November 2013 – News Letter

  • ‘PL1’ – Your Key to A Very Special Christmas Offer
  • A Most Interesting Approach from NADFAS
  • We Mark the Passing of a Truly Remarkable Lady
  • The ‘Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Presentations go to Wales
  • ‘PL1’ – A Final Reminder . . .

Dear All,

I had hoped to report much sooner than this on our wonderful trip to Wales at the end of September, but, as you will see by the time you get to the end of this News Letter, there have been a few things going on in the World of Pulham over the last few weeks, so I hope you will feel that it has all been worth waiting for.

‘PL1’ – Your Key to A Very Special Christmas Offer

It will soon be time to think about Christmas, and the presents that you would either like to put on your own Wish List, or to buy for a special friend.   Well, here’s the answer.   For those of you whose lists happen to include a copy of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy, I have some very special news for you.   I have had discussions with my publishers, the Antique Collectors Club, and they have kindly agreed to participate in a Special Christmas Promotional Offer

131100 - Rock Landscapes - Special Offer

This is equivalent to a discount on RRP of a massive 40% – i.e., £21! –  plus £4 P&P for UK customers – overseas rates vary.   All you have to do to qualify for this amazing offer is:

  • visit,
  • go to the ‘Buy The Book’ page, and
  • click on the Antique Collectors Club logo.   This will take you directly to the product page on the ACC website, which will invite you to ‘Look Inside’ if you want to check out a few pages before committing to a purchase.
  • Click on the ‘+’ symbol to confirm your purchase; register, and proceed to Checkout,
  • enter the code ‘PL1’ in the ‘Promotion Code’ box at the top of that page.

. . . See End of Letter for further possible Options . . .

This book will make:

131100 - Wonderful Book to Own

Don’t just take my word for it – if you are still not convinced, read what the Professional Reviewers had to say:

‘This is a wonderful book . . .’                                London Landscapes

‘Excellent . . A brilliant piece of work.’             Amateur Gardening

‘Magnificent hardback . . .’                     Hertfordshire Countryside

‘Wonderfully illustrated book . . .’                               Follies Magazine

A Most Interesting Approach from NADFAS

I recently received a very interesting email from Judith Al-Seffar, of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), which has over 300 affiliated societies around the UK and also several abroad (   One of the NADFAS activities is Heritage Volunteering, with a variety of projects around the country.

Judith coordinates the Parks and Gardens section, where sites are recorded and photographed, and the records housed in local archives.   Data is also uploaded, as appropriate, onto the Parks and Gardens UK online database (, which currently has 41 Pulham sites listed, as well as biographies of the Pulhams.   The NADFAS projects are arranged at local level, but, more recently, potential national projects have been flagged up where each has several sites around the country – projects such as Lost Georgian Pleasure Gardens, and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown Landscaped Gardens, which currently has 267 sites listed, many of which will soon be preparing for the tercentenary celebrations of Capability Brown’s birth in 2016.

131101 - NADFAS Logo and Exhibition

Fig 1  – Judith Al-Seffar with the NADFAS Parks and Gardens’ ‘Future Projects’ Display at the Heritage Volunteers’ 40th Anniversary Exhibition at Kensington Town Hall on 12th November.   The photographs of all those Pulham gardens came from my Archives

 A few weeks ago, Judith was approached by Abberley Hall school, in Worcestershire, and invited to record its Victorian garden, as the school hopes to restore the garden to its original design.   The garden was said to contain some Pulham work, so Judith investigated; found my website; contacted me, and asked for advice.   I was able to confirm that Abberley Hall is, indeed, a Pulham site.

Bearing in mind that there are a probably several more Pulham gardens around the country that have yet to be rediscovered and identified, Judith is planning to add Pulham Rock Gardens to her NADFAS portfolio of national research categories, which will obviously be of considerable interest to all followers of this News Letter.   Once individual site projects are set up, the Heritage Volunteers (HVs) would also undertake local archival research as part of their procedure, in the hope of locating more documentary evidence.   Although the HVs don’t undertake the actual garden restoration work, their volunteering hours can contribute ‘in kind’ towards grant applications, thus facilitating some of the restoration work that may be indicated.

NADFAS was founded in 1968, and the Heritage Volunteers in 1973.   There was a special celebration at Kensington Town Hall on Tuesday, 12th November, to mark the 40th Anniversary of NADFAS’s Heritage Volunteering.   The HV Garden Recorders display – ‘Past, Present, and Future’ – showed the earliest projects from 1993; the current ones, and also a selection of photographs from my ‘Pulham Archives’ to contribute to the ‘Future’ section.   This aroused considerable interest, so let us hope that the NADFAS project starts soon, as it may well help to extend our current gazetteer of Pulham Gardens.   Watch this space for news of further developments.

