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Fulham Introduction

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Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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The mansions self was vast and venerable,

With more of the monastic than has been

Probable Der.vation of the Name of FulhamBoundaries of the ParishThe High StreetEgmont Villa, the Residence of Theodore HookAnecdotes of HookAll Saints ChurchFulham BellsSir William Powells AlmshousesBishops WalkFulham PalaceThe GardensA Bishops Success in a Competition for LyingThe Manor of FulhamBishops Bonner, Aylmer, Bancroft, and JuxonThe MoatCraven CottageJew King, the Money-lenderThe Crab TreeThe Earl of Cholmondeleys VillaFulham CemeteryThe Golden LionThe Old WorkhouseFulham at the Commencement of the Last CenturyFulham Road, Past and PresentHolcrofts HallHolcrofts PrioryClaybrooke HouseThe Orphanage HomeFulham AlmshousesBurlington HouseThe Reformatory School for FemalesMunster HouseFulham LodgePercy CrossRavensworth HouseWalham LodgeDungannon House and Albany LodgeArundel HouseSad Fate of a HighwaymanPark HouseRosamonds BowerParsons GreenSamuel Richardson, the Author of Pamela, &c.East-end HouseMrs. Fitzherbert and Madame Piccolomini Residents hereSir Thomas BodleyEelbrook CommonPeterborough HouseIvy CottageFulham Charity SchoolsThe PotteryA Tapestry ManufactoryA Veritable Centenarian.

The parish of Fulham, upon which we now enter, lies in Middlesex, about four miles south-west from Hyde Park Corner, and covers a large extent of ground, the greater part of which, down to comparatively recent times, was laid out as marketgardens; and the parish still contributes largely to the daily supply of Covent Garden. Originally, Fulham was much larger than now, for it included Hammersmith within its limits; and even at the present time it has an area of nearly 4,000 acres. Antiquaries have differed as to the origin of the name of Fulham; but the usual, and perhaps most probable, derivation is from the Saxon Fullenhame, which means the resort or habitation of birds. It was so called, it is supposed, from the abundance of water-fowl found here, and it would be difficult to imagine a place more fitted for the resort of such birds than Fulham must have been before the river was embanked, when the land for some distance from the stream was a mere swamp, and, in many places, under water at every high tide. The place, we are also told, abounded in trees, which gave them shelter. Camden, in his Britannia, derives the name from the Saxon word Fullenham, or Foulenham,volucrum domus, the habitation of birds, or place of fowls. Norden agrees with this etymology, and adds, It may also be taken forvolucrum amnis, or the river of fowl; for ham also, in many places, signifiesamnis, a river. In Sommers and Lyes Saxon Dictionaries it is calledFullanham, orFoulham, supposed from the dirtiness of the place.

It is Pennants opinion that as far back as the days of the Romans all the land round Westminster was a flat fen, which continued to beyond Fulham.

The parish of Fulham is, or was, separated on the east from Chelsea by a rivulet, which rises in Wormholt Scrubs, and falls into the Thames opposite to Battersea; on the west it is bounded by Chiswick and Acton; on the north by Hammersmith and Kensington; and its southern boundary is the river Thames. Notwithstanding its distance from London, Fulham is now joined on to the great city by lines of houses which extend along the high road on either side. Near the entrance to the village, by the Fulham Road, there are several antiquated-looking family mansions, standing in their own grounds, and almost shut in from observation by stately elms and cedars. The High Street, which branches off at right angles towards the bridge, has the dull, sleepy aspect of a quiet country town: many of the quaint old red-brick houses, with high-tiled roofs, carry the mind of the observer back to times long gone by. As viewed from the Thames, the scene is far different: here we have, on the one hand, prim villas embosomed in trees, with lawns and gardens sloping down to the water; and on the other the old parish church, backed by the trees surrounding the palace of the Bishop of London.

