colour photo of a terrace of Georgian houses in Dulwich

John Adcock was the lessee of what is now 97 Dulwich Village, William Hucks of no. 103, and Edward Browne of no. 105, the house which is the subject of this booklet. 'The French Horn', long gone, may have had William Cooper as its landlord, but his landlord was the same Edward Browne, holding as lessee of the College. Moreover, Mr Lowe and Mr Lulman Robert Lulman, who was the local surgeon occupied premises on the site of 101 Dulwich Village, and their landlord was also Edward Browne.

The house and grounds which Edward Browne occupied in 1789, later known as 'Woodlawn' and now 105 Dulwich Village, is shown by cross-hatching on the diagram on the next page, copied from the Estate Map of 1809, and comprised nearly 1½ acres. Going back only thirty years, to 1759, hardly any of the houses shown on the map had been built. In that year Moses Waite was granted a lease by the College of 15 acres, 7 of which lay the other side of Court Lane, 4 of which were on the opposite (western) side of the High Street, and the remaining 4 acres comprised No. 105 and all the land shown by thick edging on the Diagram, to the north of it. In the Middle Ages this thick-edged land had been an 8 acre copyhold field called Cockmans, and took its name from John Cokman, who in December 1399 sold it to one John Warynge. A variant of the name is 'Cogman', which is a rare word meaning 'a dealer in cloth'. On the whole of that fifteen acres leased to Moses Waite in 1759, which had been in the Scrivener family since 1663, there were only two houses, both probably on the other side of the Village, but we are told that there were two other houses "in the course of erection", and although we cannot be sure, these were probably 103 and 105 Dulwich Village. Moses Waite, Luke Lightfoot, and Robert Boxall, either individually or in partnership, were responsible for much of the rapid development of the Village over the next ten years or so.

Robert Boxall, first mentioned as occupant of premises in Dulwich in 1759, and from 1766 onwards described as a Carpenter of Dulwich, is chiefly commemorated by Boxall Road, which William Levens built for him when he was lessee of the old 'Greyhound' inn in the early 1770s, and which was then known as Boxall Row. Moses Waite was a mason by trade, as well as being a speculative builder, based in Blackman Street, Southwark. However, the most interesting of this triumvirate of builders was Luke Lightfoot, to whom in 1762 Moses Waite granted an underlease of what was later 101 Dulwich Village but was then clearly a vacant building plot, and who may therefore be assumed to have been primarily responsible (despite the attribution to Noble Spring) for building that property. Documents indicate that he was a Carver by occupation, and like Waite had premises in Blackman Street in the parish of St George's Southwark, and may well have been Waite's partner. He had an interest in several Dulwich properties, and was responsible, c.1765, for building 'Denmark Hall' (the site of 'the Fox under the Hill'), which subsequently became the Denmark Hall Tea Gardens, operated by his son Theophilus Lightfoot at the beginning of the 19th century.

Luke Lightfoot was no mere 'Carver'. He was, according to an article in 'The Times' on 18/6/ 1988], "a prickly, difficult, remarkably versatile minor genius" who was engaged by the 2nd Earl Verney to carve "a sequence of the most stunning rococo interiors to be seen anywhere" at Verney's house, 'Claydon', near Winslow, Bucks. The Earl also took on Sir Thomas Robinson, "a bounder by nature", who persuaded him that Lightfoot was swindling him. "Lightfoot was dismissed and forced to repay £10,000, and after that he gave up and became a victualler." It may have been that this happened when 101 Dulwich Village was being built, so that Lightfoot's assignment of the lease of that property to Noble Spring may have been a device to avoid bankruptcy.

The virtuoso woodcarving doorcases, overmantels, mirror surrounds, cornices, even ceilings which Lightfoot executed at 'Claydon' happily survive, and the Chinese Room is a particularly stunning example of his genius. It would be interesting to know whether the interiors of 101, 103 or 105 Dulwich Village, or for that matter any of the other remaining Georgian houses in the village, contain any extant examples of his work.

