Spotlight on Putney
This well-heeled spot’s rich in history but rows with the times. The river and green space give a fresh feel only six miles from town, says
oodles of local green space includes Wandsworth Park
FAMILIES find good reason to settle in Putney. This southwest London neighbourhood on the Thames is surrounded by green spaces, offers plenty of well-rated state and private schools, and there’s a wide choice of commuter routes into central London just six miles away.
Once a small riverside village, Putney’s history is rich. A few paces east of Putney Bridge in Brewhouse Lane, a blue plaque commemorates Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister and “most faithful servant”, who nevertheless was beheaded as a traitor and heretic on the king’s orders in 1540.
Cromwell was born in Putney in 1485, most likely the son of Walter, a blacksmith — and who can forget the brutal beating the young Thomas receives at the hands of his father in the first few pages of Hilary Mantel’s novel, Wolf Hall, seen in the opening episode of the award-winning 2015 TV adaptation?
Scattered with blue plaques and with local council green plaques, too, Putney can claim more than its fair share of famous residents. Celebrated photographer Norman Parkinson (1913-1990) grew up in a semi in Landford Road. The Victorian poet Algernon Swinburne lived and died in Putney Hill. Historian Edward Gibbon (1737-94), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, spent his formative years in Lime Grove, one of Putney’s then-large estates.
Post-war prime minister Clement Attlee was born in Portinscale Road in 1883. Early aircraft designer Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe built his first biplane in his brother’s garage in West Hill, and former deputy prime minister and LibDem leader Nick Clegg and his family live locally today.
Putney Bridge is one of London’s busiest Thames crossings and if you drive it in rush-hour, those six miles into central London can take as long as 60. For many years, it was the only Thames crossing between Putney and London Bridge. Putney’s first bridge, a wooden affair, opened in 1729, reputedly after a campaign led by Sir Robert Walpole, first British PM. The story goes that the Putney ferryman refused to leave the pub to take Walpole over the river on his way to the Commons after a meeting with George I in Kingston, so Walpole had to take another, longer route. Today’s stone bridge, starting point for the annual Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race, opened in 1886.
The Thames is central to life here. East of the bridge are riverside restaurants, pubs and homes in the Putney Wharf development, while on the west side the bank is lined with boathouses and walkers.
PUTNEY has the Thames and Fulham to the north; Wandsworth and Earlsfield to the east; Wimbledon to the south and Richmond to the west. Estate agent Alex Howard Baker, from the local branch of Savills, says Putney High Street has improved greatly in recent years, with more varied shops, cafés and restaurants. A couple of new High Street developments in the pipeline will further boost the area.
Walking the dog:
Chilling by the river: main picture, east of Putney Bridge near Brewhouse Lane; right, Putney Embankment beside the Thames and Putney Pier Highly prized location: far right, Putney Embankment homes; left, the High Street’s variety of shops and eateries has improved greatly in recent years
400 craft beers: boss Nick Moor, The Beer Boutique, Upper Richmond Road
Fabulous baker boys: at artisan shop The Bakehouse, Upper Richmond Rd