Giles Coppice now occupies the former sites of seven large Victorian houses built in the early 1860s, Nos 10-20 (even) Dulwich Wood Park and No 6 Kingswood Drive. The first mention of development on the site was in July 1960 when, at a board meeting, the Estate Governors asked Russell Vernon, the Estate Architect, to look at a scheme for converting Nos 14 and 16 into flats. He reported that the houses were in such bad condition that they should be demolished and that, instead, he had prepared a plan for 24 new houses, all accessed from Dulwich Wood Park via a new road. He added that the site was a gently sloping one and that he thought that it was more suitable for houses than flats. The Governors agreed but suggested that the scheme be expanded to include the sites of Nos 18 and 20, whose leases were about to fall in.
Russell Vernon was back in December with a revised plan for all four sites. A crescent shaped road, starting almost opposite Farquhar Road, served 27 two and three storey houses, in a staggered layout to break up the rooflines and the general massing. He reported that the development was designed to be phased and that 14 houses could be built immediately on the sites of Nos 14 and 16 if required.
During the next three years, while the Estate waited for the leases on Nos 18 and 20 to revert, there was no obvious progress. However, late in 1963 the Estate Manager persuaded Wates that there was a development opportunity there if they bought in the leases and in February 1964 Russell Vernon was able to report that this had been arranged. Wates had also rehoused the tenant in No 20, thus freeing up a much larger site for a single phase development. His revised scheme also included the vacant site at 6 Kingswood Drive and provided 28 three bedroom and 14 four bedroom houses. He had also now had the Council’s agreement to access the site from two points, Kingswood Drive as well as Dulwich Wood Park, and the layout showed a small series of closes off the main access road with a form of ‘courtyard’ house instead of the detached and semi-detached houses proposed previously - probably similar in concept to the later scheme built in Pymers Mead off Croxted Road. The Governors instructed the Manager to continue negotiations with Wates with a view to sorting out a building agreement and moving forward.
In March Russell Vernon confirmed that, following a meeting with both the LCC and Camberwell Council, he had been advised that the proposed Dulwich Wood Park dual carriageway would mean that site access from Dulwich Wood Park would not now be permitted. The LCC had suggested that, if a second access was required, the best option would be from the end of Hitherwood Drive through the small area of private woodland. The Governors were not happy with this and instructed Russell Vernon to give the scheme more thought. In April an amended layout accessed the houses from a looped cul de sac off Kingswood Drive - Camberwell were apparently happy with it but stipulated that the road could not provide access to any future development at the adjacent site, Nos 2-8 Dulwich Wood Park.
In November it was reported that 32 units had been agreed in principle and Wates made a formal offer for the site in March 1965 – agreeing to complete the development within three years from ‘Lady Day’ (25th March) 1965. The agreed scheme, however, was very different from the previous ‘courtyard’ house layout. Following the success of the Peckarmans Wood development on Crescent Wood Drive the architects had decided that terrace houses were a more economical option, given the slope of the land, and produced a simpler plan with three rows of terrace houses with a minimum amount of roadway. In his presentation to the Governors Russell Vernon noted that the revised plan would cut down the amount of roadway necessary for detached or semi-detached houses while, at the same time, giving more open space for amenity areas for the residents. The scheme now provided 36 houses, each with a garage, in six groups, giving a density of 53 persons to the acre. The ground rents would be £45, £50 and £60 for each of the three different types of houses and Wates confirmed that the costs were viable. Later in the month a detailed planning application was submitted to the Council.
In June, everything came to a stop. Southwark Council (Camberwell Borough Council was subsumed into Southwark in January 1965) decided to compulsory purchase the site, along with several others, to build council housing. The Governors were frustrated and annoyed and agreed to oppose the order when it was served. Southwark sent a formal letter early in September asking the Governors if they would sell the land voluntarily, but they refused and the compulsory purchase notice was served on the 15th. In November the Council refused the planning application on the grounds that “the site constituters the greater part of an area which the Council is proposing to acquire compulsorily for housing purposes and the development proposed would prevent the implementation of the Council’s scheme”
It was clear to the Estate, however, that some compromise would have to be reached and, over the next year, they offered the Council a large number of older houses in Burbage, Winterbrook and Stradella Roads instead – houses that they could not sell because of short leases. They agreed to give the Council new 40 year leases and permission to convert each house into two flats. The Council accepted and the compulsory purchase order was withdrawn in May 1967.
Shortly afterwards working drawings were ready for the type A houses – the ‘upside down’ houses on the front of the site nearest Dulwich Wood Park. Three months later the drawings for the types B & C houses were also ready – with a flat roof on the type B and pitched roofs on the type C at the rear. By then, the Estate Governors were on record as being unhappy with flat roofs in principle and we must assume that Russell Vernon was at his persuasive best at the meeting. He noted that there had been a few minor internal changes to the planning on the type B while the inclusion of the Type C’s garage under the rows of type B houses meant that the Type C had been redesigned. The ground floor now had a study, cloakroom, hall, bedroom and bathroom, while the first floor had a living room, dining room and kitchen, with three beds and a bathroom above. The final amendment was made on the type C houses when the end three were been turned 90 degrees to face the approach road rather than to present a blank flank wall to it.
Work started in the Autumn and in December Russell Vernon suggested that the new road should be called Giles Coppice which was, as he noted, one of the names previously used by the Governors – all new estate road names had to be related to the Estate’s history.
In February 1968 Wates secured a two year extension to their building agreement because of the initial delay caused by Southwark and the compulsory purchase, and they were given until March 1970 to complete the development. Last but not least, in September the Governors agreed to Wates’ request to allow residents of the new development, and the Hitherwood Drive houses, access to the area of woodland between them.