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. (July 2017)
A map showing the Putney ward of Wandsworth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916
Putney is an ancient parish which covered 9.11 square kilometres (3.52 sq mi) and was until 1889 in the Hundred of Brixton in the county of Surrey. Its area has been reduced by the loss of Roehampton to the south-west, an offshoot hamlet that conserved more of its own clustered historic core.
In 1855 the parish was included in the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works and was grouped into the Wandsworth District. In 1889 the area was removed from Surrey and became part of the County of London. The Wandsworth District became the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth in 1900. Since 1965 Putney has formed part of the London Borough of Wandsworth in Greater London.
The benefice of the parish remains a perpetual curacy whose patron is the Dean and Chapter of Worcester [Cathedral]. The church, founded in the medieval period as a chapel of ease to Wimbledon, was rebuilt in the very early Tudor period and in 1836 was again rebuilt, and the old tower restored, at an expense of £7000 (which is approximately equivalent to £604,739 in 2016) defrayed by subscription, a rate, and a grant of £400 from the Incorporated Society. It has a small chantry chapel (originally erected by native Nicholas West, Bishop of Ely (d. 1533)) removed from the east end of the south aisle, and rebuilt at the east end of the north side, preserving the old style.
In 1684, Thomas Martyn bequeathed lands for the foundation and support of a charity school for 20 boys, sons of watermen; and by a decree of the court of chancery in 1715, the property was vested in trustees. A charitable almshouse for 12 men and women, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected by Sir Abraham Dawes, who provided it with an endowment.
Putney was also birthplace of Thomas Cromwell, made Earl of Essex by Henry VIII and of Edward Gibbon, author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who was born in 1737. John Toland, a noted free-thinker, died and was buried at Putney in 1722; and later that century Robert Wood, under-Secretary of State for the Southern Department, who published The Ruins of Palmyra about the Roman ruins he visited there at Baalbek in Syria, and other archæological works lies here. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, died at a house on Putney Heath.
In the 1840s Putney was still a part-wooded, part-agricultural village focussed closest to the Thames, opposite to Fulham, with which it was connected by a wooden bridge; it was street-lit with gas, partly paved, and well supplied with water. At that time Putney took on London's premier role in civil engineering. The College for Civil Engineers relocated to Putney in 1840, for the purpose of affording sound instruction in the theory and practice of civil engineering and architecture, and in all those branches of science and learning which are adapted to the advanced state of society, and constitute an education that fits the student for any pursuit or profession.
Putney had a second place of worship, for Independents and Roehampton was in the process of achieving separate parish status. The proprietors of the bridge distributed £31 per annum to watermen, and watermen's widows and children; and the parish received benefit from Henry Smith's and other charities. Putney in 1887 covered 9 square kilometres (3.5 sq mi).
Putney appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Putelei. It was noted that it did not fall into the category of local jurisdictions known as a manor, but obtained 20 shillings from the ferry or market toll at Putney belonging to the manor of Mortlake.
The ferry was mentioned in the household accounts of Edward I (reigned 1272–1307): Robert the Ferryman of Putney and other sailors received 3/6d for carrying a great part of the royal family across the Thames and also for taking the king and his family to Westminster.
One famous crossing at Putney was that of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529 upon his 'disgrace' in falling out of favour with Henry VIII and on ceasing to be the holder of the Great Seal of England. As he was riding up Putney Hill he was overtaken by one of the royal chamberlains who presented him with a ring as a token(tribute) of the continuance of his majesty's favour. When the Cardinal had heard these words of the king, he quickly lighted from his mule and knelt down in the dirt upon both knees, holding up his hands for joy, and said "When I consider the joyful news that you have brought to me, I could do no less than greatly rejoice. Every word pierces so my heart, that the sudden joy surmounted my memory, having no regard or respect to the place; but I thought it my duty, that in the same place where I received this comfort, to laud and praise God upon my knees, and most humbly to render unto my sovereign lord my most hearty thanks for the same."
