We are regular visitors to the Crabtree Pub in Rainville Road and, whenever I am there, I am conscious how few riverside pubs Fulham has compared with Hammersmith. Indeed, I cannot think of any, other than the Crabtree, so I thought I would have a look through the Hammersmith & Fulham Archives to see what we had on its past history. Faulkner in his book, Fulham (1813) observed the village of Crabtree “takes its name from a large crab-tree formerly growing here, and which stood near the public house known by this name”. Fèret’s Fulham Old and New (1900) says in ancient times Crabtree was “an insignificant village consisting of half a dozen houses inhabited by gardeners, brick makers etc together with a small inn.” It is certainly true that in 1666 the Parish Clerk listed only nine names as residents of Crabtree, in 1674 there were 23 and as late as 1739 only 14 were listed.
In the 1760s the pub had been known as ‘The Pot House’ after a pottery operating in the area. It served the market gardens and was on the edge of the land of the last local farmers, the Matyear family. It later changed its name to ‘The Three Jolly Gardeners’ and only later took the name of the area, being known ever since as The Crabtree. In a land survey of 1817, the property was described as “a picturesque old inn in front of which was a small open space enclosed from the river by a wall. Here a few seats were disposed for the use of customers.”
According to Fèret: “An old willow tree grew there. Many years ago an ingenious landlord had hit on the idea of converting its shady branches into a bower; in the midst of which he arranged a table and some seats. Access to this area was via a flight of steps.”
By 1895 it had evidently became a popular haunt with the locals:
And picture postcards and etchings were made of the picturesque inn:
In those days there were numerous taverns along the riverside but this is the only Fulham one to survive, perhaps because of its position on a natural inlet. Its neighbours can be seen in the photograph. To the north was the Maltings established about 1790 by Mr Joseph Attersoll and to the south stood Belle Vue, a house built in 1816 for John and Thomas Scott. Subsequent owners included John Thomas Edwards, a well known dentist and a man of somewhat eccentric habits who kept a wolf at Belle Vue. In 1872 it was taken by Henry Poole of Savile Row and later became the property of Messrs Mears of Crabtree Wharf.
The new Crabtree pub was rebuilt in 1898. It was on the same site and shared the same relationship with the river, being next to a beach and overhung by a willow tree but it was far larger than its predecessor and had pretentions as a hotel. It was described: “a large and commodious hotel now occupies the site. … It contains a spacious billiard room and a large room available for concerts and public meetings”. However there was obviously some concern at losing the old pubs as can be seen in the following newspaper item “Our Vanishing Hostelries “ from the Daily Graphic in 1897:
When the last Matyear died in 1910 he left his land to the King Edward VII Hospital Fund who sold it on to local developers Allen and Norris. Building work began on the ‘Crabtree Lane Estate’ the following year. The Crabtree was soon in the centre of a populated area. It celebrated the 1937 coronation with a children’s party:
The present structure has not changed much since 1962:
Fiona Fowler, Hammersmith and Fulham Archives volunteer