 weeks. Christian came to the rescue and fixed it for us. What a hero!

As well as urgent and unexpected repairs, lots of other exciting jobs were underway today. Mark Truman, our fantastic general builder/decorator/handyman, has been here this week, and is working on the redecoration of the library. He has been cleaning the ornate plaster cornicing with sugar soap and a toothbrush (I kid you not!), which as you can imagine is a pretty laborious and soul-destroying job. But Mark is a trooper, and takes real pride and pleasure in bringing our forlorn old Country House back to glory. When the library is finished it is going to be stunning. But he reckons he’s got another couple of days worth of cleaning plasterwork with a toothbrush still to go. Another hero!

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

Mark Truman cleaning the cornicing with his trusty toothbrush

You can see here the difference that it makes

You can see here the difference that it makes

Katie is another fairly recent addition to our team, who is doing absolutely sterling work in helping us make Court Lodge a viable business. She has been helping us with important financial decisions, like which biomass boiler supplier to go with, and how to fund it, and how to progress towards being a fully functioning wedding venue. She has helped us choose and hire architects, surveyors, structural engineers, and planning consultants, and her job is varied too, as she also works on finding us a supplier of temporary toilets so we have enough to apply for our license to hold weddings! She has really helped move us along, and Ian and I both feel we are going to reach our goals much more quickly thanks to Katie. Another hero!

Ted, one of our volunteers, and a resident of one of the flats at Court Lodge, has been hard at work today with the chainsaw that Ian bought the other day. Ian still needs to go on a course to get chainsaw qualified before he can wield one, so Ted very kindly offered to start cutting up all the trees and branches that came down in the Christmas Eve storm. It’s a huge job, and there will be lots of tidying up for us to do this weekend, but we will have a big bonfire! Thanks Ted, you are another of our heroes!

And another thing that happened today was that we were visited by Jayne, a representative from Visit England, to give us a star-rating for Courtyard Cottage, our one-bedroom holiday let. We were very proud to be given a 3-star rating, but Jayne told us that we were a high 3-star! We even got 4 stars for cleanliness (and that was down to me, so I’m pretty pleased with myself!)

We have also recently taken our first booking for the hire of the library, to Angela Mason, who will be holding a ‘Touched with Sound’ workshop at the end of March. That gives us a clear deadline for Mark and his toothbrush!

Life at Court Lodge is certainly never dull!

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!!