Family Science Fun coming to Lowewood Museum

To mark British Science Week the museum is holding a special day of free science and craft activities for all the family on Saturday 18 March.

Inspired by the current exhibition on garden landscape design firm James Pulham & Son, the activities and experiments will explore the wonderful plants, rocks and mini creatures that make up our gardens. The day will run from 11am to 4pm and all activities are free.

Visitors can get up close with nature and discover what lives in our ponds by taking part in pond-dipping in Barclay Park. Pre-bookable one hour sessions are available at 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm.

There will also be a number of drop-in activities including experiments with rocks and sand and pavement art. Visitors can also plant bulbs to take home with them. These activities are all available on a drop-in basis.


For more information or to book the pond-dipping sessions please call the museum on 01992 445596. For more information visit


Unveiling the newly restored Pulham Manufactory in Broxbourne

On Friday 3 February staff from the museum attended a special launch event with partners Broxbourne Borough Council, B3Living and supporters The Heritage Lottery Fund, which funded the project, to proudly present the results of the special Pulham project.

This project has included the conservation of the former James Pulham & Son factory site in Broxbourne which is open for the public to visit for free. The newly refurbished Grade II listed brick kiln and horse-drawn puddling wheel were restored by conservation experts, Szerelmey Conservation, with all iron work completed by the Heritage Blacksmiths.

The land adjacent to the site has now been landscaped as a feature garden, with a seating area and permanent interpretation boards that tell the James Pulham & Son story. Valerie Christman, a descendant of the Pulham family, was involved in creating the new landscaped area and attended the launch.

The event was attended by staff involved in restoring the special part of the Borough’s history, local residents, and historians from across the Borough.

There were also speeches from Leader of Broxbourne Borough Council, Councillor Mark Mills-Bishop, B3Living Chair, Sandra Royer, and Heritage Lottery East of England Committee Member, Phil Rothwell.

The Victorian and Edwardian firm is perhaps most well-known for its beautiful artificial rock landscapes that can most notably be found in Buckingham Palace, its invention of an artificial rock, ‘Pulhamite’ and wide range of terracotta ornaments created in its Broxbourne factory.

Councillor Mark Mills-Bishop, Leader of Broxbourne Borough Council, said: “I applaud all those involved in this project and all those who care to care about our heritage and our environment; especially in this, the Borough’s Year of the Environment. Thank you to the many partners involved in making this important part of our history what it is today.”

B3Living acquired the factory site in 2006 during the transfer of council housing stock from Broxbourne Borough Council. It was restored thanks to a £55,200 contribution by the East of England Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sandra Royer, B3Living’s Chair of the Board said: “It’s unusual for a housing association to take on such a restoration project but we have a duty to our community and, especially to the residents of Courtfield Close who have lived adjacent to this site for many years.”

The finished works coincide with a special exhibition at Lowewood Museum, ‘Romance in Stone – The Pulham Legacy of garden design’, which was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The exhibition features history about the Broxbourne manufactory and examples of the stoneware and gardens that the family firm created.

The exhibition will run until 29 April 2017 and entry is free. The restored manufactory can be found off Stafford Drive near Broxbourne station. Pedestrian access is also available from Station road just the other side of the river from the station car park.

For more information, visit

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.

Ewell Court Fountain


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.


Conserving the former Pulham Factory Site in Broxbourne

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.

Charles Giddings – Sculptor and Pulham artist

This month’s Pulham post looks at the story of local sculptor Charles Giddings. Giddings produced sculptures for international clients including Boston Cathedral in the USA and the National Art Gallery, Ottawa. He carved many of England’s WWI memorials and also produced models of famous people. Locally his works included busts of King George V and King George VI which stood in the former Clock House and are now on display in the Museum. He also designed a number of garden pieces for Pulham & Son.

Giddings was born in 1870 in Wiltshire. When he was 20 he went to London to study at the Westminster School of Art. He settled for a time at Wandsworth where his first two children were born, before moving to 34 Amwell Street, Hoddesdon in 1910.

Giddings’ designs for Pulham & Son are listed in the company’s 1925 ‘Catalogue of Garden Ornaments’, a key resource for anyone researching the history of the firm. The first featured piece is a kneeling figure carrying a bowl, shown in the catalogue as an illustration, and below in real life.

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Giddings’ Kneeling Figure

Giddings also designed the company’s ‘Flora Sundial’ and a special ‘Giddings figure’ that could be bought separately or as part of the ‘Giddings Fountain’.

His largest creation for the firm was the statue of Mercury for a fountain at Madresfield Court in Malvern, made famous as the set for Brideshead Revisted. The statue is 11 feet tall and has had to be removed from the fountain for safety reasons.

1998.0931 (Mercury)
The Mercury Fountain at Madresfield Court

Giddings died on 5 November 1946 and his obituary appeared in the Hoddesdon Journal. When you visit the Museum you can see his busts of King George V and VI in the Petter Gallery, and artefacts relating to Giddings will also be on display in the Pulham exhibition launching 14 January 2017.


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.

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.


2014.099.15 - Woodlands (c)

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.

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.

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 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.