July ’16 News Letter

Dear All,

I began my last News Letter by rejoicing in the fact that summer was on its way.   I didn’t realise that we would have to wait two months for it, but at last it has arrived.   We had better make the most of it, though, as they tell us it may not last for long.   However, let’s leave the weather to one side, because quite a lot has been happening in the world of Pulham lately.

The Pulhams of Broxbourne Memorial Project

My first piece of news is one of the most fantastic and encouraging announcements that it has been my pleasure to make ever since these Letters began.   Broxbourne Borough Council have just been awarded nearly £87,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a special Pulham Memorial Project.   A new Exhibition Officer, Jennifer Rowland – shown in Fig 1 with Carly Hearn, Curator of Lowewood Museum – has been appointed at Lowewood Museum in Hoddesdon, and she will be responsible for a touring exhibition, events, and on-site interpretation programs, one of which is a series of free Stone Carving Taster Workshops.

160701 - Carly and Jenny

Fig 1  –  Carly Hearn, Curator of Lowewood Museum, and Jennifer Rowland, Pulham Memorial Exhibition Officer

The Council’s website has a page devoted to the project, which includes the following statement of objectives:

‘Thanks to National Lottery players, this partnership project will showcase the history of landscape designers, James Pulham & Son, by conserving the remains of their factory in Broxbourne, along with a touring exhibition and events programs celebrating their work.

160702 - Wheel and Kiln 2003

Fig 2 – The kiln and grinding wheel as it is today

 ‘The project will enable more people to learn about James Pulham & Son, who were one of the most important landscape designers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  In addition to conserving the two Grade II listed structures of the former factory, volunteers will be recruited to help rejuvenate the surrounding garden space, and a series of events and online resources will provide an opportunity for more people to engage with this unique piece of local history. . . .

‘Today, all that remains of their former factory are one of the original six brick kilns and a horse-drawn puddling mill. The funding will enable essential repair works to take place on the two Grade II listed structures, to ensure this unique piece of heritage to the history of Broxbourne and beyond is not lost for future generations.’

Fig 2 shows the one remaining kiln and grinding wheel as it is today, and Fig 3 shows the adjacent piece of land that will be converted into a Memorial Garden.   Commenting on the award, Leader of Broxbourne Council, Councillor Mark Mills-Bishop, said:

“We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which recognises our 2015 Year of Heritage and look forward to restoring the factory to its former glory.

Explaining the importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund support, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, Robyn Llewellyn, said:

“This project is a great opportunity for the local community to explore an important part of their history.  We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support more people to learn about this significant aspect of landscape design history”.’

160703 - Memorial Site - Main Panels Jan 12

Fig 3  –  The Memorial Garden site in 2012

How proud my grandfather, Fred Hitching, and all his fellow Pulham Rock Builders – as well as all the Pulham family themselves – would have been if they had known their work would be preserved in this way!   This is just the sort of outcome that has made all the resources I have invested in its research so worthwhile and rewarding, and I am obviously extremely proud of any contribution I may have made towards it.   Carly Hearn, Curator of the Lowewood Museum, was kind enough to write to me and say:

‘Your book most certainly helped with the development of this project!   It is a fantastic resource to any Pulham garden lover.   We will certainly be ordering more copies for our shop, and will in turn promote it to touring venues who may also want to purchase copies for their shops.’

I just love it when people talk to me like that. . . .

A Trip to End All Trips . . .

In my News Letter of March ’16, I wrote about a wonderful Pulham fountain that had just come to light in S E London.   It will not be surprising to my readers to learn that Val and I decided to take a look for ourselves, and off we went on a rather damp day in June.   The weather didn’t put us off, though, and our determination was well rewarded.   Fig 4 shows this lovely piece of craftsmanship, which is certainly one of the best examples of Pulham terracotta that we have had the pleasure to see.

Our pleasure was even further enhanced by the hospitality of its charming owner over lunch, and, during the morning, we visited a neighbour who lives at a house where the Pulhams also built a massive grotto, which also happens to be previously unrecorded.   Fig 5 shows Val with the neighbour, whose name I’m afraid I didn’t catch.

160704 - Fountain House

Fig 4  –  The beautifully restored Pulham fountain

It would all have added up to a perfect day had it not been for one unfortunate incident, when I tripped down a step where the edge was unmarked, and rather severely hurt my hip.   Fortunately, nothing was broken, and, some weeks later, it is recovering quite well.   I am now able to walk with one stick instead of two, but it was rather a hard way to have to learn a lesson.   I have been trying to put off this decision for some time, but the combination of deteriorating eyesight and advancing years – the two fat ladies from Bingoland have finally caught up with me – has made me realise that now is the time to call a halt to all my garden explorations, and restrict my activities to maintaining this website and doing the occasional presentation.   I shall miss it, but I have had some really wonderful experiences; made a lot of fascinating discoveries, and met a lot of delightful people over the last few years, and nothing can take those memories away.

