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PUTNEY BRIDGE District Line (Wim.) A LONDON TUBE RAMBLE Find an ancient palace, a tree full of bishops, a bottle kiln, a WW2 pill box and a football club. (About 2 miles)

Fulham  Palace is not so grand as its name implies, it's more like a stately home, having been the country retreat of the Bishops of London from the eleventh century or even earlier. It was in use by the Church until the 1970’s. To get to it, from the handsome cream brick Underground station (1880) make your way past  the buses by going right and then following the road left. to Fulham High Street. Fulham House c 1739 is on the left.  Now used by the Territorial Army, this well-proportioned building was once a boarding school for girls. Next door is the Eight Bells, established in 1629, though the present building has an early nineteenth century front. It was originally called The Bell, but changed its name a hundred years later when nearby All Saints’ church acquired a peal of eight bells (it now has ten). Continue right and walk past The Kings Arms. This began life in 1526, but was rebuilt in 1888. It has lush glazed terracotta decoration over the archway to a small courtyard. Cross the New Kings Road and then go over the High Street at the lights towards The Temperance – ironically now a pub. As its name suggests, this unusual building was once a Temperance Billiard Hall (1909). It has Art Nouveau windows and a small green-tiled tower.

Walk left to find Church Gate, a delightful lane leading to All Saints’ church. Next to Church Gate Hall is a pair of early eighteenth century houses - note the insurance plaque, a small crown high up on the façade of No. 6. A little further on are the ornate Powell Almshouses (1869) by J.P.Seddon, an exponent of high Victorian Gothic architecture. They were originally established in 1680 by Sir William Powell, a local land owner, to house twelve poor widows of ‘good character’. The almshouses were rebuilt on their present site in 1869 with a tower decorated with a number of statues, including Faith, Hope and Charity (top row). 
Apart from the medieval tower,  the church itself is largely the work of Sir Arthur Blomfield who was the architect behind the major re-build of 1881. 
It is usually open 10-4 Monday to Saturday, (check before making a special journey) and is full of beautiful monuments saved from the old church. The graveyard is also worth a visit. It has a yew avenue and at the east end is an impressive array of tombs of Bishops of London. Near the tower is an upright stone (under a lamp post) with a famously amusing epitaph.  

                                                 'Sacred to the memory of
                                                 ISABELLA MURR of this parish
                                                 who departed this life
                                                 the 29th November 1829
                                                 in the 52nd year of her age

                                                 Ye who possess the brightest charms of life
                                                 A tender friend – a kind indulgent wife
                                                 Oh learn their worth. In her beneath this stone
                                                 These pleasing attributes together shone.
                                                 Was not true happiness with them combin’d?
                                                 Ask the spoil’d being she has left behind.'

Upon the death of the ‘spoil’d being’, someone who obviously thought the touching verse was too flowery carved simply ‘HE’S GONE TOO’

Fulham Palace 

After you have finished looking round the church, go through an iron gate to the south and enter Bishops Park. The river embankment was completed in 1893 and the following year the Church donated the land for a public park. Walk to the right, passing a rose garden. Opposite this is a small gateway to the Palace grounds. The left hand pathway signed 'Black Sun' is a pleasant woodland walk and will take you to the main entrance of the Palace, the right hand route skirts the orchard, but I think continuing by the river is a better approach.  

This is a long avenue/cycle path under the plane trees that were planted when the park was created. After about five minutes you will see an area to the left with elegant balustrade and steps. This was originally a miniature lido with paddling pool and imported tons of sand for a ‘beach’. To the great delight of local children this has recently been restored, though the lido is now an ornamental pond - the kids have fountains to play around with instead.  