Close by, to the left, on entering Fulham from the bridge, on the spot now occupied by the abutment of the aqueduct, formerly stood Egmont Villa, some time the residence of Theodore Hook, of whom we have already had occasion to speak in our accounts of Berners Street and Sydenham.(fn. 1)It was about the year 1831 that Hook, who had been for years the lion of West-end parties, and the wit of all London circles, took up his abode here; having got rid of his house in Cleveland Row, he became the tenant of a modest cottage close to the bridge, with a small garden sloping towards the river. Here he spent the last ten years of his life, entertaining politicians, statesmen, men of letters, and even royal dukes, and, in fact, most of those who had idolised him as the accomplished editor ofJohn Bullin its early and palmy days.

As a wit and humourist, and as a diner, Theodore Hook enjoyed a high reputation in his day; but his jokes, on some occasions, took that practical turn which became reprehensible. He had, besides, a happy knack of dining, uninvited, at the houses of strangers. In this he was successful, no less by his unblushing impudence than by his really remarkable powers as animprovisatore. The following story of his ability in this way has been often told, but will bear repeating:On one occasion he and his friend Mathews,(fn. 2)the actor, found their way into the mansion of a gentleman who was entertaining a select company, and having spent a pleasant evening, to the great confusion and wonderment of the host, to whom Hook and his friend were perfect strangers, but very agreeable companions, the intruders were about to depart, when the gentleman of the house begged to be favoured with their names. Whereupon Hook seated himself at the pianoforte and explained himself in the following extemporaneous verse:

I am very much pleased with your fare;

My friend here is Mathews, the player,

Passing one day in a gig with a friend by the villa of a retired London watchmaker at Fulham, Hook pulled up, and remarked that they might do worse than dine in such a comfortable little box! He accordingly alighted, rang the bell, and on being introduced to the gentleman, coolly told him that, as his name was so celebrated, he could not help calling to make his acquaintance! Hook and his friend were invited to stay to dinner, and after spending a jovial afternoon, they set out for home; but on their way thither the gig, owing to their unsteady driving, was nearly smashed to pieces by the refractory horse.

Barham, in his Life and Remains, tells us that a friend once said to Hook, while looking at Putney Bridge from the garden of his villa, that he had been informed that it was a very good investment, and asked him if it really answered. I dont know, replied Theodore; but you have only to cross it, and you are sure to be told (tolled).

It is on record that when Sir Robert Peels first administration was formed in the year 1834, the Lord Chamberlain sent immediately for Hook, and offered to him the Inspectorship of Plays, then held by George Colman the younger, in case the ailing veteran could be prevailed upon to resign. The office was perhaps the only one which he might have received, without exposing his patrons to disagreeable comment; but their kindness was fruitless. George Colman being an old friend, Hook felt some delicacy in communicating the suggestion to him, and the government was again changed before the negotiation could be completed. Almost immediately afterwards Colman died, and Charles Kemble was appointed in his room; and he again had resigned in favour of his accomplished son before Lord Melbournes ministry was finally displaced. Their fate was announced on the 30th of August, 1841, but ere then Theodore Hooks hopes and fears were at an end. His death is thus mentioned by Mr. Raikes in his Diary:Sunday, 29th August.The English papers mention the death of Theodore Hook, which has been accelerated by his love forbrandyand-water. He was a very good-natured, clever man, and a popular novel-writer of the day. His social and convivial talents rendered him a welcome guest; but when the juice of the grape had lost its exhilarating power he took to spirits to keep up the stimulus; under which excitement he gradually sunk.

Theodore Hooks character is summed up by Mr. W. Thornbury, in his Haunted London, as a man of unfeeling wit, a heartless lounger at the clubs, and a humbly-bornflaneur, who spent his life in amusing great people, who in their turn let him die at last a drunken, emaciated, hopeless, worn-out spendthrift,sanscharacter,sanseverything.

The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, stands near the river-side, at the end of Church Lane, and the west side of the churchyard abuts upon the moat which bounds the east side of the palace grounds. It is an ancient stone building, consisting of nave, aisles, and chancel, with a tower at the western end. The edifice is built of stone, but, with the exception of the tower, to a great extent covered with plaster. Bowack, in describing this church in 1705, says: It does not seem to be of very great antiquity, the tower, at the west, being in a very good condition, as well as the body of the church; it has not been patched up since its first erection, so as to make any con siderable alteration in the whole building; nor have there been any additions made, as is usual in ancient structures, except of a small building for a school, &c., at the north door; but both tower and church seem of the same age and manner of workmanship. So far as the body of the fabric is concerned, it has not much architectural beauty. It has been well described as little else than a collection of high pews and deep galleries contained within four walls, pierced at intervals with holes for the admission of light; in fact, one of the worst specimens of those suburban churches which have of late years so rapidly and happily disappeared before the growing taste for a purer and more devotional style of church architecture. The only portion of it which has any architectural pretension is the east end of the north aisle, which was built in 1840.