As can still be seen from an inspection of the property, 103 and 105 Dulwich Village were originally a matching pair of much smaller houses than they are today, each having a frontage of not more than twenty feet. Edward Browne had taken a sub-lease of 105 in 1768, and obviously decided it was too small for him and his wife Penelope, and their family, which included sons Arthur and Edward and daughter Penelope. There was probably also quite a retinue of servants to accommodate, for Browne was a wealthy corn-factor, a share-holder in the Corn Exchange in Mark Lane, with business premises and a town house also in Mark Lane. We know that two of those servants were Robert Dennett and his wife, because local resident Tom Morris recorded this fact in his memoirs published in 1909, and Mr and Mrs Dennett were his maternal grandparents.

In 1776 Edward Browne took a sub-lease of 101 Dulwich Village, two doors up, and probably used this as temporary accommodation while the building works got under way. In 1777 he wrote to the College requesting permission to fell about thirty willow trees near his house and a small elm "in Ayerst's field" which obstructed his view of St. Paul's. John Ayearst's premises were about 150 yards north of Browne's premises, on the other side of the road! When the building works at No 105 were finished and he could move back in, he sub-let 101 himself until the lease expired in 1795. Browne's lease of 105 was ordered to be renewed that same year, and the new lease (execution of which was delayed, for some reason, until July 1797) states that the house was to be considered as built in 1794, in view of his expense in rebuilding or repairing it. In fact, the rebuilding and additions had probably been completed several years before, although the imposing porch, probably the finishing touch, could not have been finished earlier than 1791, since that is the date carved on the Coade stone at the base of the right-hand pillar. 

Browne's 1797 lease principally comprised this land shown crosshatched, including a small cottage and garden, occupied by a Mrs Roberts, in the south-west corner of the property. The lease also included the land shown by simple hatching on the map, known as the Bell Field, which Browne had previously leased separately, and which added nearly four acres to his grounds. In fact the grounds were even larger than that, for on the break-up of Dulwich Court Farm in 1785 Browne had taken a lease of thirty acres of the old farm, including the large field behind (and to the east of) No. 105 which became a paddock, with a thick hedge or shrubbery on either side of what was presumably a riding track running around its perimeter. One can therefore appreciate that he was a man of considerable property, and was able to treat the entire thirty six acres which he leased from the College as one estate. After 1797 the total annual rent he paid to the College for the lands he leased, including the French Horn occupied by his sub-tenant, was £107. Those were the days!  With his neighbour William Hucks (at No. 103), Edward Browne seems to have incurred considerable expense in voluntarily ornamenting the centre of the village in the late 1790s. His leases were renewed at the same rents (£12 p.a. for 'Woodlawn' and the adjoining five acres and cottage) in 1803. 

Browne died in 1811. His last Will dated September 6th 1809 (of which probate was obtained on May 24th 1811) appointed his son Edward Browne (who probably died prior to May 1812), Arthur Browne of Dulwich, Cornfactor, and Michael Smith Parnther of London St., Gentleman (erstwhile partner of Charles Druce, Solicitor to Dulwich College), to be his Executors. They must have agreed to surrender about half of his premises to the College, and assign the remainder of his leases, for in 1812 John Railton, of Mansion House St., was granted by the College two leases, one of the house, a formal garden behind it, stabling and coachhouse (1a. 2r. 3p.) at £10 p.a., the other of the adjoining cottage and its garden (hitherto occupied by John Barroist or Barwise as tenant of the Executors), and the much larger area of paddock land behind, at £60 p.a. The former lease was treated as a building lease, and was therefore effectively for 84 years, back-dated to Michaelmas 1794 (when Browne was deemed to have built the house); the latter lease was from Michaelmas 1810, but was designed to expire simultaneously with the former, at Michaelmas 1878. In 1814 Railton was granted a third lease by the College, of the garden of the former French Horn Public House (which in that same year had become the Dulwich Free School), and other adjacent land, including a large chunk of Bell Field, formerly held by Edward Browne, at £18 p.a. (an increasingly unrealistic figure as the century progressed). This lease also was to expire at Michaelmas 1878. 

About John Railton we know tantalisingly little; he may or may not have had some connection with Railton Road, between Dulwich and Brixton. He was a London merchant, partner in business of Sir Robert Graham, another Dulwich resident (for rather longer than Railton). His connection with 'Woodlawn' was short-lived, however, for in 1816 he assigned his three leases, of a total of about 16 or 17 acres, at an annual rent of £88, to John Benjamin Varley, Engraver, of Fleet Street, for £2,700. Varley was not the watercolourist and astrologer John Varley (1788-184?), friend of William Blake, who was then living in Conduit Street, although he may have been a member of the same artistically gifted family. J. B. Varley, in turn, assigned the leases (still giving his address as Fleet Street) to Philip Gowan, Merchant, of Billiter Square in the City of London, for £2,500, on June 22nd 1822.

