June ’17 News Letter

Dear All,

I have to start this Letter by saying how delighted I am with the reactions I have received to my last two Letters about the Pulham Memorial Project in Broxbourne earlier this year.   But it’s now time to catch up with all the other news that has been coming my way over the last few weeks – and what a mailbox I have had!   My sincere thanks are due to all my readers who have been in touch with me, and sent me items of varied interest that broadly fall into two main categories – landscape and terracotta – but integrate into a nicely linked sequence.

For instance, we have news – and 28 pictures! – of:

• A previously unrecognised and unrecorded Pulham rock garden in West Sussex
• Four completed and newly-commissioned restoration projects part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund
• Archive pictures of the Villa Ste Ursule, in Cannes, France – Obadiah’s first assignment for Thomas Smith
• Pictures of some (non-Pulham) rockscapes around the French Riviera
• Examples of work done by one of Pulham’s most gifted stone modelers
• The restoration of a Pulham fountain in the Isle of Wight
• A Silver Award for Val Christman and her team for their garden at the Chelsea Show

All this is due to contributions received from Charlie Bancroft, John Harris (of John Harris Consulting), our old friend Alan Bishop, John Roper, Sven Vik, Pat Hopper, Peter Hughes, Matthew Lloyd, Colin Fenn and Mike Parker.   They have all been involved in some way with these projects, which just goes to show how our Pulham Community is expanding.

1898 – Nymans, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Let’s start with the discovery of a new Pulham garden – one that is not on our database, and I am indebted to Charlie Bancroft for bringing this to my attention.   It is the National Trust Garden at Nymans, in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, where Charlie began working as a gardener on the rock garden in September 2016.   She believed that it had been constructed by James Pulham and Son in 1898, and wondered if I could help her with any information about it.

I checked the internet, and discovered that Nymans was purchased by Ludwig Messel in 1890.   He extended the house, and, influenced by Sir Edmund Loder at Leonardslee, and William Robinson at Gravetye, laid out the structure of the present gardens.

This was interesting, because I already knew about Sir Edmund Loder and Leonardslee, near Horsham, which is a wonderful terraced Pulham rock garden – discussed and illustrated in my Gazetteer – but, sadly, no longer open to the public.   There can hardly be any doubt that, if Ludwig Messel wanted a rock garden like Sir Edmund’s, James Pulham would have been the person to provide it.

Charlie checked out references to the Rock Garden in ‘Nymans, the Story of a Sussex Garden’ by Shirley Nicholson, and found that it had been constructed with natural sandstone from a local quarry.   She also discovered that:

• ‘Alpines were well presented, and a splendid rockery was designed and built by the foremost experts of the day, Messrs Pulham and Son,

• ‘The Rock Garden was much smaller than the huge affair at Leonardslee, although the same contractors, Messrs Pulham and Son, were called in.   Real sandstone – not the artificial rockwork, which was the Pulham speciality – was used, and a fine range of aubretias, helianthemums and arenarias, mixed with dwarf shrubs, such as cistus, cotoneaster and veronica were planted here

• ‘Sun-lovers of any provenance would be accommodated, as before, in the Rock and Heath gardens, where pieris and many of the smaller species of rhododendron, collected by Forrest, Kingdon-Ward and Rock also flourished.’

170501 - Lymans Rock Garden c1900s
Fig 1  –  Rock Garden at Lymans, West Sussex, c1900s

I have just received an update from Charlie, together with some photographs, which are reproduced here as Figs 1 and 2.   Fig 1 is an archive picture that shows the garden as it was during the 1900s, and Fig 2 shows it as it is today.   The rock garden at Nymans is only small compared with some of Pulhams’ grand Pulhamite structures, but is nevertheless quite typical of some of their natural rock gardens constructed around this time.   The RHS Garden Wisley is one such example, and there are others at Bracken Hill in Bristol, Gunnersbury Park in London, Ross Hall Park in Glasgow, and The Node in Codicote etc.