The large east window, of five lights, is filled with stained glass, and one or two others have also coloured glass in them, in the shape of armorial bearings; but most of the windows are modern, with semi-circular heads, and without tracery. The tower of the church, however, is a feature of which Fulham is deservedly proud. It consists of five stages, and, like its twin-sister at Putney, is surmounted by battlements, with a turret rising well above them. The date of its erection is uncertain, but it was probably in the fourteenth century. It has, however, been restored, and some alterations have been made in its details; the large west window, with flowing tracery, is modern. This tower is remarkable as containing one of the finest and softest-toned peals of ten bells in England; they were cast, or re-cast, by Ruddle, in the middle of the last century. Each bell bears an inscription, more or less appropriate: on one Peace and good neighbourhood; on another, John Ruddle cast us all; another has Prosperity to the Church of England; another, Prosperity to this parish; and on the tenth are the words, I to the church the living call, and to the grave I summon all.

The Thames is famous for bells, observed a Thames waterman, in 1829, to a gentleman whom he was carrying from the Temple to Hungerford Stairs. You like bells then? was the answer. Oh, yes, sir! I was a famous ringer in my youth at St. Mary Overies. They are beautiful bells; but of all the bells give me those of Fulham, they are so soft, so sweet. St. Margarets are fine bells, so are St. Martins; but, after all, Fulham for me, I say, sir. But lor, sir, I forget where you said I was to take you to. Such is part of a dialogue on the Thames as narrated by Mr. J. T. Smith, in his Book for a Rainy Day, from which we have frequently quoted.

The monuments both within and without the church are numerous and interesting, notably one to John Viscount Mordaunt, the father of the great Lord Peterborough. Lord Mordaunt, who died in 1675, was Constable of Windsor Castle, and his statue herethe work of Francis Bird, who carved the Conversion of St. Paul on the west pediment of St. Pauls Cathedralrepresents him in Roman costume, holding a baton in his right hand. Within the communion rails is the effigy of Lady Leigh, who is represented as seated under an arch supported by Corinthian columns; she is holding an infant in her arms, and has another child beside her, habited in the dress of the times. The monument is dated 1603. Bishops Gibson and Porteus are also commemorated by monuments in the church. Several of the Bishops of London lie buried in the churchyard, not in the church itself. The example was set by Dr. Compton, who used to say, The church for the living, and the churchyard for the dead. These graves are marked by altar-tombs, for the most part with no other ornamentation than the arms of the diocese of London. Bishop Blomfield, who died in 1857, lies in the new burial-ground, opposite the vicarage. There is a tablet to his memory near the western entrance of the church; it is a plain brass plate, enclosed within a frame of Gothic design. In the churchyard there are other monuments to men of note in our military, naval, and civil annals. In this churchyard, in August, 1841, Theodore Hook was buried in the presence of a very few mourners, none of them known to rank or fame, including none of those who had profited as politicians by his zeal and ability, or had courted him in their lofty circles for his wit and fascination. His executors found that he had died deeply in debt. His books and other effects produced 2,500, which sum was, of course, surrendered to the Crown as the privileged creditor. There was some hope that the Lords of the Treasury might grant a gift of this, or some part of it, to his five children, who were left wholly unprovided for; but this hope was not realised. A subscription was raised, and the King of Hanover sent 500; but few of his old Tory friends aided the widow and orphans with their purse. Such is gratitude!

