Nestled in a bend in the river, Fulham was originally a parish containing a handful of villages.
The -ham bit of “Fulham” is most likely from the Old English hamm, meaning the land in a river bend, rather than from ham, meaning a village. The “Ful” part of the name is probably from the Old English version of “fowl”, presumably for the waterfowl and other birdlife which once frequented the area. It has nothing to do with the chickens adopted in 2012 by Fulham Football Club.
The biggest of Fulham’s villages was Walham Green, a name nobody uses now, although Fulham Broadway tube station was called Walham Green until 1952. The village that actually bore the name of Fulham was a fishing settlement by the river where a bridge now leads over to Putney. Originally it was a ferry crossing, but Civil War roundhead general Robert Devereux had a pontoon bridge built in 1642 to get his troops across, and prime minister Robert Walpole backed a permanent bridge after he couldn’t get back home one night in 1720 because the ferryman was busy having a pint. Originally made of wood by local carpenter Thomas Phillips, the new structure was called Fulham Bridge before Putney nicked its name.
Fulham Palace was home to the bishops of London from at least the 1080s until 1973, and once had the biggest domestic moat in England. Next door, the local parish church of All Saints still has a tower dating from 1445-odd. Parsons Green is so called because the rector’s house used to be next to the green. But Eel Brook Common may have nothing to do with eels, as it used to be called “Hell Brook Common”, originally perhaps “Hill Brook Common” after the hill at its northern end.
Unlike neighbouring Chelsea, Fulham’s never been too arty-farty, but it has been pretty arty and crafty in its time. The painters Evelyn De Morgan and Edward Burne-Jones – who both hovered somewhere between the the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Pre-Raphaelites – lived in Fulham in the late nineteenth century. The Fulham Pottery made stoneware here from 1672 until 1956; one of its old firing kilns is still there on Burlington Road. Also still standing is the Glass House on Lettice Street, where Lowndes & Drury produced wonderful stained glass for most of the twentieth century.
The border between Fulham and Chelsea was a river called Counter's Creek. Now buried underground, it resurfaces to empty into the Thames by Lots Road Power Station at Chelsea Creek. Stamford Bridge, the location of Chelsea Football Club’s home ground, was a bridge over Counter's Creek, and has nothing to do with Stamford Brook, which is on the far side of Hammersmith.
Fulham was one of London’s original metropolitan boroughs until 1965. It had its own MP until 1997. Now however, it shares its local council with Hammersmith and its MP with Chelsea.