A major part of the Pulhams project took place this summer with the conservation of the firm’s remaining Grade II listed factory buildings. Pulhams were a nationally important landscape design firm and manufacturers of terracotta garden ornaments, based in Broxbourne from 1845-1939. The conservation work was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a commemorative partnership project between Broxbourne Borough Council, Lowewood Museum and B3Living who own the site.
Originally six brick kilns stood on the site, only one of which now survives. There is also a surviving horse-drawn puddling wheel which ground the clay for making the garden ornaments. After Pulhams shut down in 1939 the site gradually declined, and in 1967 most of the factory buildings were demolished to make way for the new station car park. The Council conserved the remaining buildings in 1986 but the last 30 years had taken their toll and conservation work was urgently needed. During August and September B3Living contracted specialists Szerelmey to undertake the conservation of the kiln and wheel.
Vegetation had weakened the brick kiln that was filled with debris. The external ironwork was corroded, and there were patches of damaged and missing brickwork. The conservator’s first jobs were to support the canopy using a steel beam, remove any damaged bricks, rake out worn pointing and open up the door to the firing chamber. This allowed access inside the chimney for clearance of debris and internal repairs. Once complete the door was bricked back up. They conserved and treated the external ironwork and added new bricks where required. Finally, a chimney hood was placed on the top of the kiln to provide some weather protection and, perhaps, stop debris falling in.
The wheels and base of the puddling wheel are made of granite and concrete, clad with iron tyres and on an iron track. This ironwork and a number of the other iron fittings needed to be treated for rust/corrosion. Removable items were taken off-site, the rest were conserved in- situ. Finally, all the ironwork was coated with a special primer that prevents further corrosion and forms a seal to protect the metal underneath. Sadly, part of the timber frame, timber yoke arms and the forks that held the horses in harness were too rotten to be saved and these have been replaced with new oak timbers.
Work now begins to re-landscape the garden next to the factory site with the support of volunteers and Pulham descendant Valerie Christman, herself a landscape designer. The Museum is working on new signage for the gardens which will tell the story of the firm and the factory buildings that remain.