Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 16:24
Who was who in Dulwich - Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928)
by Bernard Nurse
Sir Ebenezer Howard, founder of the Garden City movement, spent the first years after his marriage in 1879 in Dulwich. A blue plaque commemorating him has been placed on the house in Stamford Hill which his family occupied later, but one could equally well have been put up at 4 Ildersly Grove, Croxted Road, London SE21, which he rented until about 1885 or 1886.
Britain at the time was in the grips of a severe agricultural depression driven by cheap imported food. Swollen by workers from the countryside, towns rapidly increased in population, none more so than London. The population of the metropolis grew by nearly a million between 1871 and 1881 and many moved from the overcrowded centre. Dulwich changed from a small village of about 1700 inhabitants in 1861 to become a suburb on the fringes of London three times the size by 1881.
Howard was a part of this movement. He lived for most of his life on a modest income as a shorthand writer. At the time of his marriage he was working in the Law Courts and Parliament, arduous work which often kept him late, reporting debates into the early hours of the morning. In Ildersly Grove he had a newly-built semi-detached house five miles from Westminster with good links by train from the nearby West Dulwich Station, at a rent which he could afford. Howard was restless and regarded himself primarily as an inventor. While in Dulwich he tried to make the typewriter more useful by introducing a variable spacing bar. He visited America in an attempt to sell the patent, but was not offered enough money for it. He often referred to the garden city as an invention: it would improve the mechanism of providing housing.
By the time of the 1881 census there were four occupants in the house in Ildersley Grove; Ebenezer, his wife Eliza, their daughter, Kathleen and one servant. One of his daughters said later ‘we never had any money, but we didn’t miss it…He [Ebenezer] was always full of schemes which were to make us rich, but we had no luck in that respect…his favourite amusement was watching cricket at the Oval. When he could manage it he would spend a whole day there.’ Two more children were born by 1883 and Howard then suggested to his wife that they move to a larger house. Eliza refused because she thought they could not afford it. Ebenezer worked out that they could pay £40 a year as rent, which means that he probably earned about £150-170 a year, an income which was regarded as fairly average for the lower middle class. It was not enough to provide the sort of home he aspired to, and keeping a maid must have been a struggle. Howard recognized that new houses in the best suburbs, such as Hampstead were out of his reach and proposed that they rent a larger house jointly with his brother ‘with perhaps a lawn tennis ground’. A further advantage was that ‘in the long summer holidays we need have no difficulty about leaving the house for burglars to make free with as they not infrequently do’. He also thought that having a common kitchen would reduce costs, lessen work and allow for greater variety of foods. Although his plan for co-operative housing came to nothing, after the birth of a fourth child, they moved to Islington.
By then, his ideas on town planning were beginning to take shape and later became highly influential. He was concerned to find a remedy for the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions found in the rapidly expanding industrial cities. His solution was to create new towns in the countryside on land owned by trustees so that the community would benefit from increasing values. He published his proposals in 1898 in a book later entitled Garden Cities of Tomorrow, which aroused considerable interest but slow adoption. Building began in Letchworth, the first garden city in 1904 and land was bought for the second, Welwyn Garden City in 1919. Howard remained poor most of his life and public recognition came late with a knighthood awarded in 1927, a year before his death. It was not until after the Second World War that his vision came finally to fruition when the government adopted the policy of planned decentralization of London to a ring of new towns such as Harlow and Milton Keynes.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Robert Beevers, The Garden City Utopia (1988); Stanley Buder, Visionaries and Planners (1990)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:28
Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 16:23
The Story of Woodhall by Brian Green
The first house on this site, on the east side of College Road, beyond the Toll Gate, appears to be a mansion named Wood House built around 1810 by Thomas Lett, a prosperous timber merchant who later lived at Dulwich House (this estate is now covered by the North Dulwich triangle). In 1812 Lett also took out a lease on Dulwich Common, potentially for hunting, after an ambitious plan to develop Dulwich for housing fell through in 1808 because of anticipated crippling costs. By the 1830’s Wood House was being let. It was occupied from 1832-37 by George and Harriet Grote. Grote was an eminent scholar best remembered as the author of History of Greece as well as being MP for the City of London and one of the founders of University College, London.
George Grote very quickly offended Dulwich College when he carried out a heavy handed pollarding of a screen of 17 trees surrounding his house. The Master, John Allen was quick to respond, fearing that the turning a blind eye to such blatant disregard of the covenants of a lease by such a famous resident might set a precedent, and he fined Grote £20.
Allen also wrote the following:
For myself I have only to add the expression of my sincere regret that the first interview I have had with a gentleman whose literary attainments and public character I respect, should have turned on so disagreeable a subject.
