I hope you have had an enjoyable summer, and that the following notes relating to our own activities will be of interest.
‘The Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Presentations
Following a short summer break, Val and I did a presentation for Hertfordshire Libraries at the Hoddesdon Library on Thursday, 25th September, and another for the Ware Society at the Ware Priory on Wednesday, 29th October. Both evenings were very successful, with more than 40 people attending each one, which was an excellent attendance for both venues. In fact, one lady enjoyed her evening at Hoddesdon so much that she brought her husband along to see us again at Ware! I also had the pleasure of meeting up with two people who played a very influential part in my life over recent years.
I met Mike and Bonnie West for the first time during our evening at the Ware Priory. Mike is the Vice-Chairman of the Ware Society, and Bonnie used to work in the Hertford Records Office. When I began to research my own family history in 1999, Bonnie was the lady who first discovered that no fewer than five of my ancestors worked as ‘Rock Builders’. I immediately knew the significance of this, because I had always known that my grandfather, Fred Hitching, worked as a ‘Rock Builder’ for James Pulham and Son, but I did not know that two of his brothers, Arthur and John – together with their father, William, and uncle George – also worked for them in that capacity.
The firm was based in Hoddesdon and Broxbourne between 1842 and 1939, and I was also born and brought up in Hoddesdon, so our presentation in the Hoddesdon Library was of particular importance and interest to us. I was able to renew my acquaintance with some old friends whom I had not seen for many years, one of whom was Neil Robbins, the ex-Curator of the Lowewood Museum, who was the person who initially encouraged me to proceed with my research into the lives and work of James Pulham and Son with a view to writing a book about them. Bonnie and Neil are consequently the two people who were mainly responsible for helping and encouraging me to embark upon my fascinating journey of exploration and discovery, and I owe them both a great debt of gratitude for doing so.
Val and I have two more presentations scheduled over the next few months:
for the Waltham Abbey Society
at the Baptist Church, Paradise Road, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1RL.
* * * * *
Thursday, 12th March 2015 at 8 p.m.
for the Hertford and Ware Local History Society
at St Mary’s Parish Church Annexe, Ware, SG12 9AD
We have also been asked to do a pilot presentation for a special ‘Pulham Day’ at the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, sometime next year, but the date has yet to be fixed for this. The idea is for our morning presentation to be followed by a light lunch, and a guided tour of the gardens during the afternoon, so it should be good fun. Watch this space for further details as they become available . . .
Rediscovery, Restoration and Preservation
Quite a few things have been happening since my July News Letter, in which you might recall that I referred to:
‘. . . a house in Lamberhurst, where we think we are on the verge of rediscovering another unrecorded Pulham Garden’.
Val and I went to check this out, and my enthusiasm was justified. We also visited the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, where a massive restoration project has recently been completed, so I decided to check out some other projects that I knew were in progress. Their current situations are summarised in the following notes, which I am sure you will find encouraging.
1 – Discovery of a new Pulham Garden in Lamberhurst, Kent
We visited Court Lodge in Lamberhurst, Kent, in July, and were shown around the gardens by the Manager, Heather Dyke, daughter of the owner, Nicholas Morland. The Morland family has owned Court Lodge for three centuries, and, in 1868, W C Morland engaged James Pulham and Son to build a Conservatory / Fernery onto the house.
This feature was noted in James 2’s ‘Client List’, appended to his promotional booklet, Picturesque Ferneries and Rock Garden Scenery, published c1877, but they must have returned at a later date – I would suggest during the early 1880s – to construct an artificial lake, summerhouse, and sunken garden built into the small quarry from which stones had been taken to build the original house. They also constructed some Walled Gardens, although the actual date for those is not quite certain – they may have been done (but not noted) at the same time as the Fernery, or during the later stage of the project.
These later features are now completely overgrown, although one can see that, beneath it all, they are still in potentially good condition – apart from the small summerhouse, which no longer survives. Heather is planning to eventually convert the house into a wedding venue and educational centre, and is drawing up an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help restore the gardens to their original glory. I really do hope that her application will be successful, because I am sure that it was a delightful example of the Pulhams’ work that deserves to be brought back to life. The full story of this remarkable discovery can be found in the October ‘Site of the Month’ feature. Fig 2 shows the entrance to the Sunken Garden in the old quarry.
2 –Gunnersbury Park, London
A restoration programme is currently being finalised for the restoration of Gunnersbury Park, in Hounslow, West London, which was discussed in my ‘Site of the Month’ feature for August 2012. It is planned that the work will start in early 2015, and continue until the summer of 2017. There is a lot of vegetation clearance to be done, so the actual restoration of the Pulham-related features is not likely to start until late 2015.
The Pulham Boathouse Tower by the Potomac Lake – see Fig 3 – is scheduled for full repairs, which is great news, although HLF funding is not included for repairs to the rockwork along the lakeside and islet in this area. The Pulhamite rockwork in the small fernery adjacent to the old Bath House has already been cleared of superfluous vegetation.
3 –Worth Park, Crawley, Sussex
The gardens at Worth Park are discussed in Chapter 15 of Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy, and include a wide range of Pulham features, including a rockwork bank, grand balustraded terrace, Sundial Garden, Dutch Garden, Fountain Garden, large pond and fountain, and artificial lake and island. Work began on this very extensive restoration programme in 2013, and is well under way. The Horsham District Archaeology Group did a Dig in the Fountain Garden – see Fig 4 – to try and identify some unusual brick features that were discovered beneath each of the quadrants, although I believe that the actual purpose of these has not yet been established. Alan Bishop & Associates – one of our few specialist firms of Pulhamite restorers – was responsible for the restoration of the small rockwork ‘cliff’ alongside the house, shown in Fig 5.
Fig 5 – The rockwork ‘cliffs’ alongside the site of the old house at Worth Park.