In 1880 Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt- Rivers inherited the Rushmore Estate from his cousin, the last Lord Rivers. It contained a large number of archaeological monuments. He had already established himself as a leading expert on archaeological excavation methods and now devoted much of his last twenty years to undertaking fieldwork designed to examine the numerous earthworks on his new estate. The results of his digs in Cranborne Chase were published in four large volumes between 1887 and 1898, and mark the beginning of modern archaeological techniques in Britain. Thus is he considered to be the ‘father’ of English archaeology.
General Pitt-Rivers held a desire to ‘improve the masses’. As a landowner, he created, at his own expense, the Larmer Tree Gardens for the pleasure and recreation of the people of the surrounding neighbourhood. Extensive lawns were laid and he erected buildings in a variety of styles, including a bandstand and theatre. Large crowds came regularly to enjoy the facilities of the Larmer Tree Gardens. There was also a racecourse and golf course and he brought in llamas, reindeer, yaks, kangaroos and zebras to live, somewhat unsuccessfully, on his nearby land.
In fulfilling his desire to educate the public, he offered opportunities to experience the arts through open-air theatre, concerts and art exhibitions. He founded a museum in Farnham in the former gypsy school, where artefacts from his many digs could be viewed, along with a diverse collection of other items. This museum is now broken up into several different dwellings known as Elham Court. Local men were recruited to spend Sunday afternoons at Larmer Tree playing in the General’s Band, sporting specially made uniforms. In the last decade of the 19th Century, the General’s undertakings made a notable contribution to local life and its economy.
In his later years, the General was dogged with ill health. He was a diabetic and suffered from bouts of bronchitis. He died in 1900 at Rushmore House, which now houses Sandroyd School.
It is a picture of The General that hangs outside The Museum Inn in the centre of Farnham.
More information: www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/collections/pitt-rivers