Sara Luehmann is working with H&F’s communications team during October, as part of an EU exchange programme for public service employees. Her home is Berlin’s borough Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where she works as spokesperson for the council. For her latest assignment, she went in search of a Bishop’s Palace... and apple cake...
With more than 360,000 visitors last year, Fulham Palace is the main historical attraction in the south of our borough.
It is a Grade I listed building with medieval origins and, since 704, Fulham Palace has been the property of the Bishops of London.
It says a lot about the way London has developed that it was originally built as the country residence of the Bishop of London: something which endured for centuries, until he moved out in 1975 (by which time London had caught-up with the place).
She (for the first time, London has a female Bishop – Sarah Mullally) now has her ceremonial residence near St Paul’s Cathedral.
She wasn't about to taste the apple cake during my visit (more on that later).
The palace itself is a combination of a Tudor manor house with Georgian additions and Victorian chapel.
The palace’s museum shows the history of the Fulham Palace site as well as changing exhibitions.
On top of the regular tours, the palace organizes a multitude of events for children and families as well as for those interested in history, archaeology or horticulture.
On the October weekend when I made my visit, the palace dedicated a festival to one of the United Kingdom’s favourite fruits: it was Apple Day.
The annual festival celebrates the palace’s walled garden apple orchard in all its glory with displays and tastings.
The parade of pushchairs on the green showed its popularity with young families. Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the sunny autumn Sunday on the lawns of the walled garden, and there were children’s craft activities and a storytelling corner for the little ones.
With live music, bee keeping presentations (and honey tastings – yum), plus wood turning demonstrations, there was something for everyone.
Stalls sold fresh apples as well as apple juice, cider, vinegar and other apple products.
Being from Germany, I know a thing or two about apple cake: and here was my opportunity to test the local produce.
In a baking competition, the three best home-made apple cakes were rewarded, with infinite options on how to bake an apple cake.
After the jury’s verdict, the delicious cakes went on sale for the festival’s visitors – and I can confirm, the standard was very high!
Sales revenues will go towards the palace’s restoration.
Since 2011, Fulham Palace has been managed by its own Trust.
It is undergoing restoration works at the moment, with the refurbishment supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of roughly £2 million.
Work started earlier this year and is on track to be completed by spring 2019.
The Palace will remain open throughout the restoration, and the fundraising continues with a £70,000 Sponsor a Brick campaign.
The intention is that the restoration will bring historic rooms like the Great Hall back to life.
While the botanical gardens will be enhanced with some of the original plant and tree species.
Upcoming events include ‘Ask the Archaeologist’ on the 24 and 25 October; a Tudor Treasure Hunt on 26 October; and a talk about the role of Fulham Palace and Bishop Winnington-Ingram in the First World War on 6 November.
There’s also a cafe on the premises. But I can’t promise the apple cake will always be this good!
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