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thames discovery programme

Putney FWW03
This small zone is approximately 110m long and 50m wide, and is bounded
by Putney Bridge and Putney Railway Bridge. There is access to the site via
stairs immediately downstream of Putney Bridge or from the slipway at the
end of Brewhouse Lane, both at the upstream end of the zone. The
foreshore surface is generally firm and safe although there are some areas
of modern scour.

archaeological and historical background

Putney would have been an attractive location for prehistoric settlement, as it is possible that the
Thames was fordable at this point. However, the scale and continuity of any early settlement is not
known and most of the evidence for occupation during the Mesolithic period comes from isolated finds,
including a concentration of flint flakes noted on the foreshore near Putney Bridge, possibly representing
the erosion of a formerly dry-land area. The Neolithic period is represented on several riverside sites, in
the form of flint assemblages, axes and scrapers. The evidence from the Bronze Age is more limited, as
only a single palstave has been recovered from Burstock Road. However, the existence of a barrow
cemetery at Tibbet‟s Corner, the highest point of land in the area, is intriguing. Unfortunately the site
was destroyed in the 18 century but its presence may suggest the existence of a settlement in the
area, which remains undiscovered. For the Iron Age, excavations at Felsham Road revealed pot sherds
dating to early part of the period, with a later phase of occupation in the late Iron Age / early Roman
period. A possible pile dwelling was excavated on Putney Bridge Road and a coin hoard was recovered
from the foreshore near Putney Bridge itself.

Excavation in areas to the west of the church has found evidence for both settlement and burial.
Structures have been excavated at Bemish Road and Felsham Road, as well as more isolated remains
such as a mosaic fragment from Howard‟s Lane. Part of a cremation cemetery was discovered at the
Platt and further cremation burials have been recorded at Bemish Road. There is also excavated
evidence for road building at Felsham Road and it has been suggested that the importance of the river
crossing led to the construction of a bridge between Putney and Fulham during this period.

early medieval
Although there is very little evidence from excavation, some suggestions can be made about the type of
settlement that may have existed during the early medieval period. It is interesting to note that the very
limited artefactual evidence is largely composed of military equipment such as early and middle Saxon
spearheads recovered from the Thames and a mid Saxon sword or dagger found at Felsham Road.
The importance of the river crossing may have meant the continuity of the Putney settlement, it may
also have meant that the area became a site of conflict and disputed boundaries. The discovery of a
fish trap on the foreshore downstream of this zone dated to AD410-640 lends weight to the theory that a
settlement existed at Putney in the early-mid Saxon period, but the scale and nature of this remains to
be discovered.
That a settlement existed during this period is further suggested by a study of the place name. In the
Domesday Book, Putney is recorded as Putelei. The name is believed to derive from the OE Puttan-
hyb, meaning „Putta‟s landing place on a river bank‟, implying the foundation or continued settlement of
the site during the early medieval period. It is also possible that the early “-ei” place name ending
recorded in Domesday derives from “-eg” („an island…or land partly surrounded by water‟); either
derivation provides an interesting indication of the nature of the local topography. A final indication of
the continued significance of the crossing point is the choice by the Viking force to over-winter during
AD879-80 across the Thames at Fulham. It is possible that the settlement at Putney was abandoned at
times during the later Saxon period, as it may have been difficult to defend and this could account for
the lack of excavated structural evidence.
later medieval
As mentioned above, the Domesday Book provides the first documentary reference to Putney; it was
part of the manor of Mortlake, which was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the assets
listed for the manor are the tolls for the ferry at Putney; the fact that the Bishop of London held the
settlement at Fulham could be a contributing factor to the continued maintenance of the route. It is
known that Putney also played a role as an embarkation point for ferry trips to London and Westminster
during this period for goods and people, including royalty.
Excavated evidence for the later medieval period, with the exception of the church (which was
investigated by the Wandsworth Historical Society during the early 1970s) appears to be somewhat
lacking, although the area is well documented historically. It is highly likely that a chapel existed at
Putney prior to the first documented reference to St Mary‟s in 1291, given the prominent location of the
church next to the ancient crossing point. By 1302, the church was well established and was the site of
an ordination by Archbishop Winchelsea. The community was largely agricultural in nature; although a
more nucleated model probably replaced the earlier dispersed pattern of settlement, with houses
clustering around the focal points of church, ferry point and high street. Evidence for industry is
provided by a tax list of 1332, which includes a glazier and a brewer, however the Black Death of the
mid 14 century probably led to a reduction in population and the contraction of the settlement. This
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trend was reversed during the 15 and 16 centuries as the village was patronised by government
officials, London merchants and, prior to the Reformation, servants of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII‟s chief minister was born in Putney in 1485, and was the first courtier to
hold the manor of Mortlake after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

