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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.