|Bishop's Park *||Hammersmith & Fulham|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Bishop’s Park first opened as a public park in 1893. The site formed part of the lands of the adjacent moated Fulham Palace, residence of the Bishops of London from the early C8th until 1973. As Fulham was being built over, Bishop's Meadow was donated to the Fulham Vestry for a public recreation ground with the proviso that the riverside would be embanked to prevent flooding. The park was extended in 1900 and 1903, when a lake that had a sandy 'beach' was constructed. Recreational facilities included bowling greens and tennis courts and until 1959 the park had a bandstand, replaced by an open air theatre for a time.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
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The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Bishop’s Park opened as a public park in 1893 and is on the former land belonging to the medieval Fulham Palace (q.v.), which was owned by the Bishops of London. There is evidence of human settlement in this area for some 2,000 years, with Roman presence followed by Saxon farming. The name Fulanharn or Fulanham is first recorded in the C7th and in 701, when the Manor of Fulham was granted to the fifth Bishop of London, Bishop Waldhere, there was a church on the site of the current parish church of All Saints (q.v.). In the winter of 879 Viking raiders camped on the Meadow following their defeat in battle by King Alfred. They had demolished London Bridge, the only bridge over the Thames at that time, before rowing up the Thames to Fulham. While here they may have dug the moat, although archaeological excavations indicate it may date back to pre-Roman times. Fulham Palace, which is reputed to be the largest moated site in Europe, was built between 1500-20 by Bishop Richard Fitzjames, and was one of the earliest brick buildings in England. Henry Compton who was Bishop from 1675-1713 was a keen gardener and arranged for rare plants to be shipped back from the colonies by the Anglican settlers in North America for whom he was responsible. As a result the plant lists for Fulham Palace garden included Lebanon and Virginian Red Cedars; black walnut, honey locusts, Judas and tulip trees; Indian bean trees, a cork tree and clustered pine. Compton's gardener at Fulham was George London, who founded the famous nursery in Brompton. Bishops before and since Compton are known for their interest in horticulture, including Bishop Edmund Grindal (Bishop from 1559-70) who sent Elizabeth I grapes from his garden at Fulham Palace, and Bishop John Jackson (Bishop from 1869-85), for whom Sir Richard Owen identified the trees of Compton's introduction and who was responsible for the creation of Bishop's Park as a public park.
Before housing development covered much of Fulham in the latter part of the C19th the area was known for its nursery gardens, particularly for specimen plants and trees, and by the mid-C19th market gardens, orchards, nurseries and grazing had covered the area. The arrival of the London and South-Western Railway in 1880 led to the expansion of the local residential population and in 1884 Bishop Jackson persuaded the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to donate a 2-hectare strip of land known as Bishop's Meadow to be laid out as a public recreation ground in perpetuity. This was located between the Palace moat, the river and the south-west boundary of the grounds. It had once been osier and grazing land but by the late C19th was regularly flooded and a marshy site. The donation of Bishop's Meadow came with the proviso that the river was to be embanked, a major undertaking for the Fulham District Board of Works. In 1886, the new Fulham Vestry applied to the LCC to take on the park but the latter was unwilling to do so although it granted £5000 towards the project together with a loan of £15,000, which enabled the Vestry to start erecting the riverside wall in 1889 at a cost of £12,000. While this was under discussion, Bishop Frederick Temple, who succeeded as Bishop of London in 1885, added West Meadow to the proposed park, located to the north-west of the main approach to Fulham Palace, which enlarged the site to 5ha. The park was laid out by the surveyor to the Vestry, J P Norrington, and works were supervised by Mr Webb, their chief outdoor assistant, with plants supplied by Robert Neal, a nurseryman in Wandsworth. Both embankment and park were completed in 1893 and Bishop's Park was formally opened in December, an immediate success with the public.
