What was there before the garden? For many suburban houses the answer is simple: a field. For Honeywood the answer is really rather complicated.
The Arundel map of Carshalton, which dates from about 1620 shows a line of springs along the side of Pound Street in what is now the southern edge of the garden. Several streams flowed from these across the site of the present house. When we carried out an excavation in the southeast corner of the garden, we found some pieces of Tudor brown jugs which had probably been broken collecting water from the springs in the 16th century.
Seventeenth century documents mention a pond next to the vicarage house. This was the predecessor of the Old Rectory immediately north of Honeywood. The Vicarage House may not have stood on exactly the same site but, if the Honeywood garden was then a pond, it would be quite consistent with the archaeological evidence.
The oldest parts of Honeywood seem to have been built about 1690. It was then a smaller building and there was another house to the south. It is possible that when the houses were put up all or part of the back garden was still a pond. The site is so wet it seems an unlikely place to build a pair of cottages so the structures may have been for a keeper to protect the fish in the ponds, or perhaps for a cold bath. In the late 17th century cold bathing was a fashionable cure for almost any disease.
At some point before the mid-18th century the pond was filled, and presumably turned into two gardens, one for each house. An excavation near the rectangular pond in the northwest corner of the garden uncovered a probable bedding trench deeply buried below the present garden. Another trench between the pond and the house uncovered a former garden path which had run out from the back of the house. It was clear that the ground level had been raised on several occasions presumably to try to make the garden drier. This explains why the floor of the house is lower the garden.
By the middle of the early 19th century the garden had reached its current level and the residents began to create some of the features that we still see today.
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.
Honeywood Garden Project Blog
Follow our progress as we renovate the gardens at Honeywood Museum.