Charlie tells me that the rock garden was built between 1898-1902, and underwent restoration in 2011, during which time some of the rocks were moved.   To the purist, this might seem unfortunate, but exactly the same thing has happened in some of the other gardens, and can only be regarded as an inherent hazard for natural-rock gardens where the rock are ‘arranged’, rather than ‘built-in’

170502 - Rock Garden at Lymans 2017

Fig 2  –  The Rock Garden at Lymans today

She also found an archived copy of ‘Garden Life’, which carried a series of articles under the general title of ‘Famous Gardeners at Home’.   The issue dated 5th August 1905, featured Mr J Comber, who was the Head Gardener of Nymans between 1895-1953, and included the time of the rock garden construction.   Mr Comber confirmed during his interview for the article that the garden was constructed by James Pulham and Son, and that a feature of the rockery was a series of steps leading to the croquet lawn.   When asked what he thought were the best rock plants on the rock wall, he replied:

“They include Helianthemums, of all colours, and Lithospermum prostratum. Then there are carpets of such plants as Arenarias, Thymes, Cerastium, Saxifrages (especially Guildford Seedling), Aubretias, Antennarias, and the smaller Campanulas.”

He was then asked if the mound adjoining the rockery was artificial, to which he explained:

“It was made of the soil excavated from the rockery, and modeled as a rough knoll on a Heathy common, with Rosa Wichuriana in many varieties on the base.”

1903-22 – Lever Park, Rivington, Lancashire

170503 - Rivington Ravine
Fig 3  –  The Ravine at Rivington Park

Regular readers of my News Letters will know how excited I get over news of restoration projects – especially those involving landscapes created by James Pulham and Son – and we all know that we have the Heritage Lottery Fund to thank for so many of them, including Dunorlan Park, Worth Park, Ross Hall Park in Glasgow, Belle Vue Park in Newport, and several others about which I have written in ‘Rock Landscapes’ and previous News Letters.   I now have news of another one.

Lever Park is a beautiful park on the eastern shore of Lower Rivington Reservoir, and opened in 1904 after William Lever (Lord Leverhulme) purchased the Rivington Hall estate, and donated the land for use as a public Park.

He engaged Thomas Mawson to landscape the Park, and one of his first projects was on the Great Ravine, where he created a series of spectacular cascades, terraces and caves, with a combined drop of more than 50ft down to the area known as The Dell.   The firm he used to translate this imaginative image into reality was James Pulham and Son, and Fig 3 is a popular picture of the ravine, which must be one of the most important Pulham rockwork constructions.

A few years later, Mawson designed the Japanese Garden at Rivington, and the Pulhams were again invited to bring his ideas to life, as illustrated in Fig 4.   Just like many other Pulham landscapes, Rivington became neglected and overgrown over the years, but, thankfully, the Heritage Lottery Fund recently awarded a massive £3.4 mil to help ensure that the Pulham elements of the gardens – the Japanese Lake, grottoes and Ravine – will be restored.   John Harris Consulting were appointed as the main landscape consultants to advise on all aspects of the Pulham rockworks, and will be working through the summer as part of the team that will consist of a conservation surveyor, a structural engineer and an ecologist.

170504 - Rington, Japanese Garden

Fig 4  –  The Japanese Garden at Rivington

John Harris wrote to me in February to say:

‘As much of the ravine is very difficult to access, we intend to use ropes to abseil down the cliff faces to inspect the condition of the rockwork.   As I have mentioned previously, I regard this site as one of the most important Pulham rockworks due to size and unique construction.   It has all the elements that James 2 writes about in his book with reference to the sublime in nature.   The site has character zones with particular and unique ambiences – I intend to ensure that none is compromised, and that any future repair is carried out with great sensitivity.

‘In parts, the Ravine displays excellent examples of the ‘picturesque fernery’, plus some dramatic cantilevered outcrops.   Once further scrub clearance has been undertaken, I will be able to access previously hidden areas for inspection and appraisal – these haven’t been visible for many years.   I am also informed that, as part of the general works to the terraced gardens, the Japanese lake will be drained off and de-silted in order to assess the condition of the concrete liner.

‘Above the lake is a lofty cascade and a feeder stream with a smaller cataract system.   I have been asked to look at these areas as an additional mini-scheme: it appears that the water course may have diverted from its original intended course due to dislodged and missing rocks.   Hopefully this can be rectified within the budget for the main contract.   The Ravine and Japanese garden grottos are a separate project and funding will be sought for the repairs following the surveys.   I expect it to be quite a sizeable cost.’