We Mark the Passing of a Truly Remarkable Lady


131102 - Mavis Batey

Fig 2  –  Mavis Batey, who died on Tuesday, 12th November at the grand age of 92
Something else of note happened on Tuesday, 12th November, but, this time, it was a sad occasion.   It marked the passing, at the grand age of 92, of Mavis Batey, who was among the team of Enigma Code Breakers of Bletchley Park who played such a vital part in our eventual victory of World War II.   In later years, she became President of the Garden History Society, and was very interested in, and supportive of my research into the lives and work of James Pulham and Son, so I was very proud when she agreed to write the Foreword to my book.   I never had the pleasure of meeting her, so I cannot presume to refer to her as a friend, but we had several telephone conversations, and I shall always remember her as a kind, friendly, helpful person – a Truly Remarkable Lady.

‘The Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Presentations go to Wales

Readers of The Newsletter, and visitors to, will recall that Val Christman and I have had two very important engagements in our diaries for some time.   These were for our presentations at Sketty, Swansea, on Thursday 26th September, and at the Dewstow Golf Club on Saturday, 28th September.   These were organised by Helena Gerrish, Chairman of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, and author of Edwardian Country Life: The Story of H Avary Tipping, a wealthy Edwardian garden designer; architectural historian, and Architectural Editor of Country Life, who contributed many regular articles to that magazine about Britain’s great country houses.

Soon after the First World War, Tipping designed and commissioned his own ‘ideal cottage’ as a retreat in the Monmouthshire hills, where the garden ‘always came first’.   He called it High Glanau Manor, and it was when Helena and her husband, Hilary, bought the house a few years ago that she began to research Tipping’s life, and decided to write her book about him.   As a keen gardener herself, she also set about bringing his gardens back to life, and now opens them regularly to the public.   A photograph that shows how successful she has been is reproduced on the cover of her book, shown here in Fig 3.    Imagine how excited Val and I were when Helena invited us to stay at their lovely home for the duration of our visit.   Their hospitality was wonderfully generous, and their company so enjoyable that we could not fail to enjoy ourselves.

 131103 - Helena's Book Cover and Sun RoomFig 3  –  Cover of ‘Edwardian Country Life’, showing picture of part of the gardens at High Glenau Manor, and relaxing with a a nice cup of tea in the Sun Room

 As there are a number of very interesting Pulham sites in that part of the country, we decided to look in at some of them during our trip from Hertfordshire.   Stopping off at Bristol on the way there, we lunched in the café at the Church of St Mary Redcliffe, where, c1845, James 2 was responsible for the restoration of the ornamental stonework around the Great North Door.   This is referred to in Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy, and it was still in remarkably good condition, although I understand that a further restoration programme is currently under discussion.

131104 - St Mary Redcliffe - North DoorwayFig 4  –  The Great North Door of St Mary Redcliffe, and the entrance to the Fernery at Park House, Cotham Park

Our next stop was at Park House, Cotham Park, where there is a small, but immaculately maintained fernery, constructed by James Pulham and Son c1907.   This is a feature that I had not seen before, and this was an opportunity that was too good to miss.   Pictures taken during both of these stops are shown in Fig 4.

From Park House it was full speed ahead for High Glanau Manor, and the start of our friendship with Helena and Hilary.   As the next picture shows, we had an opportunity to repay their hospitality with a most enjoyable supper at the Raglan Arms, Llandenny, the following evening – as can be seen in Fig 5.

131105 - Dinner at High Glanau - SS852515  Fig 5  –  With Hilary and Helena Gerrish for an enjoyable supper at the Raglan Arms

 On Thursday, 26th, we set off for our presentation at Sketty, and there was no shortage of Welsh hospitality here, either.   Don and Margaret Williams invited us to stop off for coffee, and they then took us to meet John Powell, who had prepared a most enjoyable lunch for us in his lovely flat.   It was then off to the St Paul’s Parish Centre for our talks, that apparently went well because Don was kind enough to write later:

‘Everyone enjoyed your presentation here.   It is such an interesting story, and how wonderful that you’ve been able to link up with Val.   It is also miraculous that she is very interested in the topic and, in addition, has an innate aptitude for the work that your joint ancestors did.’

 131106 - Insole Court - Group at the Grotto - DSCF1424Fig 6  –  The gathering at the grotto at Insole Court, Cardiff, with Nevil James – ex-Head of Technical Support for a Civil Engineering Group – Alun Salisbury, Membership Secretary of the Insole Court Committee, and Juliet Hodgkiss, Head Gardener at St Fagans

 We spent Friday catching up with two significant Pulham sites in and around Cardiff.   The first was at Insole Court, where Alun Salisbury, Membership Secretary of the Insole Court Committee, gave us a most interesting tour of the house and gardens.   Alun is a tireless worker and researcher into the history of Insole Court, and this was the first time I had had an opportunity to look around.   The notes about Insole Court that I included in my article entitled James Pulham in Wales – published in the November 2011 edition of Trafodion Magazine, and on at – being based entirely of information sent to me by Alun.   James Pulham and Son were not the first people to work on the gardens at Insole Court, but were responsible for rockwork and other ornamentation that took place there c1878.

