The Census return for 1851 gives a fascinating picture of Dulwich before the impact of the railways and the Crystal Palace, when it was still part of the administrative county of Surrey and a village in every sense. The census enumerators took their own idiosyncratic route in carrying out their duties, so that it can be difficult to link households with particular buildings. Occasionally houses are named, and it would be possible (although this has not been done for the purposes of this survey) to arrive at definitive answers to such problems of identification by consulting College leases. Allowing for a few houses which may have been included incorrectly, this appraisal is concerned with the Village, the Common, Half Moon Lane, Dulwich (now Red Post) Hill, Herne Hill, the west side of Lordship Lane, and the Penge (now College) Road, in other words the College Estate excluding Sydenham Hill.
It covers 278 households, about two- thirds of which had 'heads of households' born in the south-east of England. 122 had come from what is now Greater London or Middlesex, and of this number only 38 had their origins in Dulwich, showing (perhaps surprisingly to most people) that although the population may not have been as mobile as it is today, Dulwich was by no means an inbred country village. Of the remaining one-third 'heads', a substantial group came from the south and west of England, 7 from Scotland, Ireland or Wales, 7 from Europe, and 2 from Asia.
Although those from outside England were almost entirely middle-class, a large proportion of the manual workers came from beyond the South East. Certain groups of cottages or smaller houses, i.e. Wellington Place in north Dulwich, Garden Row and Lloyds Yard behind the west side of the village, and Ridley's and Herring's Cottages at the west end of the Common, have now disappeared, and Boxall Row has changed its name (to Boxall Road) and its form. In such dwellings, by and large, were housed the skilled tradesmen and working people who serviced the more wealthy denizens of the larger houses. On either side of the Village street (later the High Street, now called Dulwich Village) were the shops, mostly on the east side (as today), but there was of course no Commercial Place, nor shops at the north end of the village. The Census is unclear as to which houses were also shops, or whether heads of households were self-employed (although some are described as employers), but the picture for some types of shop does not look very different from today. Of the heads, four were butchers, three bakers, three grocers (two of them also cheese- mongers), besides a fruiterer, chemist, fishmonger, bookseller, and a stationer who was also a harness maker. Shoes and clothing are a very different story, with five cordwainers (or shoemakers), two linen drapers, three tailors, and five dress makers, suggesting that clothes were made rather than bought off the peg. Many daughters of shopkeepers and manual workers were also dress makers or seamstresses - a further 14 women were thus employed and while the daughters used a needle, their mothers often took in washing; 17 women were laundresses or manglers of linen. Four of these were heads of households, as were two charwomen, a butler, and one male house servant. However, in the category of domestic servant, a staggering 259 lived in. Eighty nine households had at least one servant, including 7 of the 16 (potential or actual) shop- keepers, the wheelwright, the local builder (Thomas Bartlett of north Dulwich, who employed six men), one of the carpenters, and one of the gardeners. Only ten of the 88 other middle-class households had no servants. If there was only one servant it was usually a young housemaid; if two, there would be a cook and housemaid; with three, a second housemaid or a nurse was added. A groom or footman is often listed where there are four or more servants, and further diversification (lady's maid, under nurse, kitchen maid) occurs as the numbers increase. Forty eight households had four or more servants living in, and the a banker Mr Matthias Attwood had a housekeeper, coachman, groom, cook, two footmen and three housemaids to look after himself, his brother and his son (both merchants) in his house at the top of Red Post Hill. His neighbour William Stone, at Casina (or Cassino) House, a silk broker (amongst other things), had eight. Gardeners did not live in, but the middle-class must have taken a pride in their gardens as there were 54 - the largest single occupational group - living in the area, usually away from the centre of the village, of whom 42 were heads of households. Two farms are noticed: Colonel Constable's 200 acres in (or near) Court Lane, and Mr Bew's dairy farm of 