The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2022.
Four cameos from Bell House’s long and fascinating history will be told in promenade performances this Christmas. Christmas Eve 1772 will amusingly recall a musical evening in the same room in which it originally took place. Below Stairs, allows a peep into the preparations taking place in the original kitchen for an anticipated celebration in 1865. Elegy 1919 sees authors, G K Chesterton and Maurice Baring joining Nan Lucas, then owner of Bell House, at Christmas and remembering Nan’s brother and their great friend killed in 1916. Coronation Day 1953 hilariously relates the story of how the Dulwich College housemaster and his wife contrived to watch the events of the day on the then boarding school’s 9” TV without interruptions from the boys.
Friday 2nd December 8pm, Saturday 3rd December 8pm (Gala night), Sunday 4th December 3pm and 7.30pm. Tickets (from Bell House website Events, £18 (to include punch and cake). Children over 8 £12 (to include drink and cake) at Bell House, College Road SE21
Please note - Tickets are strictly limited at each performance. Early booking is advisable.
By Brian Green
This year, the Dulwich Club celebrates its 250th anniversary with a dinner in the Great Hall of Dulwich College. Founded in 1772, the club today comprises a maximum of fifty members who are residents of Dulwich and six members who are non-resident. Members are elected with an understanding that they have great affinity with Dulwich.
Dulwich, at the time of the Club’s foundation, was a place undergoing considerable change. It was partly a rural agricultural community, continuing to lease farmland from Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift (now the Dulwich Estate), but also becoming an embryo commuter suburb whose newcomers were heads of manufacturing businesses in the City and Southwark. These, together with a smattering of lawyers and civil servants, brought a new type of resident. All were attracted by the beauty of the ‘village in the valley’, its clean air, accessibility and orderly management.
It is not surprising that such a coterie were usually at ease with one another, willing to gather socially with their equally comfortably off- neighbours. They brought considerable benefit to the existing, less well-off, long- term residents whose livelihood would be threatened by changes in farming methods. Farm labourers could be taken on as gardeners, even as coachmen, their wives as laundresses, their daughters as maids in the new brick-built houses springing up. Local tradesmen like carpenters and builders found their order books nicely full with the spate of house-building then underway.
The new residents brought with them a culture of allegiance to organisations, most commonly the City’s livery companies and guilds. The era was also the golden age of the foundation of clubs to cater for all whims and interests, from chess playing to music. Men (and it was invariably men) would ‘club’ together to share the expenses of meeting. And it was always in taverns that even the grandest of clubs met. Certainly, Dr Johnson considered the atmosphere of the tavern ideal for such gatherings and defined clubs as being "an assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions." These ‘certain conditions’ determined the conduct of meetings; for example: who was to organise and supervise them. Such persons were generally termed ‘stewards’. Lists of rules, determining the number of members, the location of meetings, frequency and times of dinner were similarly introduced. Whilst conversation was the life-blood of such meetings, formal speeches constituted an essential part of the event.
According to the diaries of Richard Randall, the College Chapel organist from 1763 to 1783, there were several clubs already in existence in Dulwich before the arrival of the Dulwich Club. As Dr Johnson noted, their meetings were held in taverns, which in Dulwich’s case included the French Horn and the Greyhound. Randall informs us that in 1768 there was a singing club called a ‘catch’ club which met at the Greyhound, where rounds were sung. Randall also went to the Disputing Club, probably in London, where he might have been employed as a singer. There were monthly Assemblies in Dulwich where dances were held and whist was played.
In 1768, Robert Boxall, mine host of the Greyhound and local developer, sent the following petition to the Surrey Justices of the Peace:
The Humble Petition of Robert Boxall
That your Petitioner has been an Inhabitant of Dulwich in the Said County for some years and your Petitioner has lately at a great Expense fitted up a large commodious Room in his House the Greyhound there fit for the entertaining a large Number of Gentlemen and Ladys.
