In and Out of London Or, the Half-holidays of a Town Clerk

Loftie, W. J.





THERE is perhaps something of paradox in saying that, though Fulham Manor House is, in all probability, the oldest villa residence in England, it has not a single feature which dates further back than the middle of the sixteenth century. Yet undoubtedly


the manor belonged to the Bishop of London long before the days of the Confessor, even though we hesitate to accept Wharton's dicitur that it was granted to St. Erkenwald by Tyrhtilus of Hereford in or about the year , with the consent of Sigehard, King of the East Saxons, and Conrad, King of the Mercians. Bishop Erkenwald is no more a mythical personage than his recent namesake, Bishop Archibald; nor yet is Bishop Tyrhtilus. But all we know with certainty of Fulham is that before the Conquest it was held directly of the King-by the service of praying for the royal soul; and that it was probably granted to an early Bishop by the King himself. In point of antiquity as an episcopal residence, Hartlebury almost equals it. The Bishops of Worcester have resided there since the foundation of the see, but, like Fulham, little or nothing remains to it of any building erected before the fifteenth century. In historical interest Fulham far surpasses its western contemporary, for all the Bishops of London have occupied it; and some of the most important events in the annals of the Church have their scenes laid within its boundaries. It has never indeed vied with , except in its superior antiquity. Nor has it, like the Kentish manors of the Archbishops, been at any time deemed worthy of royal envy. Its nearness to London seems even to have saved it from the perils of any royal visits except those of the progress- loving Elizabeth and James. And perhaps this very


nearness has also saved it in other ways, and will account for its being so little known among sightseers. It is too far for the regular London visitant, and too near for a special excursion. Parties of pleasure to Putney or Wimbledon point, as they cross the bridge, to the buried among its trees: a certain air of mystery seems to hang over it,-no one has time to stop and go out of the way to visit it. And so it has remained where it was placed a thousand years ago or more, till the very earth all around it has grown up and helps to hide it from the great city which surges, street after street, villa after villa, up to the very moat, and, passing by, gathers again on the other side, but leaves it alone.

There is a sleepy air about it too. The little red court, the quiet gardens, the dark trees, slumber in the summer sunshine: in winter they seem to hibernate. When the Bishop holds a reception, and Compton's fine avenue by the moat, and the little entrance lodge, and the low gateway echo with the driving of carriage wheels, while clerical friends and gaily dressed ladies exchange salutations on the sandy sweep or the smooth-turfed lawn, the genius of the place seems to vanish. To recall it we must visit Bishop Tait's chapel, or the library of Bishop Porteus at opposite extremities of the garden front, and while studying the brown-backed folios, or scanning the solemn row of portraits, or endeavouring to identify the mitred escutcheons in the


windows, to renew the memories which still haunt the place, and people it with figures more in accordance with its historical dignity. It is true, this range of building is wholly modern. Fulham was visited in by Vanbrugh and Wren- ominous names-and all that lay to the northward, the bake-house, the pastry-house, and many other (now disused) offices of the ancient Episcopal menage, were removed, while in more recent times all that now fronts to the east was built, to use the words of Brewer,

in a style eminently chaste.

Still, some sixty rooms were left in the older part; and to improve or restore these has been, though in a languid way, befitting the character of the house, the object of several successive occupants. Bishop Blomfield and Archbishop Tait are to be thanked for a more active course. Most of what is interesting now was preserved and created by their care. The history of the house is clearly written on its walls and in its surroundings. The new chapel, the substantial rooms toward the garden, the red gables of the older part, the venerable trees, the church beyond just rising above the intervening foliage, are all crowded with memories more or less sacred. The very incongruities and anachronisms of the building have their story. The summer house, in which Bishop Bonner examined his victims, nestles under the trees which Bishop Compton planted; while the sunshine enters Bishop FitzJames's hall through windows dight with the heraldry of Bishop


Tunstall and Bishop Blomfield, and rests warmly on the carved mantelpiece and panelling of Bishop Sherlock.

The name of Bonner seems to call up the clearest, if one of the least pleasing, pictures. Many attempts have been made of late to whitewash his character, with but indifferent success. A stain is upon his hand which all the perfumes of Araby will not remove. He and his coadjutor Gardiner were both men of base birth, and both connected apparently with some of the highest in the realm; but Bonner owed his advancement to his own talents, and to the skilful use he made of the opportunities afforded him by the very movement he afterwards attempted with such violence to repress. The same vehemence which excited him so strenuously against the Reformers had in his youth supported him against the Pope himself; and while we reprehend the passion which blinded him in the furious zeal of his later years, we must not forget the strong influence which, in the commencement of the struggle, his unflinching character had exercised. He had assisted to mould the mind of the nation: when the mould had hardened, all his efforts were in vain to break it, though he dashed himself against it with the reckless daring of his nature. When we think of him wearing out his last years in the confinement of the Marshalsea, like Jeffries in the Tower at a later date, we cannot but picture to ourselves a terrible vision of disappointment


and rage. Ten years elapsed before his body was worn out; yet even then it was deemed unsafe that he should be buried in the sight of the people. His coffin was carried at midnight to the neighbouring parish church in Southwark, while his successor at Fulham writes to Cecil to announce the funeral, and adds, perhaps in unconscious irony, the unconcerned postscript:-

My grapes this year are nott yet rype.

So much for Bishop Bonner! The same grapes were destined to cause Bishop Grindal considerable uneasiness, and we somehow do not feel sorry for him. A few days after the burial he writes again:-

I hear that some fault is found with me abroad for sending of my servant lately to the court with grapes, saying one died of my house of the plague, as they say, and three more are sick;

but the charge was untrue.

