There is no question that Dulwich's transport links have greatly improved and it is now more sensible to take public transport to and from London to Dulwich during the day. The increased regularity of the P4 bus giving access to Brixton and Underground system, the 10 minute rail service to London Bridge from North and East Dulwich and since December the increase for much of the day to four trains an hour to Victoria from Sydenham Hill, West Dulwich and Herne Hill stations have created much better transport options for residents.
In the evening the situation is different. The regularity of the service from London Bridge to East and North Dulwich reduces to two trains an hour. This is totally unacceptable in the light of new planning policy to be implemented by Southwark Council and outlined in this issue by Alastair Hanton.
The policy enshrines the belief that if no parking places are provide by developers, then this will force people out of their cars and onto public transport. At the same time housing density will increase.
The policy may be viable in the northern part of the borough where there are better transport links but it will be very difficult for Dulwich and East Dulwich residents. What is likely to happen, unless public transport links are improved is that residents in new high density developments who do not join a Car Club, (see opposite) might be decide to buy a car and then park it on already congested streets elsewhere.
To prevent this from happening then transport facilities in the evening need to be equal to those of daytime. For many City workers the working day now often extends into the evening. Key workers in London hospitals and service industries finish work at off-peak times. Dulwich's theatre and concert goers might also be persuaded to abandon car trips to Town in the evenings as well as the daytime if train frequency improved. It seems ridiculous that there are three times more trains from London Bridge to Dulwich at 2pm than there are at 8pm.
A successful team effort has led to the Newsletter receiving a commendation by the London Forum of civic and amenities societies. The Dulwich Society is grateful to both regular and occasional contributors, and to the area and street Newsletter distributors, without whom this publication could not function.
The editorial policy of the Newsletter is twofold; to promote the aims of the Dulwich Society - "to foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich" but also to reflect and encourage the diverse interests that contribute in making this part of London something special. This edition contains examples of both of these elements. An interesting addition to Kingsdale School, the birth of a Dulwich car club, the current state of play at Crystal Palace Park and good news of Belair Park are important matters for Society members. On the other hand, Michael Rich's account of The Fort is a remarkable success story about a concept many people may be unfamiliar with. Maggie Brown's history of Channel 4, authoritatively reviewed by Greville Havenhand demonstrates that the Newsletter contents are not exclusively parochial and Tony Fletcher's revelation of Dulwich's connection with the early days of film making by Gaumont is perhaps a reminder of a different aspect of Dulwich's heritage.
A recent meeting of the Dulwich Community Council received, at the suggestion of the Society's Traffic and Transport Committee, a presentation by the CEO of a leading car club.
What is a Car Club?
A Car Club enables members to drive a car that is parked near to their home or work without the hassle and cost of owning one. Members only pay for the actual journeys they make and can rent the club's cars by the hour, day or as long as they want. Surveys show that, for every club car, an average of 6 privately owned cars are taken from the streets. Car club members drive less, use public transport: more and walk and cycle more.
Cars are booked online or by 'phone. Members have a smartcard which unlocks the car doors when held over a card reader on the windscreen. Members enter their PIN in the onboard computer and pick up the ignition key from inside the car.
What does it cost?
Charges are typically below £5 per hour, including comprehensive insurance and a free petrol allowance. Joining and membership rates vary between car clubs, but seem modest.
Where are cars parked?
Either off-street or in dedicated on-street parking spaces arranged by the Council. Off-street parking can be in unused business space or in members' driveways, which car clubs rent. Cars are scattered around near to where people live and work (no central depot to collect from). Cars are clustered, so that, if your nearest car is in use, there is another nearby.
What are the benefits?
Lower costs, less parking hassle and a smaller carbon footprint; and, for the community, reduced pressure on on-street parking.
Who operates car clubs?
There are four main car club organisations operating in London. Southwark council is keen to see their use spread and is currently facilitating this in Bankside. There are already a few car club cars in the Dulwich area. There are plans to consider introducing more cars in the Dulwich area in the next few months.
Car Clubs in Dulwich
To help our local environment the Dulwich Society is promoting the car club concept. If you would be interested in participating in this initiative, please give the following information to the Chair of our Traffic and Transport Committee, Alastair Hanton, 8 Gilkes Crescent, SE21 7BS (Tel: 020 8693 2168
1. Yes, I'd like more information: Name, Address (Postal, email and phone)
2. I'd be interested in providing off-street parking and would like to know what benefits I may receive from the operator.
3. Being aware that on-street dedicated car club parking bays compete for space with residents' parking, I suggest that a suitable on-street location might be:
We will collate this information and, unless you ask us not to, pass it to Southwark Council and to two or more leading car clubs.
More information on car clubs can be found at www.carplus.org.uk. Carplus is a national charity promoting responsible car use.