The first bridge of any kind between the two parishes of Fulham and Putney was built during the Civil War: after the Battle of Brentford in 1642, the Parliamentary forces built a bridge of boats between Fulham and Putney. According to an account from the period:
The Lord General hath caused a bridge to be built upon barges and lighters over the Thames between Fulham and Putney, to convey his army and artillery over into Surrey, to follow the king's forces; and he hath ordered that forts shall be erected at each end thereof to guard it; but for the present the seamen, with long boats and shallops full of ordnance and musketeers, lie there upon the river to secure it.
The first permanent bridge between Fulham and Putney was completed in 1729, and was the second bridge to be built across the Thames in London (after London Bridge).
One story runs that "in 1720 Sir Robert Walpole was returning from seeing George I at Kingston and being in a hurry to get to the House of Commons rode together with his servant to Putney to take the ferry across to Fulham. The ferry boat was on the opposite side, however and the waterman, who was drinking in the Swan, ignored the calls of Sir Robert and his servant and they were obliged to take another route. Walpole vowed that a bridge would replace the ferry."
The Prince of Wales "was often inconvenienced by the ferry when returning from hunting in Richmond park and asked Walpole to use his influence by supporting the bridge."
The bridge was a wooden structure and lasted for 150 years, when in 1886 it was replaced by the stone bridge that stands today.
St Mary's Church
The parish church of St Mary The Virgin became the site of the 1647 Putney Debates. Towards the end of the English Civil War, with the Roundheads looking victorious, some soldiers in the New Model Army staged a minor mutiny amid fears that a monarchy would be replaced by a new dictatorship. A number, known as the Levellers, complained: "We were not a mere mercenary army hired to serve any arbitrary power of a state, but called forth … to the defence of the people's just right and liberties".
A manifesto was proposed entitled An Agreement of the People, and at an open meeting in Putney the officers of the Army Council heard the argument from private soldiers for a transparent, democratic state, without corruption. Proposals included sovereignty for English citizens, Parliamentary seats distributed according to population rather than property ownership, religion made a free choice, equality before the law, conscription abolished and parliamentary elections held every year. While the ideas proved greatly influential, including inspiring much of the language of the United States Declaration of Independence, Oliver Cromwell would later have the Leveller leaders executed.
The diarist Samuel Pepys visited St. Mary's Church on several occasions. During one visit on 28 April 1667, he recorded:
"and then back to Putney Church, where I saw the girls of the schools, few of which pretty; and there I come into a pew, and met with little James Pierce, which I was much pleased at, the little rogue being very glad to see me: his master, Reader to the Church. Here was a good sermon and much company, but I sleepy, and a little out of order, for my hat falling down through a hole underneath the pulpit, which, however, after sermon, by a stick, and the help of the clerke, I got up again, and then walked out of the church."
Open spaces and clean air
For centuries, Putney was a place where Londoners came for leisure, to enjoy the open spaces and clean air. Londoners came to Putney to play games. According to John Locke, who writes, in 1679: "The sports of England for a curious stranger to see are horse-racing, hawking, hunting, and bowling; at Putney he may see several persons of quality bowling two or three times a week."
One regular visitor was Queen Elizabeth I who frequently visited Putney from 1579 to 1603, often visiting Mr John Lacy. She was said to "honour Lacy with her company more frequently than any of her subjects", often staying for two to three days.
Despite being located near Central London, Putney is popular for exercising outdoors, especially for runners and cyclists. There are a number of running, cycling and triathlon clubs based in or near Putney. As it follows the Thames Path, there is excellent opportunity to run and cycle away from heavy traffic often associated with London.
There are also a number of parks and green spaces nearby which mean that there is space for people to exercise freely. Examples include Wandsworth Park near the River Thames and Putney Heath. It is also very easily accessible for some of London's biggest open spaces as is close to Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common.