Claude Hitching, with photography by Jenny Lilly
300 pages, many colour and black & white photographs
ISBN 978-1-87067-376-1 – Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd £35
This lavishly produced book is the result of Claude Hitching’s researching the work of hrs great-grandfather, William Hitching; William’s brother, George, and William’s three sons – Arthur, Frederick and John – who all worked as ’rock builders’ for the firm of James Pulham & Son, the eminent Victorian and Edwardian landscape gardeners.
Four generations of the Pulham family – all named James – managed the landscape business, based in Hertfordshire, which specialised in the construction of large and ornate rock gardens for wealthy landowners with large estates. In areas where natural stone was unavailable, or too expensive to transport to a construction site, the Pulhams made their own artificial rock, ’Pulhamite’ – ’with burrs, rough bricks or concrete for the core, which is then covered with cement to imitate the colour, form and texture of the real rock most consistent with the geology of the district.’
The first part of the book covers the history of the Pulham family and its various businesses, other than the landscape gardening. The bulk of the book covers forty major gardens constructed, starting in 1847 with Highnam Court in Gloucestershire, through to the 1930s with the Winterstoke Gardens at Ramsgate, and the Memorial Gardens at Stoke Poges. The business finally closed sometime around 1939.
The gardens and estates selected for this book are described in great detail, and are lavishly illustrated with photographs in black & white – where early photographs or sketches exist – and with many colour photographs of the gardens as they are today. The sizes of many of the rock gardens they constructed are almost unbelievable, as are the amounts of rock they used, and how good the gardens still look today.
One of their large Scottish rock gardens – at Ross Hall Park, Crookston, in Glasgow – was constructed in 1890-91. This garden is now owned by the City of Glasgow Council, and I am sure is worth a visit.
This is a beautiful book, and a must for anyone interested in the history of rock gardens and their construction.