Among the ornaments of this church is a very handsome service of communion plate. In the report of the commissioners to King Edward VI., in 1552, it is stated that they found in Fulham Church two challiss (sic) of sylver, with pattents, parsell gylte, and a lyttell pyxe of sylver parsell gylte. These still exist, and to them have since been added two very handsome silver flagons. It may be added that in this church was consecrated John Sterne, Bishop of Colchester, one of the last suffragan bishops who were appointed under the Act of Henry VIII., until the revival of the office in recent times.

Faulkner, in his account of Fulham, mentions two fine yew-trees as growing on each side of the principal entrance of the churchyard, and another, very much decayed, on the north side, probably coeval with the church itself.

On the north side of the churchyard are Sir William Powells Almshouses, founded and endowed in 1680, for twelve poor widows. They were rebuilt in 1793, and again in 1869. The almshouses are built of light brick and stone, of Gothic design, and somewhat profusely ornamented with architectural details.

From the western end of the churchyard a raised pathway, called Bishops Walk, leads to the entrance of Fulham Palace. The pathway extends for about a quarter of a mile along the river-side, and has on the right the moat and grounds of the palace, and on the left the raised bank of the Thames.

The Manor House of Fulhamor, as it is now called, Fulham Palacehas been the summer residence of the Bishops of London for more than eight centuries. The present structure is a large but dull and uninteresting brick building, with no pretension to architectural effect. The house and grounds, comprising some thirty-seven acres, are surrounded by a moat, over which are two bridges, one of which, a draw-bridge, separates the gardens from the churchyard. The principal entrance, which is situated on the west side, is approached from the Fulham Road under a fine avenue of limes and through an arched gateway. The building consists of two courts or quadrangles; the oldest part dates from the time of Henry VII., when it was built by Bishop Fitzjames, whose arms, impaling those of the see of London, appear on the wall and over the gateway. The hall, the principal apartment in the great quadrangle, is immediately opposite the entrance. As an inscription over the chimney-piece states, it was erected, as well as the adjoining courtyard, by Fitzjames, on the site of a former palace, which was as old as the Conquest. It was completed by Bishop Fletcher, father of the dramatist, in 1595; used as a hall by Bishop Bonner and Bishop Ridley during the struggles of the Reformation, and retained its original proportions till it was altered in the reign of George II., by Bishop Sherlock, whose arms, carved in wood, appear over the fire-place. Bishop Howley, in the reign of George IV., changed it into a private unconsecrated chapel; but it was restored to its original purposes as a hall in the year 1868, on the erection by Bishop Taitnow Archbishop of Canterburyof a new chapel of more suitable dimensions. The hall is a good-sized room, and contains in the windows the arms of the Bishops of London; it is wainscoted all round, and has a carved screen at one end. Upon the walls hang portraits of Henry VII., George II., Queen Anne, Queen Mary II., William III., Henry VIII., James II., Charles I., and Cromwell, besides two full-length picturesone representing Margaret of Anjou, and the other Thomas Becket.

The new chapel, which is on the south-west side of the older portion of the palace, is a small brickbuilt edifice, erected at the cost of Bishop Tait, from the designs of Mr. Butterfield, and consecrated in 1867. Externally the building has little or no architectural pretensions; but the interior is finished and fitted up in the regular orthodox manner, the chief ornamental feature being an elaborate mosaic reredos, representing the adoration of the shepherds at Bethlehem; it was executed by Salviati from designs by Mr. Butterfield.

One of the most interesting rooms in the palace is the Porteus library, which contains an extensive collection of books, gathered by the divine whose name it bears; it has a large window opening upon the lawn and overlooking the river. Some thousands of volumes, mostly on theological and religious subjects, fill up its ample shelves. There are collections of sermons in abundance, commentaries on the gospels, black-letter Bibles, and a large number of theological works. All around suggests meditation and repose. On one side of the room the windows are emblazoned with the armorial bearings of the different prelates, and on its walls hang the portraits of all the Bishops of London since the Reformation.

All are there, writes Bishop Blomfields son in the Life of his fatherRidley, the martyr; Sandys and Grindal; the ambitious Laud; Juxon, the friend of Charles I.; Compton, who had adorned the palace gardens with those rare and stately trees; the statesman Robinson; the learned Gibson; the divines Sherlock and Lowth; the mild and amiable Porteus, who loved Fulham so well, and thanked God the evening before his death that he had been suffered to return thither to die; and Howley and Blomfield.

