2 – Follies, Fountains and Garden Ornaments

Pulham’s Follies

Follies were very much in fashion during Victorian times.   They were effectively artificial ‘ruins’ of very old buildings, erected by people in an attempt to convince their neighbours – and anyone else who might be impressed – that their houses were built on what was once the site of a very old building, such as a mediaeval castle or abbey.  

As noted in the previous page, Thomas Smith gained his eminent reputation for the design, construction and restoration of churches, but he was also interested in follies.   One of his most impressive was at Benington Lordship, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, which was built by James 1 and Obadiah in 1835-38.   As described in Pulham Rock Gardens, this took the form of a twin-towered Norman archway leading to a courtyard within which was a ‘very old’ summerhouse, and a room to which the modern building looks to have been attached. 

Pulham’s Garden Ornaments

James 2 set up a manufactory in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, in 1845, in which to manufacture a wide range of extremely high-quality terracotta garden ornaments, such as vases, urns, sundials, terminals, seats, figures, fountains and balustrading etc, most of which were designed either by James 2 himself, or his younger brother, Michael Angelo Pulham.   They were similar in style to those produced by Eleanor Coade, Henry Blanchard and James Blashfield, and won several awards at the International Exhibitions of the 1850s and ‘60s.    The book includes a chapter devoted especially to this side of their business.

Pulham’s Fountains


Fig 2.1  –  Pulham Fountains at Sheffield Park (1882-85), and Dunorlan Park (1864-65)

 The Pulhams produced a number of fountains in their manufactory over the years – some small, domestic fountains, and others quite majestic in stature, created especially for erection in parks and other public places.   One of their first was the ‘Hebe Fountain’, designed especially for display at the International Exhibition of 1862, where it won an award.   It was later erected in the gardens of Dunorlan, in Tunbridge Wells, and is now known more popularly as the Dunorlan Fountain.   The local authority took over the estate after the Second World War, and Dumorlan Park has since become a very popular visitor attraction.   A generous Heritage Lottery Grant helped with the complete restoration of the Park – including the fountain, which is shown here on the right of Fig 2.1 – in 2002-05.   The smaller fountain on the left is situated in the grounds of Sheffield Park House, Uckfield, East Sussex.

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