That your Petitioner has been lately greatly favoured with the Countenance of the Gentlemen of the said Village and
That your Petitioner has great Reason to believe they will honor him in Subscription to an Assembly for Music and Dancing at his House the next Summer provided this honourable Court will favour him with a license for that purpose and in Testimony of his Character your Petitioner humbly begs leave to refer to the Paper annexed Signed by all the Gentlemen of the Place.
Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays this Court will be pleased to grant him a License and he will be Duty bound to Pray & etc.
We whose Names are hereto subscribed
Inhabitants of Dulwich do recommend Robert Boxall Master of the Greyhound Inn there as a Sober industrious careful Person and fit to be intrusted with a License for an Assembly at his House Given under Our Hands this 12th Day of September 1768,
Wm Swanne, Brass Crosby,Thos. Williams, Edw. Russell, Geo: Thorp Thos. Treslove, Richd Randall, Tho: Adams, Wm Heathcote, C Lawson, Rob. Woodmass Wm. Watts, Sam. Waring, Wilm. Kay, Joseph Waring jnr, Tho. Bullard, John Waring Tho. Allen, Jo. Carey, R Taylor
(The list of Robert Boxall’s supporters includes the Warden of the College, together with the 1st Fellow (preacher), 2nd Fellow (schoolmaster) and 4th Fellow (organist). Some of the other names will also strike chords for local history buffs, such as Edward Russell who applied for, and was granted permission to fish in the Millpond in 1764 at a rental of 2/- p.a. or the Warings who invited Richard Randall to their ‘Harvest Home’. Or Brass Crosby who became Lord Mayor of London in 1770.)
Not everyone who lived nearby was so enthusiastic about the marketing of the Greyhound’s new facilities; Edward Browne who lived opposite to the inn (in a house still standing) complained in a letter to the College in 1776 and requested that ‘trees be planted in front of the inn to screen it’. Boxall was swift to respond saying that it would prevent people seeing the inn. In the event a clump of trees was planted.
While assemblies at the Greyhound became a regular feature of village life, a rival and grander establishment was built soon after and named Great Denmark Hall and stands on the site of the present pub, The Fox on the Hill, on Denmark Hill. This was an enterprise by the possibly shifty but certainly talented woodcarver Luke Lightfoot. Lightfoot was anxious to capitalise on the mania for assemblies which were a feature of London’s emerging West End. At these assemblies card playing, as well as dancing and music was another essential ingredient of success.
It is therefore no surprise that wealthy newcomers to Dulwich in the second half of the 18th century formed a club. It met four times a year and so was named the Dulwich Quarterly Meeting. Over time, probably because of the pressure of business of its members, it reduced its meetings to three times a year and so changed its name to The Dulwich Club. The first meetings were held at the French Horn (opposite the Fountain roundabout in the Village) but soon transferred to the more commodious and, due to its extensive refit, the more attractive venue of The Greyhound after 1776.
The arrangements for the dinner were laid down in the club rules and remain the same to this day. The responsibility for the dinner belongs to the two balloted stewards at each dinner. The rules require a number of speeches to be made and on occasions entertainers might be engaged for added enjoyment. Membership was originally restricted to twenty-one, but guests were, and remain, a key element of the club.
A menu dating from 1782 is reprinted. This kind of Bacchanalian feast actually was short-lived; the level-headed businessmen among the club’s number voted to restrict the number of dishes placed on the table, to put back the time for dinner from the original time of 3.30pm, in stages, until 6.30pm, presumably, to allow them to conduct their businesses.
Although the frequency of its meetings was limited, and its membership small, nevertheless the members of the Dulwich Quarterly meeting were seemingly often quarrelsome, and the original club was dissolved and reconstituted in 1791. In 1807 there was sufficient disagreement amongst its members for ten of the then twenty-one members to resign. Perhaps they fell out over an early version of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood!
Minute books covering the long history of the Dulwich Club survive. From its pages we learn that however serious the disagreements might have been, in times of crisis its members often took a lead in organising solidarity among all the inhabitants of the hamlet. Thus during the French Revolution -
December 15th 1792
Proposition recommending the inhabitants of Dulwich form themselves into an Association upon the plan of those that were daily forming up in the Metropolis and its Environs for the purpose of testifying their loyal attachment to the King and Constitution.
