The culvert and the rectangular pond have been decorated with pieces of slag – probably refuse from the iron industry although it has not been chemically analysed. The Kirks who owned the house from 1883 to 1939 has connections with Birmingham. Leah who married John Pattinson Kirk was born there as was their adopted daughter Lily who inherited the house in 1913. I have often wondered whether the slag came from there, but it didn’t really fit. Leah’s family were connected with the brass industry and it seemed a long way to take such material. I was recently looking at the Council’s draft character appraisal of the Wrythe conservation area which is currently out for consultation. It mentions, in passing, a former iron foundry in William Street on the north side of Wrythe Green. This seems a far more likely source. When the local studies collection reopens, I will check through the old street directories to find out when the ironworks operated and who ran it.
Slag decoration on the exit from the culvert under the lawn
I tend to think of rockeries as places for Alpine plants which need good light. It was somewhat surprising to find that in The Back Garden Beautiful by Harry Havart (1912) they were seen as a way of planting ferns in a damp shady area. He advocates construction with reused paving slabs, burr (over-fired) brick and clinker form the local gas works.
The raised beds along the west side of the garden at Honeywood are edged with burr brick and were significantly shaded by the trees on the land to the west. They are not a rockery but there seems to be a similarity of approach. It is possible that the raised beds – which are probably Victorian rather than Edwardian – were originally planted with ferns which were fashionable in the second half of the 19th century.
The rectangular pond in the northwest corner of the garden may have been planted in the same way. An excavation a few years ago produced evidence for a brick structure set in the ground close to both the pond and the culvert which carries a stream under the lawn. This might be the remains of a fern house although it does not appear on the 1868 Ordnance Survey map or on later editions.
If the beds were made wholly or partly for ferns it does not mean that they continued to be planted in that way into the Edwardian period. Fashions and gardener’s interest change.
The brick structure needs further thought – I will go through the excavation archive in the next few days.
John Pattinson Kirk, the owner of Honeywood from 1883 to 1913, was a manager of Marian and Co. - a photographic equipment manufacturer and supplier. He had a dark room included in the 1902 extension to the house. He must have taken photos of the garden, but we don’t know of any. His adopted daughter, Lily Kirk Edwards, was an artist and must have painted the gardens, but we are similarly unaware of any of her pictures of it. If you have any photographs of the front or back gardens taken before 1990 we would be very grateful to see them, or any paintings. Please contact Jane Howard LBS Heritage Development Officer email@example.com
Above is one of the few known paintings by Lily. It was bought by The Friends of Honeywood Museum for the Museum Collection some years ago. It shows an unknown, probably French, port.
Below, a detail of Lily’s distinctive signature.
The details of the house show that this photo was taken between about 1886 and 1898. There are several similar photos from around this time, but this is very sharp and shows a lot of small details. It also provoked some thoughts about of the land between the front garden and Upper Pond.
The other area to the south of the culvert is a bit of a mystery. It is fenced and it looks like it is part of Honeywood’s extended garden, but I have not, so far, found any evidence that it was ever part of the property either rented or freehold.
I guess the railings were taken down for scrap in the second world war. I don’t know when the shrubs were removed.
The Covid virus is obviously preventing us doing any practical work in the garden but it also leaves me with thinking time. There is a well in the garden which supplied water to the house. The existing well head with its windlass was installed in 1990 based on an old photo of the well at Whitehall in Cheam.
The Honeywood well-head is now in need of major repair and it has caused me to think about what the original was like. The well at Whitehall is about more than 20m deep so there would have been the need for a windlass and a long bucket rope. This would be quite unnecessary at Honeywood where the well is only 1.2m deep. My first thought is that there was a hand pump like the one on the corner of Pound Street and West Street. However, it seems that this sort of pump only became common in the 19th century and the well is almost certainly much older than that. So what was used? I have not found an immediately obvious answer. Investigation continues.