1908-10 – ‘Rayne Thatch’, Bristol

People and Places Discussed and Pictured in Chapter 31 of:

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Walter Melville Wills, the multi-millionaire tobacco magnate, lived at Bracken Hill – see Chapter 39 – on the Somerset side of the Clifton Gorge.   He also used his estate office – on the opposite side of the road, and overlooking the Gorge – as a ‘holiday house’.   This was known as ‘Rayne Thatch’, and he commissioned James Pulham and Son to landscape the gardens.   The Foreman in charge of the project was my grandfather, Frederick Hitching, and I am proud to say that this must be one of the finest Pulham gardens to be found anywhere.

1-5-31-1 - Rayne Thatch - Low Pool

The ‘Lower Pool’ at ‘Rayne Thatch’

It is built around five pools at different levels, linked by water cascading gently down from one level to the next.   The second pool was built specifically as a swimming pool, graded from ‘deep’ at one end to ‘shallow’ at the other, and has a grotto boathouse at the deep end – farthest from the house – with a grass-covered patio above for sun-bathing and diving.   There is a narrow ‘rock-lined’ gorge between the swimming pool and the road that is nearly 9-ft high, and a rocky archway and pump-house on the side overlooking the Gorge.   The kitchen of the house overlooks the ‘Lower Pool’, and there is an inscription stone near the entrance bearing mr grandfather’s initials and date of ‘F H 1910’.


An additional ‘Chapter’ was published each month over a period of five years on this website under the tag of ‘Where? / Site of the Month’, and these can now be accessed alphabetically under the comprehensive ‘Where? / Gazetteer’ tag, so don’t miss those.   Click on the link to see the complete list of Pulham sites described and illustrated by Claude Hitching.

Another link that you might like to refer to takes you to the ‘Press and Media / Book Reviews’ tag, where you can read all the reviews of ‘Rock Landscapes‘ written by professional critics in the National and Garden Press.

To check out the names of the People and Places featured and illustrated in any of the other Chapters, click the CONTENTS link to return to the main CONTENTS Page.   Click here to go direct to the ‘Book Shop’.   Happy Reading to all our followers


A full description of the work done by James Pulham and Son at ‘Rayne Thatch’ – together with a number of pictures – can be found in Chapter 31 of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy the critically-acclaimed and lavishly illustrated definitive story of the lives and work of James Pulham and Son.   Written by Claude Hitching, with featured photography by Jenny Lilly.   Published by Garden Art Press.

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