post medieval
Additions to the body of the church included a chantry chapel constructed in the early 16 century for
the Bishop of Ely, Nicholas West, who was born in Putney. A porch was added on the south side of the
building in 1623 and a vestry was built at the north-east corner in 1629. Internally, the church was also
refurbished during the early 17 century and a gallery was built at the western end. In 1647, the village
was the headquarters of the New Model Army and the „Putney Debates‟ were held in the refurbished
church. In 1836, the church was demolished and rebuilt to the designs of Edward Lapidge, architect of
Kingston Bridge, St Peter‟s Hammersmith and St Andrew‟s Ham. In his survey of riverside parish
churches published in 1897, AE Daniell disparagingly comments of the restoration that the church was
only “redeemed from absolute dreariness by Bishop West‟s chapel”, which had been resited on the
north side of the building. The body of the church was rebuilt in the 1980‟s after it was gutted in an
arson attack and now has an unusual layout with the altar on the north side of the church, rather than in
its traditional location at the east end, so that the congregation sits facing the river.
After the Reformation the manor remained intact, passing through a succession of lay hands before
being acquired by the Duchess of Marlborough in 1720. The village remained popular as a rural retreat
for wealthier members of society and in common with other Thames-side villages saw a number of large
riverside mansions constructed. During the 18 century, Putney continued to flourish as a fashionable
outer suburb and in 1729 a timber bridge was built linking Putney and Fulham. The approach road to
the bridge encircled the west end of the church and a toll house was built immediately to the north.
During the Victorian period, the population increased and by 1914, there were 24,000 inhabitants. It
was during this period of rapid urbanisation, encouraged by the arrival of the railway in 1846, that the
church was rebuilt to accommodate the growing congregation. Since 1925 there has been little new
development, or large-scale clearance and rebuilding, although a large apartment development has
been constructed to the east of the church.
Until 1750, Putney Bridge was the only bridge west of London Bridge before Kingston. It had 26 spans
varying in size from 14 to 34 ft and posed a serious hazard to navigation. In 1870-2, the number of
spans was reduced to 23. The brick remains of south bridge head survive on the foreshore, along with
timbers, which could represent parts of the original structure. The 1729 bridge was replaced by the
present day structure by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1882-6. It was built upstream of the old bridge,
replacing an aqueduct, and the water mains now run under the footways of the bridge. The new bridge
was widened in 1931-3 and extended eastwards, encroaching on part of the churchyard. Since 1845,
the bridge has been the starting point for the University Boat Race.
FWW03 A101 Viaduct Timber structure Chelsea Waterworks Viaduct? Large, close-set piles with cut joints.
FWW03 A102 Consolidation Chalk below gravel. Construction of Putney Bridge?
FWW03 A103 Bridge South bridgehead/toll house, Putney Old Bridge. Brick.
FWW03 A104 Structure (unclassified) Crane base? Stone/concrete structure. Associated with A105.
FWW03 A105 Hard Hard. Large re-used stones, including vousoirs.
FWW03 A106 Timbers Scattered. Random, angled into foreshore. Demolition of Old Bridge?
FWW03 A107 Drain Timber plank. Rectangular section. Plank-built.
FWW03 A108 Structure (unclassified) Causeway? Timber and stone
FWW03 A109 Deposit Peat/organic clay. High on foreshore.
FWW03 A110 Timber Rectangular post. Vertical. Putney Old Bridge?
FWW03 A111 Artefact scatter Timbers. Boat yard?
FWW03 A112 Access Slipway. Cobbled. Brewhouse Street. Probably Medieval access point.
FWW03 A113 Access Stair. Stone. Putney Bridge, ds. Rail damaged at bottom.
FWW03 A114 Riverfront defence Brick and stone. Putney Church
FWW03 A115 Riverfront defence Brick with timber fenders and mooring chain.
FWW03 A116 Riverfront defence Brick
FWW03 A117 Bridge Putney Railway Bridge.
FWW03 A118 Jetty Modern
FWW03 A119 Hard Modern
FWW03 A120 Drain Apron. Timber and stone. Below Putney Bridge. For stream outlet.
FWW03 A121 Drain Outfall. Below Putney Bridge. Metal grilled outlet for stream.
FWW03 A122 Deposit Dump. Stone rubble. Associated with drain outlet?
FWW03 A123 Artefact Moulded window mullion. Putney Church?
FWW03 A124 Bridge Putney Bridge.