Who Lived in Houses Like These?
Early Residents at Nos 22-28 Dulwich Wood Avenue
by Ian McInnes
The previous article in the Autumn 2021 Journal described how 18 of the 22 original houses on the east side of Dulwich Wood Avenue, or The Avenue as it was then called, were built by Gipsy Hill based builder Richard H Marshall, and of these, four remain today, Nos 22-28. These are large properties which attracted wealthy occupants and, because their names often appeared in contemporary newspapers, it is possible to find out a substantial amount of information about them.
Henrietta M Ward, a wealthy spinster, was the first lessee of Auburn Villa, No. 22. She was followed for a brief period in 1872-73 by the Hon Adeline Paulina Irby (1831-1911), an inveterate lady traveller in Eastern Europe in the early 1860s, along with her companion, Georgina Muir McKenzie. The couple subsequently wrote a book titled ‘Travels in the Slavonic Provinces of Turkey in Europe’. Published in 1867, It sold extremely well and the second, and subsequent, editions had a preface by the Prime Minister of the day, W E Gladstone. With the help of Florence Nightingale, they raised money to support refugees in Herzegovina and Bosnia and later opened a school for girls in Sarajevo - and raised further funds to open at least 20 other schools. There is a street in Sarajevo, ‘Mis Irbina’, named after her. She was followed at the house by Colonel James Marquis of the Bengal Army (retired) and then Mrs Caroline Damant, the widow of another Bengal Army officer, Guybon Henry Damant (1846-79). He was well-known in India as an ethnographer and folklorist but she had only been married to him for a little over a year when he was killed. At the time he was the political agent in the Naga Hills, a notoriously politically unstable area, and was shot dead with 35 of his men leading an attack on a local town, Khonoma, to recover illegal weapons. Caroline Damant retained her connections with India and, in 1896, lent the house briefly to an Indian princess who was visiting England. Sarah Begum Sahiba (1853-1925), previously an English woman named Sarah Vennell, the sixth wife of the Mansour Ali Khan, the Nawab of Bengal who had married her when she was just 17.
Gipsy Lodge, No. 24 was first tenanted by a wealthy Irish widow, Mrs Susannah Matcham Moore, a niece of Lord Nelson. Her husband, George Montgomery Moore, 16 years older than her. had died in 1834 - his father was Nathaniel Montgomery Moore, an Irish MP. Their son, Sir Alexander George Montgomery Moore KCB (1833-1919) served in the British Army, mainly in Ireland. He commanded the 4th Hussars from 1868 to 1880, served as assistant adjutant general in Dublin and was put in charge of the Belfast district in 1886. He later commanded troops in Canada. He took over the house from his mother in the 1880s and lived there with his wife and a number of servants until his death in 1919. From the mid-1920s the occupants were the Carnaby family, of the local estate agents, Marten and Carnaby, who had offices at West Dulwich Station and at 104 Thurlow Park Road. Born in Streatham, William Carnaby had been brought up in Croxted Road, his father being a gas apparatus manufacturer. He had set up in the estate agency business in 1901 and in the 1930s Grace’s Guide was describing them as one of the leading firms, adding that ‘their illustrated Guide to residential Dulwich and Property Register is to be found all over the world. It is one of the finest of its kind published by the profession, and most useful to those contemplating a change of residence.’ The author has a copy from 1910 and it is certainly very informative, if slightly depressing on prices. In 1932 William Carnaby’s son, William Fleming Carnaby, was awarded a three-year scholarship for Cambridge University by the Chartered Surveyor’s Institution while still at school. He served in the RAF during WW2 and was promoted to Squadron Leader - unfortunately losing his life in February 1943 when the De Havilland Mosquito he was flying broke up in mid-air just before landing.