Grote was prompt to pay and the College were then faced with what to do with the £20. It was agreed that £10 should be given to the Rev. Vane for use of the Infant School recently established and supported by voluntary subscriptions. The remaining £10 was applied to the College’s own repairing fund.
Wood House was rebuilt on a grander scale by a R. P Harding in an estate of 24 acres and renamed Woodhall. In the 1870’s the occupant was George Campbell. In 1878 the pharmacist and inventor of the famous fruit salts that bore his name - James Crossley Eno moved to London from his native Newcastle and opened a factory at Pomeroy Street, New Cross. His first accommodation was at Eastlands in Court Lane but he had moved to Woodhall by 1890 and would remain there to his death in 1915.
James Eno was the archetypal hands-on Victorian industrialist. He invented and manufactured his products and controlled all aspects of advertising which was such a feature of Victorian enterprise, including penning all the text which accompanied each advertisement where he expounded the wide benefits of his product - a cure for biliousness, feverishness, sleeplessness, headaches and ‘sudden changes in the weather’!
Eno’s Fruit Salts enjoyed world-wide sales, possibly stimulated by the fact that Newcastle was a busy seaport and Eno ensured that sea captains had samples of his product, which was also a cure for sea-sickness, and would carry them around the world. Exports were made to such far flung destinations as Easter island and it was said that every method of transport had carried them, from sleighs to the Arctic to caravans in the east. Eno’s Fruit Salts are now owned by GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals.
After Eno’s death Woodhall was for a time used as a military hospital for convalescing officers during the First World War. Its last resident was Frank Rehder, a maritime arbitrator and Dulwich Estates Governor. He grew up at Woodhall and as a child took great delight watching the Golden Arrow pass at the bottom of his front garden. He was a gardening enthusiast with a passion for growing dahlias.
On 3rd July 1944 a V1 Flying Bomb exploded on Woodhall destroying the house. There were no casualties. Fortunately it did not fall nearby where there was an ammunition dump servicing the anti-aircraft guns at the top of Grange Lane.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:28
Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 16:21
N C Wyeth (1882-1945) was one of America’s finest illustrators, best known for his outstanding book illustrations of Treasure Island, The Boy’s King Arthur and Robinson Crusoe. His illustrations in oils are magnificent, lush, technically brilliant examples of imaginative story-telling, and he painted some lovely landscapes as well. He taught not only his students but also three of his children and two sons-in-law to paint in his studio in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), the youngest son of N C Wyeth, is the best known artist in the family. Andrew was particularly close to his father and began studying with him at an early age. At his death in January 2009, he was regarded as America’s finest realist painter – he was certainly the most famous, hugely popular with the public but dividing the critics. Working primarily in water colour and tempera, his paintings hint at sometimes mysterious, deeply-felt narratives. He spent his summers in Maine, painting a world he had known since childhood. In order to avoid distraction from his work from enthusiastic fans or the media, Andy kept his life as private as he could.
James Browning Wyeth (1946-) is Andrew Wyeth’s son. He showed remarkable talent and gained great recognition very early in life. He had his first exhibition at the age of twenty, and has carried on the family tradition with his own brilliant career. His work has its own colourful personality, but there are clear links with that of his father and grandfather.
Henriette Wyeth (1907-1997) was Nc Wyeth’s first child and is considered by many to be one of the great women painters of the 20th century. After the age of 30o she moved to New Mixico with her husband Peter Hurd. Her distinguished career as a portraitist includes such well known subjects as First Lady Pat Nixon, actress Helen Hayes and author Paul Horgan.
Peter Hurd (1904-1984) became a student of N C Wyeth. For the next ten years, he lived and painted under the strict guidance of his teacher. All of the Wyeths were quite taken by this handsome, energetic young man in cowboy boots and hat, but none so much as Henriette, who married Peter Hurd in 1929. Peter Hurd is best known for his watercolours, luminous egg tempera and lithographs depicting the New Mexico landscape.
Friends of Horniman Art Exhibition
The 19th annual art exhibition will be held over two days in July. Admission is free to view the paintings in the Conservatory at the Horniman. New and established artists will be showing their most recent work and all works are for sale. Thirty per cent of the sale proceeds are donated to the Horniman Museum and its gardens.
Exhibition open Saturday 10th July 10am-5pm, Sunday 11th July 10am-4.30pm
The Winter’s Tale
The Dulwich Players are to perform William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in the Dulwich Picture Gallery Garden On Wednesday 30 June, Thursday – Saturday 1-3 July at 8pm with a matinee on Saturday at 5pm.
