Crossing the River

It may be obvious to many but ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ (as lawyers say) it should be noted that the FERRY sign painted on the wall in Bishop’s Park (shown in the tweet and photograph from Fulham Palace below), does not refer to the ferry that linked Fulham with Putney before the bridge was built. The original ferry operated from about the time of the Domesday Book until 1729, when the first Fulham Bridge was built and the ferrymen and owners of the rights to the ferry were ‘bought out’. That ferry operated from a draw dock at The Swan in Fulham to a slope at the end of Brewhouse Lane on the Putney bank. Both these locations were a short distance downstream of the present Putney Bridge (see map in Fulham Bridge 1729-1886, The Predecessor of Putney Bridge by George and Michael Dewe: Fulham & Hammersmith Historical Society).

The FERRY sign which is still visible is at the top of Bishop’s Park Upper Stairs; some distance upstream of Putney Bridge. These stairs are part of the embankment wall, which forms the riverside edge of Bishop’s Park, and was built between 1889 – 1893. The seventh edition of the Geographers’ London Atlas shows a ferry linking this point in Bishop’s Park to a point known as Putney Hard on the Embankment at Putney. Although undated, this map dates from between 1972-1992 when the publisher’s address changed.

It appears that this ferry was not a necessary transport link but was another recreational facility available to users of the park. A former resident of the area told me that she could remember going on it as a childhood treat as recently as the 1950s. There seems to be much less written information on this ‘recreational ferry’ than there is on the original pre-1729 ferry.

See here for more information about the names and locations of stairs on the Thames.