Follow us on Twitter @DulwichHistory
We promote and encourage research into Dulwich's fascinating past and are always keen to welcome new members. We write for the Society’s publications, give talks and guide local walks. We curate exhibitions, produce information boards and contribute to celebrations such as the Dulwich Festival. We have information on nearly all the houses in Dulwich: if you email us your address we can tell you its age and who lived there.
Local History Group terms of reference (PDF)
Contact: Ian McInnes,
The Court Rolls for October 8th 1534 record the death of Thomas Henley, copyholder of a tenement and 15 acres, for which he paid 5/- a year rent. Thomas Henley had been a Dulwich resident or tenant since 1492. We know that on December 15th 1519 he was admitted copyhold tenant of 6 acres in Nappes (on the east side of Croxted Road), formerly John Warren's, but his acquisition of the other 9 acres (the site of 'Oakfield' and the adjoining Allison Grove) is unrecorded. His heir, according to custom, was his youngest son Thomas, who we are told was, in 1534, of full age. He was already a Dulwich tenant in his own right, his most substantial holding being the 28 or so acres of 'Knowlis', the old manor house, leased from Bermondsey Abbey.
From the mid-17th century until 1783 the site of 'Glenlea' formed part of a 46-acre farm, 17 acres of which (known as Peckamins, a field, and not to be confused with Peckamins Coppice) lay across the Common, to the east of the present Toll Gate. The other 29 acres comprised fields known as Agnesfields (26 acres) and Dickariddings (3 acres), covering more or less what is now the southern half of Dulwich Park and the land between that and Dulwich Common, although where precisely Dickariddings was within that area we cannot be certain.
Writing in 1909, local historian Tom Morris, called Beech House ‘one of the oldest houses in Dulwich’. It stood on the site of Nos 24-30 Dulwich Village, just north of the Dulwich Hamlet School and opposite St Barnabas Village Hall. The first mention of the house was in 1768, in a letter about lopping trees from Thomas Hewitt, the tenant. Hewitt was the brother-in-law of Richard Randell, organist of Christ Church between 1763-82, whose diaries are held in the Dulwich College Archive. They confirm that in the Summer of 1772 he helped his relative with five days of hay-making.
At the cross roads at the north end of Dulwich Village there is a small green area called Clarke’s Green. It is illustrated in this 1900 postcard, with Lyndenhurst and the old horse drinking trough that used to stand in the middle of the road, in the background. The story of why it was called Clarke’s Green is the story of the White House, a late eighteenth-century house that was pulled down in 1901 to build St Austins, now used as the JAGS pre-prep school.
Eller Bank, the house that is now DUCKs, the Dulwich College’s pre-prep department, is the last remaining Victorian house on College Road. Before the First World War it was also the most expensive house to be built on the Dulwich Estate costing £6,800 in 1898. On the 27 January that year the plans, by architect Edwin J Sadgrove, were approved at the Board Meeting with Charles Barry Jnr., the Estate Architect and Surveyor commenting ‘the design is a somewhat remarkable one and decidedly costly. The manager and I have examined the plans and have pleasure in recommending them for approval’. The applicant was 38-year-old Walter Hoggan who had recently moved in with his young family to ‘Lorrimore’ No 9 Alleyn Road, a house only completed in 1896. His new house was called Comely Bank after the Edinburgh neighbourhood where his wife had grown up.
'Pond Cottages', the picturesque cluster of houses lying to the immediate south of the Mill Pond adjoining College Road, Dulwich, were not originally intended for residential use, as might be deduced from their somewhat eccentric lay-out and lack of any coherent style of architecture. Comparison of old leases reveals that from 1663 (and possibly much earlier - there were at least four 'tylemakers' in Dulwich between 1400 and 1420) until the 1780's the site was used for manufacturing tiles and, later on, bricks. In his 1808 Report, the College Surveyor William James wrote: "It would be advisable to give every encouragement to Builders, and for that purposes I recommend the College to allow the Tenants to make Bricks on their Land, free from Royalty, to be employed only on the College Estate".
In 1626 the land which later comprised 'Belair' and its estate consisted of the two separate holdings, one described as "a house and 36 acres" for which John Casinghurst's rent was (when he paid it) £22 p.a., the other "a house and 12 acres" leased at £12 p.a. (according to the Rent Books - the lease itself has not survived) to a Mr Diaper, about whom we know nothing. We are not yet able to link Mr Diaper with any previous known tenant, so 1626 is as far back as we can trace that particular holding.
".... today, parts of the ancient village, which goes back beyond Domesday Book, are reminiscent of the battlefields of France in the last war." It is difficult to imagine that this could ever have been a description of Dulwich, but it comes from a booklet, The Wardens' Post, published during Spring 1946, after the end of World War II. The editor was George Brown, sometime Warden of Post 60, a well-remembered local resident, Dulwich historian, and former editor of The Villager. The booklet, dedicated to "all our comrades who wore the silver and gold of London's Civil Defence", is one of a number of records of the Air Raid Wardens' Post 60, which have been presented to the Dulwich Society.
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.