Passions run high in The Winter’s Tale, which depicts the destructive nature of jealousy and its consequences. With a strong narrative, courageous women, crazy sherherds and one of the most notorious stage directions around (EXIT – pursued by a Bear), the scene us set for a perfect evening’s entertainment. The gardens of the Gallery provide the ideal setting for this thrilling tale.
Box Office: 020 8670 4955 or tickets also from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village and the Gallery Friends Desk. Seated £12, £6 on the grass.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:28
Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 16:22
On the Street Where You Live – Woodhall Drive and Avenue
By Ian McInnes
The ruins of Woodhall House were demolished during the summer of 1955. The Governors inspected the site in September on their ‘annual review’ and instructed the Austin Vernon, the Estate Architect to prepare a development scheme for the site with large private houses – on the lines of the development at Frank Dixon Way.
Vernon circulated a preliminary development plan in November, followed by a more detailed layout at a scale of 1:1250 in December, and confirmed that there would be 28 plots of varying size (from 1/5 to 5/8 of an acre) on the 13 acre site. His report noted that “the area is suitable for good-class houses, up to 2500 sq ft super if required, and this should be a strictly controlled development. I have planned for a minimum of roadways and these should be of the light estate standard – density 10 persons per acre.” The preliminary layout was quickly approved and the Manager was requested to look at two options, negotiating a building lease with a developer or the free development option, where each plot would be sold to individuals to build their own houses.
In a further report early in February 1956 the architect noted “As the road is not a through way, I suggest that a tarmac road be formed with grass verges and open spaces etc with special lamp standards and other amenities to form an attractive lay out”. Thus it would seem that the principles of the site layout and its open, unhedged feel were set early on. Despite the very ‘American’ feel of the development there was no obvious connection between the practice and America - some of Austin Vernon’s younger partners were later to go on foreign trips to Scandinavia and Switzerland but these were in the future.
Austin Vernon was in his mid 70s by this time and the design is certainly not his - his stylistic preference was for white render and Dutch gables as seen on several of the houses on Frank Dixon Way. The partner in charge of the scheme was Victor Knight, who had been at Architecture School with Russell Vernon, Austin Vernon’s nephew and partner, and had been brought into the practice in 1950 to design the Dulwich College Science Block. He had previously worked with the Miner’s Welfare Board and it seems that the concept was his alone.
At the next meeting the Manager reported “A free development on this basis would, I feel, take some years to complete, as the figure of ground rent is high and the inflationary tendencies at the present time would affect the demand for this type of plot with such high commitments.” He then went on to say that he had discussed the development of the site with Messrs Wates “who have evinced interest for some considerable time” and had asked whether they would be prepared to undertake the development on lease for the erection of 28 individually designed houses. He added “This they cannot do, but they are prepared to take up a building lease of the whole site and erect 28 detached houses with garages to sell at about £6000 each, to not less than 6 individual designs, each type to be varied by different elevational treatment if desired.”
Wates had in fact offered to provide all roads, verges, open spaces, sewers and services at their own cost, and agreed to pay a total of £1540 per annum ground rent (£55 per plot). They also offered “without commitment on either side”, to submit sketch drawings of the six types of houses proposed – to which the Governors agreed.
The scheme was developed over the next two years as the architect produced several different layouts for site density discussions with the LCC. These were finally resolved in June 1958 when a density of 12 persons to the acre was agreed – the final revised plan showing 42 houses on a 14 acre site.
At this point revised Sketch drawings were submitted showing three types of house “having a floor area of 2000 sq ft super, having good size living and dining rooms, kitchens and, in some cases, a small study, the usual domestic offices and central heating – 4 bedrooms and a bathroom, in some cases two bathroom – garages and enclosed yards.”
The Architect added, correctly as it turned out, that “Simple and attractive elevations have been designed to take advantage of modern constructional methods and materials. The development, when completed, could be an outstanding example of modern layout and planning.” The Manager reported that Wates were keen to move forward but the final decision was deferred pending submission of a model.
It took nearly 6 months to produce the model and the scheme was finally signed off in January 1959 with the revised drawings. The Manager was instructed to get on with negotiations for a building agreement with Wates and a formal offer, signed by Mr Neil Wates, a director, was received on 11th April. Wates agreed to take the site for 99 years from the 24th June 1959, at a peppercorn rent for the first two years, and thereafter at a total ground rent of £2310 per annum (£55 per annum per plot) to erect 42 detached houses with garages within two years. By this time the projected cost of the houses had risen to £16,000 – a very substantial sum for a house at that time.
Russell Vernon had taken over the role of Estate Architect from his uncle in June 1959 and it was he who submitted the working drawings of the first house on Plot 5, fronting College Road, in July, noting that “Careful siting of this house has been necessary owing to the gradients and trees”. His quarterly report dated 11th November confirmed that the building agreement had been exchanged, that work on the first house had started, and that the whole site should commence in earnest in the spring of 1960.
