Fulham Palace courtyard
|Architectural style||Medieval, Tudor|
|Town or city||London, SW6|
|Current tenants||Fulham Palace Trust|
|Completed||c. 13th century|
|Owner||Church of England|
|Structural system||Brick, stone|
|Designated||7 May 1954
Amended 11 November 1988
|Designated||1 October 1987|
Fulham Palace, in Fulham, London, previously in the former English county of Middlesex, is a Grade I listed building with medieval origins, standing alongside Bishops Park, and was formerly the principal residence of the Bishop of London. The site was the country home of the bishops from at least 11th century until 1973. Though still owned by the Church of England, the palace is managed by the Fulham Palace Trust (registered charity 1140088) and houses a museum of its long history. It also has a large botanical garden. The palace gardens are listed Grade II* on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
According to figures released by the Fulham Palace Trust, over 260,000 people visited Fulham Palace and gardens in 2014/2015.
Excavations of the grounds, by the Fulham Archaeological Rescue Group in 1972-3 and during the extensive restorations from 2001–06, revealed the remains of several former large buildings and evidence of Neolithic and Roman settlements. Artefacts that have been recovered include a 1st-century, Gladius Hispanus sword which is currently in the British Museum.
The palace has been a residence of the bishops of London since about 700 AD; its first episcopal owner was either Bishop Erkenwald (675-693) or Bishop Waldhere (consecrated in 693). The estate was owned by the Bishops of London for over 1300 years. The palace was their country home from at least the 11th century and their main residence from the early 20th century until 1973.
The current building dates from the reign of Henry VII (1485–1509). It was constructed by Bishop Richard FitzJames (1506–1522). There have been many modifications of the building: the west courtyard is Tudor; the east courtyard is Georgian, the great hall is late-medieval; the eastern end of the building was renovated in Gothic style in the late 18th century; the east courtyard was classicised in the early 19th century, and the chapel was added in 1867.
Fulham Palace is a Grade I listed building standing within a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A number of structures on the property are Grade II listed buildings including the chapel, moat bridge and attached piers, stables, walls of the walled garden, vinery, and bothies.
The palace gardens
The gardens of Fulham Palace are one of most important botanical gardens since the 16th century. Bishop Grindal (c. 1519 – 1583) built a Tudor walled garden and a series of parterre gardens. He is credited with the introduction of the tamarisk tree to England and grew grapes that were sent to Elizabeth I.
In the early part of the 17th century, the gardens at Fulham Palace appear to have suffered from some unsympathetic attention. The antiquary John Aubrey records among his memoranda, "the Bishop of London did cutte-down a noble Clowd of trees at Fulham", occasioning the sharp remark from Sir Francis Bacon, a dedicated gardener, "that he was a good Expounder of dark places." This changed with Bishop Henry Compton (1675–1713) who introduced many new plant species to England in the gardens at Fulham Palace, including the American magnolia, M. virginiana, Liriodendron, Liquidambar and the first American azalea grown in England, Rhododendron viscosum. In his heated "stoves" he grew the first coffee tree in England. The red horse chestnut, a hybrid of Aesculus hippocastanum and the American Aesculus pavia, was still noted in Fulham Palace gardens as late as 1751.
By 1681, the gardens at Fulham Palace were already remarkable, as John Evelyn noted when he visited them. Bishop Compton's gardener in the early years was George London, who started a famous nursery at Brompton the year of Evelyn's visit. By 1686, William Penn's gardener was hoping to exchange the exotic flora of Pennsylvania for seedlings and slips of trees and shrubs and seeds from Fulham Palace gardens. Compton's staunch defence of his former pupils, the Princesses Mary and Anne, led to his appointment as Deputy Superintendent of the Royal Gardens to William and Mary, and as Commissioner for Trade and Plantations. In the colonies, Compton had a botanical correspondent in John Bannister, who was sent first to the West Indies and then to Virginia, and who, before his untimely death, sent Bishop Compton drawings, seeds, and herbarium specimens from which the Bishop's close friend John Ray compiled the first published account of North American flora, in his Historia Plantarum (1688).