He followed this up in March to let me know that:

‘There is much activity up there on the hillside at present, mainly by volunteers, and very encouraging.   I carried out an initial inspection last Friday to instruct the clearance works at the Ravine – much is still very overgrown and hides the rock.   There has already been a substantial amount of clearance at the Japanese Garden, and ‘lost’ areas are progressively being uncovered.   The foundations of the 2 original tea houses can now be seen, and much of the upper water courses, cascades, plunge pools and cliff faces are visible.   These haven’t been seen for many years.

‘The place was completely overgrown when I first visited the site as a 12-year-old.   I’m 63 now, so I guess most people are seeing this wonderful Japanese rock scenery for the first time.   I’m amazed at the discovery of some original plants which include ferns, clumps of bamboo, Japanese larch, yews, and an old gnarled cherry – almost a veteran!   The tree that particularly delights me is a weeping hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Pendula’) that overhangs the lake, with roots clinging to rocks, and has a charming and curious form… typically a Pulham trademark.   As work progresses I will continue to update you.’

Well Done, John, and all the Volunteer Helpers at Rivington!   I am sure that all my readers will look forward to following your progress as much as I do. . .

1865 – Moor Park, Preston

The first Municipal Park in the country was Moor Park, Preston, and James Pulham and Son were also engaged here c1865, as discussed and illustrated in my ‘Site of the Month’ feature in December ’13 – now included in the main website Gazetteer.   Edward Milner was commissioned to complete the landscaping, and local unemployed men were engaged to do most of the basic labouring work – all at a total cost of just over £10,000.   James 2 confirms in his ‘Picturesque Ferneries’ booklet that his firm created ‘Rocks for bridges to rest on, Drinking fountain, Rocky Tunnel and roadway’ as part of Milner’s ‘completion’ process in Moor Park.

Plans were drawn up for a major restoration project in 2011, and Preston City Council received a grant of £1.725 mil from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund in 2014 as part of a £2.165 mil project – quite a bit more than the original construction cost! – aimed at bringing Moor Park back to life.   It included improvements to paths, park furniture and heritage features such as the Observatory and the ‘refurbishment of a stone grotto’, which was, of course, incorporated into Pulhams’ ‘Rocks for bridges to rest on’.

170505 - Preston Moor - Harris c1900

Fig 5  –  Moor Park, Preston – Grotto Pool by Pulhamite Bridge

The specialist responsible for the restoration of the Pulham features was our old friend Alan Bishop, who has now worked on many Pulhamite restoration projects, as has been reported in earlier News Updates.   The left-hand picture in Fig 5 is of a family group by the bridge c1900, in which the little girl is standing on the edge of the pool on the left, and the picture on the right is of the pool after restoration.

1881-82 – Waddesdon – ‘Tulip Patch’

Alan Bishop also tells me that he has recently finished working on the old goat grottoes on ‘Tulip Patch Hill’ at Waddesdon Manor, which are described and illustrated in Chapter 12 of ‘Rock Landscapes’.   He said that the work included putting in a couple of heavy duty steel support columns, and it was decided to leave them exposed in a ‘Victorian engineering’ kind of way, as shown in Fig 6.

170506 - Waddesdon Tulip Hill Restoration
Fig 6  –  The Goats’ Caves on Tulip Hill at Waddesdon Manor

1859 – Danesbury Park Fernery, Welwyn

I reported last July that The Friends of Danesbury Park Local Nature Reserve, under the enthusiastic leadership of John Roper, had been working hard to clear the site of one of James 2’s early fernery grottoes – discussed in my article linked to this Section heading.   Their objective was 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 needed.

170507 - Danesbury - Before and During Clearing - J Roper
Fig 7  –  Danesbury Park Before Clearance in September ’15, and During Operations in December 2015

Fig 7 shows the old clay pit area in which the fernery was situated when the group first approached it in September 2015, and the grotto gradually coming back into view during clearance work in December ’15, and Fig 8 shows the reclaimed grotto at the end of the work just one year later, in December ’16.   Fig 9 shows what looks like some curbing stone found near the grotto during the clearance operations.

