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The Folly in Sydenham Hill Woods

In 2008 English Heritage published a guide to the work of Pulham & Co, who created artificial garden landscapes including grottos, temples, follies and fountains. The company also developed cement that bore a striking resemblance to natural stone and called it Pulhamite.

Pulham published a prospectus in 1877 that listed all the gardens they had worked on up to that date. Six of the gardens were in Sydenham and two in Forest Hill. The most interesting was described as “Hill Wood, Sydenham” where “Alderman Stone” commissioned two pieces of Pulhamite, one in 1862 and another in 1866.

Alderman David Henry Stone was a solicitor and, in 1875, Lord Mayor of London. Between about 1847 and 1863 he lived at Park End, Sydenham Park (near the railway line). In 1863 he moved not to “Hill Wood” but to Fairwood, Sydenham Hill. Fairwood was the third house along Sydenham Hill from Cox’s Walk, after Lapsewood (Charles Barry’s house) and Beechgrove (where Lionel Logue, George VI’s speech therapist, lived). Parts of the wall between Beechgrove and Fairwood still survive in the woods. It passes close enough to the folly to leave little doubt that it was one of the structures built in Alderman Stone’s garden.

Most of the local Pulhamite structures can be identified and at least one other survives, an ornate fountain in the back garden of a house now known as Fountain House, 17 Sydenham Hill. According to the Pulham catalogue “Dr Barry” of Sydenham Hill had some work done in 1874-75. Dr John Boyle Barry was a surgeon who lived at this house from 1871 to 1879 and the fountain is a fine example Pulham & Co’s work.

Below is a list of all the Pulham garden features in Sydenham and Forest Hill. In each case the site name, completion date and client is given. These are quoted in “Bold italics”. With the name of the client it is relatively easy to identify where these grottos and follies were built. It is just possible that something of these features might still survive, waiting to be discovered.

 “Sydenham Hill, 1870, L Clark”
This was Beechmount, later Hitherwood, 19 Sydenham Hill near Rock Hill, the lane that goes past the old reservoir to College Road. It was occupied by Latimer Clark, a civil engineer, between about 1864 and 1882.

 “Sydenham, 1869, H Gover”
This was the surviving Lyncombe, 1 Crescent Wood Road, occupied by Henry Gover, a solicitor, from about  1869 until 1895. There is something that might be the remains of a folly visible from the path to Sydenham Hill station.

“Sydenham, 1869,W J Mace”
This was probably William Rudd Mace, a wine merchant who probably lived at The Old Cedars, Westwood Hill from 1868 until about 1882.

 “Sydenham Hill, 1869, F Peek”
Francis Peek, a tea merchant, lived at 21 Sydenham Hill until 1869 then moved to 7 Crescent Wood Road. The work was more likely to be in the garden of his new house.

“Forest Hill, 1865, J Fielding”
This was The Grange, Honor Oak Road (between Benson and Ewelme Roads) where John Crossley Fielding, a stockbroker, lived between 1854 and 1878. Fielding also used Owen Jones to design the decoration of his drawing room.

“Forest Hill, 1869, H Moser”
Henry Moser lived at Westwood Lodge, 70  Honor Oak Road,  from about 1862 until 1872. The site is now occupied by a block of flats.

fountain house fountain house