160705 - Val in the Grotto 

Fig 5  –  Val checks out a ‘new’ grotto   (Photo by Shirley Meynell)

‘The Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Presentations

In view of my mishap, I was unable to participate in our ‘Pulhams of Broxbourne’ presentation for the Welwyn and District Local History Society on 28th June.   This formed part of their Welwyn Festival Week celebrations, and I would have loved to have been there, but Val did a magnificent solo job, and says she thoroughly enjoyed it, so maybe that is something else that I shall have to hand over . . .   We also had a major presentation lined up for the Hertford U3A on 4th July at the Hertford Theatre, but, luckily, the organisers were able to switch our date to Monday, 3rd October, so we are looking forward to that, as well as to the special Pulham Memorial Day at Waddesdon Manor on Wednesday, 21st September.

www.pulham.org.uk Gets a Facelift and Makeover

Have you visited www.pulham.org.uk lately?   I decided to give it a makeover recently, and feel that it has given it a cleaner, less cluttered look, so I hope you will check it out for yourselves, and let me know if you feel it could be improved further.

Button - GazetteerOne of the changes I made was to abandon the ‘Site of the Month’ label.   It has formed a very useful central base on which to introduce new Pulham sites to my readers, but, as I have now exhausted my list of sites that I have visited or been told about, I thought I would combine the sixty that I have included in the series with the 40+ that are included in my book – listed and briefly summarised in the ‘Contents’ page – and enable you to access all of them through one ‘Where? / Gazetteer’ page.   This now means that, when you visit that page, you will find links to my descriptions and illustrations of more than 100 Pulham sites!   Not only that, but they are cross-indexed, so that, for example, if you are looking for Belle Vue Park, Newport, you can find it under either ‘Belle Vue Park’ (in italics), or Newport (non-italics), the town in which it is situated.   Click here, and see what you think.

My next job will be to incorporate the various Restoration Updates that I have included in my News Letters over the years, so I hope that will be helpful, and enable this to work as a useful central point of reference.

Have you been keeping up with my Picture Puzzles lately?   I have added a new jigsaw picture each month over recent months, and the ones added for June and July are reproduced here.   Why not try them out?

JP07 - Lindley VaserJP06 - Sheffield Park DSellman Cascade

           The Pulham Falls at Sheffield Park                                                The Lindley Vase

Discovery, Recognition and Restoration

Another very encouraging feature of the last couple of months has been the number of notes I received from people associated with Pulham sites that have been discovered, brought into public awareness and/or restored.

c1877 – St Albans Court, Nonington, Kent

Peter Hobbs writes to tell me about a Pulham site that is noted in the Gazetteer of my book, but of which I had no previous knowledge.   It concerns St Albans Court, Nonington, Kent, which was owned by W O Hammond.   The only information in James 2’s ‘Picturesque Ferneries’ booklet noted that they had created a bank of ‘rocks arranged for Alpine plants’, but Peter has written a very interesting report that gives us a lot more information.

There used to be a large clay pit to the south of the old manor house which Hammond decided to convert into a sunken garden, so he got the Pulhams to create some ornamental banks of natural rocks, together with a Dropping Well and two associated pools.  The rocks are thought to have come from one of the quarries at Maidstone, and the water for the Dropping Well came via a two inch cast iron pipe from a reservoir in the then Kitchen Garden.   An area of some 80 yards by 30 yards was then cleared between the North Westerly end of the excavation and an existing walk extending from the Walled Garden.

The following years took a very heavy toll when the property changed hands, however, and use and maintenance was reduced to zero.   However, Peter’s report shows that great steps have recently been made to remedy this situation, and bring this garden back to life.   The Japanese Knotweed has hopefully been exterminated, and the Dropping Well has been reconnected to a permanent water supply, and flows into a small pond.    The rediscovered pool has now been repaired, and the overgrowth is being steadily cut back.   The nature of the garden has changed from being an open-sided excavation to one that is now contained on all sides by walls of rock and greenery so that it has now acquired an air of privacy and secrecy behind its entrance gate.   I have no pictures of this garden, but Peter’s report make it obvious that a great deal of work has been put in by all concerned.

1845-48 – Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire

The Clinton-Baker Pinetum (as it is now) at Bayfordbury was featured in my ‘Site of the Month’ series in December ‘15.   It is many years since I visited, but Philip Hall tells me that the members of the Clinton-Baker Pinetum Friends Association are working very hard at trying to improve and restore the rather dilapidated early open grotto on this site.