170508 - Danesbury Grotto Dec 16 - P Hobbs - 20160915_092508 (2)
Fig 8  –  Clearance completed in December 2016

170509 - Danesbury Fernery Curbings - J Roper
Fig 9  –   Some stone curbing found on the Danesbury site during clearance in 2017

The Friends have sought advice from Kate Harwood, Conservation Coordinator for the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust, who gave them support and encouragement to continue with their good work, and they plan to officially ‘Open’ the site during the Welwyn Festival Week in June, and all our readers will be very welcome to join them.   It will take place between 2.00 – 5.00 p.m. on Sunday, 18th June, and the site can be reached via North Ride on the Danesbury Estate, Welwyn, AL6 9RD.   Take the B656 off the Clock Roundabout towards Codicote, but take the first right up Carleton Rise, then the second right into North Ride.   Park by the houses, and take the right fork to either walk up Danesbury Park Road for 500 yards, or across the field if you are not worried about grazing cattle . . .

1852-56 – The Villa St Ursule, Cannes, France

In my December ‘16 News Letter, I included a picture of some rockwork in Nice, France, that looked very much like Pulhamite, and I speculated on whether or not it can be validated as their work.   This would depend on the date it was done.   We know that James 2 started creating artificial rockwork with his Pulhamite cement c1842, and we are almost certain that he worked alongside his uncle, Obadiah, during the late 1840s, building and restoring churches for Thomas Smith, so there is little doubt that Obadiah was well aware of his nephew’s talents by the early 1850s.   He was in Nice, working as Clerk of Works for Smith during the building of the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1859, so, if that coincides with the date the rockwork was created, it is quite possible that it could have been Obadiah’s handiwork.

This time I am able to make a more positive identification.   Readers of my book will know that Chapter 2 includes some details about Obadiah’s work around Europe as Clerk of Works for Thomas Smith, and we know that his first assignment was in Cannes, where he built a flamboyant villa for his client, Sir Thomas Woolfield.   It was called the Villa Ste Ursule, and was built on a large plot of land that has since been seriously built over.   Woolfield only lived there for a couple of years, and then sold his villa to the Duc de Vallombrosa, as a result of which it became known as the Villa Vallombrosa.   When Le Duc sold it some years later, it was enlarged to become a hotel, and now exists as an even larger block of apartments called the Palais du Duc Vallombrosa.   Fig 10 shows the comparison between the original Villa Ste Ursule and the present building, and the original turreted entrance can be clearly seen incorporated into the present frontage.

170510 - Vallombrosa Combo
Fig 10  –  Villa Ste Ursule, Cannes (c1880), and Villa Vallombrosa (c1960)   (Images by Sven Vic)

These images were sent to me by Sven Vic, who owns the Villa du Parc, which stands nearby on the same piece of land, and he recently sent me some more fascinating pictures that provide further illustrations of the meticulous craftsmanship of which Obadiah was capable.   The left-hand picture in Fig 11 is currently part of a car park to one of the new blocks of apartments, but is likely to have been some sort of entrance courtyard on the northern fringe of the estate.

170511 - Vallombrosa Chapel and Exntrance
Fig 11  –  Northern Courtyard and Chapel of the Villa Vallombrosa

We have no documentary proof that this was part of the work done by Obadiah and Thomas Smith when the original villa was built, but the general style does make this a possibility.   The right-hand picture is even more interesting, because it shows a small chapel that formed part of the original villa, and still exists in the present apartment building.   If one looks at the left-hand wall, one can see that there are breeze blocks above the wooden paneling.   These were used to wall in the old choir stalls, and Sven says that anyone lucky enough to get to see them today is very lucky indeed!

Sven also sent me a copy of an old picture of the Villa Ste Ursule – it is the building on the left of the left-hand picture of Fig 12 – that has a second (ringed) building in the background.   This is the Villa du Parc, in which Sven now lives, and the centre picture shows it as it is today.   The right-hand picture is of the courtyard, with close-ups of two typically Pulham-style mouldings supporting the window hoods that are almost identical to others I have seen during my explorations of Pulham sites.

