. . The Book

A brief Survey of the main Features and Contents of

Rock Landscapes – The Pulham Legacy

by Claude Hitching

This book is devoted to the lives and work of James Pulham and Son, the Victorian firm of Master Builders who were renowned for their knowledge and expertise in the use of cement.   They were also brilliant artists, and applied their skills to the craft of stone modelling, which made them eminently qualified for the building and restoration of churches designed by Thomas Smith, County Architect and Surveyor of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

However, they are mainly remembered today as the eminent firm of landscape artists, famous for their design and construction of picturesque rock gardens, ferneries, follies and grottoes etc, which they built from both natural and artificial stone.   They made their artificial rocks by building up heaps of old bricks and rubble, and coating them with cement which they then coloured and moulded to simulate the surface of natural stone.   Their cement soon became known as Pulhamite, and the craftsmen who sculpted it were known as ‘Rock Builders’.   They also produced a wide range of exceptionally high-quality terracotta garden ornaments – such as vases, seats, balustrading, fountains etc – in their Manufactory in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and won many awards for them at the International Exhibitions of the 1850s and ’60s.

This lavishly illustrated and easily-accessible book contains descriptions of more than 40 of the firm’s most prestigious landscapes in public parks and private estates – including Sandringham and Buckingham Palace, Waddesdon Manor, Wisley, Battersea Park etc  – and there are more than a further 60 described and illustrated on this website.   Read more about this fascinating firm in this story, lovingly  written by Claude Hitching, five of whose ancestors worked for the firm as ‘rock builders’.

Click on the ‘CONTENTS‘ button to see a list of all the Chapters in the book, and on the ‘Gazetteer‘ button to see an alphabetical list of all the sites discussed and illustrated in both the book and on this website.

 Button - Contents  Button - Gazetteer

Click on the Cover Image above to go straight to the ‘Book Shop‘, from where you can order your copy directly from the ACC Publishing Group site at the Special Promotional Price of:

(£21 + £4 p & p =) £25

Reception by The Media . . .

Since its publication in 2012, Rock Landscapeshas been critically acclaimed in more than twenty national newspapers and magazines, including:

Amateur Gardening Magazine ‘It is excellent, and my congratulations on all that work and wonderful end result. . . . my heartiest congratulations on a brilliant piece of work.   I thoroughly recommend it.’
London Landscapes ‘This is a wonderful book . . . Definitely a must for your Christmas present list and garden history bookshelf.’
Country Life ‘This is a very desirable book  . . . It is a mine of information for the researcher and visitor, and can surely never be superseded.
The Times ‘ . . the result of many years’ patient research, pulling together fascinating information on the Pulhams’ work.’
The Financial Times Weekend Review ‘The story is inspiring . . . and has managed to add dozens of unfamiliar gardens to my list of those worth visiting in Britain.’
BBC-tv and Radio 4
(Christine Walkden)
‘What a super book – great photos and such interesting facts. The book reflects a lot of research and effort, and it all makes a fascinating read. Well done to the author, and thanks for sending me a copy.’


Click on the above Magazine Titles to read their individual Review, or on the ‘Reviews’ Button to see the complete list of published Reviews.

 Since Its Publication . . .

. . . The following things have happened.   Claude writes:

. . . The results of my research were considered of sufficient importance and interest to justify the mounting of a special ‘Pulhams of Broxbourne’ Exhibition at the Lowewood Museum in Hoddesdon, from October 2012 to February 2013.   Attendances at the launch, and throughout the Exhibition, were among the highest recorded for such an event.

. . . Projector ScreenDuring my research, I met Valerie Christman, who is directly descended from the Pulham family, and we have presented illustrated talks to more than 1,200 people at venues including Dewstow and Swansea in Wales, Woodbridge in Suffolk – where the first Pulhams were born – The Swiss Garden in Bedfordshire, Waddesdon Manor, and several venues around the Pulhams’ native Hertfordshire.   A member of one of these audiences was so fascinated by the story that she immediately nominated ‘Rock Landscapes’ for inclusion in the Hertford Book Club’s reading list for 2017.

. . . The increased awareness of the work of James Pulham and Son resulting from the publication of my book has led to an award of nearly £90,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to Broxbourne Borough Council, The Lowewood Museum and B3Living – the current owners of the old Pulhams’ Manufactory site in Broxbourne.   Its purpose is to fund a Pulham Memorial Project to include the restoration of the last remaining kiln and puddling wheel – used to produce the ornaments in their Manufactory – and the creation of a Memorial Garden on the site, and to develop a ‘Romance in Stone’ Touring Exhibition at Lowewood Museum.   This was launched in February 2017, and will be available to loan to other organisations around the country as and when desired.   This is the first time that a Touring Exhibition has been put together, and that two separate exhibitions relating to the same subject have been mounted at Lowewood in such a short space of time.


. . . As part of this special Memorial Project, Jennifer Rowland – the Pulham Project Manager – joined Val and myself on 9th February to give a 20-minute interview with Nick Coffer on the B.B.C. Three Counties Radio, which has an average audience of around 170,000.   Nick’s reaction could not have been more enthusiastic.

‘I think this is a wonderful story,’ he said,   ‘Why is it that a layman like me has never heard of it? . . This really is a beautiful, beautiful piece of work . . . Congratulations on your labour of love.’ 

The picture is of Nick, Val, myself and Jennifer in the studio after the show, which you can hear in full by  Clicking on the Image.

Proceed to the Book Shop

and use the  ‘PL1’  Code to get your copy at the Special Promotional Price of

£25 (including P & P)


2 thoughts on “. . The Book

  1. I would definately interested in buying this book at the pre-publication special price. Please let me know ASAP what the special price will be and when I can order. Cheers. Ian.

    1. Great to hear from you, Ian. The RRP of the book will be £35, but you will be able to order it via my website when it becomes available. All orders will go through automatically to the publishers website for fulfilment, and they normally offer 20% discount. Keep an eye on the site for further details.
      Claude H

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