'Pulhamite' and the James Pulham Legacy


We have recently had an interesting conversation with Senior Landscape Advisor Jenifer White from English Heritage about our potential status as Pulhamite restorers and consultants. We have been advised by Jenifer to enter Eccleston George into the Building Conservation Directory so that we can be listed as Pulhamite restorers. It was agreed that because of the materials and techniques we use, coupled with the 20 year developmental evolution of our own rock making practice, we are in a position to offer the specialist skills needed when consulting on and restoring original Pulham features. 

If you would like to talk to us about Pulhamite restoration, just use our contacts page to let us know how we can help you.

The Unknown Pulham Legacy

Nigel George discovered several years ago that Eccleston George are not the first to use sculpting techniques to make rock formations for landscaping and theming. What is a little strange is that Nigel and his team have never been too far away from the effects of the 'James Pulham Legacy', even though he didn't know it until relatively recently James Pulham has played a part in Nige's life ever since he was a boy.

Nigel says

When I was a young boy I used to cycle to a hidden public park near Fareham in Hampshire. It was, and still is, the most amazingly magical place. Rambling pathways take you on a journey through lush foliage and down to a huge lake which is fed by an array of streams and flowing water. Huge rocky outcrops jut out all around and the sound of moving water breaks the silence of the still air.

I never questioned the unusual geology of the place as a child, instead of pondering such things I prefered to leap about on the giant boulders and occasionally venture into the grotto like cave with its watery floor and vaulted rock ceiling. It was nearly thirty years later that I realised the boulders, caves and waterfalls were not natural at all but were in fact  man made. The place is Holly Hill Park in Fareham and I revisited recently, now the place held a new fascination for me because this time I was aware of the history of the place and of the man that created it


As I slipped past the the local council's 'Do Not Enter' sign to get to the cave, I studied the stone effect walls once more, now with professional eyes I saw finger marks and tool lines in the craggy rock faces, I confess a shiver ran down my spine as I wondered if the spirit of James Pulham had somehow persuaded me to take up his cause when I was a ten year old boy creeping around the handmade cracks and fissures. It is undeniable that I have unwittingly created a medium along the lines of the one James Pulham called 'Pulhamite', the boys in the EG team now jokingly call our mix 'Nigelite' as a result and that same team has built many rock gardens and geological features that wouldn't look out of place next to Mr Pulhams work. Our use of recycled materials to make armatures for our rockwork seems to be identicle to those techniques used by Pulham and his team and we suspect that many of our hand made tools may very well be similar to those used by the skilled hands of his men . Sadly though James Pulham took the secret  of his techniques and the ingredients of his own sculpting medium to his grave, although I have to say that after close inspection of his work, and a little scratch here and there, he revealed one or two interesting things to me.......things that I shan't divulge here!

Our strange connection with James Pulham doesn't end there either. It turns out that the Eccleston George team has unknowingly worked right alongside his own work at the Sea Life Centre in Brighton. Pulham was commissioned during the Victorian times to make rock features for the aquarium when it was brand new, we were commissioned over 100 years later to make rocks and coral for the huge ocean tank there. Then there's Broxbourne too, a place that we have spent many months in the past working at a zoo called Paradise Wildlife Park, I have since found out that we were no more than a stones throw from the Pulham workshops and yard, now the local train station and a place that we went to several times during our stay. Sounds like mumbo jumo I hear you cry and you'd probably be right too, and what's more the upshot of all this stuff is that at the very least I have to concede that what we do at Eccleston George isn't very original. It now seem as though we have travelled along a well trodden path, unwitting students of a kind of creative convergent evolution of rock making...... and when I stretch my imagination a bit, I can't help but feel that perhaps there is more to my own connection with James Pulham than meets the eye!

Eccleston George found out about the James Pulham Legacy because of a man called Claude Hitching, who simply has to be the leading aurthority on all things Pulham. What follows is an extract from his website, links to which can be found at the bottom of the page.


Who was James Pulham?