170512 - Villa du Parc Combo
Fig 12  –  The Villa du Parc c1860 and Today

There is a very interesting postscript to this story, because Sven later told me that, whilst browsing around the internet, he stumbled across a French website devoted to Historical Monuments.   It contains pictures of several garden features – most of them rockscapes – in villas and castles around the Nice area, and I thought you might be interested to see a few selected ones here.

 170513 - Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat - Fountain in Grotto
Fig 13  –  Fountain in the grotto at Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat (left), and the fountain and rustic bridge in the jardin dit domaine de La Serre de la Madone at Menton

These gardens were created after Obadiah was in town, and I am not pretending that they have anything to do with Pulhams, although one can’t help wondering if they might have had some stylistic influence.   The first pictures are of the fountain in the grotto of the gardens at Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat – seen in the left-hand picture of Fig 13 – and the fountain near the rustic bridge in the Jardin dit Domaine at Menton.

The four pictures in Fig 14 are of the Cascade de Gairaut, at the mouth of the Canal de la Vésubie in Nice.   The waterfall and its Pavilion cottage commemorate the finish of the Canal in 1883, and the top left picture shows the rusticated bridge running across the canal, and through a tunnel under the Pavilion, and the top right is taken from the grotto at the opposite end.   The bottom left shows a wider view of the gardens, taken from the Pavilion, and the lower right shows a stone seat in the gardens.

170514 - Bridge over Waterfall to Pavilion Cottage
Fig 14  –  The Cascade de Gairaut, at the mouth of the Canal de la Vesubie

170515 - Avignon - Rocky Basin
Fig 15  –  Rocky basin in the Jardin des Doms, Avignon

Le Jardin des Doms, in Avignon, dates back many centuries, standing some thirty metres above the Rhone and with views over beautiful landscapes.   Much work was done during the 19th century to make it into a public park, with statues of famous persons and some water pools – one of which is shown in Fig 15.

Halfway between Marseille and Saint-Tropez, on the Mediterranean coast of France – is the commune of La Seyne-sur-Mer, a beautiful resort with a very generous sprinkling of parks and gardens.   One of these is the Parc de Manteau, which contains a large grotto – shown in Fig 16 – that is incredibly reminiscent of the one in the gardens of the Sale Pavilion in Istanbul, which is pictured in Fig 17.   I certainly don’t intend to claim that these are Pulham structures, but they do make one wonder if the people responsible for their design and construction were inspired by them.

170516 - Grotto and Steos
Fig 16  –  Grotto and steps in the Parc de Manteau, La Seyne-sur-Mer

170517 - Istanbul - Sale Pavilion Grotto

Fig 17  –  Grotto in the gardens of the Sale Pavilion, Istanbul (c1890s)   (Photo by Charles Patmore)

My final selection from this set of pictures is of the interior of the huge grotto in the gardens of the Villa les Palmes, Cannes, shown in Fig 18.

170518 - Villa Les Palmiers - Artificial Grotto
Fig 18  –  Grotto at Villa Les Palmes, Cannes

My thanks to Sven Vic for sending me the link to all these fascinating pictures.

1870-1946 – Charles Giddings, Sculptor and Modeler

And now to turn our attention to the other side of the Pulham business – the terracotta masterpieces produced in the Broxbourne Manufactory.   I recently received an email from Pat Hopper, who visited the Pulham Memorial Exhibition at Lowewood Museum in February, and Pat is the great-granddaughter of Charles Giddings, one of Michael Angelo Pulham’s key sculptors and modelers.

Charles studied at the Westminster School of Art c1890-93, and became apprenticed to John Griffiths, the sculptor, after Griffiths’ return from America.   He married Griffiths’ daughter, Mary, in 1897, and moved to Hoddesdon in 1904 to join James Pulham and Son as a senior modeler – possibly as a successor to Michael Angelo Pulham, who we think was the senior designer and modeler of the wide range of Pulham ornaments, but, by this time, was 77 years of age.