Philip Gowan and his family were to occupy the premises for the next fifty-six years, until the leases finally expired in 1878. Neither Philip nor his son George seem to have made any major alterations or additions to the house or to its estate. However, Philip Gowan undoubtedly made some internal changes to the house in order to accommodate the needs of his growing family, and it was probably he who built the second bay at the back to give the house its present pleasingly symmetrical rear elevation. Gowan leased about six acres of additional pasture land, but only for the first twenty-one years of his occupancy perhaps because his six children were growing up and were able to benefit from the home-produced fresh milk. During this time the so-called White Cottage was sub-let at one point to a young doctor, Edward Ray, who subsequently took a lease of what became 97 Dulwich Village, four houses to the north, where he and his son, also Dr Edward Ray, successively continued to live and practice until (in the latter's case) well into this century.

Philip Gowan described himself as 'an American merchant', which we can be fairly certain meant that he dealt in American goods rather than being a merchant who was a U.S. citizen. When he moved to 'Woodlawn' in 1822 he was 34 years old. He and his family four of his six children were probably born in the house lived quite modestly for the time, with only three female servants in attendance. On Philip's death in the late 1850's, his son George Gowan moved back into the house, where he remained until his own death, at the age of 57, in 1873, and it was during his occupancy that it acquired the name of 'Woodlawn'. Initially George also called himself 'an American merchant' like his father, but by 1861 he was describing himself as a Stockbroker. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that George's wife Sarah and their two elder daughters were born in the U.S.A., so the American connection was not purely nominal.  George and Sarah Gowan had, so far as we can tell, three sons and three daughters, and their home was maintained by four female servants. During their occupancy there were no changes to the house or estate worth recording. By now the White Cottage was in a poor state of repair the Camberwell Vestry had even had cause to complain to Gowan about its insanitary condition although it was still sub-let to Samuel Stanley Brown, appointed Clerk to the College Governors in 1871, who retired from that position in 1874 to become, in 1896, an Estates Governor himself. It seems likely that George Gowan was not disposed to incur major expenditure on the house, outbuildings, or anything much else, which may explain how, when he died intestate, his estate was valued at nearly £120,000.

George's widow, Sarah, continued to live at 'Woodlawn' until her death, late in 1877 or early 1878. The long leases granted to John Railton in 1812 were all due to expire at Michaelmas 1878, by which time the total annual rent of £88 for the house and its estate of 16½ acres was wildly unrealistic. Gowan had raised the question of renewing the lease a few months before he died, and the comments then made by the Surveyor to the Estates Governors Charles Barry junior, no less make interesting reading:
"...the boundaries of the property are so irregular, and the frontages, on one side to the Village and on the other to Court Lane so obviously available by a different disposition for building, that it is not desirable to renew the lease of the same area with the same boundaries."

One often hears it said that the Estates Governors are now less concerned than previously with the amenities of Dulwich, and more motivated by commercial considerations, but from the Minutes of the Estates Governors' Meetings during the last three decades of the 19th century it appears that they would then have been quite happy to allow considerable tracts of Dulwich to be covered by rather down-market housing. One may cite the example of the serious proposal in 1890 to demolish 'Belair', fill in its lake, and cover the site with 200 small villas a proposal only thwarted by the Charity Commissioners! The reason for the Estates Governors' keenness to grant large-scale building leases at this time may well have had much to do with their need to make up the difference between the original budget for Charles Barry's grandiose plans for the new College buildings, opened in 1871, and their actual cost 50% greater than the budget. They were helped by Dulwich's increasing popularity as a place to live, with the coming of the railways and the growing reputation of the College. Sarah Gowan again raised the question of renewing the lease in 1877, and a Committee of the Estates Governors viewed the premises and reported:
"They consist of a good family house, though oldfashioned and with rather low and inconvenient kitchen offices. There is a large range of stabling and about 16½ acres of very beautiful land, of which 6 acres are laid out as ornamental garden, orchard and offices, yards and sheds, greenhouses and vineries. There is also a cottage (much out of repair). The remainder is meadow surrounded by a fine belt of trees and a grass walk, 630 feet in length, abutting Court Lane."

