The Palace architecture
Fulham Palace was for centuries one of the country residences of the Bishop of London, (Lord of the Manor of Fulham) and in the later twentieth century became his only home. The Bishop now lives close to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The building is a mixture of styles and periods, and what survives is a Tudor manor house with Georgian additions and a Victorian chapel. The house was occupied by the Bishop until 1973, by which time he lived in a flat within Fulham Palace, the majority of rooms being used as offices, as they still are today.
The present buildings date from the 15th to 20th century and are Grade One listed. This reflects their national importance and secures their future. There were earlier buildings on the site, and the first mention of a bishop living at Fulham is when Bishop Robert de Sigillo was captured here in 1141 and held to ransom. By the 13th century the Palace occupied its present position centred on the now hidden East Courtyard. Evidence of medieval walls has been found by archaeologists, both in the cellars and under the lawns.
Fulham Palace still belongs to the Church and has been run by the Fulham Palace Trust since April 2011.
The West (Tudor) Courtyard
This is the earliest part of the surviving building. The Great Hall with its impressive (though concealed) timber roof circa 1495 is the oldest part of the building. Not visible from ground floor level the roof was altered in 1750, 1815 and 1866. The Great Hall served the vanished medieval palace which was concentrated around the East Courtyard. The hall has been used as a banqueting hall, drawing room, chapel and dining room. The lower ceiling was inserted in the mid-18th century, and the panelling and screen in the 19th century. The windows have been remodelled several times.
In the early 16th century most of the present West Courtyard was built to provide larders and other stores as well as accommodation. An entrance porch and the tower, similar to the one at the Old Palace, Hatfield, were also added. The porch was remodelled for Bishop Howley circa 1815. Further space was required, and more rooms were built to the south, where the arms of Bishop Fitzjames (1506-22) can still be seen. These also appear on the 16th century entrance to the Walled Garden, just off the main lawn.
The south façade was refaced in 1853 as indicated by the dated badge of Bishop Blomfield. The fountain is by William Butterfield (1885), as is the Coachman’s Lodge (1893) at the main entrance gates at the top of the drive. Gothic Lodge circa 1815, architect unknown, is a good example of its type. The pink colour was applied after scientific analysis. The wooden gates at the entrance to the courtyard have been dated by dendrochronology ( the analysis of patterns of tree-rings) to 1495.
In the 18th century Bishop Robinson (1713-23), displeased with the state of the Palace, successfully petitioned Archbishop Tenison to demolish much of it and rebuild.
The single block on the north façade was built for Bishop Sherlock (1764-77) and incorporates a late medieval wall on the south side. This room with its magnificent rococo ceiling circa 1753 was the main focus of phase one of the restoration project, of 2005-6, with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£3.027m).
Gothic Revival Additions
For Bishop Terrick, architect Stiff Leadbetter provided three new facades in the fashionable Strawberry Hill style in the 1760s, including a new chapel. The whole axis of the Palace shifted to its present arrangement emphasising the views from the house to the river, with appropriately landscaped gardens. A new suite of rooms was added and the chapel built on the site of the medieval cellars. The windows of the north façade remain, as well as three altered rooms on the south. Two of these rooms are now known as Bishop Terrick’s Drawing and Dining Rooms and house the Palace Gallery.
Architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell altered the Palace circa 1815 for Bishop Howley who disliked the “Gothic nonsense” of his predecessor. The Palace front was given its current form by removing the crenellations, adding an extra floor and drastically remodelling the East elevation. The chapel was converted into the Porteus Library and the hall into an un-consecrated chapel. The rooms now named Bishop Howley’s Drawing and Morning Rooms today function as The Drawing Room Café.
The current chapel is the fourth chapel at Fulham Palace, though not on the current chapel site. The Victorian Chapel (Butterfield 1867) was altered in the 1950s for Bishop Wand following damage during World War II. Containing murals by Brian Thomas (1953), a window by Ninian Comper (1953) and with Victorian glass by Clayton & Bell it is consecrated and remains the private chapel of the Bishop of London. It is possible to hold a service of blessing and prayer in the chapel following a civil marriage at Fulham Palace.
These rooms form part of the alterations made to the East front circa 1815. Formerly a dining room and library, they now house a permanent display detailing the history of the Palace. The library, now known as Porteus Library, also houses the museum shop. The Museum opened in 1992 with new displays installed in 2007. A model of the Palace (scale 1:50) by Ben Taggart is also on display in the Museum.