The Garden – February 2013

Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy

Claude Hitching

320 pages, 2012 – Garden Art Press, ISBN 9781870673761 – RRP £35

130201 - The Garden Review

 Between the 1840s and 1930s, the flrm of James Pulham and Son created a large number of rock gardens around Britain, most of them using an artificial stone of their own devising.   James Pulham l, the founder of the firm, was one of the pioneers of Portland cement, and put his formula to use in church architecture and decoration; his son James Pulham Il began to make rockworks by assembling masses of brick, pouring cement mixture over them and moulding them into shape, boulder by boulder. 

The firm’s fame grew during the 1850s and 1860s; it opened multiple offices; created rock gardens for the Royal family (Sandringham), local authorities (Battersea Park cascade), gardens great and suburban, and (in natural stone) RHS Garden Wisley.   It also developed subordinate lines in terracotta garden ornaments, and even carried out the prize-winning monument for the tomb of the artist Wllllam Mulready, in Kensal Green Cemetery.

 After the First World War, it regularly exhibited rock gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. and created its largest schemes for seaside tourist towns such as Blackpool. Ramsgate, and Folkestone.   The firm closed at the end of the 1930s, and its records were destroyed.

 The author, whose great-grandfather and four other ancestors worked for the firm as ‘rock builders’, has spent the last decade tracing the rock gardens and compiling this detailed and splendidly illustrated history.   From north to south, there is probably a Pulham rock garden near you: read this book and find out.

 Brent Elliott, RHS Historian;
his book celebrating the Chelsea Flower Show centenary is published in March
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