PutneyThis south-west London Thames-side district (and the bridge named after it), traces the origin of its name back to Saxon times.

Putney2Recorded in the Domesday Book as Putelei and known in the Middle Ages as Puttenhuthe, it apparently goes back to a Saxon named Puttan who lived in the area and the Old English word ‘hyp’, which means ‘landing place’. Hence, “Puttan’s landing place” (or Puttan’s wharf).

Putney has something of a storied history – it was the birthplace of Tudor heavyweight Thomas Cromwell, Georgian-era author Edward Gibbon and it was here, in the still-standing parish church of St Mary the Virgin (pictured), that the Putney Debates were held in 1647 among members of the New Model Army.

The first bridge was apparently built here in the first half of the 18th century and the present stone bridge in the 1880s.

Today a sought-after riverside residential district, Putney boasts a sizeable high street, great riverside pubs and eateries and is particularly popular every April when The Boat Race is held between Oxford and Cambridge universities thanks to the starting point being just upstream of Putney Bridge.

The area also is home to the 400 acre Putney Heath (which adjoins Wimbledon Common), a popular site for duels in the 18th century, and also home to a stone and brick obelisk, erected in 1770 to mark the 110th anniversary of the Great Fire of London (more on that in an upcoming post).

The 161st Boat Race is on this weekend and will once more see Oxford and Cambridge rowing crews battling it out in their annual contest on the Thames. The day’s schedule of festivities kicks off at noon at Bishop’s Park near the race’s starting point just west of Putney Bridge and at Furnivall Gardens near Hammersmith Bridge but the main highlights don’t take place until late in the afternoon – the Newton Women’s Boat Race at 4.50pm and the main event, the BNY Mellon Boat Race, at 5.50pm. The race runs along the Thames from Putney Bridge through to Chiswick Bridge with plenty of vantage points along the way. The tally currently sits at 78 to Oxford and 81 to Cambridge. For more information, including where to watch, head to http://theboatraces.org/.

• Prospective “Designs of the Year” are on display at the Design Museum in Shad Thames ahead of the announcement of awards in May and June. With the awards – handed out in six categories – now in their eighth year, the 76 designs on display include Google’s self-driving car, the Frank Gehry-designed Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris and Asif Kahn’s experimental architectural installation Megafaces which debuted at the Sochi Olympics as well as Norwegian banknotes, a billboard that cleans pollutants from the air and a book printed without ink. Runs until 23rd August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.designmuseum.org/exhibitions/designs-of-the-year-2015.

On Now: Heckling Hitler: World War II in Cartoon and Comic Art. Showing at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, this exhibition explores how World War II unfolded through the eyes of British cartoonists. It features more than 120 original drawings and printed ephemera and while the focus is largely on those contained newspapers and magazines, the exhibition does include some sample materials from books, aerial leaflets, artwork from The Dandy and The Beano, postcards and overseas propaganda publications as well as some unpublished cartoons drawn in prisoner-of-war camps and by civilians at home (the latter on scrap paper from the Ministry of Food), and even a rare pin cushion featuring Hitler and Mussolini. Among the artists whose works are featured are ‘Fougasse’ (creator of Ministry of Information posters reminding the public that ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’), William Heath Robinson and Joe Lee. The exhibition runs until 12th July. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.cartoonmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/heckling-hitler.

On Now: Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London. This exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch explores the places inhabited by London’s poor during the 19th and 20th centuries and brings them to life through paintings, photographs and objects as well as the retelling of personal stories and reports. Starting in the 1840s, the exhibition charts the problems faced by London’s poor and examines the dirty and cramped conditions of lodging houses, workhouses and refuges where they took shelter along with, for those even less fortunate, the streets where they slept rough before moving on to some of the housing solutions designed specifically to help the poor. Runs until 12th July. Admission charge applies. Running alongside the exhibition is a free display, Home and Hope – a collaborative exhibition with the New Horizon Youth Centre which explores the experience of young homeless people in London today. For more, see www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions-and-displays/homes-of-the-homeless/.

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Fulham-PalaceThis Thameside area in London’s west has a long and storied history and its name is a reflection of it.

Long home to the ‘country’ manor of the bishops of London (Fulham Palace, pictured above), the name Fulanham is recorded as early as the late 7th century.

While there’s been speculation in the past that the name Fulham (also recorded among other variations as Fullam) was a corruption of ‘fowl-ham’ – relating to the wild fowl that were to be found here – or of ‘foul-ham’, relating to the muddied waters, that’s now apparently generally deemed not to be the case.

Instead, its name most likely owes its origins to an Anglo-Saxon named Fulla and the Old English word ‘hamm’ – a term for a water meadow or piece of land enclosed in a bend in a river (in contrast to the more common ‘ham’ which refers to an estate or homestead) – and referred to the manor he owned here, its boundaries set by a bend in the Thames. (It should be noted there is evidence of earlier occupation of the site by the Romans and as far back as the Neolithic era).