There was no agreement on the terms of renewal by the time of Sarah Gowan's death or in the months that followed, until the lease fell in at the end of September 1878, by which time her daughter had vacated the premises.

'Woodlawn' was then made available for a short-term let at £200 p.a., but in the following three years attracted no takers. In 1881 Charles Barry reported again:
"The house has moderately good sitting rooms, but the basement is low and bad, and the bedrooms inconvenient and rather low. While in and about Dulwich there are so many good new houses, better planned...." [He no doubt had in mind the houses he had designed himself!] "....with higher rooms and fitted with more convenient details, readily to hand, old houses like 'Woodlawn' can hardly be expected to find tenants...... The time has now arrived when it is advisable to pull down the house named 'Woodlawn' and to invite tenders for building leases."

Barry also suggested that the present 103 Dulwich Village, with the smaller buildings to the south of 105, should also be demolished, and that a new road could then be cut through from the Village to Court Lane, to create yet more building frontages. His recommendations were accepted by the Estates Governors, but no immediate action was taken.

And then late in 1882 a 'White Knight' appeared on the scene to save 'Woodlawn' from imminent destruction. This new lessee was the Reverend Charles Voysey, a Church of England clergyman, London-born, but who had held two livings in Yorkshire until deprived of the second for preaching unorthodox views on the nonexistence of Hell. He then came south to Dulwich, where he settled in 1871 with his wife, two daughters, and four sons, living for the next twelve years at 'Camden House', one of the houses to the immediate north of the present 'Crown and Greyhound'; the houses were bombed during World War II and replaced by the present neo-Georgian town houses.

The 21 year lease of 'Woodlawn' granted to Voysey in 1882 was, not surprisingly, of a far smaller area of land than had previously been leased with the house about an acre, not much larger than the present site. The premises consisted of the house and frontage, and of the formal garden and stables, although the latter were demolished before the new tenant moved in.  The rent for the much reduced estate was set at £80 p.a. The remaining 15½ acres were retained by the Estates Governors for building leases, although a good portion was subsequently incorporated into Dulwich Park.

Voysey's chief claim to fame is as the father of the architect and designer Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, a leading exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement and contemporary of Lutyens, who was responsible for a number of fine buildings, many of which (e.g. the Sanderson factory at Chiswick) are still extant.  C. F. A. Voysey was 14 years old when his family left Yorkshire for Dulwich. He did not enjoy the eighteen months he spent at Dulwich College, and thereafter was educated privately at home. According to his biographer, he was probably "as unyielding to unwelcome circumstance as his father". It is unlikely that he ever lived much at 'Woodlawn', as by the time Voysey senior moved there C.F.A. was 26 and had already started his own architectural practice in Westminster. Following his marriage in 1885, he and his wife lived first in Bedford Park, later in Streatham, and in 1890 moved to St John's Wood.

By 1890 the Rev. Charles Voysey had also moved from 'Woodlawn', probably to the northern suburbs. In 1895 his son began building a house for him called Annesley Lodge in Platts Lane, Hampstead. It stands there to this day, as a token of the son's concern and architect's talent.

In 1889 the Rev. Charles Voysey assigned the remaining 14 years of his lease to J. B. Parish for the sum of £350.  Parish, a mathematics master at Dulwich College, moved to 'Woodlawn' from 'Dyffryn', Thurlow Park Road. The house was then known as 'No.1, Woodlawn', there being three other houses using the generic name 'Woodlawn' (although No.2 was always known as 'Marlowe House').

Born in 1841 in Toynton All Saints, Lincolnshire, John Benniworth Parish completed his education at King Edward's School, Birmingham and (as a Scholar) at Trinity College, Cambridge. After spells as an assistant master at Rossall School and his old school King Edward's, he joined the teaching staff at Dulwich in September 1869. The following year he married Martha Maria Ann Agnes Davies, a doctor's daughter from Birmingham.  From 1874 to 1883 he was House Master of Blew House (now the Old Blew House, on Dulwich Common).