Next door, at Preston House, No. 26, lived Watkin William Taylor, a senior officer in Her Majesty’s Customs - with the long-winded title of Examiner and Principal Consultant of Landing and Warehousing Accounts. While undoubtedly a successful civil servant, his son, Herbert Arnaud Taylor (1841-1915) is arguably more interesting. He was briefly a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers before resigning his commission and joining the engineer Latimer Clark, another local resident living at Beechmount (later Hitherwood) at No 19 Sydenham Hill. Clark’s firm, the Electrical Telegraph Company, were employed by the British Government to lay submarine cables. Taylor’s first important project was the installation of the Persian Gulf Cable in 1868 while in 1873-74 he was engineer in charge of installing the Anglo-Atlantic cable. Mr Taylor senior died in 1878 and the house was then occupied for a few years by one Henry Gallup and then by a retired bank manager, George E Gates. The latter had worked for the London and County Bank (later part of the National Westminster Bank) which, in the mid-1870s, was the largest bank in the country with over 150 branches. When he left the Chatham branch earlier in his career in 1868, his customers presented him with a large silver tray with the inscription ‘Presented to George Edward Gates, Esq., for many years manager of the London and County Bank at Chatham, by a large number of his friends, as a token of their esteem and appreciation of his unvaried courtesy and sterling worth.’ His wife lived in the house until her death in 1907 and she was then followed for a short period by a retired army doctor, Brigade Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel John Ross Murray MD FRCSE. Early in his career, in the 1860s, he had taken part in the New Zealand Wars but he was later posted to India, where he was based in Lucknow. The year after his death his wife gave a donation to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, where he had trained, to endow an adult bed to be named ‘The John Ross Murray bed’ in memory of her husband. Towards the end of WW1 there was a new tenant, Oswald Marsh, a noted stamp dealer. He specialised in British and Commonwealth stamps, controls, and cut-outs. He was a life member of the Fiscal Philatelic Society and produced several well-regarded philatelic journals, including Marsh's Monthly Offers, Marsh's Weekly Philatelist and Marsh's Colonial Philatelist.
The fourth house, Tilford Lodge, No. 28, was the first on the road to be completed, in December 1859. It was leased to Thomas Lamport Harris, a merchant previously living at a house called Oak Villa on the other side of Gipsy Hill. He and his family lived there until the late 1870s when he assigned the lease to Margaret Hamilton, a naval commander’s widow - she was in residence at the 1881 Census along with nine lodgers. She left very soon afterwards, perhaps the Estate objected to a boarding house being in such a prestigious road. By July 1881 the tenant was Sydney Charles Scott, a city solicitor, in his early-30s. By Dulwich standards he had an exotic wife - she was an American citizen but had been born and brought up in St Petersburg in Russia. Sydney was a gifted amateur pianist and the couple’s eldest daughter, Marion (1877-1953), was to become a significant force in reshaping women's roles in classical music. She was a pioneer in championing the work of several generations of British composers and musicians through her work as a music critic and musicologist. The nearby Crystal Palace was central to her early life - she was enrolled in the Crystal Palace School of Art when she was four years old and had begun piano lessons - but changed to the violin. By the age of 15, she was performing regularly around London with her father as accompanist, her parents even purchased her a Guadagnini violin - one of the great historical violins, ranking just behind Stradivari and Guarneri. One can only speculate as to whether she met two of the other local musicians like August Manns, the conductor of the Crystal Palace orchestra between 1855 and 1901, who lived nearby in Dulwich Wood Park, or Alfred J Eyre, Crystal Palace’s resident organist between 1880-94 who lived at No. 11 The Avenue, just up the road.
The Scott’s left the house in 1906 and it was then taken over by a tea dealer, Charles ‘Itzi’ Schlee (1865-1943). Born in Hamburg, he had gone out to China and had become a partner in the tea merchants, Robert Anderson & Co. In the late 1890s the family moved to London and in 1907 he was elected chairman of the China Tea Association, By the early-1900s the profitability of the tea trade in China had substantially declined, hampered by competition with Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and India, and a high export duty from China. The goal of the association was to promote China tea as a healthier option than its Asian rivals. Schlee had five sons, four of whom went to Dulwich College between 1910-16. He must have spent most of his time travelling to and from China because his wife was in charge of the family’s dealings with the Dulwich Estate - in February 1910 she sought permission to change the coach house into a playroom for her children by filling in the door with windows. There was no objection.