6th December 1800
Resolved unanimously that the members of the Quarterly Meeting and other gentlemen residing in the Hamlet now present do pledge themselves to each other, to observe strictly in their respective families, the exhortation and injunctions contained in His Majesty’s Proclamation dated 3rd day of this instant December recommending the greatest economy and frugality in the consumption of bread and in the use of every species of grain.
Resolved: That the gentlemen here present will do their utmost to enforce in the neighbourhood the observance of the existing law to prevent the consumption off bread.
(On December 3rd 1800, King George III issued a Proclamation requesting families ‘to practice the greatest economy and frugality in the use of every species of grain and to reduce consumption of Bread by at least one third consumed in ordinary times’ and ‘being persuaded that the prevention of all unnecessary consumption of corn will furnish one of the surest and most effectual means of alleviating the present pressure’).
After fourteen more years of hardship and the final victory over Napoleon in 1814 the “gentlemen of the Dulwich Quarterly meeting resolved unanimously to entertain the Ladies of the Hamlet with a Ball and Supper at the Greyhound in consequence of the late auspicious Peace and that a committee of seven persons members of the same and also other gentlemen of the Hamlet to cooperate with them in carrying the resolution into effect.”
Around the middle of the nineteenth century the membership numbers increased substantially, the name changed to the Dulwich Club and some dinners were held outside Dulwich with Greenwich and Richmond being favoured as a summer excursion; a horse-drawn omnibus being hired for transport. After the opening of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, thirty members of the club enjoyed a dinner there in 1857. Moral obligations felt by its members towards the community led to frequent gifts of coals to the poor in this period. With the opening of the ‘new’ buildings of Dulwich College in 1870 and the consequent increase in population, such was the pressure on the club to accept new members that it formally voted to limit the membership to the present total of fifty plus a further six who might reside outside of Dulwich.
In 1894 the club’s final dinner was held at the Greyhound, the old inn being demolished soon after to make way for the building of Aysgarth and Pickwick Roads. With the arrival of the new century and the influence of the Suffragette movement there was pressure on the club to invite ladies to dinners and not just to the occasional (but very well-attended) ball, and ladies became invited guests to one of the meetings each year.
Although the rules of the Dulwich Club did not actually restrict membership solely to men, in practice ladies had never been admitted. In 2022, in acknowledgement of the ambiguity of its position, the current membership voted to formally extend membership to women and rephrased one if its toasts from ‘The Hamlet of Dulwich and the Ladies thereof’ to ‘The Hamlet of Dulwich and the Residents thereof’.
The Dulwich Club meets at least once a year in Dulwich and once a year elsewhere, usually in London. At its last dinner the guest of honour was former resident and head of MI6 2014 - 2020, Sir Alexander Younger. He amused his audience by recalling that the security services had considered his home in Frank Dixon Close vulnerable to attackers and moved him and his family “to the safer environs of Winterbrook Road!”
The third quarter of the year is always the quietest for new records and this year is no exception, although the heat of the summer has reached new heights with no significant rain since March. Our soils are now bone dry with grasses a uniform brown. Many of our garden birds do retreat into shade at this time of year while they moult, but with slim pickings from open ground, they will hopefully continue there to find their invertebrate food. In 1976 a Minister for Drought was appointed, and it immediately started to rain. Perhaps Boris missed a trick.
Particularly pleasing this year is a record of the sighting and photography by Trevor Moore of a Little Owl in Dulwich Park where it had not previously been seen. This gives hope that the park may be a new breeding site for these birds which have lived somewhere in Dulwich for many years. A more familiar pair of Little Owls were recorded in the region of Grange Lane where they nested this year. One of these birds was photographed by Margaret McHugh several years ago and we include this as the Dulwich Park bird photo was too distant. Unlike Tawny Owls, Little Owls regularly appear during the day but will mostly hunt at night. A strange bird call heard overflying at night may well be a Little Owl.
