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A mini history of Putney

The history of Putney tells about its strategic position on the outskirts of London. The relationship with the river Thames and London have been the change agents. Moreover, the only point between the Strand and Richmond with gravel terrain reached the river, making it a suitable crossing point to the north side of the river.

Pre-history of Putney map
Putney and Roehampton Past by Dorian Gerhold

Excavations revealed Palaeolithic hand axes, Mesolithic and Neolithic flints, pottery and Bronze Age axes.

Roman Putney

Archaeological excavations revealed Putney’s history back to Palaeolithic activity. Nevertheless, most of the prehistoric elements are of later prehistoric periods. Archaeological studies show the proximity of those settlements to the river. 

As Londinium was the centre, Putney would have been essential to provide food. The new city would have also attracted more visits to Putney as they travelled through Upper Richmond Rd or along the river.

Roman coins and pottery indicate a possible settlement by Bemish Rd and Felsham Rd, with the High St possibly as the centre of the Roman Putney.

Roman history of Putney map
A Brief History Putney & Roehampton by Scott MacRobert

Medieval, Elizabethan and Stuart history

In the Domesday Book, Putney is named Putelei. It describes it as having a very small population, possibly limited to the current area of the High Street. Furlongs or shots divided the rest of the land. These were under the administration of the manor court. Locals cultivated these plots and used them for farmland after the harvest.

The construction of houses on either side of the main settlement clearly shows the current High St. The main focus of attraction, as had been in previous periods, is the river and the ferry.

Apart from residents, people related to the court in London and merchants established Putney as their second residencies. The Putney Debates during the period of political turmoil after the First Civil War show the town’s strategic position at that time.

The junction between the town centre and Upper Richmond Rd became a space for confining stray animals. Beyond, the land of open fields continued to belong to different manors and remained open until the 1640s. In some cases occupied by farms.

Mediaval division of plots in Putney
Putney and Roehampton Past by Dorian Gerhold

Georgian Putney

At this time in history, it was officially the town of Putney, an act of parliament that allowed for the construction of a wooden bridge; from 1729, Fulham became accessible without the aid of the ferry.

During this period, villas extend from the High Street to the top of Putney Hill and later to the lower part. The preference to build manor houses shifted from the town centre to areas away from it. As Putney became more populated, an interest in privacy triggered the construction of walls to enclose grounds previously open.

In between the active Hight Street and the grounds at the top of Putney Hill, laid Lime Grove. 

Victorian Putney

In 1846 the railway reached Putney with the Richmond line. This and constructing the current bridge, built in 1884, would change Putney’s history forever.

The original station was substituted by the current one in 1886 when the line was widened to four tracks. Although the new means of transport initially did not seem to make much of an impact, the impact of London being just 20 minutes away started to build up. The large houses became under pressure for development. All the grand houses of the sixteenth century along the High Street disappeared. Later in the century, the pressure moved towards the upper parts around the Heath, where houses were converted into flats or absorbed by institutions.

Lime Grove house was demolished in 1862. And in the 1870s, this became one of the first areas developed in Putney. The new developments consisted of small villas built on the divided grounds of the manor houses. As development spread, the houses became smaller.

Graph of Putney's population graph
A Brief History Putney & Roehampton by Scott MacRobert
Example of division of big plot in Putney Hill
Putney and Roehampton Past by Dorian Gerhold

Modern Putney

During the War, Putney, like London, was affected by bomb damage. The reconstruction effort following the War encouraged the construction of new buildings to signify prosperity. The villas along Putney Hill remained until the 1970s, when some Victorian villas were demolished to allow for blocks of flats, like Hill Court, Braefoot Court and FairLawns.

Are you curious about the history of your building in Putney? Historic Building Studio can do this for you: Historic Research of your Property.