Between Bonner and Grindal properly comes a greater name than either. Nicholas Ridley held the see after the first deposition of Bonner and until the death of Edward. There is little to connect him with Fulham, yet that little is to his honour. He charitably allowed the mother of his predecessor to reside at his manor house, though her presence must have been extremely distasteful to his scrupulous mind. Archbishop Heath, too, shared his toleration and hospitality; but found it convenient when faggots were blazing to forget both.

There were quiet days after the fiery tempest, while Aylmer rested at Fulham from the fatigues


and dangers of exile, and was censured by the Sabbatarians for playing in the bowling green on Sunday afternoons; while Fletcher repaired the hall, and offended the Queen by marrying Lady Baker; while Bancroft called meetings of the learned and projected the new translation of the Bible, which he did not live to see completed; while Vaughan preached by his good life,


as says in his quaint way,

a very corpulent man, but spiritually minded ;

until at length we come to the stirring scenes in which Bishop Laud took part, the storm that burst in the days of Bishop Juxon, the war, the camp at Putney, the bridge of boats, the King at Hampton Court, and the Lord General with the City forces billeted at Fulham. Then exile again, followed a second time by years of peace, till Bishop Henchman died in , and was buried in the middle aisle of the church, under an inscription setting forth his gravity and clemency,

quae vel in vultu elucebant

(which even shone forth in his countenance;

) and Compton succeeded, in the days of the Declaration, when the Archbishop and he and five others of his rank were committed to the Tower, and were tried and acquitted in Westminster Hall.

The figure of Compton is a prominent one at Fulham. His father was a Royalist Earl killed at Hopton. He himself began, as a cornet in the Horse Guards, the longest public life in the lists of the Bishops of London. The tutor of Mary and of


Anne, his sympathies were all with the Orange party and against the policy and court of James. His suspension from the exercise of the duties of his office during the last two years of that reign was the cause of a retirement to Fulham, the marks of which are still, after the lapse of two centuries, plainly visible. The trees planted by Bishop Compton are yet pointed out; and the story is still told under their shade of the old trooper who took horse and escaped to William with the Princess Anne riding behind him. Even such a service was not, however, remembered to his advantage under the new regime, and the coveted Archbishopric never reached him; though he lived to be of the trio who, in , could say that the Cathedral of St. Paul had been built under one Bishop, one architect, and one clerk of the works. In his later years he retired altogether to Fulham, and here, in , he was buried in the churchyard, under a plain tomb bearing a Greek inscription, below the east window of the chancel. He had said what many generations failed until our own day to impress, that the church was for the living, the churchyard for the dead; and his good example was constantly followed in after years. A long array of episcopal monuments towers on either side of his modest tomb, Bishop Lowth and Bishop Sherlock occupying the highest places in the goodly company; afar off, in a retired corner overshadowed by trees, in earth which he had himself


consecrated, is the grave of Bishop Blomfield, while a simple tablet in the porch is erected by his friends and neighbours, and close to it is the little monument he had placed to the memory of his son, lost at sea.

Nine of the Bishops sleep in the churchyard, including Gibson, Hayter, Robinson, and Randolph. Bishop Porteus was buried at Sundridge, among the Kentish hills. He was the courtly prelate who replied to Queen Charlotte's question,

May I knot on Sunday ?

with the polite ambiguity,

You may not;

and is remembered with gratitude both at Fulham and Sundridge, for to his successors in the see he gave his valuable library, and to the poor of the country parish a handsome sum for the dowry of the village maidens and the pension of the widowed matrons.

The church itself, which is only separated from the Episcopal demesne by the churchyard, although singularly unattractive outside, is worth a visit. The tower alone is ancient, but has been recently repaired with such success that there is little air of antiquity remaining to it. The body of the church is not older than the reign of Queen Anne, and is oppressed with heavy galleries and proprietary pews. But the monuments, which are numerous, are worthy of inspection, the largest of them being in the porch under the tower, while two more are in the chancel, and the only ancient brass to be seen is beside the vestry door. Lady Legh, with her


twins, is a good example of the seventeenth-century taste; and we ask in vain, as we read her epitaph, whether she is the heroine of the nursery rhyme ? The great structure which commemorates Lord Mordaunt, with a mendacious pedigree at one side, and gauntlets, coronets, and shields all around, and which resembles so closely a fountain with a statue in the centre, is in the porch, and opposite to it the tablet of Sir William Butts, " Gulielmi Buttii," the physician of Henry VIII.

In the churchyard, besides the graves of the Bishops, there are some interesting monuments.


One in the south-east corner is decorated with the insignia of a lord mayor, and, though sadly neglected, covers the founder of the Child family and the first possessor of Osterley Park. Near it is what we are disposed to consider one of the two oldest relics remaining at Fulham, either in the Manor House or the church; this is a brick archway in the wall, and a door which formerly led towards the Thames, but by the accumulation of centuries it is now buried more than half its original height. A similar doorway is in the garden wall, and has over it the arms of Bishop FitzJames. A pleasant aisle of limes arching overhead conducts the visitor from the church to the street past the handsome row of almshouses and the vicarage; or if he turn his back on these it will lead him to the river side and the Bishop's Walk, along the moat and gardens past the house, and so back to the entrance; while overhead the rooks caw in the trees in which their forefathers built when the place received its name of the Fowls' Home, a thousand years ago or more.