In about 700, the manor of Fulham – which includes the area we now think of as Fulham as well as land stretching as far afield as Acton, Ealing and Finchley – was acquired by Bishop Waldhere of London from Bishop Tyrhtilus of Hereford. Since Tudor times, Fulham Palace was used as the country home of the bishops of London and in the 20th century became their principal residence. It was used as such until 1975 and now houses a museum and reception rooms.

As well as now being used for the area which once contained what became the village of Fulham itself, since 1979 the name has also been used in that of the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Interestingly, Fulham Broadway tube station was known as Walham Green when it first opened in 1880 and was only given its current name in 1952.

The bishop’s palace (and the nearby riverside Bishop’s Park) aside, other landmarks in the area include the Grade I-listed All Saints Church, which is largely late Victorian and which hosts the grave of abolitionist Granville Sharp, and the nearby Powell Almhouses which date from 1869.

It’s also linked by Putney Bridge with Putney on the other side of the Thames; the current bridge is the work of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and was built in 1882 – it replaced an earlier wooden bridge built in 1729 and overlooks where the annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race begins (other bridges spanning the river from Fulham include the rather ugly Wandsworth Bridge).

Known during the 18th century as something of a mecca for gambling, prostitution and other debauched leisure activities, these days Fulham is known for its football club, Fulham FC headquartered at Craven Cottage stadium (named for a cottage owned by Baron Craven which once stood here), shopping and is a sought-after residential location.

 Diver Tom Daley’s swimming trunks, cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ yellow jersey and a Mary Poppins outfit worn in last year’s Olympic Games’ opening ceremony are among the items on display as part of the Museum of London’s 2012 display. The free display, which opened last week, exactly 200 days after the Paralympics closing ceremony, features a selection of 70 items connected with the Games. Runs in the Galleries of Modern London until 31st October. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

Oxford took line honours at the 159th Boat Race, held on the River Thames last weekend. The Dark Blues – whose crew included Olympic medalists Constantine Louloudis and Malcolm Howard – still trail Cambridge (the Light Blues) – whose crew included another Olympic medallist, George Nash, however, with 77 wins to 81 wins. For more, see www.theboatrace.org or our previous articles – here and here.

Kew Garden’s historic Temperate House has received a £14.7 million Lottery Fund grant for conservation of the Grade One listed building, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. The grant – which adds to £10.4 million from the government and £7.7 million from private donors – will also be used to create a “more inspiring” public display for visitors with the overall £34.3 million project completed by May, 2018. The building opened in 1863 and was last refurbished 35 years ago. It houses some of the world’s rarest plants, including a South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). For more, see www.kew.org.

On Now: Phantom Ride. This “haunting” film installation by artist Simon Starling was commissioned by the Tate Britain in Millbank and is located in the neo-classical Duveen galleries. Referencing the late nineteenth century tradition of ‘phantom rides’ – films, often made by cameramen strapped to the front of a train, that gave a dramatic sense of motion as if one is aboard an invisible vehicle – the installation includes a “compelling flow of images” of artworks that once filled the Duveen galleries, creating a sense of movement as the works move up and down the walls. Admission is free. Runs until 20th October. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

Now officially known as the BNY Mellon Boat Race, the annual rowing event between Oxford and Cambridge universities was first held at Henley on Thames in 1829, moving to London for the second event in 1836 and becoming an annual event (with the exception of the two world wars) in 1856.

One of the most controversial races ever held – and next year’s will be the 159th – was in 1877 when the race, run over a four mile, 374 yard course which starts in Putney in west London and taking in a great bend of The Thames as it goes past Chiswick and Hammersmith, finishes at Mortlake, ended in a “dead heat”.

The drama began as the boats passed Barnes Bridge, about three-and-a-half miles through the course, when one of the blades of the Oxford team’s oars broke after striking rough water. Oxford (wearing dark blue) had been leading the race and the incident is believed to have helped Cambridge (wearing light blue) to draw level – so much so that both crews are recorded as having passed the finish line in 24 minutes and eight seconds.

It’s the only time the race has ever finished in a draw and there was, as might be expected, significant controversy over the result. With no finishing posts then in place, the judge, a waterman from Fulham named ‘Honest John’ Phelps, had to decide the result from his place in a small skiff on the water (and, according to the official Boat Race website, it is believed he was in a position to do so and not dozing under a bush as others have suggested).

His skiff, it is believed, may have drifted off the finish line. In addition, it was not the only craft on the water and it’s believed that the other craft filled with people eager to see the result, may have partially obscured his view. Even if they hadn’t, his was a tough task.

As was recorded in The Times (with thanks to Wikipedia):  “Cheers for one crew were succeeded by counter-cheers for the other, and it was impossible to tell what the result was until the Press boat backed down to the Judge and inquired the issue. John Phelps, the waterman, who officiated, replied that the noses of the boats passed the post strictly level, and that the result was a dead heat.”

Oxford, however, thought they had won by a matter of several feet and it’s believed that as a result Honest John announced the result as “dead heat to Oxford by five feet”. The result was later confirmed as simply a “dead heat”.

The controversy did lead to some changes – including the introduction of finishing posts – a stone on the south bank and a post on the north – and the passing of the role of judge to members of the two universities instead of a professional waterman.

