This is my 51st chairman’s comment, and my last, as I will be standing down as chair of the Society at the AGM on the 14th September after 13 years. Looking back at what has been achieved, the Society is in its 58th year and remains in good shape; our specialist sub-committees are active, membership is up, and our relationship with local stakeholders like the Council and the Estate is positive. We promoted the formation of residents’ associations and there are now a number of active groups on nearly all the major residential roads in the area and many of the smaller ones. The Society’s Journal, now in its 210th edition is seen as a real member benefit and the monthly eNewsletter, now on issue 94, has been keeping members informed on local issues and events since December 2013. The Society has also moved on to social media with active Society and Local History Twitter accounts.
The range of shops in the Village and West Dulwich has definitely improved, the long awaited ‘Simply Fresh’ has been a plus, as has Gail’s and Rocca - and there are more restaurants and cafes to come. The Dulwich Estate has taken a more hands-on approach to selecting its tenants and we have seen the benefits with shops like the butcher, ‘Proud Sow’, and the shortly arriving cheese shop. There was much concern over the closure of the old post office and its relocation to Rumsey’s the chemist - but we need not have worried as the service levels and efficiency of the new facility have been a revelation. And even the conversion of the Crown and Greyhound into a hotel was finally completed.
What other things has the Society done? We helped to kick start the reimagination of the Herne Hill Velodrome, we supported the creation of a new school and health centre on the old Dulwich Community Hospital site and, after 20 years of pressure, TfL finally extended the 42-bus route to Sainsbury’s in East Dulwich. We promoted the use of the Council’s CGS funding to repair the historic fingerposts and posts and chains, as well as contributing towards the refurbishment of Rosebery Lodge in Dulwich Park - now used most days by the Dulwich and District u3a. We persuaded the Estate to allow the historic burial ground to open to the public for Open House and the Dulwich Festival and we have installed a number of local history information boards. We have given grants to support the enhancement of the woods and Dulwich Park as well as ‘green screen’ installations in local schools. In conjunction with the Dulwich College Archive, we have paid for all the historic court rolls and estate maps to be digitised. To mark our 50th anniversary in 2013, we funded a number of plaques to commemorate residents killed by bombs in WW2, and we also installed a modern version of the former ‘red post’ which once stood at the junction of Red Post Hill and Herne Hill.
The closure of the Grove Tavern in 2012 remains a problem, and we still don’t know what the Estate intend to do on the site. The Council’s installation of an electrical recycling bin in a prominent place in the Village makes one despair and the delay over the construction of the new houses on Gilkes Crescent has also been a disappointment. The centre of the Village has had an unattractive hoarding in it for over five years - hopefully the new owner will be starting work soon.
Looking back over the past 13 years the impact of school and through traffic has always been a major discussion point. I can only speculate as to what my successor will be able to say about them in the years to come.