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Archaeology and the Palace

Think about the last time you visited Fulham Palace. Would you be surprised to learn that you’d followed a route 4,000 or more years old?

Every archaeological study at the Palace has produced rich evidence of a long and busy history. And we see hints of amazing stories, quietly waiting to be found. Please read on to see how you can get involved…

The island of Fulham Palace

As much as 10,000 years of the Palace’s history has been shaped by one ancient spring. Rising at Colehill, at the top of Bishop’s Avenue, it fed a stream that split in two around the junction of Bishop’s Avenue and Fulham Palace Road. One stream flowed west and one flowed south into the Thames around Putney Bridge, turning our site into a natural island.

Prehistoric Fulham Palace

Our earliest archaeological finds are from the Mesolithic – between 9,600 and 4,000 BC. Neolithic pieces at the Palace and around Fulham, concentrating around the spring, litter a path from between 4,000 and 2,200 BC. From Putney, our ancestors forded the river near Putney Bridge and then passed across the Palace site and along the Fulham Road. Today, they could cut their journey time by taking the Number 14 bus.

The first farmers’ markets in Fulham

During the Bronze Age – from 2,600 BC – fields and cattle took over. Fulham was farmland. Our digs at the Palace have found evidence of this peaceful life until the Early Iron Age, around 700BC.

And then everything disappears. The travellers and the farms are gone.

A legionary’s sword points to Rome

In AD 1887 a Roman Legionary’s sword was found in the mud of the Thames. Beautifully preserved, it is known as the Fulham Sword and now lives at the British Museum.

Archaeological digs since have uncovered pottery, building materials and evidence of paths and roadways. Did a Roman villa stand on our site?

Some time between AD 395 and AD 402, the final shipment of bronze coins from Rome arrived in Britain. One of these precious coins was found in a trench in our orchard, linking us to the very end of Roman Britain’s history.

Saxon squatters and the beginnings of Fulham Palace

When the Romans left Britain, Saxons took over many of their buildings. Saxon finds around London are rare, but we have recovered two pieces of pottery dated from between AD 400 and AD 600.

In AD 704 our connection with the Bishops of London begins. Bishop Waldhere bought this site as part of an estate so big, we can hardly imagine it today: all of Hammersmith and Fulham, Acton, Ealing and Finchley belonged to him.

Was there a Saxon Manor house here? Archaeological work northwest of the Palace found an area of ditches and moats that enclosed what would have been a safe spot for a grand home.

Vikings invade Fulham Palace

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle – a sort of hand-written Wikipedia of its day – states that in AD 708 Fulham Palace was home to a Viking encampment for a year or two. Sadly, we haven’t made any Viking archaeological finds, but it’s easy to hope the Chronicle’s description is true.

A grand Medieval moat

At some point between the Norman Conquest and the late 14th century, the Palace became the largest domestic moated site in England.  By digging and channeling the ancient streams, a grand moat – the ‘magna fossa’ – was created and it circled the Palace site completely.

At first, a bishop’s manor stood north-west of today’s Palace and we have found an ancient bridge from around AD 1270, which crossed the moat beside today’s bridge.

Familiar Fulham Palace

At some point in the mid 13th Century, the decision was made to move the manor house. The old site was abandoned and buildings sprang up around what is now our eastern courtyard.  The history of the Palace and the buildings that we see today begins here.

The future

Join us on our journey to uncover more of the secrets of Fulham Palace’s past. There is so much more to learn about this amazing site, which was first designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1987!


Bottom image copyright Pre-Construct Archaeology
Archaeology and the Palace
Archaeology and the Palace
Archaeology and the Palace
Archaeology and the Palace
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