6 – Pulham’s Italian and Japanese Gardens, and Pulham at the Seaside

Pulham’s Italian and Japanese Gardens

Gardens in the ‘Italian’ style became very popular during the Edwardian years, and James Pulham and Son were only too happy to provide them – a picture of the Italian Water Garden at Dansefield House, Medmenham, is pictured on the left of Fig 6.1.  

As people travelled further and further afield, and ventured to the Orient, they returned home with stories of all the many strange and wonderful things they had seen.   Japanese ornaments and artefacts became very popular, and many people wanted to create Japanese-styled gardens in which to display their new Acers and other plants and trees that had never before been seen in this country.


Fig 6.1  –  Pulham Italian Gardens at Danesfield House (1902-03) and and archive picture of the Japanese Garden at ‘The Node’ (1911)

 The Pulhams never really got the credit for building Japanese gardens, because most people who own those that remain today claim that teams of gardeners were brought over especially from Japan to construct them.   That all sounds very impressive, but it is interesting to note how often these gardens happen to have been created on sites at which the Pulham are known to have worked on other features – just at the time when these gardens were created.   It therefore seems likely that, although Japanese specialist gardeners may well have been involved, the rock-building expertise of the Pulham workmen was also utilised.   The right-hand picture in Fig 6.1 shows an archive picture of the now completely overgrown Japanese garden at ‘The Node’ in Hertfordshire.   Both of these gardens – together with the wonderfully maintained Japanese Garden at ‘The Watergardens’, Kingston-on-Thames – are described in Pulham Rock Gardens.

Pulham at the Seaside

After the First World War, and during the subsequent recession, manpower and money were in short supply, and the order book of James Pulham and Son gradually dried up.   James 3 died in 1920, so James 4 (1873-1957) had the unenviable task of overseeing the firm’s eventual decline and closure.   Most of its final commissions came from coastal resorts, such as Blackpool, Lytham St Anne’s, Ramsgate and Folkestone, who wanted to beautify their seafronts in order to attract visitors arriving for their days out at the seaside.   This work also served another purpose, because Pulhams were able to recruit some of the local unemployed to help with the heavy construction work involved.   One of their final jobs was the Zigzag Path on ‘The Leas’ at Folkestone, for which my grandfather, Fred Hitching, was the foreman – but more about all of these sites and anecdotes in Pulham Rock Gardens . . .

Sadly, all the firm’s records were destroyed when they went out of business c1939, and the only publications they produced were a promotional booklet published c1877, and some catalogues published between 1925 and 1935.   Details of their client list are not exhaustive, so there are likely to be some Pulham gardens out there that do not yet appear on the Pulham database.   If anyone has any information that they think may be relevant or of interest, please do not hesitate to contact Claude at claude@hitching.net, or call him on 01707 323391.   He will be delighted to hear from you.

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