Following this year’s race (also rather controversial – see our earlier article here) Cambridge has 81 wins and Oxford 76. For more on the history of the Boat Race see our earlier entry here or visit www.theboatrace.org.

 • Cambridge took the line honours over Oxford in this year’s Boat Race on the Thames in what has been billed as one of the most dramatic races in its 158 race history. The race was interrupted when a swimmer, described as an anti-elitist protestor, was spotted in the water and, following a restart near the Chiswick Eyot, the boat crews clashed oars and one of the Oxford crew lost his oar’s spoon. Cambridge pulled steadily ahead with Oxford an oar down and was declared the winner by four and a quarter lengths. The presentation ceremony was subsequently not held after Oxford’s bow man collapsed and was rushed to hospital where was reported to be recovering well. The win takes Cambridge’s victories to 81 compared to Oxford’s 76. For more, see http://theboatrace.org. (For more on the history of the Boat Race, see our entry from last year).

Epping Forest’s bluebells are out in force and to celebrate the City of London Corporation is holding a series of events including an art exhibition at The Temple in Wanstead Park. The exhibition, Out of the Blue, celebrates the bluebells of Chalet Wood and features a “miscellany of bluebell images, artwork, folklore and fairies”. A free event, it runs until 27th May. This Sunday the Temple will also host an art afternoon with local artist Barbara Sampson and on 29th April photographer Robert Good will hold a course on photography around the forest. Both are free events. For more details, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/epping.

• “Porky pies” (lies) is the most used Cockney phrase, according to a survey of Britons on their knowledge and use of Cockney. The Museum of London survey of 2,000 people, including 1,000 from London, also found that “apples and pears” (stairs) was the most well-known Cockney phrase and that while a majority of people knew what common phrases like “brown bread” meant (in this case dead), only small percentages of people used them. And while 63 per cent of respondents believed Cockney slang was crucial to London’s identity, 40 per cent were convinced it is dying out and 33 per cent were sad at its passing. Strictly speaking, a ‘Cockney’ is someone who was born within the sound of bow bells at the church of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, but according to Alex Werner, head of history collections at the museum, “people from all corners of London identify themselves as being Cockney”. He said that while for many people “Cockney rhyming slang is intrinsic to the identity of London”, the research the Cockney dialect “may not be enjoying the same level of popularity”. The research found that among the least known Cockney rhyming slang phrases included “white mice” (ice), “donkey’s ears” (years), and “loop de loop” (soup). For more from the museum, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

• The life of influential newspaper editor and Titanic victim, William Stead, will be celebrated at a two day conference next week. Hosted by the British Library, in association with Birkbeck College and the University of Birmingham, the conference will feature 40 speakers from around the world. Stead, who was editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, was a controversial figure who is credited with being one of the inventors of the modern tabloid. He died on the Titanic‘s maiden voyage – the 100th anniversary of which is being marked this month. W.T. Stead: A Centenary Conference for a Newspaper Revolutionary takes place from 16th to 17th April, 2012. Tickets (£45 for one day or £85 for two days) can be booked by visiting the box office in the St Pancras building or phoning 01937 546546. The programme for the conference can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/stead2012/.

• On Now: Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt. The National Gallery is hosting a new exhibition focused on the then young artist’s creation of the magnificent painting The Flight into Egypt in the 16th century. The artwork, lent to the National Gallery by the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, has recently been restored and the exhibition represents the first time the painting has been seen outside Russia since 1768 when Empress Catherine the Great purchased it in Venice. Admission is free. Runs until 19th August. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

PICTURE: Oxford celebrate their win. Source: Getty Images

Last weekend saw the running of the 157th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race from Putney to Mortlake on the River Thames in London. Oxford this year added to its tally with a victory which now has the running scores as 80 Cambridge, 76 Oxford.

The origins of the race go back a friendship between two men who’d met at the prestigious Harrow School – Charles Merivale and Charles Wordsworth (incidentally, the nephew of the poet William Wordsworth). Merivale went on to attend Cambridge and Wordsworth, Oxford. The first race was organised after Cambridge challenged Oxford.

The first race, said to have been watched by 20,000 people, was held at Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, in 1829 after Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford (Oxford won after a restart). It was such a success that the townfolk decided to organise an annual regatta – the Henley Royal Regatta – but the race itself moved to London with the second event held in 1836.

Initially Westminster was the chosen location but growing crowds led it to be moved again in 1845 – this time what was then the village of Putney, about six miles upstream. It became an annual event in 1856 and has run every year ever since, with the exception of the war years.

The races have featured several sinkings (including 1912 when both boats sank), a win in a blizzard (1952), and a “dead heat” (1877 – although some controversy surrounds how close it was – in any event it was almost repeated in 2003 when Oxford won by just one foot).

Sponsored by Xchanging, the race – in which Oxford traditionally wear dark blue and Cambridge light blue with both teams known as “Blues” – is now watched by some 250,000 people who crowd along the river’s bank as well as millions around the world. Among the traditions which have continued are that it’s the loser of the previous year’s race who challenges the victor to the next race.

For more about the race, see www.theboatrace.org or visit the River & Rowing Museum at Henley on Thames.