Discover more about the garden
Fulham Palace gardens are protected as an important historic landscape. Once enclosed by the longest moat in England, 13 acres remain of the original 36. The surviving layout is mainly 19th century with an earlier walled garden and some 18th century landscaping and includes many rare trees.
The ancient evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) is estimated to be at least 450 years old and is a Great Tree of London. It may have been planted by Bishop Grindal (1559-1570), who sent grapes grown at the Palace to Elizabeth I each year.
The most celebrated gardening Bishop was Henry Compton (1632-1713) who developed a famous collection of plants, both hardy and exotic. The grounds were landscaped for Bishop Terrick in the 1760s during the rebuilding of the house. The formal enclosed gardens were replaced with open lawns providing views to the river.
The grounds of Fulham Palace have always served a variety of purposes; providing food for the household, a beautiful garden for relaxation and space, for both recreation and hospitality. The celebrated garden parties began with Mrs Tait in the 1860s. Bishop Creighton (1843-1901) exhausted his guests by taking them for fast walks around the garden. Bishop Winnington-Ingram (retired 1939) had a grass tennis court on the south west side of the lawn. A bachelor, he opened up his house to convalescent children from the East End slums and allowed fetes in the grounds. After World War II, the estate had to be run on more economical lines and the gardens went into a gradual decline. In 1974 the gardens were opened to the public, a year before Hammersmith Council leased the site for 100 years.
Garden History and Botanical Firsts
The estate grounds were originally much more extensive, including the river meadows and the Warren, which was once a hunting park to provide food for the Palace table. From 1917 the site was converted into allotments and some 400 plots remain cultivated today.
Though the gardens became prominent when Bishop Grindal (1559-1570) imported and successfully cultivated the first Tamarisk tree, it was Bishop Compton (1675-1713) who gave the Palace gardens world significance. There were few botanical gardens in London at this time. A serious student of botany, he was keen to import rare species. As Bishop of London, he was responsible for the Church of England overseas, including colonies in America, the Caribbean and outposts in Africa and India. He arranged for Reverend Banister, himself an able botanist, to be sent to Virginia as a missionary in 1678, and to send back seeds and cuttings, which Compton then grew at Fulham. Consignments were sent in 1638 and 1688. The first magnolia in Europe was grown at the Palace Magnolia virginiana, and other species were planted such as the Cork oak, Quercus suber, the Black walnut, Juglans nigra, and maples, some of which are still represented in the grounds.
The fame of the gardens spread and visitors (including John Evelyn in 1681) came to Fulham to inspect the trees, and over a thousand ‘exotics’ were grown in stove-houses. Compton also received seeds from other parts of the world and was part of a group of botanical enthusiasts who met at the Temple Coffee house to exchange information and seeds. One of Compton’s gardeners was George London who went on to found the nursery of London and Wise at Brompton.
As Compton’s successor, Bishop Robinson (1713-22) was more interested in edible plants and many of the rare plants were sold or removed, although Compton did leave some to the botanic garden at Oxford. However, the major change in the garden came with the new building of the 1790s when a number of trees were removed; “in order to fit up the new garden some fine trees were thrown down” (Dr John Hope 1766). Later Bishops however, continued the earlier traditions and kept careful notes of the trees they planted and the height and girth of Compton’s surviving trees; which included the Black Walnut, in 1793 measuring 11’2” and by 1865 15’5”. Sadly the original no longer exists but today there is a there is a large representative specimen growing on the north side of the main lawn.
The museum collects evidence relating to the gardens history such as the 1869 inventory which includes the contents of the kitchen garden history, such as the 1869 inventory which includes the contents of the kitchen garden and outbuildings. The University of Tennessee emphasises the importance of Compton to botanical history, and collects illustrations of the species he grew.
The Bishop’s Tree
A recent addition to the gardens has been ‘The Bishop’s Tree’. Sculptures by Andrew Frost depicting some of the bishops and their animals have been applied to the stump of the Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) on the north side of the building. Dolores Moorhouse commissioned the sculptures in memory of her late husband, Peter Moorhouse. Visitors, particularly children, delight when they see Bishop Porteus looking out across the lawns from the top of the tree.
There is a further Andrew Frost sculpture in the woodland walk to the south of the garden.
Walled Garden Restoration
The Walled Garden was closed in October 2010 to allow restoration and building works to commence. There have been dramatic changes to some features of the garden during the works that completed in March 2012.
The garden paths are now laid out in their traditional position, the Knot Garden replaced and replanted in its original 1830s design, the walls repointed and repaired, the entrance gates maintained and replaced, the adjacent bothies which were completely derelict have been restored and the once shell of a vinery has been completely rebuilt.
The recently replanted Knot Garden has established well, with no signs of box blight, and in April 2012 received a first trim to allow formal shaping. The earliest image of the Knot Garden is in Jessie MacGregor’s 1915 painting, where it is filled with irises and roses and shows a young wisteria with original metal hoops. From the 1980s it was planted as an herb garden, which became overgrown and was removed in 2010.
We are very grateful to the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding the new planting scheme for the Knot Garden. They have generously awarded the Fulham Palace Trust £1500. The Knot garden was planted up in Spring 2012 with an herbaceous perennial display to represent Bishop Blomfield who is believed to have planted the Knot Garden originally in 1831 during the start of his residency at the Palace. The new scheme represents the colours of his Coat of Arms – red, blue and yellow to provide a colourful display in summer and early autumn.
We are also very thankful to the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association http://www.mpga.org.uk/ who have kindly donated £405 to fund another themed ornamental planting area in the Walled Garden. To highlight and make reference to the Bishop of London’s historic residence of Fulham Palace we are going to grow the range of Bishop Dahlia’s that are currently available. This will make a stunning and striking display for mid to late summer. The Bishop Dahlias are as follows.
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of Oxford’
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of York’
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of Leicester’
- Dahlia ‘Bishop of Dover ‘
The early Victorian bothies that are situated on the outer side of the Walled Garden directly behind the Vinery have also been fully restored. The gardens team has moved in and been reunited with its traditional working quarters. The bothies consist of a series of small brick rooms that run along the curved perimeter directly behind the vinery and include a potting shed, tool shed, produce storage rooms and the head gardener’s office.
The vinery, understood to have been built in the early 1830s, is now a stunning new Alitex metal-framed glasshouse with three separate sections. Electric heaters have replaced the original boiler and water pipe heating system, though the old pipes remain in their original positions, reminding us of how it used to be. See the following links from the Alitex website for further images and footage of the vinery works.
Fulham Palace Vinery and Alitex: A Replication Case Study (external link)
Victorian greenhouses – restoration or replacement? (external link)
It is proposed that a mixture of traditional and modern horticultural techniques will be adopted for the new vinery. In Victorian times the glasshouse was intended to grow grape vines and pineapples – a ‘pinery vinery’. The intention is to grow these again in the east wing and centre, as well as other horticultural crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. The west wing will house an ornamental plant display. Some space will also be allocated for propagation to bring on early outdoor crops.