We were joined on our tour by Nevil Jones, ex-Head of Technical Services for a Civil Engineering Group, and by Juliet Hodgkiss, Head Gardener of nearby St Fagans, which now houses the marvellous Welsh National History Museum.   The pictures in Fig 6 show the grottoat Insole Court, both with and without its group of visitors.

 131107 - St Fagans - Through the Arch and Bridge - DSCF1452aFig 7  –  The forecourt of St Fagans Castle, and the Pulham bridge over the stream in the Valley Water Gardens

After lunch with Juliet, she took us around the lovely gardens of St Fagans, which I had previously visited in 2000, and which is discussed in Chapter 9 of my book.   The Pulhams designed and constructed the rocky stream, bridge, pond and valley gardens in 1872-76.   Fig 7 shows the forecourt of the Castle, taken through the entrance archway, and a photograph of the Pulham bridge over the stream, taken by Judith, and reproduced in the book.   This is one of my favourite Pulham photographs, and it is used again here because there was too much foliage concealing its features at the time of our recent visit.

Saturday, 28th, was ‘The Big Day’, as far as we were concerned.   Dewstow has to be one of my favourite Pulham gardens, containing, as it does, so many varied features to which the word ‘fantastic’ can be applied quite legitimately in every way.   Its beautiful South Gardens, with their artificial ponds, streams, cascades – and even a Pulhamite tunnel – and its amazing underground fernery grottoes beneath the North Gardens make it a must for all garden historians to visit, and Val and I were really looking forward to presenting our talks at the nearby Golf Club.   Luckily, the weather was fair and dry, and, after our presentations, the visitors enjoyed a light lunch, followed by a tour of the gardens, conducted by John Harris, the owner, and a member of the family to whom we should all be so grateful for their ‘re-discovery’ of the gardens in 2000, and for all the hard work and money that had to be expended in their restoration over the intervening years.

  131108 - Dewstow - Tea with John, Lisa and MargaretFig 8  –  Relaxing in ‘The Cabin’ with Lisa and John Harris – owners of the Dewstow Gardens – with John’s mother, Margaret

There is no need for any further descriptions or explanations here, as I have written extensively about the ‘Hidden Gardens of Dewtow’ in a number of articles, and they are fully discussed and illustrated in Chapter 22 of my book.   Suffice to say here that we had a most enjoyable and successful day, and Fig 8 shows us relaxing – with yet another cup of tea – at the end of the afternoon with Lisa and John Harris, and John’s mother, Margaret.

We returned home on Sunday, and, on our way back through Bristol, stopped off to look around the gardens at Bracken Hill – Chaoter 39 in the book.   The Pulhams worked here at various times between c1917-30, when it was the home of Walter Melville Wills, the Bristol tobacco magnate of ‘Wills’ Woodbines’ fame.   The gardens were donated to the University of Bristol in 1947 ‘for the furtherance of agriculture’, and it served as the University’s Botanic Garden for more than fifty years, during which time the general framework of the gardens changed little.

 131109 - Bracken Hill - Archway and Garden - Ss852610 Fig 9  –  A Pulham archway and rock garden at Bracken Hill

The University moved their gardens to another site in 2004, and the house has only recently been privately sold.   It is currently in the process of an extensive restoration and modification, and we were pleased to see that the gardens have been well maintained during the transitional period, although the lovely Water Garden at the top of the site – Figs 39.7 and 39.8 in the book – is now associated with another property.   Fig 9 shows one of the Pulham archways, and part of the rock garden as they are today.    All in all, a most interesting and worthwhile trip . . .

‘PL1’ – A Final Reminder

Just in case you missed the Opening Section to this News Letter, Don’t forget that:

131100 - Rock Landscapes - Special Offer

This Book will be

131100 - Wonderful Book to Own

To qualify for your Special Christmas Discount Offer, just visit; go to the Buy the Book page; click on the Antique Collectors Club logo, register and proceed to Checkout, and enter the code ‘PL1’ in the Promotion Code box.

That’s all there is to it, but, if you really haven’t the time or inclination to access this incredibly generous Christmas Book Offer via the Pulham ‘Home Page’, you can:

  • If you are not keen on buying things on the internet, you can place an order by telephone on 01394 389950.
  • You just need to quote the code ‘PL1’ when you place your order.

So there’s no excuse.   Not only that but, if you would like a ‘Signed Copy’, send me an s.a.e. at:

Mr Claude Hitching
11 Asquith House
Guessens Road
Welwyn Garden City

And I will be happy to send you a Signed Sticker that you can stick to the front page of your book.   What more can I say? . . .

Have a Lovely Christmas, and Very Best Wishes to you all,

Yours Sincerely,


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