A guest post by London Historians member, Jane Young.
Members of London Historians enjoyed a fine and clement day for a trip to Fulham Palace last Wednesday, 25 July. This was the residence of the Bishops of London until 1973 which stands on a site established for the Diocese around 700AD.
We began in the grounds at the West Courtyard which harks from Tudor times. Changing modes of living and the requirements of successive bishops has seen the courtyard evolve over the years, however it retains the monumental wooden entrance gates dating back to 1495 and still nurtures some young grape vines in acknowledgement of the custom of presenting a bunch of grapes to Queen Elizabeth I from the Bishop of London. Continuing through the extensive grounds enchanted with curiosities, we journeyed through Georgian additions; neo-Gothic additions; removal of neo-Gothic additions; a Victorian chapel and remodelling following World War II.
Prior to becoming the principal home of the Bishops of London, Fulham Palace was in the main used as a summer residence. As a result, the varied aesthetic taste of a sequence of these men combined with shifting fashions in architecture, have contributed to the fabric of the buildings and the landscape of the grounds. This fusion of period features can also be seen throughout the interiors of the Palace buildings which have been magnificently restored including a spectacular Rococo ceiling and the impressive Great Hall.
The well-executed and informed tour from volunteer guide Freddie Bircher encompassed not only the history of the buildings and the ecclesiastical role of Fulham Palace but delivered an interesting illustration of changing domestic life there over several centuries. Fulham Palace restoration project is a work in progress with the first two phases now complete and the third phase subject to further fundraising. Run by the Fulham Palace Trust since 2011 and Grade II listed the Palace is a beautiful oasis away from the bustle of Fulham Palace Road.
It often happens that London Historians manage two visits for the price of one, thus a short and pleasant walk across Bazalgette’s Putney Bridge (1886) found us at St. Mary’s Church, Putney.
A most unusual church is this. Amidst a lovely relaxed atmosphere we were able to leisurely walk around the eclectic, but nonetheless compatible symposium of architectural styles spanning five centuries. Parts of the church are medieval surviving from the fifteenth century including the Tower and some of the arcading to the nave. St. Mary’s underwent substantial rebuilding in 1836 with more extensive work finally completed in 1982 as a result of an arson attack that gutted the building in 1973.
The result of the rebuild is a most pleasing juxtaposition of old and new created from a brave but beautifully finished distinctive design, set under a very fine vaulted ceiling. An added interest is a dedicated area given over to a permanent exhibition detailing the historically significant Putney Debates of 1647 which were originally held in St. Mary’s.
The entrance to the main part of the church is via a very good licensed café which extends the same friendly welcome as the church it is attached to.
Jane Young is a partner in Darrieulat & Young, aka London Kills Me, which designs beautiful, hand-made, London-themed clothes and domestic accessories for both direct sale and trade. She tweets as @sketchesbyboz.