The great drawing-room and the dining-room are large and handsome apartments on the east side of the palace, with windows looking out upon the lawn and gardens. This part of the building dates from the time of Bishop Terrick, who was appointed to the see in 1764. It has since been considerably altered and repaired at different times. It is a long, plain brick structure of two storeys, its only ornamentation being an embattled summit.

The palace was considerably altered in appearance early in the last century. Bishop Robinson, in 1715, presented a petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, stating that the manor-house, or palace, of Fulham was grown very old and ruinous, that it was much too large for the revenues of the bishopric, and that a great part of the building was become useless. In consequence of this petition, as Lysons tells us, certain commissioners (among whom were Sir John Vanbrugh and Sir Christopher Wren) were appointed to examine the premises. The purport of their report was, that after taking down the bake-house and pastryhouse, which adjoined to the kitchen, and all the buildings to the northward of the great diningroom, there would be left between fifty and sixty rooms, besides the chapel, hall, and kitchen. These being adjudged sufficient for the use of the bishop and his successors, a licence was granted to pull down the other buildings; and this, it appears, was carried into effect. The present kitchen is on the north side of the great quadrangle; it is a large high-pitched room, and the ceiling is enriched with stucco ornamentation of an ancient character.

From the low situation of the palace and grounds, much inconvenience is at times felt when the Thames overflows its banks. A notable instance of this occurred in 1874, when considerable damage was occasioned. In some of the rooms of the palace the flooring was upheaved and destroyed by the force of the water, whilst a very large part of the palace grounds was flooded for several days.

The gardens are of great antiquity, and have been famous for their beauty and scientific culture since the time of Bishop Grindall, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It appears that Grindall got himself into some trouble by sending some fine grapes to the queen, with whom they disagreed, and the bishop was accused of having the plague in his house, an accusation which he disproved.

According to Fullers Worthies, it was Grindall who first imported the tamarisk into this country. This tree, writes Fuller, hath not more affinity in sound with tamarind than sympathy in extraction, both originally Arabick; general similitude in leaves and operation; only tamarind in England is an annual, dying at the approach of winter, whilst tamarisk lasteth many years. It was first brought over by Bishop Grindall out of Switzerland, where he was exiled under Queen Mary, and planted in his garden at Fulham, in this county, where the soil being moist and fenny, well complied with the nature of this plant, which since is removed, and thriveth well in many other places.

The great gardener of the palace, however, was Bishop Compton, who was banished to Fulham by James II., and remained in the place for two years, attending specially to his garden. In this he planted many exotics and trees from other countries, then almost unknown in England. A great cork-tree, now much decayed, but at one time the largest in England, and also a large ilex, are traditionally said to have been planted by his hands. Bishop Blomfield planted a cedar of Lebanon, which is now a fine tree, though, comparatively speaking but a few years old; but it can scarcely be said to rival its elder sisters.

The grounds of the palace are remarkable for the thickness with which the trees are planted. One bishop having thinned them considerably, Lord Bacon wittily told him that having cut down such a cloud of trees, he must be a good man to throw light on dark places. It may be added that Sir William Watson, who made a botanical survey of the grounds a hundred years ago, speaks of this garden in the following terms, in a report to the Royal Society:The famous Botanical Garden at Fulham, wherein Dr. Henry Compton, heretofore Bishop of London, planted a greater variety of curious exotic plants and trees than had at any time been collected in any garden in England.

Fond as Evelyn was of gardening, as we have already shown in our account of Sayes Court, Deptford,(fn. 3)it is not surprising that we find him a visitor here. In his Diary, under date of October 11, 1681, he writes:I went to Fulham to visit the Bishop of London, in whose garden I saw theSedum arborescensin flower, which was exceedingly beautiful.