1859 – Danesbury Park, Welwyn, Hertfordshire

160706 - Danesbury Combo 1881-2000

Fig 6 – The Danesbury Fernery – from ‘The Garden’ Magazine’ in 1881, and in 2000

Danesbury Park was the subject of my ‘Site of the Month’ article for October ’12.   This was one of James 2’s earlier assignments, and involved the creation of a fernery and grotto in an old chalk pit some distance away from the main house.   Time took its inevitable toll, and the site became totally overgrown, but fortunately – like so many other Pulham sites – a local group of volunteers was formed – The Friends of Danesbury Park Local Nature Reserve, led by John Roper – to clear the site so that the Pulham grotto could be examined more closely, and decisions made regarding any future work or maintenance that may be required.   Fig 6 is from an article in ‘The Garden’ Magazine of 1881 coupled with a picture taken during my visit in 2000, and Fig 7 shows the wilderness that had evolved by September ’15 – at the start of the Clearance Project – and John Roper and the Friends standing proudly in front of the cleared grotto in December ’15.

160707 - Danesbury Clearance Project Sep-Dec 15

Fig 7  –  Before the Clearance Project began in September ’15, and making progress in December ‘15

c1877 – Trent Park, Enfield, Middlesex

I recently had an email from Philip Masters, who was the Principal 7Landscape Consultant at Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Well – see Chapter 5 in Rock Landscapes’ – during the major restoration project there about ten years ago.   He is currently researching the landscape at Trent Park, Enfield, Middlesex, and discovered a cascade – about 7m in height – between the two lakes in the park.

160708 - Trent Park Cascade - Philip Masters

Fig 8  –  The newly-discovered Pulhamite cascade at Trent Park, Enfield

He recognised it for what it was – a Pulhamite construction – but could find no reference to it in my book, so he sent me a picture to see if I could validate it.   This is reproduced in Fig 8, but is not very informative since it was recently rebuilt by the local authority without the benefit of historical research.   It certainly looked the part, however, because parts of it are in artificial stone, and there are a number of planting pockets, so Val went to check it out with Philip, and came to the same conclusion.   This therefore means that Philip has discovered another Pulham creation that we never knew about before, so we shall certainly be following this one with interest.   The attributed date of 1877 can only be approximate.

1885-86 – Worth Park, Crawley, Sussex

The lovely Pulham gardens at Worth Park were discussed and illustrated in Chapter 15  of ‘Rock Landscapes’, and my News Letter of November ’14  explained how they had been awarded £2.4 mil by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund to help restore these invaluable gardens to their former glory.   My News Letter of September ‘15 provided a short update on progress, and it is wonderful to be able to share the news that the work is now complete.

Fig 9 shows the Sundial Garden, and, apart from the sundial itself, a very important feature to note is the length of balustrading along the far edge of the garden.   This particular style was made especially for Worth Park, and there are extensive lengths of it around the gardens.   Fig 9 shows the restored rockery feature at the entrance to the gardens, and these pictures were taken and sent to me by Harry Clark, whose wife, Margaret, used to be a student at the old Milton Mount College for Girls.   These are only two of the extensive selection of photographs they sent me, and some others will be placed in the main Worth Park articles in the Gazetteer, as indicated above.

160709 - Worth Park Dutch Garden - M Clark

Fig 9  –  The Sundial Garden at Worth Park, with sundial and restored length of balustrading   (Photo by Harry Clark)

160710 - Worth Park Rockery- M Clarik

Fig 10  –  The restored rockery at Worth Park   (Photo by Harry Clark)

 ‘A Wonderful Book to Own . . .’

141114 - Book CoverDon’t forget that ‘Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy’ is still available at a very special discount price from my www.pulham.org.uk website.   More than 40 of the Pulhams’ most prestigious creations are fully discussed and beautifully illustrated with some stunning photographs taken by Professional Gardens Photographer, Jenny Lilly.

Check out the ‘CONTENTS’ Page here, and visit our ‘Book Shop’ Page, which provides a direct link to the publisher’s website, ACC Art Books.   All you have to do is follow the link and enter the ‘PL1’ Promotion Code in order to buy a copy at a massive 40% discount from the RRP of £35!

Yes, £21 (+ £4 P&P) = £25!  

The book has been critically acclaimed by all the major Professional Reviewers, whose comments can be summed up simply as:

‘A Wonderful Book to Own, and the Perfect Present for a Garden-Loving Friend’

Click on the Image now to go direct to the Book Shop.

Happy reading, and my Very Best Wishes to all my readers.

Yours Sincerely,


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