Little Owls are not in fact native to Britain but were introduced from Holland by several enthusiastic Yorkshire naturalists first in 1842. They became widespread by the turn of the century and fitted into the British ecology around farmland and parks where there was hedgerow and old trees. In Greek mythology, apparently the Little Owl was sacred to the goddess Pallas Athene, the goddess of Wisdom and was held in great reverence in Athens where Athene’s moderation was in contrast to the revelry of Dionysus. Hence its Latin name Athene noctua and the association with the “wise old owl”.
Amongst our Summer records each year we have been following the numbers of Swifts that we see. This year the numbers though not large, have been consistent with previously and they have been nesting in some of the Swift boxes in East Dulwich. Steven Robinson successfully hand reared a young Swift that had fallen from its nest with great success. It required much dedication with the giving two hourly insect feeds. He proceeded to relocate it into an occupied nest to achieve fostering. The good news is that this was successful and it departed for Africa on 31st July. It will be on the wing for at least the next two years before it comes to breed. A talisman for the “Save our Swifts” campaign.
I particularly enjoyed receiving an account a few weeks ago from Alex Hamilton of the wildlife he had been seeing in his garden in Woodwarde Road in the first part of the year. This has prompted me to suggest that readers of my articles might make monthly wildlife diaries and submit them to the society E-mail wildlife site. A call has also gone out in the Society’s E- Newsletter which many will have read. We are living in unprecedented climatic times and wildlife of all sorts will be needing, as are we, to adapt. Our insect life is particularly important, and the presence or unexpected absence of certain insects are indicators of what is happening to our natural world and whether our own urban ecology is particularly vulnerable. Have we for instance been seeing Ladybirds, Crane Flies (Daddy Longlegs), Lacewings or Shield Bugs and were there a lot or less than usual?
The messages this year to the wildlife subcommittee were that it is once more a poor year for butterflies but as the sunnier weather took over Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Small Skipper butterflies have emerged in numbers. Their caterpillars are grass feeders and it will be a matter of interest to know whether our parched grassland will be a problem for them.
We still have Holly Blue butterflies and Commas but this year I saw no Orange Tips and so far no Peacocks or Tortoiseshells. However, it is good to report that the Jersey Tiger moth continues to thrive in SE21.
I shall look forward to reading what society members have been able to record.
Peter Roseveare, Wildlife Recorder Tel: 020 7274 4567
The warmer the night, the more moths you tend to catch; so it was not surprising that the hottest night ever recorded in the UK brought me a record haul. I had 91 species in and around the trap, a total of 488 moths - plus many hundreds of Horse Chestnut Leaf-miners and Apple Leaf-miners, which I didn’t attempt to count.
Even with 91 species in the trap there was only one new for the garden. After six years running a moth trap, I get new species less often; even so, I’ve had 21 new species in the garden in the last 12 months, bringing the total to 623.
My best new species so far this year, though, was not in the trap. I’ve always loved examples of animal mimicry: fish that look like floating vegetation, or praying mantis that look like orchids. There are lots of UK moths that look like dead leaves, wood or lichen. A surprising number of them look like bird droppings. There are some caterpillars that look extraordinarily like twigs. Maybe the most remarkable, though, is the Hornet Moth, a day-flying species which looks amazingly like a large wasp, but is actually a big fluffy moth that’s trying to scare away predators.
The caterpillars live inside the trunks of mature poplar trees for two or three years, and you can often find the large emergence holes at the base of the trunk. There are lots of these holes on some large hybrid poplars at the southern edge of Dulwich Park. And if you check the trunks in the mornings in late June or early July, you may find the empty cocoons or, if you are lucky, the adult moth. Which is how I found one this year.
The American Garden in Dulwich Park is celebrated for its rhododendrons but is also characterised by a large number of birch trees. Birches are also widely planted in the streets of Dulwich, notably in Dovercourt Road, and in several of the streets running from Herne Hill to Half Moon Lane.
The birches in the American Garden are almost all Betula pendula, the silver birch, which is much the most familiar species. There are altogether some 40 species in the northern hemisphere, some found further north than any other trees - it is the national tree of Finland. Birch wood has many valuable uses, notably for plywood and veneers.