Among the curiosities at one time to be seen in the palace was a whetstone, which was placed there by Bishop Porteus under somewhat singular circumstances. The story, showing the bishops success in a competition in lying, is thus told in theNew Quarterly Magazine:

In Elizabethan times the game of brag was very popular. Lying with us, writes Lupton, in 1580, is so loved and allowed, that there are many tymes gamings and prizes therefore, purposely to encourage one to outlye another. In the last century there were several organised Lying Clubs, one of which for many years held its meetings at the Bell Tavern, Westminster. Among other rules of this society were the following:That whoever shall presume to speak a word of truth between the established hours of six and ten, within this worshipful society, without first saying, By your leave, Mr. President, shall for every such offence forfeit one gallon of such wine as the chairman shall think fit. A coarser form of the same intellectual amusement is the custom of lying for the whetstone, which formerly obtained at village feasts in many parts of England. It was perhaps, some popular version of the story of King Priscuss whetstone cut through by a razor which caused this article to be selected as the appropriate prize; it may have been only an ingenious symbolism to express the necessary whetting of the wits; but, at any rate, it was the recognised emblem of lying, and is illustrated by a sarcasm of Lord Bacon upon Sir Kenelm Digby. The latter, upon his return from the Continent, was boasting of having seen the philosophers stone. Perhaps, said the Lord Keeper, it was a whetstone. At Coggeshall, in Essex, there was a famous institution of this kind. There is a story that Bishop Porteus once stopped in this town to change horses, and observing a great crowd in the streets, put his head out of the window to inquire the cause. A townsman standing near replied that it was the day upon which they gave the whetstone to the biggest liar. Shocked at such depravity, the good bishop proceeded to the scene of the competition, and lectured the crowd upon the enormity of the sin, concluding his discourse with the emphatic words, I never told a lie in my life. Whereupon the chief umpire exchanged a few words with his fellows, and approaching the carriage, said, My lord, we unanimously adjudge you the prize! and forthwith the highly objection able whetstone was thrust in at the carriage window. Tradition adds, that in course of time the good-natured bishop forgot the indignity, and began to relish the joke, inasmuch as for many years the identical whetstone occupied the post of honour over the fire-place in his dining-room at Fulham.

The manor of Fulham, we may here state, is one of the oldest in England, having been granted in 631, by the Bishop of Hereford, to Bishop Erkenwald, of London, so that it has existed as an appanage of the see for upwards of twelve hundred years. This manor was originally held by service of prayers and masses for the dead; but at a later period military service was exacted from all holders of manors. The only service now required from the Bishop of London is the maintenance of a watchman to guard the garden and grounds. There is every reason to believe that the manorhouse here was occupied at the time of the Conquest; but the first mention of this was in the account of the capture of Robert de Sigillo, Bishop of London, who was a partisan of the Empress Maud, and was made prisoner and held to ransom by the followers of Stephen. Bishop Richard de Gravesend resided much at Fulham, and died here in 1303. His successor, Richard Baldock, who was Lord Chancellor of England, dates most of his public acts from Fulham Palace; but Bishop Braybroke, who enjoyed the same high office, and presided over the see of London nearly twenty years, seems to have spent but little of his time at this place, as he resided mostly at Stepney. Lysons, in his Environs of London, says that of Bishop Bonners residence at Fulham, and of his cruelties, some facts are recorded in history, and many traditions are yet current. A large wooden chair, in which he is said to have sat to pass sentence upon heretics, he adds, was placed, a few years ago, in a shrubbery near the palace, which gave occasion to an elegant poem, written by Miss Hannah More, who was then on a visit at the bishops. This poem, called Bishop Bonners Ghost, was printed at the Earl of Oxfords private press at Strawberry Hill. One deprived bishop of the English Church, John Byrde (who was the last provincial of the Carmelites, and afterwards became Bishop of Chester), seems to have found an asylum with Bonner, and was living with him at Fulham in 1555. Upon his coming, says Anthony Wood, in his Athenæ Oxonienses, he brought his present with hima dish of apples and a bottle of wine. Bishop Aylmer, or Elmer, was principally resident at Fulham Palace, where he died in 1594. The zeal with which he supported the interests of the Established Church exposed him to the resentment of the Puritans, who, among other methods which they took to injure the bishop, attempted to prejudice the queen against him, alleging that he had committed great waste at Fulham by cutting down the elms; and, punning upon his name, they gave him the appellation of Bishop Mar-elm; but it was a shameful untrut.

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