See A Bishop Up A Tree

By M@ Last edited 80 months ago

Last Updated 13 October 2017

See A Bishop Up A Tree

This magnificent wood carving can be found in the grounds of Fulham Palace. The tree-climbing clergyman is Bishop Porteus (1731-1809), one of many Bishops of London to make his home at the palace. Porteus looks east over the gardens he helped to create.

If you look closely, a second cleric can be seen, scaling up the broken trunk.

This is Bishop Creighton (1843-1901), another gardening bishop, and a noted historian. The admirable Creighton scales the tree with ease, unrestricted by his flowing robes and mitre — a primate in both senses of the word. What a hero.

The sculptures are the work of Andrew Frost. He carved the pieces in 2007 from a cedar of Lebanon that had been felled due to disease.

Further curiosities adorn the base of the tree, including a pair of bishops' thrones, a tubby cat on a pile of books, and this menacing monk who looks a little like Alfred Molina.

A nearby oak bench depicts yet another senior clergyman, Bishop Compton (1632-1713). He was a keen plant collector, and brought over Europe's first magnolia tree from America. Here he is, enjoying a quiet nap beneath his clambering successors.

Compton's magnolia is long gone, but Fulham Palace Gardens are still a treasure trove of arboreal delights. Tree lovers can spend hours inspecting the woody beauties, which include a 450-year-old holm oak and a towering sequoia.

The recently restored walled garden is also a joy. Even in winter it holds an otherworldly charm, not at all expected beside the busy streets of Fulham.

Fulham Palace gardens are free to explore, open every day from dawn to dusk (though the walled garden may close earlier). The museum and historic rooms of the palace are also free to visit.