Birch trees are easily recognised by their distinctive light-coloured peeling bark, flowers and fruit in the form of catkins (male and female borne on the same tree), smallish leaves, and often weeping branches. By comparison with many other species, they are short-lived, rarely surviving beyond 150 years - so many of those in the American Garden are relatively elderly.
Birch pollen is a potent allergen and affects some 25 per cent of hay fever sufferers. This has made it a less popular choice for street planting in recent years.
In addition to silver birches, other species found in Dulwich include the Himalayan birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, noted for its attractive white bark, and the paper-bark birch, Betula papyrifera, a North American species named for its thin and readily peeling bark.
Dulwich Park tree walk with Daniel Greenwood on Sunday 23 October at 11am
Daniel Greenwood will lead a Dulwich Society tree walk on the theme of tree fungi. Meet inside the Court Lane entrance to Dulwich Park.
On The Street Where You Live - Lordship Lane (from Dulwich Common to Sydenham Hill)
By Ian McInnes
Crossing over the junction of Lordship Lane and Dulwich Common from the dilapidated Grove Tavern, the first building you come to is the St Peter’s Church Hall, then the church itself and next to it, and almost hidden behind a row of trees, is the former vicarage. Next, is No 524 Lordship Lane, an award-winning Southwark Council development of old people’s flats built in the early 1970s. Beyond, is Highwood Close, a large housing development dating from 2002-06 and built by Laing Homes, replacing most of the former Highwood Barracks built in 1938-39 (the current Highwood Barracks building is a much smaller building, dating from 2002-04). It is named after the Battle of High Wood, the scene of a major engagement during the Battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916, when the First Bn Surrey Rifles (including many men from Dulwich) attacked a line of German trenches with a huge loss of life. The old barracks itself replaced six large houses built in the 1870s and 80s. Further up the hill were 526-532 Lordship Lane, and the former site of the Lordship Lane Station. All are now covered by social housing built by Southwark Council in the 1960s and 1970s.
The only building showing on this part of the Dulwich Estate on the 1870 Ordnance Survey map was the Lordship Lane Railway Station which opened on 1st September 1865. It was one of four stations serving the then new Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway which ran from Peckham Rye to the Crystal Palace High Level Station. The railway company was obliged by the Estate to build a picturesquely styled station house, with two steeply-gabled roofs over its red brick and stone, and the adjacent rail bridge over Lordship Lane was required to be elaborately ornamented and carry the Dulwich College coat of arms. The railway had first been discussed with the Estate at the end of 1861, and it is interesting to note that the same week that the Estate Board met to approve the sale of Estate land for the route, 4th January 1862, Messrs Courage, the brewer, also put forward a scheme for a new pub close by. This became the Grove Tavern and it was up and running by the middle of 1863, almost 18 months before the completion of the station.
St Peter’s Church followed in the early 1870s, planned to serve the growing number of occupiers in the new housing developments on the east side of Lordship Lane on the land that had belonged to Friern Manor Farm. An iron chapel-of-ease had been set up there in 1868 to generate interest and, after sufficient funds were raised, the foundation stone of the main church was laid by wealthy local Sydenham Hill resident, Richard Thornton, on 1st May 1873. Designed by Charles Barry Jnr, the Dulwich Estate Architect, the main part of the church was complete and in use by October 1874, although the official consecration had to wait until 1883 when it was dedicated by the Bishop of Rochester. The construction of the spire and an enlarged chancel followed in 1885 when another wealthy local resident, tea importer Frederick John Horniman, contributed further funds. The church hall, now looking very dilapidated after severe structural problems, dates from the late 1890s, as does the Vicarage.
The original houses at Nos 524-530 Lordship Lane were built between 1872 and 1875 by James Dines, a builder living nearby in Mount Ash Road on the far side of Sydenham Hill (he had built most of that road as well), while the last two houses, Nos 532 and 534, were constructed in the early 1880s. There were a number of interesting occupants, particularly at Oak Lea, No. 532. Eugene Schwarte, who lived in the house between 1894 and 1913, was a partner in the firm of Schwarte & Hammer, 3 East India Avenue, Leadenhall Street; they called themselves merchants & agents but their business was primarily guns. They imported Mannlicher Schoenauer sporting rifles and Steyr automatic pocket pistols into England and also supplied them to the middle east, particularly Muscat. His son went to Dulwich College but changed his surname, perhaps wisely, from Schwarte to Seymour during WW1.