Leaving this behind, follow the path to the right and go between a pair of stone pillars to Fulham Palace itself.The moat that once surrounded it was the longest in England, but in 1924 was filled in and turned into gardens - part of this has now been re-excavated. Note the charming Victorian lodge to the left. Straight ahead is the modest late medieval frontage of the palace. The west courtyard and some areas of the rambling building are open daily.  If you visit the museum  you can learn the history of the site from prehistoric times to the present day. Displays are in several ground floor rooms, and you can see how the buildings have been much altered by successive bishops. There is also a cafe. For full details of all opening times go to the Fulham Palace website.

In the seventeenth century the gardens of the palace were famed for their exotic plants and trees, but sadly most of these are now lost.There is a pleasant lawn at the back of the palace which provides a lovely setting for picnics. The woodland walk where some of the old trees remain is a great place for children to play.

If you turn right as you come back into the west courtyard from the palace, you can walk alongside the lawn to get to the walled gardens.  Go past the episcopalian sculptures grouped on and around the silver trunk of a dead cedar tree (for more details of ‘The Bishops’ Tree’ go to ‘The Gardens’ section of the palace website) and walk past the eighteenth-century extension with its 'gothick' windows. At the top of the lawn go through the ancient brick archway which leads into a knot garden and new glasshouses.  It's a delight to see this area brought back to life after years of dereliction.  Nearbye is an orchard, with a romantic view of All Saints.  Return to the lawn area and go along the left-hand path, then right by the old holm oak tree, passing the Victorian chapel.

Once back at the entrance of the palace, turn left and go towards the   Thames. Walk left along the embankment back towards Putney bridge. This stretch of the river has splendid views, first of trees across the water, then of a collection of boathouses – this is Boat Race country, remember. If you are here in March you might see the University crews training – a beautiful sight. At low tide a gang of cormorants and a heron may be seen fishing near the bridge. Alternatively you can pick up the woodland walk mentioned above - it can be accessed from several points to the south of the lawn.

[Football fans might like to walk for five minutes in the other direction to see the historic frontage of Fulham Football Club ]*

When you reach Prior Bank Gardens, turn left, passing a café, and return to Fulham High Street. Cross at the lights and go left, passing the Larrick. Turn right into New Kings Road. You will see the sign for the Tube station, but walk just round the bend of the road to see a bottle kiln. This is all that is left of the Fulham Pottery (the first commercially successful stoneware pottery in England ) which was founded by John Dwight in 1672. Most of the other  buildings were demolished in 1977.  For a description of how a bottle kiln works, click here .

An in-depth history of the whole  area will be found here.

Make your way back towards the Tube (via the signed alleyway that runs alongside the railway bridge), continue past the station and go left under the bridge. Look up and you will see the WW2 pill box still perched on the northern end of Putney Bridge. This emotive reminder of London's more recent history looks most precarious.  You can get another view of it from the station platforms.   Incidentally, I love the funny little green staircase that leads to an office. It's halfway up the steps leading to the London bound platform. Somehow it seems in tune with the general quirkiness of this fascinating area.


Photos: Click to enlarge
View across Thames to All Saints Church
Fulham Palace Courtyard
Fire Insurance plaque
Powell Almshouses/monument in All Saints (to right of altar)
Bishops Park - the bridge is actually made of iron.
The Lodge
View of Palace looking west 
Knot garden
Bishops' Tree
Fulham Football Club
Kiln from Fulham Pottery
WW2 pillbox from ground level. Pill box as seen from Putney Bridge station
Staircase at Putney Bridge station

*Those liking long walks might be tempted  to link this route with the ramble which starts at Hammersmith Bridge. I did try this, but frankly found the section of the Thames Path between Fulham FC and Chiswick less interesting  than most. It takes more than twenty minutes and goes inland a couple of times.  Most of the original warehouses have been demolished and replaced by modern housing of no particular merit. Having said that, a walk by the river is always entertaining. If you do decide to do it, keep a close eye open for the alleyways that lead back to the river. Although signposted 'Thames Path'  they are easy to miss - especially as last time I was there one had been pushed round to point inland!

Putney Bridge is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR