On the Street Where You Live - Lovelace Road By Ian McInnes

The first development plans for Lovelace Road and the north end of Rosendale Road were prepared by C E Barry, the Estate Architect and Surveyor in 1907. The first serious building proposal was from the well known local builder, A H Williams, who, in November 1911, made offers for land in both roads. In Rosendale Road he offered to take a frontage of 432 feet, at a rate of approximately 3s 9d per foot of frontage, to build 18 houses to be designed as flats on two floors, and in Lovelace Road his offer was for 16 plots for similar but cheaper house/flats at a price equating to 2s per foot. In his offer Mr Williams also pointed out that there was no sewer on Lovelace Road and that he expected the Estate to pay for one to be installed prior to work starting. The Governors were not overly impressed and told Mr Williams that the site afforded one of the best views in Dulwich and was 'worthy of a very much higher class of property'. They also told him that they would not accept flats in this location but they did arrange for the installation of the sewer (it cost £900). In April 1912, agreement was reached to start work in Rosendale Road and, by the end of 1914, twenty seven houses; (numbers 191-245) had been completed before the First World War effectively ended any further construction.

In November 1920 Mr Williams returned to the Governors with a proposal to build five bungalows on a site between the corner of Lovelace Road and No. 191, the last pre-war house in Rosendale Road. However, only a few weeks after signing the Building Agreement, he had to come back to the Governors as he was having serious problems selling the similar bungalows that he had under construction in the west part of East Dulwich Grove (now Village Way). He wrote 'I have not sold a bungalow in East Dulwich Grove for over three months, and in the present condition of things very much doubt the wisdom of continuing this type of house here. The accommodation it presented is too costly a form to find a market in the rapidly changing conditions. I am venturing therefore, to submit a proposal, to erect 12 houses, in blocks of six, offering the same accommodation and the same sized rooms as the bungalows but arranged in a form which, I think, would bring them within the reach of an excellent class of buyer, which today I am losing through their sheer inability to purchase'

C E Barry supported him and the Governors allowed him to change the design and build a series of terraced houses (numbers 167-191 Rosendale Road). Things went fairly smoothly by Dulwich standards, there was a small argument over the actual start date of the leases, which Mr Williams won, but he failed in an attempt to reduce the specification by using zinc instead of lead over bays, coal cellars and larders, and 7/8 inch instead of 1inch flooring and smaller drain pipes - the Governors would have none of it.

The first builder actually to build in Lovelace Road was Messrs H P and S H Smith, another local firm, who are, perhaps, better known for their development in Allison Grove. They offered 6s per foot frontage for the sites south of Mr Williams' but at the same time the Governors managed to obtain a better offer from another developer, the London Structural Company, at 7s 6d. Unfortunately this proved to be a try-on and a Mr Norris, the director of the latter company, wrote to the Governors in January 1924 withdrawing their offer saying that 'his company were only taking the site for the purpose of keeping their men employed, and as they were now very busy, they are reluctantly compelled to withdrew their offer.' The Governors were very unhappy but the Solicitor advised that they had no claim against Mr Norris and they finally agreed to Messrs Smith's previous offer. The Smiths agreed to finish their houses by June 1926 and the designs by E A Knapman, a surveying practice located in Dulwich Village, were passed in December 1924.

There was a minor argument over the heights of fences, and they were still building after June 1926, but the only actual problem seemed to be over Mr Smith's proposal to present one of the houses to one of his sister as a wedding present. He applied to the Governors for permission 'to have two friends residing in the house with her as her husband will be away from home a great deal.' He gave an undertaking that no structural alterations would be necessary, and that, to all external appearances, the house would be exactly the same as those adjoining. He did however propose to fix a sink in one of the first floor back rooms and also a portable dresser. Today it all sounds very harmless but the Governors declined his application. It is not known whether he did it anyway.

While Messrs Smiths' houses were under construction, Mr Williams took some further plots on the south east side of Lovelace Road, (Numbers 5-23), and he sought the Estate's permission to put up an advertising sign on Messrs Smith's land advertising that he was also building houses in the road.

Late in 1927 Lambeth Council served notice to take over Lovelace Road as a new street and make it up properly with tarmac. Mr Matthews, the lessee of 'Highlands', a large house at the southern end of the road, was very concerned as he had also leased the vacant land (with a large road frontage) to the north. Lambeth were looking for a sum of £181 2s 3d as road charges, a very large sum at the time when an ordinary house in the road could be bought for £1250, and Mr Matthews asked for, and was granted, a lease extension on the garden to match the lease on the house.

Messrs Smith continued to build in the road through the twenties and one or two private individuals also commissioned houses there. In 1932, Mr Leslie Preston, an architect who lived at No.34, obtained consent for a site on the north-west side of the road for a Mr W W C Lane-Claton and, in May 1929, a Mr T Ward-Higgs paid Mr R Pierson, a builder from Clapham Junction, to design and build a pair of semi-detached houses on a site directly south of All Saints Church.

In 1932, a Mr Arnold who lived in 'Stonehills', one of the very large houses in College Road, approached the Governors about building a hall for the Dulwich Crusaders in the road. Their aim was apparently 'to promote manly Christianity amongst Public and Private School boys.' In his proposal he said that 'Bible classes will be held on Sundays and camps, games, and outings are arranged to take place during the school holidays'. The design by an architect in Clapham, a Mr F Owen Dunk, took some time to be approved but after the proposal had been given the go-ahead the Governors appeared to have cold feet and had to be reassured. Mr Arnold reiterated that 'the purposes for which the hall would be used would include bible classes on Sunday afternoons, meetings during the week, lantern lectures and the like, and a certain amount of social activity, but that no bugles or undue noise of any description would be allowed in the hall or elsewhere.' The hall remains as the Thurlow Hall and is now used by the Church of God in Dulwich.

By 1935 there were now relatively few sites left. Another well known local builder, H A Wilmot, bought the four sites at Numbers 44-50 to build two pairs of semi-detached houses very similar to the ones he had just completed in Eastlands Crescent and, in October 1938, a Mr Watts of Aldrington Road, Streatham, signed a formal offer to demolish 'Highlands' and construct six semi-detached houses set back off a crescent drive with a large green space in front.

Lovelace Road did not fare well during the War. In January 1945 Austin Vernon, the Estate Architect and Surveyor since C E Barry's death in 1937, noted that numbers 28-36 (even) and 29-31 (odd) had all had to be demolished and that there was also damage to the 'Highlands' site. No. 32 Lovelace Road was the only house to actually have had any casualties - on 1/8/44 the Lambeth register recorded the deaths of Ethel Alice (53) and Peter (16) Jenkyn.

Numbers 28-36 were rebuilt in late 1947, the plans prepared by Marten & Carnaby in Dulwich Village, and numbers 29-31 followed shortly after. There was a real problem, however, with Mr Watts and Highlands. Work had stopped in 1940 with one house complete (No. 25), the second house almost finished, the third and fourth houses up to first floor level and the foundations just started on the other two. They had suffered some bomb damage and, in 1942, Mr Watts, the original lessee, had handed over his Building Agreements on the sites (together with other properties in Red Post Hill and Alleyn Park) as security for a loan from a solicitor, a Mr Neate. By 1948 it was clear that Mr Watts had disappeared with the money, and, to complicate matters further, Mr Neate had died. The Governors finally managed to reach agreement with Mr Neate's successors and the houses were completed during 1950.