I promised in my last News Letter that I would write a short account of a visit that Val and I made to Woodbridge in October.. I think it was possibly the only wet day during the whole of the month, but it was nevertheless a fascinating trip. We had been to Woodbridge before, but this was the first time we gave ourselves the opportunity to look around some of the Pulhams’ old Home Town.
James 1 and Obadiah were born in 1793 and 1803 respectively. Their father was a cobbler, and the family of eight children were brought up in a small cottage ‘at the poorer West end of Cumberland Street’. The cottages are still there, although the original row of six was converted into four during the 1970s. They are shown in Fig 1, and the Pulham birthplace is the cottage immediately beyond the double and single archways in the centre – at what is now No 54.
Fig 1 – The cottages in Cumberland Street
Fig 2 – The lounge at No 54
The present owner is Brian Taylor, and we are greatly indebted to him for his hospitality, and for giving us the opportunity to look around his house. His main door today is down through the narrow alleyway, and what used to be the ‘front door’ has now been incorporated into the lounge, as can be seen in Fig 2. I was particularly keen to get a photograph of Val enjoying a cup of tea in the very room in which her great-grandmother’s grandfather, James 1, was born and brought up more than 200 years ago, and Brian was only too happy to oblige – in fact, we chose coffee instead of tea, but it amounts to the same thing. Here she is in Fig 3.
Fig 3 – Val enjoys a cup of tea in the house in which her great-grandmother’s grandfather, Hames 1, was born in 1793
Brian has a lovely little home – just perfect for one or two people, with one dining / living room about 12-13 ft square – but the incredible thing is that there used to be four cottages where the present row of three now stands, and William Pulham managed to run a cobbler’s business, as well as bring up a family of eight children in that tiny space! How on earth did they manage it?
We said ‘Goodbye’ to Brian, and met up with Robert Blake, the local Woodbridge author and historian, who offered to show us round. Our first visit with him was to ‘The Little Castle’, a lovely old house in Castle Street that William Lockwood – the Woodbridge Master Builder who apprenticed both James 1 and Obadiah as stone modellers in his firm – built for his aging parents c1824. William lived close by, in ‘The Castle’, a large house with ornamental ‘battlements’ that he built for himself, as discussed in Chapter 1 of ‘Rock Landscapes’.
Fig 4 – ‘The Little Castle’, which William Lockwood built for his parents in Castle Street, in 1824. James 1 built a beautifully ornamented grotto in the back garden
‘The Little Castle’ – shown in Fig 4 – is now owned by Lady Caroline Blois. She was also kindness itself in her hospitality, and very interested to know something about the history of her house. It is a corner property, and, having been added to over the years, some of the room angles are not absolutely square. This adds considerably to its charm, although it is not always absolutely clear which features were added when. As far as Lady Caroline knew, however, the fireplace in her lounge – Fig 5 – was built into the original house. As you can see from her coffee table, she also has an impeccable taste in books.
Fig 5 – The fireplace in the lounge of ‘The Little Castle’, which is considered to be the original
‘The Little Castle’ was of particular interest to us, because the back garden used to accommodate a figure of Old Father Time and a small grotto in which James 1 was responsible for the lavish decorative modelling. Old Father Time has long since disappeared, and the back garden was split into two some time ago, with the grotto in the furthest, separated section. We knew that it still existed, however – albeit in a state of some dereliction – because, a few days before our visit, we were told that it had just been stripped of its overgrowth and surplus vegetation, and could now be seen as it had not been seen for many years.
We thought that we were in luck, and could hardly wait to see it, but we were destined for a shock, and a tremendous disappointment. Stripping back the overgrowth had apparently only been the first stage of a two-stage operation. The owners of the ground on which it stood decided to demolish the grotto as soon as they had uncovered it – perhaps they thought it spoiled the view to their house? – and all that was left was the heap of soil shown in Fig 6! Not even the odd fragment of modelling remained for us to salvage and hand on to the local Museum. It was a sad oversight on someone’s part that this unique feature had not been listed, although there is apparently no guarantee that even that would have saved it. That’s progress for you . . .
Fig 6 – The The heap of earth that now remains of the Pulham grotto. We missed its destruction by a week!
After an enjoyable lunch, Robert took us to Rendlesham, a village just a few miles from Woodbridge, where he was keen to show us a series of follies that he thought had been built in the grounds of Rendlesham Hall sometime during the 1820s. The Hall itself was demolished in 1949, but the assumed date of the follies’ construction pointed to the probability that they had been built by William Lockwood’s firm, and that James 1 and Obadiah could consequently have been involved. This is only a theory, of course, but Figs 7 – 9 show why we think it is a valid possibility.
Fig 7 – ‘The First Grotto’ at Rendlesham, thought to have been built by William Lockwood during the 1820s
Fig 8 – ‘The Second (Entrance Gate) Grotto’ at Rendlesham
Fig 9 – ‘The Third Grotto’ at Rendlesham