The London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies has awarded the Dulwich Society Newsletter a Commendation in its Walter Bor Media Awards 2007 in its newsletter category. The judging panel was chaired by Peter Murray, curator of New London Architecture. The winning newsletter was that of The Wandsworth Society. Also commended were the newsletters of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents' Association and the London Parks & Gardens Trust.
The success of the Dulwich Society depends on the willingness of its members to share the tasks of helping to run it. Each issue of this Newsletter is delivered by such volunteers. There are two vacancies for Area Distributors in Zone C - largely the Court Lane area (130 copies) and in Zone F - the Alleyn Park and the West Dulwich area (135 copies ). An Area Distributor collects this bulk delivery from Margaret McConnell and distributes these to the several Street Distributors in the Zone. There are also vacancies for Street Distributors in some of these roads. None of these tasks are onerous; indeed you might enjoy the four times a year stroll around Dulwich! If you think you might be able to help the Society in this way please telephone Margaret McConnell on 020 8693 4423.
The membership of the Dulwich Society has now passed the 1100 mark. Membership of the Society is deemed to consist of households, so the numerical membership is considerably higher.
Renaming of Sydenham Hill Station
The Dulwich Society has officially petitioned Network Rail to consider renaming Sydenham Hill Station. The Society believes that the title of the station is confusing for passengers; not only is it not on Sydenham Hill, but it is at the foot of a steep hill away from it. The name proposed is South Dulwich.
In the past two other Dulwich stations have been renamed. West Dulwich was originally named Dulwich Station and East Dulwich was Champion Hill.
Edward Alleyn Statue Vandalised
After two years without any graffiti or vandalism, the Edward Alleyn statue seemed set for a long trouble-free existence. It was not to be. The figure of the poor boy, which compliments that of Alleyn, was wrenched off its mountings on the night of 18/19 December. There were fears that it had been stolen in order to be melted down for its scrap metal value, The following day however, Merrill Spencer, the wife of the Society's honorary secretary spotted it in the bushes not far from its plinth. There was relief that this time vandalism rather than theft was the lesser of two evils as the mould for the statue had not been retained by the foundry.
The statue is insured through the Dulwich estate and a claim has been filed. David Roberts, chairman of the Planning & Architecture sub-committee says that repair of the statue is an engineering problem and has kindly agreed to liaise with the foundry and find a means of more securely refixing the figure.
Southwark's Planning Policies
As anyone knows who wants to build or extend a house, government planning policies can affect any of us. Within Southwark, the framework for all land use and development is "The Southwark Plan", which came fully into effect last year. Southwark Council has now published a "daughter" document with more detailed policies designed to reduce the transport impacts of development. This document is mainly about larger developments rather than single houses, but it contains some important principles for all development. The general aim is to minimise the impact of development on pollution, noise and congestion.
Developers of schemes with significant transport implications have to provide a Transport Assessment. This has to show how they will favour and encourage walking, cycling and other sustainable travel rather than cars. Developers may also have to contribute financially to schemes in the vicinity or more widely, for instance, to improve road safety and walking and cycling facilities. Such contributions could also be required for the promotion of car clubs, which the Dulwich Society sees as a promising means of reducing the local pressures on car parking.
This new planning document, like its "parent" document, the Southwark Plan, emphasises the need to provide for the mobility needs of people with any form of disability. These newly set out policies will help us as a community, in Dulwich and throughout Southwark, to live in a quieter, safer and pleasanter environment. Inevitably, however, they will add to the bureaucratic burdens of development. You can look up the detailed policies in any of the public libraries, or on Southwark's website.
Traffic and Transport Committee
Woodland Walk for Belair
Belair Park, despite being a listed landscape and boasting a magnificent wildlife area centred on the lake, is not exactly walker friendly. That half of the park bordering Gallery Road has a pleasant enough circular path, but the "back" half, next to the railway embankment and given over mainly to sports pitches, verges on the featureless - a long green rectangle with hundreds of yards of bare wire fence and railings.
All this is set to change this year with the planting of a "woodland walk "around the perimeter, thanks to an £8,000 grant from Southwark's cleaner, greener safer fund: the grant was made last autumn by Dulwich community council following an application by David Nicholson-Lord on behalf of the Dulwich Society wildlife and trees committees and the Friends of Belair Park.
The idea is partly modelled on the successful woodland edge walk around the perimeter of Dulwich Park - created over the last few years by the simple, cheap and carbon-free expedient of not cutting, mowing or strimming. The effect has been the creation of a separate landscape "compartment" in the park, giving a sense of refuge from more crowded areas and popular with walkers, dog-owners and joggers. Much natural regeneration of woodland and understorey has occurred as well as some marvellous displays of wild flowers and herbs: species counts show that bird and plant diversity has also increased.
