Fulham Overview

Above: View of Fulham across the Thames from Putney. Part of Putney Bridge is to the left and All Saints, Fulham, is the parish church.

In spite of the labels on the Google map that show the name ‘Fulham’ at the centre of the Metropolitan Borough, the old village of Fulham was near the Thames and one or two old buildings remain today to prove it. The village of Fulham developed to the SE of Fulham Palace. Fulham was originally the only village within the ancient parish although there are other small hamlets that developed and they are indicated by a small YELLOW dot on the map below. It will be seen that there are three of these – Walham Green, Parson’s Green and Sands End.

A look at the area in further detail will reveal an area called Earl’s Court. This is not in Fulham but in Kensington. It takes its name from the Earls of Oxford – Lords of the Manor of Kensington. A place name which is in Fulham is Baron’s Court which is the name of a late 19th century development. to the west of North End Road. It was given the name by its owner – Sir William Palliser – alluding to the ‘Court Baron’ held by the Lord of the Manor.

The original Parish of Fulham originally covered all land of Fulham and Hammersmith. Hammersmith did not become a separate parish until as late as 1834. There is no known reason why the village of Fulham was formed – other than to comment that it probably developed due to the community that was employed to work on the land at Fulham Palace. That, therefore, begs the question as to why Fulham Palace was built beside the Thames, to which there is no particular answer either.

The original parish church is All Saints, know to be in existence in 1242. The present building dates from the 1880s. From this ‘mother’ parish several other parishes have been formed, particularly in Victorian times. All Saints stands very close to the north bank of the Thames. Unusually, at this point on the Thames, there was a parish church at either side – All Saints, in Fulham, and St Mary the Virgin, in Putney. This state of affairs remained for several centuries until, in 1729, the first Putney Bridge was erected and the two churches were seen to be at either end of a bridge crossing.

The other question that needs to be asked is ‘How did the name of Fulham come about?’. The earliest mention was as ‘Fulanham’ in AD 704-05. The derivation of the name is not known but one theory is that the name means ‘Fulla’s ham’ or ‘Fulla’s farm’ (‘ham’ meaning a ‘farm’ or ‘homestead’). A second theory, on similar lines, is that ‘hamm’ means ‘pasture or low-lying ground’ which could be taken to mean ‘Fulla’s low-lying ground or pasture’ (within the bend in the river). A third theory is that the name arose as ‘fowl-ham’ because of the large number of wild fowl that would have been seen on the marshy land beside the Thames. No definitive theory has ever been put forward.

The principal building in Fulham is the large moated property, called Fulham Palace, which was the residence of the Bishops of London from AD 704 until recent times. As can be seen from the map, Fulham has a long riverfront and several grand houses were built on the land beside the Thames – in order to take advantage of the pleasant views in a rural setting. Only Hurlingham House remains from those days, now converted into a club-house.

Above: Google map showing the Metropolitan Borough of Fulham. The YELLOW line shows the pre-1965 boundary between the two Metropolitan Boroughs – Fulham (to the south) and Hammersmith (to the north).

All of Fulham was once flat, marshy land. Over the centuries it was used mainly for farmland and, by the 17th century, was in use as large market gardens – supplying fruit and vegetables to the markets of London.

Gradually the land was used for housing and, by Victorian times, there were endless roads lined typically with terraced houses. It was very much a working-class area. With the decline of factories in Inner London and with the high demand by wealthy office-workers, seemingly ridiculous prices are paid for those small houses today. As Chelsea and Kensington became saturated with rich householders, the focus of attention by estate agents has been on Fulham and Hammersmith. Now that these areas are becoming full of 30-somethings, all with good jobs and often double-incomes, the demand is now spreading over Battersea and Wandsworth Bridges to ’take over’ the once working-class streets of Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney.

Until the 1970s and 1980s, there was plenty of light industry in Fulham, particularly on large wharves beside the Thames. The factories have, in the main, all closed and their sites have become up-market gated communities for the rich.

Within the area of the old Metropolitan Borough of Fulham is Queen’s Club – famous for tennis. To the south, in extensive grounds beside the Thames, is the Hurlingham Club – probably most famous for the game of polo. In addition, there is provision for golf, croquet, lawn tennis, cricket, bowls, squash and even skittles.


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