At the south end of the Cottage grounds were the famous Craven Steps. These Steps were at the end of an elevated terrace and concrete wall which ran the full length of the grounds along the riverside. An inlet from the Thames ran into the estate at the extreme south end adjoining the Steps.
On each side of this inlet were rows of beautiful old trees with tremendous trunks. The Craven Steps and concrete wall became famous as landmarks for the ‘Varsity and other famous boat races. The concrete wall was to prevent flooding of the estate from high tides, but in spite of this precaution there were time when the grounds became a vast lake. According to some accounts the purpose of the inlet was to enable visitors to draw close into the house in their State barges at high tides.
Adjoining Craven Cottage at the south end beyond the said inlet was the meadow named “Palesmead” which extended to Bishop’s Palace drive. This meadow was afterwards known as “Fielders Piece” and leased by a butcher of this name whose business was in High Street, Fulham, and who used the meadow for cattle grazing.
“Fielders Piece” was the home of the Old Sherbrookians F.C. just prior to Fulham F.C.’s occupation of the Cottage.
There was no Stevenage Road when Craven Cottage became a football ground. From Crabtree Lane, passing between Millshot Farm and the Cottage, was just a cart-wagon track and continuing on from the south end of the latter to Bishop’s Avenue, alongside “Fielders Piece,” was a narrow footpath bordered by beautiful elm trees said to be 200 years old.
It is thought that when the Club took over the estate the house was used as it’s first pavilion, but the decayed remains of the once palatial residence were demolished when the making up of the playing pitch was commenced.
While the estate was derelict, it became the habit of youngsters to bathe from the Steps (boys being what they are) and several learned to swim at this spot. Also many youngsters unfortunately lost their lives. One particular lad, unable to swim, fell into the river at high tide, and a Halford Road schoolboy named Harry Cane, who happened to be playing in a school representative match, heard his cry for help. Rushing across the pitch, Cane dived in and rescued the child. Then he changed his wet clothes and finished the game.
This incident at Craven Steps occurred in Fulham’s early tenancy, Cane, in after years signed for Chelsea F.C.
A peculiarity about the Cottage was that the house had a room with eight doors leading to different parts of the mansion. During the course of laying out the ground a subterranean passage was unearthed which led under the river towards Barnes, and rumour has it that it was used as a convenient way of giving any undesirable person the slip - probably a “get-away” for political reasons.
Also during the work of converting the grounds, a workman suddenly disappeared from view and was found unhurt at the bottom of an old 12 foot well. In excavating he had fallen through the rotten cover of the well no one was aware of.