Pat Hopper obtained these details of her great-grandfather’s life from a copy of John Griffiths’ diary, which says that, in 1907, Charles ‘found a new firm in Ponders End’ – some ten miles from Broxbourne – but then moved to a new home in Amwell Street, Hoddesdon, in 1908.   This is rather confusing, because we don’t know which firm he ‘found’ in Ponders End, and it seems strange that, in the following year, he would then move to a new home that was so close to Broxbourne.   It is therefore not possible to tell how long he worked for the Pulhams – or even if he worked full time for them – but he certainly made a great contribution while he was there, because Pat has several very important photographs of him in her family archives.   She kindly sent me a selection, and here are a few of them.

170519 - CG01 - Charles Giddings Mural

Fig 19  –  Charles Giddings with an early Mural (Date and Client unknown)

The first one – Fig 19 – is undated, and we don’t know the eventual destination of this mural, but here is Charles – presumably in the Manufactory modelling shop – admiring his magnificent piece of work.   If anyone knows if or where this may now be seen, I would love to know about it.

The figure of Mercury in Fig 20 is instantly recognisable, however, and it actually quite surprised me.   In the left-hand picture, Charles is shown putting the finishing touches to his model of Mercury in the workshop – which tells us that it must have been created c1904-07 – and the picture on the right is the famous one from the ‘Pulham Catalogue of Garden Ornament’ that shows it installed in the gardens of Madresfield Court, near Malvern, which I discussed and illustrated in Chapter 11 of ‘Rock Landscapes’.   I had always assumed that this pool and figure – which stands in the formal gardens immediately alongside the moat surrounding the house – had been landscaped c1877-79, at the same time as the famous nearby rock garden, but this was apparently incorrect.   Peter Hughes, the Estate Manager at Madresfield, confirmed that 1904 would fit very nicely with their records, and said how fascinated Lady Morrison had been to see this picture of its creator.

170520 - Giddings and the Madresfield Mercury

Fig 20  –  The Mercury Figure for Madresfield Court

The pictures in Fig 21 tell another interesting story.   The top one shows Charles – with, we think, James 4 looking on – completing the crest for the proscenium arch at the Drury Lane Theatre in London, and I decided to follow this up to see if I could find a picture of it in situ.   Thanks to the power of the internet, I didn’t have to look far, because there is a wonderful website called ‘The Music Hall and Theatre History Website’ that has it all! – take a ;look for yourself.   I contacted Matthew Lloyd, who runs the site, and he confirmed that the crest would indeed have been erected c1904, and very kindly let me have the lower image in Fig 21 for publication here, which shows it in place just prior to being taken down for refurbishment c1922 – the lion above the crown had been removed just before the picture was taken.   The central crest still survives today, although, sadly, the supporting figures were replaced during a later modification.

170521 - Drury Lane Praesenium
Fig 21  –  Crest for the Proscenium at Drury Lane Theatre, London (by permission of Matthew Lloyd)

And then I had another email, and it is amazing how often during my researches into the land of Pulham that I have been diverted into a new area of exploration when something else turns up that is directly – or even sometimes indirectly – associated with it.   It’s rather like the classic ‘London Bus’ syndrome, where you can stand at a bus stop for ages, waiting for a bus going in a certain direction, and one eventually turns up that is on its way to somewhere completely different – or possibly even to a destination of which you had never heard.   And then, just as you are wondering if it might be going roughly in your direction, another two turn up that are going to exactly the same place.

And so it was here.   Just after I received all these images from Pat Hopper, I heard from Colin Fenn, a Cemetery Historian, who wrote to me about a memorial to Thomas Roberts – who died in action at Loos in 1915 – in the Hoddesdon Cemetery.   He wrote:

‘The Roberts angel is signed by the sculptor C(harles) Giddings.   It appears that he had moved to Hoddesdon to work for the Pulhams, (so)   I would therefore presume it was fired in the Pulhams kiln.   Dated 1912, I’m unclear if he was working full time for them at that time?   Again, I do not know who the Roberts were.   The front panel wording is raised, so it was cast that way.   The subsequent inscriptions are cut (very  competently) into the other three sides of the plinth. . .  There is also a stylised Grenadier badge at the top of the panel – he was in 3rd Grenadier Guards.. . I am impressed with the incising – it shows that the clay they were working with was very fine.   Note too that the kerbs around the extra large plot are also made of terracotta.’