10 acres on the Common. Apart from Mr Constable's sons, 11 heads of households were described as agricultural workers, including two cowkeepers and a haybinder. Five unnamed tramps slept in Constable's barn on Census night. Mr Bartlett the builder has already been mentioned. The building trade was also represented by nine carpenters, eight bricklayers, six painters and three plumbers, 16 of whom were heads of households, several of them employing others. There was another builder, John Willson, but he described himself as a 'Builder in London employing 89 men and six boys'. His household had four servants. Apart from private houses, the biggest employers of staff were the inns; Mr Middlecott at the Greyhound, and Mr Webb at the Half Moon, each had five. The Crown was a smaller establishment with three. Mr Bryant, beershop keeper, was at Herring's Cottages in west Dulwich, with all four local police constables as his fairly close neighbours. Transport was represented by 17 coachmen, grooms or stablemen, not including those amongst the establishments of the larger houses, and of these 14 were heads of households. There were two omnibus proprietors and four omnibus conductors. In related professions, equivalent perhaps to today's garages, were five blacksmiths and Mr Dale, the vet, who also styled himself smith. He lived at the south end of what is now Commercial Place. Isolated trades were a caneworker in Boxall Row, and a mahogany picture frame maker near Bell House, opposite the Picture Gallery. It would be interesting to know whether the balance of occupations amongst the middle and upper classes has altered much since then. Almost certainly there were fewer teachers. At the College there was the Master (George John Allen) and the four Fellows, the Warden being absent when the Census was taken, and besides the 12 Poor Scholars there were the six Poor Brothers and six Poor Sisters (one of whom was, under the College Statutes, Matron for the boys, and is so described in the return), all but two of whom (giving the lie to their alleged poverty) had servants, often relatives. The Master had his own coachman, and for the College as a whole there was a cook, footman, kitchen maid and two housemaids. Living opposite, on the east side of the village, was the Headmaster of the Grammar School, the Rev. Bennett George Johns, and on the west side, between the wheelwright and one of the butchers, lived assistant master William Joseph Harris, aged 25, his 38 year old schoolmistress wife and 17 year old 'daughter-in-law', also a teacher. In the same category, one schoolmistress lived alone in Boxall Row, one with her sister in Herring's Cottages, and one (the daughter of a bricklayer) taught English. A governess lived in a merchant's household on the Common and another was the wife of the bookseller. There are three Misses Berry recorded (Tom Morris, writing half a century later, says that the two Misses Berry kept a young ladies' school at Blew House), the eldest of whom, and the head of the household, is described as "annuitant". At the time of the Census they has four visitors (two iron merchants and two gentlemen) and three servants. Of other professions, there were two general practitioners (the celebrated Dr Webster, and the surgeon Edward Ray at 97 Dulwich Village) and eleven lawyers, nine of them heads of households. Charles Rankin (actually Ranken), the solicitor at Belair, had seven servants, and although one of the other solicitors had no servants a solicitor's managing clerk who was head of the household at Elm Lodge in Half Moon Lane had three. Merchants and manufacturers make up by far the largest group of the middle class. If Attwood the banker and two stockbrokers are included, there were 44 (50% of the middle class excluding shopkeepers). Some are just described as merchants, but there is a fascinating variety: Stone the silk broker, Courage the brewer, a drug merchant, Manchester merchant, West Indian merchant, corn distiller, wood broker, straw hat maker, fancy soap maker, rice dresser, copper smelter, carpet warehouseman, and many more. The next largest group were ladies described as annuitants or fundholders - 15 in all. Four men were retired or living on unearned income. Other interesting individuals were Stephen Poyntz Denning, portrait painter (and keeper of the Picture Gallery), Bonham the deputy keeper, and an assistant Keeper of Public Records. Nicholas Francatelle, clerk, of Half Moon Lane, was evidently an early feminist; although he is listed as head of the household, his wife Mary is described as "wife in charge of the house". This article was written by Dr Tony Cox and first published first published in the Dulwich Society Newsletter in October 1983.