At Belair the plan is for a roughly 10-metre woodland corridor around the edge of the back half of the park, with shrubs and trees planted in clumps and clusters , wild climbers on the fencing, areas of wild flower planting and a low- or no-mow regime for the grassy parts. The path through it would be left informal, following the "desire-lines" of walkers. It's also hoped to provide some seating, in the form of either normal benches or tree trunks.
Plants are likely to be native mixed-species, including oaks; climbers, such as old man's beard and honeysuckle, will help to soften and enhance the wire and concrete fencing running parallel to the railway embankment. An "entrance" may be created near the South Circular, planted with bulbs such as bluebells and with simple "rustic" signage. This could from part of a schools' or volunteering/youth project.
Bat-friendly planting is also being considered for the farthest corner of the park, next to the railway line and the adjoining sports ground. This follows guided walks which have detected the presence of Pipistrelles there (Daubenton's were also seen over the lake).
Jon Best, Southwark's ecology officer, and Angela Wilkes, chair of the wildlife committee and a member of the Friends of Belair Park, have also met on site several times to discuss the plans. Southwark now promotes low- or no-cut regimes around the borders of parks and green spaces as part of its biodiversity plan. Both the wildlife and trees committees have made several attempts to get other local green space managers to do something similar. Alleyn's School, for one, has responded by planting several trees and leaving a strip round part of its playing fields uncut. Other institutions have been less forthcoming.
At the time of writing, the planting was due to be completed by the end of March, by staff from Walworth Garden Farm.
David Nicholson-Lord is a member of the wildlife and trees committees, the Friends of Belair Park and the executive of the Friends of Dulwich Park.
Crystal Palace Park Regeneration
An update by Adrian Hill
The Masterplan for the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park prepared by Latz and Partners for the London Development Agency (LDA), part of the Greater London Authority, was completed in August 2007 and was the basis of an application for outline planning permission by the LDA to Bromley Council submitted on 1 November. The application and supporting documents are extremely voluminous and may be accessed on Bromley's website http://planningaccess.Bromley.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/tdc_home.aspx. In addition to the outline planning application there are also applications for Listed Building Consent and Conservation Area Consent. Bromley's website indicates that the expiry date for neighbour consultations was 6 February 2008, though they have indicated that responses to the applications from the public and local groups can be made at any time until its planning committee convenes to consider the application. This is anticipated to between May and September 2008, probably towards the end of this time range. Bromley's decision on the application is expected sometime in the autumn.
How the Park will be Managed
For some time now the management of the Park and of the National Sports Centre has been taken over by the LDA from Bromley, which remains the owner of the Park. As mentioned in our previous article, the LDA has already taken up a long lease of the National Sports Centre and until March 2009 has an option to take a 125 year lease on the remainder of the Park. The LDA has indicated it is unlikely to exercise this option if its planning application is not granted in acceptable form. In this event, management of the main part of the Park would presumably revert to a reluctant Bromley. The type of governance of the Park if the LDA exercises its option is yet to be decided and is currently the subject of consultation with stakeholders through the Park Working Group set up as part of the Dialogue Process. The LDA does not see itself as in the business of long term park management and various alternative kinds of management are being considered, such as through a consortium of local councils, a new regional parks authority (which would require new legislation) or a trust established for the purpose. The LDA at its Board level has no fixed view on this at present.
The Masterplan was the subject of an exhibition held in Crystal Palace railway station in October 2007 which was attended by over 2,500 people. The booklet that accompanied the exhibition is available on the website www.crystalpalacepark.org for those who may have missed it. Answers to FAQs on the Masterplan are also available on the same website. The main elements in the Masterplan include the use of the topsite, where the Crystal Palace stood, as a multifunctional space, within a grid of trees planted to replicate the outline of the Palace, and which will provide open-air rooms and spaces for all kinds of events and family oriented activities, including cafes, farmers markets, fairs and festivals. Facilities there will include various water features and a new museum and visitor centre incorporating the restored brick-vaulted subway that was the original entrance to the Palace from the High Level railway station. The Palace and Italian terraces, including the sphinxes, are to be restored to their former splendour, and it is planned that this will be among the first improvements under the Masterplan. The centre of the Park is to be "greened" by removing much of the present asphalt car parking and fencing and demolishing the present Lodge and adjoining accommodation tower block forming part of the NSC and relocating them near the railway station. Paxton's Grand Central Walk that linked the Palace with Penge Gate central will be restored. Included in the plan are also two large greenhouses for exotic plants and butterflies and two tall energy towers to generate electricity by thermal air-currents and which are intended to echo the original Brunel water towers. Independent though of the Masterplan, is the reestablishment of a children's zoo to be operated by Capel Manor. Planning permission for this has already been granted and was due to open in February 2008, somewhat later than originally intended because of difficulties in moving animals due to restrictions following outbreaks of Foot and Mouth and Blue Tongue diseases.
