Here it would seem proper to set down some particulars of the original Craven Cottage. The Cottage was far from being the humble abode the name would suggest. Indeed, it was a superb but perhaps a little pretentious residence full of historical interest, and stood in magnificent grounds.
For some years before the destruction by fire in 1888, the house and estate were under the care of Mr. Emmett, an ex-policeman of Walham Green, and while he was on holiday, the house met it’s doom by fire and the shell only of this once splendid residence remained. As bad luck would have it, the house was not insured. Following 1888 and during the time that Billy Reader of Fulham was the 9-stone Champion of the World, the site became the scene of many prize fights.
Built in 1780 by William, 6th Baron Craven, Craven Cottage was owned by various persons until 1834; when it was purchased by Charles King, a famous money-lender known among his associates and society of the time as “Jew King.” During King’s ownership of Craven Cottage it became a popular resort for the world of fashion.
In 1839, the Cottage became the house of Edward Earle Bulwer-Lytton (Lord Lytton), the distinguished novelist, orator and statesman, and it was here he composed several of his famous works, including “Night and Morning”, “The Last of the Barons” and “The New Simon”. It is said that he also wrote “The Last Days of Pompeii” at the Cottage.
In 1846 Sir Ralph Howard became the owner, and Craven Cottage continued to be the rendevous of high society. Included among it’s many visitors and guests were the Prince of Wales (Edward VII), the French Emperor and Empress, Prince Louis Napoleon, Sheridan, Disraeli, etc.
In 1868, W. Bentley Woodbury, an American, took Craven Cottage for conversion into a pleasure resort, but the experiment failed. Mr. Tod Heatley eventually purchased the property, and from 1872 the estate was tenantless until May8th, 1888 when the Cottage, as already stated, was entirely destroyed by fire.
North of Craven Cottage was another famous mansion and estate named Rosebank, and between Rosebank and Craven Cottage, adjoining the latter, was the establishment called Rowberry Mead with its famous osier beds owned by the Waldrens, a very old Fulham family. The osiers were cut and dried and used in the Waldrens’ basket-making industry in Fulham.
Opposite the Cottage, on the east side of the estate, was situated Millshot Farm, owned by William Bagley, a descendant of one of the oldest Fulham families.
Lord Lytton, during his tenancy of the Cottage, paid the Bagley family £50 a year for the right of a private road through the Farm, from his house to Fulham Palace Road.