In 1907, alongside the grounds of 'Woodlawn', the London & South Western Bank was erected, with Prior W. Redman as its Manager. It became Barclays Bank in 1920.  By the end of 1913, 'High Street, Dulwich' had become 'Dulwich Village', and 'No.1, Woodlawn' was redesignated 'No.105, Dulwich Village'. 'Marlowe House' was recorded as No.103, and three houses (nos. 111, 113 and 115) are listed between No.105 and the Bank (now numbered 117). Somewhat confusingly, by 1916 No.101 Dulwich Village was being run as a school by Miss Isabel Woodman, and was known as 'Woodlawn School'.

John Parish made his last Will in 1910, leaving an annuity of £150 to each of his sisters, the family home in Toynton All Saints to his daughter and only child, Agnes Lucy Benniworth Ormiston (who in 1904 had married Thomas Lane Ormiston, later the compiler of the authoritative 'Dulwich College Register, 1619-1926'), and the residue to his wife. By this time he had been retired from the College teaching staff for five years.  On his death, aged 75, on July 12th 1916, his estate amounted to £21,218 4s. 8d. John's widow Martha, a Governor of James Allen's Girls' School in her own right, continued to reside at No.105 until her death on July 6th, 1921. She left everything (an estate by now worth £6,988 0s 1d) to her daughter Lucy.

There is no recorded occupant of 'Woodlawn' in the following year, 1922. From 1923 to 1929 George Berks was in occupation, and was succeeded from 1930 to 1939 by Charles Tomlin, but unfortunately we have no biographical information on either of these gentlemen.

Occupation over the past half-century can be more precisely recorded. Archibald Gilpin, M.D., moved into the premises in late 1939 or early 1940, at which time many houses were changing hands. The Estates Governors were pleased to see houses occupied by tenants or lessees since, in most cases, this saved the properties from being requisitioned by the Borough Council or by the Government for war purposes.

Dr. Gilpin and his wife Margaret had three children, John, Jennifer and Patrick. Margaret Gilpin was related to Rachel Kempson, wife of actor Michael Redgrave, and their three famous children Vanessa, Corin and Lynn are known to have played in the garden of 'Woodlawn' during childhood visits. 

Archibald Gilpin died in November 1959 at the early age of 53. In his last Will he left his wife his personal effects (excluding medical and scientific books), an annuity, and the income from the residue of his estate (valued at £31,757 13s 4d gross) for life. The house was sold by his executors to Cementation Ltd.

Cementation's Managing Director was Leonard A. Riches, who took possession of the property during 1960 (moving there from Court Lane), and to whom the lease was assigned personally in 1961. In 1935-6 Leonard's brother, Kenneth, had been Curate of St John's, Goose Green, and the family maintained a link with that church. By 1960 Leonard was Churchwarden there. Kenneth, meanwhile, had made even greater ecclesiastical progress, and was now Bishop of Lincoln. Living at 105 Dulwich Village were Leonard Riches, his wife Freda, and their two adult children John (later a priest) and Gillian Margaret.  The family hardly used the basement (except to transfer the ground floor kitchen there) or the top floor of the house, and the only other major alteration they made was to provide the master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom.  Their great love was the garden, into which the family put all its energy. There was a perfect croquet lawn, frequented by the episcopal brother Kenneth and local worthies such as the late Reg Hill.  Such was the splendour of 'Woodlawn"s floral display that the garden was honoured by a visit from H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

In 1975 the family decided to sell.  Declining a generous offer from Arab bidders, the property was sold at a substantially lower price to H. Owen Luder, the architect. During his time at 'Woodlawn', Owen Luder became President of the R.I.B.A., the second occupant of the property to be accorded that distinction. However, unlike the first, Charles Barry, who had planned to demolish the house to enable a through-road to Court Lane to be constructed, Owen Luder thought the property worthy of protection and nurturing.

The Luders lived at 'Woodlawn' with their two younger daughters, although the house and garden had frequent visits from grandchildren. The house was re-wired, central heating installed, and a new kitchen and bathrooms were added.  They also built a double garage in line with the front of the house, faced with bricks from two chimneys which the local authority had condemned to demolition. Those chimneys had previously served boilers, which are no longer existent. The Luders also carried out a general redecoration of the interior, and rumour has it that before tackling the basement they were obliged to remove two skips-full of medicine bottles presumably part of the medical and scientific collection which was not sold off by Dr. Gilpin's executors!