A Tale of Three Vases

 

Lowewood Museum’s new exhibition ‘Romance in Stone’, which will run from 14 January to April 29, celebrates the impact of Broxbourne’s landscape design firm James Pulham & Son on national garden fashions from 1845-1939.

Famous for landscaping beautiful rustic waterways, rocky streams, grottoes and tunnels, the company also developed a range of over 200 garden ornaments. They were made from cast stone and terracotta, with the latter made at the firm’s manufactory here in Broxbourne.

Three key James Pulham & Son vases are on display in the exhibition, showcasing the beauty of their designs and the clients they worked for. The firm designed many of their ornaments for a specific client or project, naming the product after the location and adding it to the range that future clients could select from.

The Preston Vase

On loan from Ewell Court House in Surrey is an original Pulham Preston Vase. The firm first created the Preston Vase in 1864 for Miller Park in Preston, to a design created by the Victorian park designer Edward Milner.

In the 1880s Ewell Court’s new owner, John Henry Bridges, built a red-brick house in the ‘Old English’ style, and in the 1890s he re-landscaped the gardens.

James Pulham & Son ‘rockified’ (formed into a rocky landscape) the banks of the stream and created a boating lake with a boathouse, island and cascades. They also created a large fountain with four Preston Vases around its base.

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Ewell Court Fountain

 

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Rocky Stream Ewell Court

 

The Westonbirt Vase

Originally designed Pulhams for Westonbirt House in Gloucestershire, the Westonbirt Vase has had a new lease of life in recent times in a replica range manufactured by the cast stone company, Haddonstone Ltd.

James Pulham & Son worked at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire in the 1880s, creating an artificial lake and a clearing with a rockery and grotto where Westonbirt village once stood. Wealthy landowner Robert Stayner Holford had moved the whole village half a mile down the road to improve the view from his new Elizabethan-style palace.

The firm designed the Westonbirt Vase, which they later supplied to Avenham Park in Preston, next door to the Preston Vase-adorned Miller Park.

In 1928, the house became a girls’ boarding school, and the governors asked Haddonstone Ltd to make new copies of the vase by creating a mould from the original. Replicas of the beautiful Westonbirt Vase are now on sale again.

The Nottingham Vase

Another Pulham design which has also been replicated by Haddonstone Ltd is the Nottingham Vase. The firm supplied one of these vases to Leopold de Rothschild for Ascott House in Buckinghamshire. In 1949, the Rothschilds gave the estate to the National Trust, which commissioned the first replica.

It is a testament to the appeal of James Pulham & Son’s work, many made at the Broxbourne manufactory, that their designs are still being bought for gardens today.

 

Lowewood Museum’s exhibition – ‘Romance in Stone – The Pulham Legacy of Garden Design’ is open from 14 January – 29 April 2017 during normal museum opening hours (Wednesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm and Saturday, 10am – 5pm).

Admission is free.

 

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A Rocky History – The Pulham Legacy

This year sees an exciting project taking place at Lowewood Museum, showcasing the history of the Pulhams of Broxbourne, a company that really put the town on the map. James Pulham & Son set up a manufactory in Broxbourne in 1845 making terracotta and cast stone garden ornaments. From this base the firm expanded into landscape design, creating beautiful artificial landscapes containing rockeries, grottos and water features. The Pulhams are known to have produced work for at least 170 sites around the UK, from public parks and gardens to large private gardens, including Sandringham and Buckingham Palace.

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Pulham advert from Country Life Illustrated 1900

 

The company was run by four generations of James Pulham. The first James (James 1) was originally apprenticed with his brother, Obadiah, in c.1810 to a master builder in Woodbridge, William Lockwood, where they learnt the skill of stone modelling. The brothers turned out to be highly skilled modellers, and when Lockwood established a London branch, James 1 became the London manager. Following Lockwood’s death, the firm began to trade under the Pulham name. On James 1’s death in 1838 his son James 2 inherited the firm aged just 18 and moved to Amwell Street in Hoddesdon.  He was commissioned to produce his first rock garden for Woodlands, and the landscaping side of the business was born. James 2 saw a gap in the market and moved to larger premises on Station Road near Broxbourne station, where he could make an extensive range of ornaments and artificial rocks. He developed his own form of artificial rock known as ‘Pulhamite’ – a rubble core covered over with cement that was painted to look like real rock.

 

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Pulham Rock Garden at Woodlands, Hoddesdon

James 2 exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and the International Exhibition of 1862. In 1865 his son James 3 joined the family business which became known as Pulham & Son. The company received two royal warrants, the first in 1895 for work at Sandringham for HRH The Prince of Wales, the second for work at Buckingham Palace in 1903. They also produced gardens for Chelsea Flower shows during the early 1900s.