James Pulham and Son were one of the most well-reputed firm of landscape gardeners of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, it may be more accurate to refer to them as ‘landscape artists,’ rather than ‘landscape gardeners,’ because that is the impression one gets when viewing some of their work that still survives today. They used to specialise in the creation of picturesque rock gardens, constructed from both natural and artificial rock, and the greatest possible care was always taken to ensure that it blended, almost blissfully, into its natural surroundings.

Once you know what to look for, it is not difficult to identify a ‘Pulham garden,’ although you need to know its date of construction before you can positively identify the individual behind it. This is because there were actually no fewer than four James Pulhams - four generations of Pulhams, with each successive eldest son called James, and each James continuing the business of his father!


James Pulham III - 1845-1920

James II took his son, James III into the business in 1865, and from that point the firm became known as James Pulham and Son. They continued with their manufactory, and their list of clients for whom they created picturesque rock gardens, ferneries, grottoes, follies etc expanded steadily, taking in many of the most notable country estates and parks around the country, including Battersea Park, Audley End, Sandringham Royal Estate, Waddesdon Manor, the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, Madresfield Court and Bawdsey Manor, near Woodbridge

The spectacular Rock Garden at Madresfield Court (1877)

They produced a comprehensive promotional booklet entitled ‘Picturesque Ferneries and Rock Garden Scenery’ c.1877, in which they extolled the natural beauty of their creations, gave a list of their ‘satisfied clients’ up to that date, and appended a list of fernery and alpine plants that they recommended for use in these environments. They opened a London office in Marylebone Road during the 1880’s – probably around 1883 - and later moved to Finsbury Square.

James III moved to live in Tottenham at that time, leaving James III to take over the house and manufactory in Station Road, Broxbourne, so this indicates that, from that point on, James II concentrated on the marketing aspects of the business, and left his son to manage the production. It was also about this time that they decided to abandon their building and restoration work in order to focus their efforts on landscape gardening.

This was their most prolific period, and one of their most spectacular projects was the recently re-discovered ‘Hidden Gardens of Dewstow,’ near Newport in South Wales. This featured streams, cascades and lakes, a gazebo, and a wonderful series of sunken caves, grottoes, tunnels and ferneries.

The ‘Lion Grotto’ at Dewstow c.1895

James II continued to work until within a week of his death in August, 1898, which then left James (3) in charge of the business. His son, James Robert IV was twenty-five at this time, so there seems little doubt that this would have been the point at which he was taken into the firm as the new Junior Partner in the ‘updated’ James Pulham and Son.

James III decided to keep a London office, although its location was changed again in 1902, when they moved to 71 Newman Street, off Oxford Street. It is not known for sure how this was run, or how the responsibilities were split during this period, although it is probable that he decided to follow his father’s example, and move to London to take over the marketing reins, leaving the manufacturing aspects to his son in Broxbourne. In any event, the firm continued to prosper for a further twenty years, adding such names as the Gardens at Buckingham Palace, the RHS Gardens at Wisley, Merrow Grange, Bracken Hill and Rayne Thatch in Bristol, and the seafronts at Blackpool, Lytham St Anne’s, Ramsgate and Folkestone to their list.

James Pulham IV - 1873-1957

The Great War of 1914-18 and the subsequent depression virtually put an end to large-scale landscape gardening work, as the money and the men required to undertake the garden maintenance were no longer readily available. James III retired, and died in 1920, and the fortunes of the firm declined steadily after that, until they eventually went out of business during the World War of 1939-45. James IV died in 1957, and the family house and manufactory were demolished in 1967 to make way for a new station car park and flats.

Remains of the Pulham Manufactory and Grinding Wheel1966

Sadly, no records of the firm survived, and it is thought that these must have either been lost or destroyed. However, Claude Hitching, a descendent of five of the Pulham ‘rock builders,’ is currently doing his best to piece together as many pieces of the Pulham jigsaw as he can, in the hope of eventually producing a book about their lives and work. It is a fascinating project, and he would be delighted to hear from anyone with any information that may be relevant or of interest.

Claude Hitching can be contacted at 11 Asquith House, Guessens Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 6QA, UK; Tel # +44(0) 1707 323391, or e-mail: He also has the most amazing website click here to go straight there.

This page is taken from extracts of Claude Hitching fantastic 'Pulham Legacy' website. 

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