April 2015 – News Letter

Dear All,

It seems a long time since I wrote my last News Letter, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening.

‘The Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Presentations

Projector Screen 4Our presentations at Waltham Abbey in November – for the Waltham Abbey Society – and in March, for the Hertford and Ware Local History Society, went extremely well, and all those attending agreed that we had introduced them to a fascinating aspect of our garden history about which they had known very little before.

In order to check out our Presentation Diary as easily and quickly as possible, I have now opened a special page on the website that will be continually updated.   It can be accessed either from the above link or Screen Image; via the Main Menu under ‘Portfolio / Presentation Diary’, or directly from the ‘Home’ page by clicking on the image of the presentation screen.   It lists all our confirmed bookings, together with details of the general format of our programme, fees and contact information etc.   All callers are welcome.

You will see from this that we are now taking bookings for the 2015-16 season as groups begin to formulate their programmes of speakers through next winter.   We are delighted that this includes a number of our local U3A – University of the Third Age – groups, including Welwyn Garden City, Ware, Broxbourne and Hertford – which means that we shall soon be talking to much larger groups of people than in the past, but that does not mean that we are no longer interested in hearing from the smaller, more informal groups.

A Special ‘Pulham Study Day’ Event at The Swiss Garden, Old Warden

There is one particular upcoming event that warrants a special mention here, however.   As noted in my November News Letter, the Swiss Garden at Old Warden, Bedfordshire – see Chapter 10 in ‘Rock Landscapes’ – re-opened in 2014 following a major restoration project that was part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Corinne Price, the Swiss Garden Manager, has decided to organise a very special ‘Pulham Study Day’ on Saturday, 3rd October.

 150401 - Swiss Garden Stream Fig 1  –  The Stream at the Swiss Garden, with Pulhamite rocks supporting the white bridge

150402 - Swiss Garden ChaletFig 2 – The Swiss Chalet

The morning programme will include talks by herself, Simon Swann – director of Simon Swann Associates, who undertook the restoration work – Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage for the Heritage Lottery Fund, to which Val and I will be adding our ‘Pulhams of Broxbourne’ presentation.   There will be a light lunch, after which Simon will be guiding a tour of the lovely gardens – shown here in Figs 1 to 4 – and I shall also be available to sign copies of my book for anyone who wants to buy one for the special Presentation Price of £25.   It should be a fascinating day, of very special interest to all Pulham followers.   Check out the Presentation Diary for full details of the schedule and ticket prices etc as and when they become available.

150403 - Swiss Garden TunnelFig 3 – The Pulhamite-lined tunnel leading to the central Fernery

150404 - Swiss Garden - FrneryFig 4 – The central Fernery after restoration

Dewstow – One of Alan’s ‘Best Back Gardens’

6th January 2015 was a very special day for the Pulham website.   It marked the showing of the first of a series of ‘Britain’s Best Back Gardens’ presented by Alan Titchmarsh on ITV.   To celebrate his fifty years as a gardener, Alan appealed to the nation to nominate their gardens, and received more than 600 responses.   He then spent a year searching for what he regarded as being the thirty ‘best back gardens in Britain’ – a quest that took him from the northernmost point of the UK to the heart of Britain’s largest cities.   He met people from all walks of life doing amazing things with their outdoor spaces at every turn, and ventured into a world of jaw-dropping sights and sounds.

150106 - Alan approaches Dewstow 02

Fig 5 – Alan Titchmarsh crosses the lawns to Dewstow House   (All pictures reproduced by permission of Spun Gold TV)

Number 8 on his list was Dewstow Gardens, the home of John and Lisa Harris – pictured in Fig 10.   As all readers of ‘Rock Landscapes’ will know, Dewstow is fully discussed and illustrated in Chapter 22 of the book, and I have always regarded it as one of my favourite Jewels in the Pulham Crown.   Completely buried under thousands of tons of topsoil soon after the Second World War, John ‘rediscovered’ these wonderful ‘gardens of yesteryear’ by accident when he and his family moved into Dewstow House in 2000, and, thanks to his family’s patience and tremendous investment of capital and hard work, they have gradually brought the gardens back to life.   They are once again a grand example of the manner in which keen, wealthy gardeners indulged their fantasies one hundred years ago – beautifully landscaped streams, cascades and water gardens, with a maze of fantastic subterranean tunnels and fernery grottoes beneath.   No wonder they are now a favourite touring attraction among all keen students of gardens and garden history.

150106 - Alan through the Archway

Fig 6 – Alan enters the gardens along a series of stepping stones that lead through the rustic archway – ‘The door to another world!’   A ‘dropping well’ is on the bottom left of the picture

When Alan visited Dewstow during last summer, he insisted that he did not want to be shown around before the actual filming took place.   His reason was that the camera would then record his genuine first reactions to what he saw, and four of these can clearly be seen in Figs 6 to 9.   Fig 6 shows him walking along the series of stepping-stones that lead through the rustic entrance archway to the North Gardens, when he explains that:

‘Strange pieces of masonry strewn around the land intrigued the couple, and, when they investigated one in particular, it literally opened the door into another world . . .’

150106 - Alan on the Bridge 02

Fig 7 – Alan and John cross the cascades in the stream that runs through the South Gardens – ‘A lost paradise reclaimed!’