Following Eugene Schwarte’s death in 1913, the lease was taken over by a Swiss watch importer, George Dimier, who had moved there from Longton Avenue. He and his family attended St Peter’s Church - in May 1922, his eldest son, Charles George, married the daughter of the incumbent, the Rev Arthur Knott. Dimier was a partner in Dimier Frères & Cie, with London offices at 46 Cannon Street. The company was founded as Georges Dimier SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland in the nineteenth century and apparently catered originally for the Chinese market. The loss of this market in the 1860s led to a change in business model and the firm moved away from watch manufacturing to become an importer/exporter. Specifically, they exported Swiss-made, Dimier branded watches and movements to England. In 1868 they opened a London office and, as well as being a successful business, the firm played an important role at the beginning of the twentieth century in the introduction of the first modern wristwatches. In 1903, in both England and Switzerland, they registered a wrist watch case design which had curved fixed metal lugs to attach a one-piece leather strap. During WW1 this type of wrist watch became known as the "trench" or "officers" watch.
The first tenant at No 534, the aptly named Bridge House because of its proximity to the rail-over bridge, was treasury barrister Frederick Mead. He was later a Metropolitan Police Stipendiary Magistrate and was noted in the local papers reporting his promotion as an ‘active Churchman and Conservative’. In the mid-1890s he sub-let the lease to Alfred W Bush of W J Bush & Co, a well-known London-based firm producing flavourings for foods, essential oils and perfume. The firm had a large export business in the then British Empire and was still in business up to the 1960s. By the mid-1900s, the tenant was Matthew Wallace JP, an iron merchant and, in 1890-91, the first elected mayor of the Borough of Camberwell. He was also the chairman of Camberwell Vestry in 1896 when the Dulwich Library was built - contemporary newspapers report him objecting to the plans on the basis that Dulwich always received better treatment than other parts of the borough.
By the 1930s the houses were becoming less desirable as the leases ran down. Fortuitously, in April 1937, the Estate received a letter from the Chief Land Agent and Valuer to the War Office offering to take a new 99-year lease on all of the houses in order to build a searchlight station for the Territorial Army. The letter said that they had already agreed the purchase of the leasehold interests of three of the houses, and planned to institute compulsory purchase proceedings against the Alliance Economic Investment Company Ltd, the leaseholders of the remaining empty ones. The Estate minutes confirmed that, as this was a matter of national concern, the Governors would agree to the proposal, but that their agreement should not to be taken as a precedent for other sites.
Over the next few months, the War Office’s aspirations for the site expanded and by November, the new building was to be the headquarters of the 35th Surrey Rifles Anti-Aircraft Battalion Royal Engineers as well as providing accommodation for the Territorial Army and the Air Force Association of the County of London. The plans included a large two-storey main building containing a drill hall, officers’ and sergeants’ messes, class instruction rooms, and a miniature rifle range. There was also to be an underground boiler house with fuel stores and two separate one-story buildings to house vehicles, petrol and oil. No 524 Lordship was to be retained and used as quarters for staff instructors. The approximate cost of the work was just under £30,000. The Estate agreed the revised buildings with one proviso, that the wall to Cox’s walk be put back a few feet and a grass verge laid down and trees planted to form a screen.
The Crystal Palace High Level line had never been a commercial success. It had been electrified in 1926 but that did little to improve things. It suffered some bomb damage during WW2 and was only reopened in January 1946, but passenger numbers didn't improve, with many trains during the day running almost empty, and the decision was made to close it. The last electric train ran on 18th September 1954 although there was a final steam train the following day. Dismantling the line took some time and was finally completed early in 1957. The bridge across Lordship Lane was removed and the only reminder of the route of the line is the Horniman Museum’s Nature Trail which runs along the top of the old embankment parallel with Wood Vale.