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King George V and Queen Mary visiting James Pulham 4 and the Pulham garden at the 1931 Chelsea Flower Show

 

The years after the First World War saw a gradual decline in work from large estates and a rise in commissions from local councils looking to ‘beautify’ their parks and seaside resorts. Finally, in 1939 the firm closed at the eve of the Second World War. Pulham house and most of the manufactory site were demolished in 1967 as new flats and a larger car park were built near the station. Today just one brick kiln and the puddling mill remains.

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The Puddling Mill next to Broxbourne station car park

 

The Pulham project is celebrating this important history and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a joint project between Broxbourne Borough Council’s Lowewood Museum and B3Living. Here at the Museum our Project Exhibitions Officer is developing a touring exhibition showcasing the company’s history, which will be on display from 14 January – 29 April 2017, as well as an events program and online Pulham resources. Keep an eye out on the blog and the website www.broxbourne.gov.uk/lowewood-museum for more information. Our first event is a free stone carving taster workshop on Saturday 20 August.

Stone carving taster session

During 2016 the remaining manufactory buildings will be conserved, and with the help of volunteers B3 Living will also be rejuvenating the surrounding gardens.

Meet the team – Exhibitions Officer, Pulhams

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Name
Jennifer Rowland

Job title
Exhibitions Officer, Pulhams

Give a brief outline of what you will be working on over the coming year.
I am working on a project celebrating the work of the Pulhams of Broxbourne, key landscape designers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I will be developing a touring exhibition and marketing this to potential host venues. The exhibition will launch at Lowewood Museum in January 2017 and be available for tour from May 2017. I will also be organising an event program to accompany the exhibition, and producing interpretation signage on the former Pulham factory site, the remains of which are being conserved as part of the project. The whole project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is being delivered in partnership with Broxbourne Borough Council and B3Living.

What is your favourite thing about working in Museums?
That moment when a visitor discovers a famous, personal or local history link to a museum object that makes them go ‘oh wow’. Inspiring and enthusing people of all ages with the collections and the areas of history covered by a museum is the most rewarding part of the job. Plus the chance to get involved in lots of different activities, get dressed up in historical costumes for events, and generally have fun all in the name of the job!

Share one piece of advice for those interested in working in the Museum field.
Think outside the box. The role and work of museums is constantly changing, so be flexible and don’t be afraid to put forward your ideas, whether you are volunteering or at a job interview!

Which historical figure would you like to meet and why. What would you ask them?
John Ray, the 17th Century father of natural history, who worked out the first scientific definition of a species and catalogued thousands of plants, animals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects during his life. The sheer scale of his works amazes me. He also wrote very advanced papers for the 17th Century on adaptation and the origins of fossils. However, sadly he is not that well known despite his ground-breaking contributions.  He lived in my former home village of Black Notley in Essex so I guess I would probably ask him – ‘What was it really like to live in Black Notley in the 1690s?’

Where would you choose to go/visit if you could go anywhere in the world for a day?
New Zealand to see the Lord of the Rings sets

What was the first music track or album you bought?
Ronan Keating’s album Ronan

‘School’s Out’, New Exhibition at Lowewood Museum

School's Out poster low res

Opening on Saturday 10 October, ‘School’s Out’ gathers together memories and objects from the Borough’s schools history. Curated by Lowewood Museum’s Youth Panel, this special exhibition has something for everyone to enjoy.

Below is a gallery of images from Lowewood Museum’s photographic collection of schools through history.

On The Move Exhibition

From cart to car, the ancient invention of the wheel created the world we know today. Our latest exhibition, ‘On The Move’, open until 26 September 2015 explores the ways we rely on the wheel and marks the 175th anniversary of the opening of Waltham Cross and Broxbourne railway stations.

Below is a gallery of images from Lowewood Museum’s photographic collection of transport across the Borough.

 

Royal Collection at Lowewood Museum

Royal Display

Lock of hair from King Edward IV

One of the star pieces to feature in a new display at Lowewood Museum is a lock of hair taken from King Edward IV (1442-1483).

The new display celebrates the Borough’s Year of Heritage and petition for Royal Borough status, showcasing items in connection with the Borough’s royal history.

For conservation purposes the lock of hair has been in storage at the museum, but will be on display until 26 September 2015.

Born in France in April 1442, Edward was the son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Following his father’s death, Edward won the struggle against the Lancastrians to establish the House of York on the English throne. Edward IV died in 1483 and was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His sons, Edward and Richard were left in the protection of their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester – later to become the infamous ‘King in the Car Park’. Richard later assumed the throne and housed the two princes in the Tower of London where they were never seen again.

The piece of hair shown on display at the museum was donated to Lowewood in 1964. It was taken from Edward’s tomb on Friday 13 March 1789, and discovered during restorations of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Inside the tomb was the lead coffin of the king and recorded was “some long brown hair lay near the skull; and some of the same colour, but shorter, was on the neck of the skeleton.”

Today a piece of the hair remains with the Society of Antiquaries, London, along with the piece shown at Lowewood Museum.