170522 - Memorial in Hoddesdon Cemetery

Fig 22  –  Memorial in Hoddesdon Cemetery

The Roberts memorial is shown in Fig 22, and the winged angel is a larger, and more ornate, version of the one that was on Michael Angelo’s grave in Cheshunt Cemetery – now in the Lowewood Museum – so it is very probable that that was also modelled by Charles, rather than by Michael Angelo himself, as we had originally assumed.

The Lowewood Museum website also carried a note about Charles Giddings in August 2016, which added a few more details to this story.   It said:

‘Giddings produced sculptures for international clients, including Boston Cathedral in the USA and the National Art Gallery, Ottawa.   He carved many of England’s WWI memorials, and also produced models of famous people.   Locally, his works included busts of King George V and King George VI which stood in the former Clock House and are now on display in the Museum.   He also designed a number of garden pieces for Pulham & Son. . .’

 170523 - Pulham Fountains

Fig 23  –  The Giddings Fountain and the Stork Fountain   (Images from the Pulham Garden Ornament Catalogue)

This seems to indicate that he might have been a sort of free-lance sculptor who worked part-time for the Pulhams, or it could have been that their work-load during this period was insufficient to keep him working full-time, and he was thus able to take on outside commissions as well.

One more thing that we do know he did for them was design a fountain that was even named after him.   ‘The Giddings Fountain’ is illustrated in the ‘Pulham Garden Ornament Catalogue’, and is reproduced in the left-hand picture of Fig 23.   The right-hand picture is an image of ‘The Stork Fountain’, and I have put these together in order to lead in to yet another example – ‘the third bus’ – of the incredible ‘research coincidences’ that I mentioned earlier.

The Ryde Fountain, Isle of Wight

 170524 - Ryde - Esplanade Fountain
Fig 24  –  The Ryde Fountain c1900s

Mike Parker wrote to me in 2011 about the fountain in the Promenade Gardens at Ryde, Isle of Wight.   He said that he had been vaguely obsessive about it since he first saw it in 1975, and was horrified by its current state.   He sent me a copy of an old postcard of the fountain as it was during the early 1900s – reproduced in Fig 24 – from which we can that it is a slightly modified version of the ‘Stork Fountain’ illustrated in Fig 23 – the central column is surrounded by five storks, but the finial at the top is slightly different.
A few days ago – right on cue – Mike sent me another email that reads:

‘I have been in touch with the Council, and they do not know where the
finial is.   I have been looking into getting a replacement cast for
the purposes of making it look right again, even though It’s a geranium
bed now.   I have a dream of seeing it play again – 4 of the 5 storks
on the column have lost their necks, but the secondary basin seems
sound, although its decorative collar has fallen away, and all the
planting urns have gone.

‘I began nagging and pestering re the Pullham fountain in Ryde some years back, and obtained a maquette for the central figure.    At last we see some progress, although, sadly, they didn’t re-sculpt one of the details – the Pulham figure was suitably modestly draped, whilst the original Florentine figure is baring all – but, hey, at least we are on the way. . .’

170525 - Ryde - Restored Esplanade Fountain and Mike Parker's Book
Fig 25  –  The Ryde Fountain Refurbished

Keep at it, Mike, and thanks for sending me the picture in Fig 25!   You are setting a grand example to us all!

Val and her Colleagues earn Another Award at Chelsea

Over the past several years, Val Christman and her family – her father, Jack Sexton and her brother John – have designed and built several award-winning gardens at the Chelsea Show, generally under the sponsorship of The Sun newspaper, and working with Peter Seabrook, their Special Gardening Correspondent.   This year, however, it was something special, because Peter has now completed 40 years of writing their Gardening column, so the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) got together to celebrate his achievements with a collaborative industry exhibit called ’40 Sunbury Road’

 170526 - 40 Sunbury Road Sketch Plan
Fig 26  –  Val’s Sketch for 40 Sunbury Road Garden at Chelsea Show, showing the main pergola and the sound-proofed shed on the right

It was not a grand showcase garden – instead, it featured ideas and inspiration from a typically modest suburban back garden with which visitors could identify as an example of what they might be able to achieve for themselves at home.   It received a lot of interest on the Press Day, including a Royal Visit from Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and others including Joan Collins, Susan George, Jerry Hall, Rupert Murdoch, Alan Titchmarsh, Deborah Meaden and Baroness Floella Benjamin.

