The Fields that became Dulwich Park
By Patrick Darby
As was explained in the last issue which discussed the history of the land which became Dulwich Park, the construction in 1896 took place on fields which were separated by a stream . This watercourse, originating in the Sydenham hills, and flowing from the south-east corner of the Park to Herne Hill and beyond, crosses College Road just south of the Old College, indeed, Dulwich Picture Gallery may be built over part of it. The only evidence of it now visible above ground is the ornamental boating lake which incorporates it in the centre of the Park, and the short stretch of water immediately west of the lake. (The one to the east, shown on Barry’s plan, was in the event filled in.) The stream shows up clearly on the latest Environment Agency’s flood plain website.
South of that watercourse were fields which in medieval times were called Dickriddings and Annesfields, and to the north of it was the remnant of Court Farm. Linking Court Farm to College Road was a field called Waterings. As that was to form the entrance to the Park, it is appropriate to start with it.
Dulwich Park’s main concourse from the Old College Gate entrance, almost as far as where the carriage way divides, was constructed through the middle of a narrow 2-acre field once called Waterings. In medieval times this lay between a 4-acre field called Cockmans to the north, and a 3-acre field called Goryland to the south.
Waterings is first mentioned in the Dulwich Court Roll of December 1608, when [Henry or Katherine] Collyns was ordered to scour his (or her) ditch between Hathorne field (on Court Farm land) and John Casinghurst’s land as far as the close called Wateringes, and Edmund Curson (then the copyholder of Goryland) to scour his ditch from Wateringes to the highway. The tenant of Waterings - John Scrivener, paid £1 a year for the field in 1626. From 1629 it was included in his lease of two houses and four acres (part of Cockmans) at £7 a year. Scrivener was succeeded by Richard Wells in 1641 and he by Grevil Lewis in 1679, although in the meantime one of the houses was operated, by Sarah Bodger or Badger, as an inn called ‘The Little Feathers’. She sold the inn to Thomas Hill in 1679, and he immediately sold on to Grevil Lewis. By now ‘The Little Feathers’ was just ‘The Feathers’, and Lewis renamed it ‘The Bell’. The four acres adjoining to the north became known as ‘Bell Meadows’ or occasionally ‘Bell Field’.
John Taylor took over in 1697, and remained listed in the College Rent Books as tenant until March 1718, when the premises, including Waterings, are described as “vacant”. In September 1719 the holding was split into three, with part let to Richard Cooper at £24 p.a., part to Francis Friend at £15 p.a., and the remainder to Samuel Swaine at £9 p.a., a very substantial increase on Taylor’s former rent of £13 (and two capons) a year. Curiously, all three holdings had a public house of some description on the site and all now number among Dulwich’s lost inns. Cooper’s had no name other than ‘The Tavern’, but his lease included a covenant not to sell any liquor except wine, so Dulwich may possibly lay claim to the nation’s earliest wine bar. It may have been the house built on Waterings, unfortunately we do not know. Francis Friend had ‘The Bell’ (and Bell Meadows behind), and from 1741 took over Cooper’s former premises as well. Swaine had ‘The Mount’, which when Guy Cornish took it over in 1721 was predictably renamed ‘The Cornish Mount’. In 1740 Mr Cornish’s widow sold it to Robert Gay, who renamed the inn ‘The Bricklayer’s Arms’. Not that one should cast aspersions, but all three establishments were easily within staggering distance of the College, with most of its adult occupants being potential customers. (Any underage drinkers among the twelve Poor Scholars, if they were wise, would have sought an establishment further afield.) ‘The Bell’ lay immediately opposite the north end of the Almshouses, and ‘The Bricklayer’s Arms’, by 1772 renamed ‘The French Horn’, was a little to the north of it, approximately where the entrance to Woodyard Lane now is.
By 1792 ‘The Bell’ had been demolished and replaced by two houses, both of them leased to Mrs Ann Adams, succeeded by her daughters Lucy and Isabella, and by 1854 the two houses had either amalgamated into, or been rebuilt as, one house. In 1876 the lease reverted to the College Governors, and although they retained and allowed the development of Bell Meadows, the house on the site of ‘The Bell’ was demolished to make way for the entrance to Dulwich Park.
As for the former Waterings, we know only from old lease plans of the 1790s that Mrs Sarah Miller was its occupier. She was the widow of Joseph Miller, who as well as being the tenant of ‘The Half Moon’ at Herne Hill had also in 1754 acquired Francis Friend’s lease of ‘The Bell’. The Old College Gate lies immediately to the west of it.