He is shown in Fig 7 crossing the small bridge over the stream that runs through the South Garden, which he describes as a ‘. . . lost Paradise reclaimed.’

150106 - Alan at Dewstow 02

Fig 8 – Entering the ‘Lion Grotto’: ‘Wow!!   Fancy finding this!’

The moment of his entry into the Lion Grotto is shown in Fig 8 – ‘Wow!!   Fancy finding this!’ – whilst Fig 9 shows him clasping his hands in wonder and incredulity as he gazes around the ‘Tufa Grotto’.   Like so many other visitors before and since his visit, he was completely overwhelmed by the wonder of it all – ‘This is just like a magical Kingdom of Narnia!’ he exclaimed.

150106 - Alan at Dewstow 01

Fig 9 – Gazing around the Tufa Grotto: ‘A magical Kingdom of Narnia’

Alan’s visit had a remarkable effect on the Pulham website – it inspired no fewer than ten times the normal daily number of visitors on that day, and the average daily number since then has remained at roughly 20% above the previous average!   If only we could persuade him to visit more of Pulham’s incredible gardens – and maybe collect them all into a programme or series of its own . . . ?

150106 - John and Liza at Dewstow

Fig 10 – John and Lisa Harris in their gardens at Dewstow

Fire Damages Ewell Court House

Fire destroyed half of the roof at the Grade II listed Ewell Court House – described in Chapter 18 of ‘Rock Landscapes’ – in December 2013, whilst remedial work was in progress in the roof space.   Considerable damage was also caused to some of the internal furnishings, such as ceilings, floors, beams and paneling etc, and a massive restoration exercise is still under way.   The fire was apparently caused by a low-power frost-inhibitor that was left in the roof during the night, and it set fire to some combustible material that was lying below it.   There is still a lot of work to be done, but the Ewell Court House Association is planning a special events day to celebrate its completion.  In view of the comparatively large number of Pulham features at Ewell Court, our ‘Pulhams of Broxbourne’ presentation will be part of the programme of events – it is not yet possible to name a day, but details will be posted on our Presentation Diary Page as and when they become available.

150411 - Ewell Court House Fire

Fig 11 – Fire crews attending to the major fire at Ewell Court House in December ‘13

Sites of the Month

I am still adding descriptions and pictures of a new Pulham site each month to my ‘Site of the Month’ feature,   Those featured since my last listing in May of last year are shown below, and I hope you will find them of interest.


Jun 14 1887-91

A Tale of Two Ferneries

38 Jul 14 1885-93

Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire

39 Aug 14 1894-98

The Parks in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

40 Sep 14 1880

Heythrop Park, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

41 Oct 14 1868-80s

Court Lodge, Lamberhurst, Kent

42 Nov 14 1878-98

Insole Court, Llandaff, Cardiff

43 Dec 14 1827-49

Working with Thomas Smith

44 Jan 15 1865-71

Bromley Palace Gardens, Kent

45 Feb 15 1873-74

Sundridge Park, Bromley, Kent

46 Mar 15 1878

Mesnes Park, Wigan, Lancashire

47 Apr 15 1889

‘Piggot’s Manor’, Letchmore Heath, Hertfordshire

 ‘PL1’Your Key to A Very Special Offer

1-5-01-0 - Book Title, Price etcReaders of these News Letters will know that I always close by reminding them that copies of my book are available at the very Special Discounted Price of £25 via my website – i.e. £21 plus £4 p & p.   That is equivalent to a net saving of nearly 30% on the R.R.P. of £35!  

Just go to the Product Page on the ‘Antique Collectors Club’ website

  1. Click on the ‘+’ symbol below the book details to confirm your purchase, and then click the ‘Checkout’ Button
  2. Enter the code ‘PL1’ in the ‘Promotion Code’ box at the top of that page, and click on the ‘Apply’ button.   This updates your invoice with the 25% ‘Promotion Discount’, bringing the net price of the book down to £26.25.   Click on the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button.
  3. Click on Create Account.   This will entitle you to a further ‘Customer Loyalty Discount’ of 20%, bringing the Net Price of the book down from £26.25 to £21.
  4. Proceed to Checkout.   £4 P&P will be added for UK customers.   Overseas rates will vary.

This book will make:

‘A Wonderful Book to Own,

and the Perfect Present for

a Garden-Loving Friend’

But 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

 Happy Reading!   I send you our Season’s Greetings, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Yours Sincerely,


2 thoughts on “April 2015 – News Letter

  1. Please check out The Guinness Estate “St Annes Park”, Raheny, Dublin.
    See link to Garden report on Dublin Corp. site.
    “The Follies and Garden Buildings of St. Anne’s Park, Dublin
    Maryann Harris,
    Senior Executive Parks Superintendent, Dublin City Council
    DCC 2009”
    Besides St Stephen’s Green, Pulmanite was also used extensivelyby Lord Ardilaun here.

    1. Thanks for this, Gerry. I had heard that the Pulhams are likely to have worked in St Anne’s Park, as well as in St Stephen’s Green, but there is no official record, and I had not seen any positive evidence. The notes and pictures in Maryann Harris’s report does seem to confirm this, however, so this is a very interesting piece of news.

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