170527 - Peter Seabrook in Sunbury Road
Fig 27  –  Peter Seabrook with Sophie, Countess of Wessev

Peter Seabrook was presented with a bottle of champagne by HTA President Adam Wigglesworth and HTA Director of Operations Martin Simmons, as a token of their appreciation for all the work that he and his team had done to co-ordinate the garden.   The garden was a 16m x 5m plot in the Great Marquee, and featured plants and sundries from growers and suppliers, all of which are available nationwide in UK garden centres.

170528 - 40 Sunbury Road from the prgola

Fig 28  –  40 Sunbury Road viewed from the pergola

One of these – a dwarf Mulberry Charlotte Russe from Suttons – was adjudged the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year, and the garden also featured the Wonderwall vertical planting system with strawberries, thyme, salad and confetti plants that demonstrated how outdoor space can effectively use height to gain impact.   Another feature was a shed provided by Forest Garden which included decibel noise reduction panels with WoodBlocX, providing raised beds.

Val’s contribution to all this was to collaborate with the design, and to undertake the construction of the exhibit with the help of Jack and John Sexton.   A copy of the plan can be seen in Fig 26, with Fig 27 showing Peter Seabrook with Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Fig 28 showing a view from beneath the pergola.   The garden won a Silver Award, and Val’s verdict for the week was

‘Absolutely marvellous – extremely hard work, but such a wonderful and enthusiastic reception by all our many visitors.’

Our verdict?   Well done, and Congratulations to everyone involved on a superb effort! . . .

And that has to be that for this issue, and I hope the items I have been able to put together for you have been of interest.   I already have something very special lined up for next time, but it’s quite a long story, and I don’t have space for it here.   Watch this space . . .

‘A Wonderful Book to Own . . .’

 141114 - Book CoverAll that remains for me to do now is remind you that ‘Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy’ is still available at a very special discount price from my www.pulham.org.uk website, and you know it would make a lovely present for someone very special – like yourself or all your family, for instance..   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 – or any of the above links – now to go direct to the Book Shop.

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

Yours Sincerely,


4 thoughts on “June ’17 News Letter

    1. Hi, Josee,
      Thank you very much for your contacting me via the website, and I am delighted to hear your news about the Friends of Rosherville’s plans to bring the Gardens back to some sort of life. Sadly, I don’t know anything about these gardens, which I understand no longer exist in anything like their original state, but I gather that James Pulham and Son built a ‘Cavern with Dropping well for Drinking Fountain’ between 1867-69. Sorry I am unable to help you with information about any of the planting, but wish you every success in your research and restoration efforts.
      Claude H

      1. Thank you . Already someone on the Rosherville site has replied and said that some of the Pulham work is still in existence and looks good after 150 years ! There is interest in all this and I am glad I found your site .

  1. I am very excited to find your site. There are a few brave souls in Northfleet/Gravesend, Kent who are trying hard to if not restore , then keep what is left of The Rosherville Gardens. I became interested in their enterprise because my passion is for a little rose that my father ‘rustled ‘ from the almost defunct gardens in about 1926/7. He grew it and called it The Rosherville Rose, but I believe it was a true form of Felicite et Perpetue. It was first introduced in France in 1827 produced by Antoine A. Jacques. That would have made it a ‘modern’ rose and quite special when planted in The Rosherville Gardens. I am intrigued to know if there is any documentation of the plants in the rose garden at Roshervill that could be used to form a restored site..if ever The Brave Souls manage to get permits, money and grants for the gardens. In that it is on the Thames it would now make a good ‘pleasure garden ‘again. Please look up Rosherville via ‘https://www.facebook.com/groups/449755325096424/ which is the ‘friends’ site and they have some old pictures and some new photos. I hope you catch the enthusiasm for this once lovely garden which appears to have been a masterpiece of the James Pulham Company and where many of the pieces of stonework still exist.

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