Tucked away by the Thames near Putney Bridge, shrouded by trees, is the longstanding home of the Bishop of London. It was once used as his country retreat, somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, which just goes to show how longstanding it is. But 50 years ago the new Bishop decided to live elsewhere and now it's owned by a trust who oversee management of the estate and allow the public in for a general lookaround. There's quite a lot to see.
It's an impressive-looking building, as befits a Tudor shell. Step through the arch into the main courtyard to enjoy one of the best views of what it might have looked like to Reformation bishops, complete with wiggly brickwork and an off-centre fountain. What you're supposed to do is enter on the left past the information desk into the museum, but I was beguiled by the door under the clocktower and found myself in a less coherent set of corridors instead.
The Great Hall promises much, indeed royalty once feasted here, but most of its historic ambience has been lost in subsequent upgrades by domestic owners. Bishop's Howley's Room was blank bar some unannounced audio-visual presentation. Bishop Sherlock's Room was hosting a slightly forced presentation on diversity. Bishop Terrick's Rooms were empty and looked like spaces for hiring out, which I suspect they often are. At least the chapel impressed.
It's the fourth on the site and originally Victorian, although the current aesthetic owes more to postwar rejuvenation following bomb damage. The murals are especially Fifties, including blond-haired stone-hurlers and a kneeling couple who might be Liz and Philip. I also liked Bishop Porteus's Library, well stocked with diverse if not always ecclesiastical books, where the guide broke off her historical chat to reveal a secret panel and a hidden trapdoor.
The museum is more a collection of corridors than a sequence of galleries. It focuses primarily on archaeology carried out on site, so I was inordinately excited that one of the displays contained three iconic crisp packets - sausage & tomato Golden Wonder, pickled onion Outer Spacers and cheese & onion Smiths. For real food you want the cafe out back in Bishop Howley's dining room, a popular local choice, although a bacon roll will set you back six quid.
For many the finest part of the palace is its extensive garden, including a 500 year-old oak tree, multiple labelled beds and a recently restored walled garden. Alas this is temporarily sealed off for the setting-up of stages, indeed the whole palace is closed this weekend so that Groove Armada and Ministry of Sound can host a demure dance festival. So best ignore today's recommendation to visit until they've taken it all down, but don't forget Fulham Palace is here.