In April 1960 Woodhall Drive and Woodhall Avenue were agreed as names for the new roads and by June the first four houses were approximately 30% complete. Work on the roads and sewers had also commenced and by the end of the year the architect was able to report “the first house is complete and furnished as a show house and is available for viewing.” An article in ‘Wates News’ announcing the completion of the show house noted that “Applicants for these luxury homes are shown around by appointment and meanwhile considerable press interest has been aroused. Miss Alice Hope devoted her whole column in a recent ‘Daily Telegraph’ to pictures and descriptions of what she called ‘a new trend in home buying’. The adaptability for family living of these designs by Austin Vernon & Partners has aroused a great deal of comment, and so have the high standards of finishes and extensive use of hardwoods. The houses are completely central heated by oil-fired systems remotely controlled from an electric panel in the kitchen.”
There were now six different house types and in January 1961 working drawings were approved for houses at 97 College Road, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 Woodhall Avenue, and 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Woodhall Drive. The Architect noted “The drawings before you are of the types indicated above and formally approved by the Governors, and are varied to accord with site conditions and levels. Careful consideration has been given to positioning on the site so as to give as much variation as possible.” To make the scheme easier to understand he produced an axonometric projection “ to give some ideas of the dispositions of the properties as seen from above, as I feel that this will be helpful.”
However by the Board Meeting on 14th April 1961 the initial optimism was failing. The houses were not selling as hoped and the Estate had to agree to a substantial extension of the pepper-corn rent period, and the building period, of 18 months and 2 years respectively.
At the July meeting it was suggested that the proximity of the Grange Lane allotments might be affecting sales and in September, the Manager was instructed to enter into negotiations with the Camberwell & District Allotment & Horticultural Society regarding a surrender of a part of their holding in Grange Lane to provide an amenity space for the development. However, by October, Wates had changed their minds saying that they had no objection to the proximity of the allotments.
On 31st March 1962 the Manager reported that Wates had, so far, only “sold 12 houses with 3 under reserve, an average of one house per month since selling commenced and they do not expect to improve upon this average. There are 15 months on the building period to run, and they had considered whether they should ask either permission to introduce new types at a lower price or apply for an extension of the building period. As a result of consultation they now agree that it would be against all interest to lower the standard, and suggest the Governors might, in the circumstances, extend the period of the pepper-corn rent and the building period by one year and eighteen months respectively.”
By the middle of 1964 Wates had grown tired of the lack of sales progress (there were 14 sites still left) and briefed the architects to design a smaller Type F house which they built out on all the remaining plots. Work continued on the site through 1965 and 1966 till all the houses were finally sold.
The cost of building houses on the more steeply sloping parts of the site had proved higher than expected and selling prices for one or two of the houses were nudging £20,000 – making them even more difficult to sell. Malcolm Pringle, one of Russell Vernon’s partners, recalled fifty years later the Wates Financial Director saying that his firm would lose money on the development but that the architects would receive an award - which they did, the scheme winning a 1967 Ministry of Housing and Local Government Award for good design in Housing.
The superb mature landscaping by Derek Lovejoy & Partners has meant that the overall appearance of the estate remains largely original but there have been a large number of extensions, not all of them sympathetic, and several houses have been badly compromised. In fact it was the number of extensions on the Woodhall Estate that finally persuaded the Governors to begin the introduction of the ‘Design Guidance Notes’ that underpin their development policies today.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:28
Published on Thursday, 17 June 2010 16:19
As I write, we have had some wonderful spring weather in the last month- April- a tonic for all gardeners. However, I must be mindful that these words will not be reaching you until high summer, and the vagaries of the weather and lateness of the season means that the growing year has reached its midpoint and many items will have passed the time of no return as it were. But any time is a good time to put spade to soil and start the rewarding adventure of starting the first step in self sufficiency- or let us say partial self sufficiency! The gardens of England are a priceless asset in the difficult times that may lie ahead and can be very productive.
So may I encourage you to start simple- and get on with it!
I have been asked to be brief, so that will do for now. But one last word.
As some people know, I run a large vegetable and fruit garden in the Griffin Ground- kind permission of Kings College- and am always delighted to give what help I can. Copying what the experts do (I am not one!) is the best way of learning. I do grow- I should say we do grow, for there are volunteers helping- examples of virtually every fruit and vegetable commonly grown in the UK, so there is plenty to see and discuss.
In addition Dulwich Going Greener has two projects it sponsors- the Secret Greenhouse which shows what can be done on a very limited site, and the Model Vegetable Garden in the Dulwich Park which is making great progress. Please support them. Happy gardening and good growing to all.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:28