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.

Go to top