First World War
In 1918, part of the grounds of the palace was converted into allotments, for growing food to help the war effort. The palace itself was used as a military hospital. After the war, the church found it increasingly difficult to maintain such a large, expensive building. The Bishop of London at the time, Arthur Winnington-Ingram, offered to give up the palace and live in two rooms as he had while the palace was being used "for the purpose of the National Mission" (the war effort). However, the bishop was unwilling to let the palace pass into secular hands.
Second World War
Parts of the palace were damaged by bombing, and after the war the church found it increasingly difficult to maintain this large, expensive historic building. In 1954, the Church Commissioners' architect described the palace as "badly planned and inconvenient". After many years of indecision the church authorities vacated the palace in 1973.
The palace moat
The palace moat is nearly 1.4 km (0.87 mi) in length. It is the largest domestic moated site in medieval England but its origin is unknown. The first known reference to the moat was in a 1392 document that refers to magna fossa ('great ditch') but it is thought to be much older. It's distance from the palace suggests that it might have had a function other than defense. An alternative idea is that it was built by the Danes as a safeguard against flooding by the Thames. In 1976, the moated enclosure was designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The moat was filled in with debris in the 1920s, at the request of the present Bishop Winnington-Ingram. Despite this, the entire moat still exists, underground, as an unbroken circuit. In 2010, an excavation of the moat began as part of a £8m renovation of the palace and adjoining Bishops Park.
Fulham Palace today
After the Bishops of London left the palace in 1973, in 1975, the property was leased for 100 years by Hammersmith Council for the purpose of opening a museum and art gallery. After this, the palace and gardens suffered a period of neglect. In 1990, a trust was established to oversee the property in collaboration with the council.
The grounds of the palace originally covered more than 30 acres (120,000 m2), though today only 12 acres (49,000 m2) remain. Although the palace has its own chapel, the gardens adjoin the churchyard of the neighbouring parish church, All Saints Church, Fulham, where several former bishops are buried. The allotments planted during the war still survive; many are still in use, allowing local people to grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers.
Some of the ancient trees in and around Fulham Palace remain to this day, and visitors can still see the knot garden and wisteria which survive in the palace's walled gardens. A large holm oak (Quercus ilex) is believed to be 500 years old and has been designated a Great Tree of London.
Restoration of the palace and grounds
The Fulham Palace Restoration Project began in the 2000s and has been carried out in three phases. The first phase, which was completed in 2006 at a cost of £4 million, restored the east wing of the palace and part of the west wing including the Tudor courtyard. The second phase, at a cost of £7 million, focused on the walled garden, the outbuildings, and the moat, and was completed in 2011. The third phase, which will concentrate on the Tudor quadrangle and the botanical gardens, received funding of £1.9 million in December 2016. Funding for all three phases came from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Fulham Palace Trust.
Museum and art gallery
In 1992, the Museum of Fulham Palace was set up in Bishop Howley's Dining Room and the Porteus Library (named after Bishop Beilby Porteus, 1731–1809), in the early 19th-century part of the palace. It contains some of the paintings that once hung in the building, stained glass, carved fragments of masonry and a bishop's cope, as well as displays describing the palace's history.
The lost manuscript of William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation (1620–47), an important founding document of the United States, was discovered in the library in 1855, and first published the next year. No one knows how it made its way there from America, but in 1897, it was given to Thomas F. Bayard, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and repatriated to New England.
The palace's art collection includes a number of notable portraits: two 1798 works by Benjamin West, St Margaret of Scotland and Thomas a Becket; an oil on canvas of Field Marshal George Wade by Adriaen van Diest; an oil on canvas of Beilby Porteus by John Hoppner; and a Reginald Henry Lewis oil on canvas of William Wand.
Admission to the palace and its grounds is free of charge. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. A cafe has been opened in Bishop Howley's Drawing Room. The palace can be accessed from Fulham Palace Road, close to the northern end of Putney Bridge.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fulham Palace.|
- Chandler, Andrew, The Church of England in the Twentieth Century: the Church Commissioners Retrieved January 2012
- Official website
- Images of England page with listing details Retrieved January 2012