The Vestry then purchased the house and gardens of Pryor's Bank between the south-east boundary of the new park and Putney Bridge, and the embankment was extended to the bridge. This was opened as a public garden in 1900, and remains a distinct garden within the park, Pryor's Bank Gardens (q.v.). There were plans for further extensions to the park and in 1899 Bishop Mandell Creighton (Bishop from 1897-1901) donated two riverside meadows to the north, and this park extension was opened in 1903. At the south end of the park extension, to the north-west of the bandstand, a children's playground was laid out, designed by the Borough Surveyor, Francis Woods. Enclosed by terracotta balustrades that sport the insignia of the Fulham Vestry, this area had a crescent-shaped lake with rustic bridge and wild flower grotto, and a viewing platform with a shelter. A bowling green was also provided. Part of the lake formed a children's paddling area with a very popular sandy 'beach', which was known as The Sands or Margate Sands since that was where the sand came from. The king gave a pair of swans when the park extension was opened in 1903. This area was later remodelled in the mid C20th to provide a paddling pool, sandpit, boating pool, play area and shelter.
The park retains much of its original design today, with the main entrance in the north-east on Bishop's Avenue with its early C20th iron gates and railings. This main avenue, which also leads to Fulham Palace, has mature plane trees along its length and to the north-west of this are two bowling greens, which were provided in 1908, one laid out on part of the site of greenhouses that supplied plants for Pryor's Bank floral displays. Tennis courts were also provided nearby and a sports pavilion is now on the site of the former West Meadow. The park had a popular bandstand until 1959, when it was replaced by an open-air theatre, itself removed in c.1970 and replaced by an open play area. Alongside the former Bishop's Meadow, a grassed area surrounded by mature trees, runs Bishop's Walk, which had been established as a public right of way in the C18th leading to the church. Until shrubs and trees screened them from view, the Palace grounds and moat were visible from Bishop's Walk. The Embankment Walk forms the riverside boundary of the park, running from Pryor's Bank Gardens in the south to Craven Cottage in the north, abutting the grounds of Fulham Football Club. In 1973 Robert Stopford was the last Bishop to live at Fulham Palace, after which they moved to central London and the Palace is now a museum. There are various sculptures in Bishop's Park, Fulham Palace and Pryor's Bank Gardens. In the park is a stone sculpture of a woman, 'Eve' (1933) by Edgar Allan Howes (1888-1969), who had a studio at St Peter's Square (q.v.). This had been presented by Howes to the Council in 1952 and was originally positioned in the courtyard of Hammersmith Town Hall. It was removed in 1960 to make way for car parking and later erected here by the ornamental lake when the park was refurbished in 1974. Another sculpture by Howes is in St Peter's Church (q.v.).
In 2008 a design masterplan was developed for Bishop's Park and submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, outlining substantial improvement plans for Bishop's Park and the grounds of Fulham Palace. In March 2010 the HLF awarded Hammersmith & Fulham Council £3.65m towards the £7m restoration project and Vinci Construction were appointed to undertake the works, which are due for completion in late 2011. The works in Bishop's Park include restoration of the 'beach', the ornamental lake and its rustic bridge leading to the picnic area, and the late C19th café building. Three play areas are also being created. The Fulham Palace moat will be partially excavated at the Gothic Lodge, which will be repaired.
See EH Register: Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); Bishop's Park Conservation Area and Character Appraisal, 1998; S Crutchlow, 'A Short History of Bishop's Park Fulham' (unpublished dissertation for Garden History Diploma at Birkbeck College, 1998); Fulham Chronicle, 22 June 1900, The London Argus, 25 July 1903. John Archer, Daniel Keech 'Nature Conservation in Hammersmith & Fulham', Ecology Handbook 25, London Ecology Unit, 1993; Barbara Denny, ''Fulham Past', Historical Publications, 1997; W J Drinkwater, P J Loobey and K Whitehouse, 'Fulham and Hammersmith: A Portrait in Old Picture Postcards', SB Publications, 1993; See also Hammersmith Council website Historical Sculptures Search