Importance of the garden
The Fulham Palace garden’s Grade II* listed status recognises its international importance.
The second oldest botanic garden in London, it came to prominence in the mid-16th century under the careful cultivation of Bishop Grindal. He sent grapes from the garden to Queen Elizabeth I every year and introduced England’s first tamarisk plant on the site.
But it was as a garden of the Enlightenment that Fulham Palace become famous. Bishop Compton, who lived at the Palace during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, was an enthusiastic collector of rare plants.
Using seeds and cuttings sent back from around the world by a network of plant hunters and collectors, he would experiment with different growing techniques in the garden. Among the plants he grew was the first magnolia in Europe – the Magnolia virginiana from North America.
In the 17th and 18th centuries visitors came to marvel at Bishop Compton’s collection of over 1,000 ‘exotics’. His great passion led to financial troubles and after his death parts of Compton’s collection were sold to pay off debts, while others were donated to the Oxford Botanic Garden.
The gardens of Grindal and Compton were largely replaced by the 1760s, but one witness to their time here remains — for over five centuries our ancient holm oak has been part of Fulham Palace. Standing majestically near the southwest corner of the walled garden, it’s among the oldest holm oaks in Britain and has been designated a Great Tree of London.
Plan your visit and discover more about our botanic garden.
Portrait of Henry Compton by Sir Godfrey Kneller, oil on canvas, circa 1712 © National Portrait Gallery licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.