Annesfields and Dickriddings Field
The Court Rolls for September 1334 refer to “...the lord's oats in Annayesfelde”, but the name (or any variant of it) does not resurface until 1542, when a royal survey of the Dulwich woods and commons refers to “hedgerowes in Annes feld” and one of 1544 tells us that “Three hedgerowes in Annes feld conteyneth [2 acres 3 roods]”. We know that in all there were six fields all called Annesfields or Annisfields (or, once, Agnesfeilds), and we have a very good idea what area they covered although not precisely how that area was divided up. The available evidence occasionally seems contradictory. Thus Nicholas Calton’s settlement, as lord of the manor, on his son Francis in January 1575 included “a pasture called Annesfield ” (12 acres). A terrier of c.1600 appears to refer to it in the singular as 4 acres; Edward Alleyn, in a diary entry for 23rd June 1621, refers to “Annesfields, 3 fields, 8½ acres”; the College Rent Book for 1626/27 to “the 3 Annis feilds (12 acres)” and “2 annis feilds & dickariddens (12 acres)”; and a 1629 lease to Edmond Redman refers to “6 parcels called Agnesfeilds”, 22 acres.
From 1530 or earlier until at least 1581 Dickriddings field was let as part of Dulwich Court farm, but after Edward Alleyn’s acquisition of the manor it became part of a different and smaller farm, mostly comprising the six Annesfields, extending along Dulwich Common from the present Rosebery Gate almost to College Road.
Dickriddings was described as a 4-acre close of pasture in 1573, the date of its first mention. The name probably has nothing to do with the Old English word ‘riding’, meaning ‘a third part’, which was in common use only in those parts of England (and Ireland) which had come under Norse influence. More likely it derives from ‘ryddynges’, another Old English word meaning a clearing in a wood, in this case perhaps made by someone called Richard. Dickriddings would have been near, if not actually next to, Hamonds Coppice. and we know that Hamonds Coppice, on the north side of Dulwich Common at the junction with Lordship Lane, was not cleared of its woods until Edward Alleyn’s time. Whoever ‘Dick’ was, and we shall almost certainly never know, he probably carried out the original clearance, with the consent, if not the active encouragement, of the lord of the manor, many years before 1573. Nor do we have any better idea which of Dulwich’s several known Annes or Annies, (or Agneses) those eponymous fields were named for, if indeed it was any of them.
We do not know precisely where Dickriddings was in relation to Annesfields. Such tantalising clues as there are - e.g. a named tenant being told to unclog his watercourse between his field and Dickriddings, or vice versa - point to it being a field north-west of the Rosebery Gate. In 1629 Edmond Redman, who according to the College Rent Books had already been in occupation for nearly three years, took a lease from the College of a house (on the site of Bell House) and lands called Dick Riddinges (4 acres), 6 parcels called Agnesfields (22 acres), and Crouchmans (3 acres), on which the house was built. In 1635 Redman assigned the lease to his sisters-in-law Bathsheba and Avis Casinghurst - he had married their sister Dionis. In 1659 Bathsheba, who in the meantime had married and been widowed by Matthew Shepard, was granted her own lease of the rest of the premises, with what must have been a new farmhouse on it somewhere along the north side of Dulwich Common. The same farm was subsequently leased to John Davis in 1681 and to his son, also John Davis, in 1700. Dickriddings and Annesfields are not mentioned by name after 1681.
Later lessees were Thomas and William Seagood in 1737 (by which time there were two houses) and William Seagood alone in 1749. His premises were described as three recently-erected houses and eight fields of arable and/or pasture adjoining them, just over 29 acres in all, and Peckamins. We can infer that the Seagoods, one of whom was a plasterer and the other a bricklayer, had demolished and replaced the original house to a much higher standard than previously, and more suitable for gentry than for yeoman farmers. William was succeeded in 1772 by Ann Seagood, who remained as tenant of the whole, occupying one of the houses herself, until 1783, when another split took place.
Three of the meadows, formerly Annesfields, were added to Alderman Thomas Wright’s lease of Bell House and its 3-acre garden (formerly Crouchmans), and those three fields were eventually to be wholly incorporated into Dulwich Park. The three houses can almost certainly be identified with those which later became known as ‘Glenlea’ (now ‘Tappen House’), ‘Ryecotes’ (demolished 1966, the site of Ryecotes Mead) and ‘Cypress House’. The remaining former Annesfields were parcelled up between these holdings. Once a dispute between the College and one Mainwaring Davies concerning his lease of a substantial farm on the south side of Dulwich Common had been settled in 1789, what had probably been Dickriddings was leased with other land to Percival North, who built a house on it, later known as ‘The Elms’. It may or may not be relevant to our main subject, Dulwich Park, that in 1790 the College ordered that 25 oaks and 25 elms should be planted “near North’s premises”. By the time Dulwich Park came into being the tenant of ‘The Elms’ was James Cowie, whose lease did not expire until 1904, allowing part of his premises - probably most of the former Dickriddings - to be added late to the Park, thus completing Charles Barry’s design for it, reproduced above. Likewise Mr C. R. Lindsay (of Glenlea), Mr Culloch (of Ryecotes) Mr Samuel S. Brown (of Cypress House) and Mr F. Marshall all had land taken from their back gardens (or in Marshall’s case from land he intended for development), all former Annesfields, to add to the new Park.