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Blog: The park feels alive again

This week’s blog sees more information uncovered by Libby Lumley, our avid historian.

The park feels alive again! I walked past this morning, a crisp November day, frosty underfoot and the sunrise setting the trees alight and I’m sure I could hear noises other than the expected bird calls. My own invitation to the Inventors’ ball arrived, I’m delighted to be considered one of the generation of optimists at my age!

It seems timely to tell you of my latest findings, more background and information on the people Ursula held most dear. Her trusted ‘family’ of staff. One wonders if they will make an appearance at the ball?

Henry Whitlock

Henry’s family have been employed by the Wailes family for generations. Henry’s father was a young apprentice to William Wailes. Henry tended to the vast gardens of the park. He was responsible for cultivating the different areas of the park, giving each part its own distinct personality, taking inspiration from around the world. It’s not known whether he travelled to places like Japan (inspiring the Japanese Garden)though it’s unlikely. Perhaps he was guided by Ursula or permitted to research in the family library? From notebooks I’ve found in museum archives, Henry  was encouraged to invent new hybrid plants. He had learnt the Latin names for plant species from Ursula. Henry and John Stanbury (see below) worked closely together with Henry supplying the plants and herbs for John’s tinctures and balms. Henry clearly believed in the benefit of talking to the plants. According to his notes, Henry clearly believed they talked back.

John Stanbury 

It seems John Stanbury was sought out by Ursula after she’d read about his work in the field of herbal medicines. She gave him a place to live and the resources needed for ‘hi s’ research (I say ‘his’ because I wonder how much Ursula was the driver). Medical records show John had been ill for most of his childhood with consumption and having exhausted the options offered by doctors (medicine at that time was quite often palliative rather than curative) he began to explore the world of herbal medicine. John worked closely with Henry Whitlock, the two of them developing Saltwell’s natural medicine cabinet.

Pearl Bennett

My absolute favourite of this wonderful collection of people. By all accounts a formidable woman, Pearl was, like Henry Whitlock, a long-term fixture in the Wailes family history. Pearl’s grandmother and mother were cooks or housekeepers for the family. Pearl took on most of the duties of running the house after William Wailes passed away, presumably Ursula was too preoccupied with her inventions and explorations. There is no record of Pearl getting married. Pearl was the heart and soul of the household, she was a mother-figure to Ursula and was fiercely protective of her. From the scant reports found after the incident in 1899, some papers attributed quotes to an unnamed source from inside the household, I strongly suspect this to be Pearl,

“The people around this park have rejected a great gift, perhaps the gates will reopen, but not on my watch.”

I do hope I get to meet them all, if only to say that we won’t reject the gift again.

E. Lumley November 2017 

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