National Sports Centre
Plans for the NSC include relocating it to a site near Crystal Palace Station. It will however become a regional - rather than national Sports Centre. It will include, unlike the present NSC, a full Olympic size (50 metres) swimming pool and other state of the art dry sports facilities most of which will be below ground to reduce visual impact on the Park. The present athletic stadium will be retained adjacent to the new sports centre, but the jubilee and millennium stands are proposed to be demolished. The present NSC building (which is Grade II listed) will be retained as the LDA became convinced that listing building consent for its demolition would not be forthcoming due to opposition from English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society. The adjacent unsightly concrete walkways will however be removed and the surrounding ground level will be raised to the present first floor level to make the building less prominent. It is planned to use the shell of the building for indoor activities, such as seven aside football. Since September 2007 the NSC building has been closed due to the discovery of asbestos. This has delayed the work, to cost £4 million, of renewing the worn-out mechanical and electrical systems and refurbishing the changing rooms. The LDA is however still hoping to have the Centre fully open during the summer 2008 and for it to continue to provide swimming facilities until the swimming pool in the new RSC is ready sometime after 2012.
Financing the Masterplan
The work envisaged in the Masterplan will be carried out in a series of phases stretching over up to 15 years, at a total estimated cost in the order of £100 million if all phases are implemented. Most of the proposals in the Masterplan would seem to have widespread local public support, and it is the personal view of the writer that on balance the proposals represent great improvements. There are however some aspects that remain highly controversial. Most controversial is the proposal for building housing on the edge of the Park near the Rockhills entrance (at the top of Westwood Hill) and also near the Sydenham Gate (opposite Sydenham Avenue) the latter mainly in infill between existing villas. These are in areas that are not currently open to the public. In total 180 flats could be built on 2.2 acres, representing 2% of the total Park. Outline planning permission for this possible development is included in the planning application but the LDA has stated that, even if permission is obtained, building will only take place if the revenue from leasing out the land for housing, which is essential to finance the Park refurbishment is forthcoming, largely by unlocking exterior sources of funding through matched funding. It would appear that any redevelopment at Rockhills could not be begun until after 2018 as this is on land currently leased to the Caravan Club, six acres in total, which the Club appears to be in no mood to give up. The LDA's plan is that if these six acres are recovered at a break point in the lease in that year, less than two acres would be used for any housing and the remaining nearly five acres would be returned to open parkland.
Cash Points in Dulwich Village multiply
In the last issue we mentioned the efforts of the Dulwich Society to persuade Barclays Bank to install a cash machine on its premises. There have been letters and emails in support as well as objections to this. In the meantime the Crown & Greyhound has installed a cash machine in its premises which charge £1.50 per transaction. Cash can been withdrawn against debit cards at the Village Post Office free of charge during opening hours; but you might have to queue. The village newsagents also offer a cash machine on its premises. If you wish the Society to pursue its campaign with Barclays or object to this please email David Roberts -
New Dulwich Estate Website
The Estate has introduced a new website for anyone requiring information on the Dulwich Estate and the Scheme of Management. It can be accessed on www.thedulwichestate.org.uk
Christ's Chapel open
The historic 17th century Christ's Chapel in the Village is open on Tuesdays from 1.30-3.30pm until 25 March and then 2-4pm for the rest of the summer. Access may be gained via door into the Chapel from the Dulwich Picture Gallery Cloister. A sidesman will be on duty to answer visitors' questions.
'Who Do You Think You Are?'
The Society is getting an increasing number of enquiries by people outside of Dulwich who are tracing their ancestors who were at one time residents. In the past the Local History Group has assisted such enquirers. The popularity of this pursuit, stimulated by programmes such as 'Who do you think you are?' and the availability of genealogical search engines has grown. The requests for information on former residents will in future be published in the Newsletter and the wider membership invited to participate in answering, if possible, such enquiries. Replies should be sent to the Editor by letter or email (
Gillian Harris of Golant-by-Fowey, Cornwall is researching the life of her great aunt Isabella Woodman who was the principal of Woodlawn School in Dulwich Village at the turn of the nineteenth century. Gillian Harris is keen to hear from any reader who has any knowledge of Woodlawn School.
Woodlawn was the name already given to three adjoining Georgian houses, now converted into two. The school was situated in what is now 103 Dulwich Village and lessons were frequently given in the large rear garden as the photographs Mrs Harris has sent show.
Isabella Woodman was born on 11 December 1865 in Clapham, one of nine children born to Thomas and Mary Haines Woodman. She was called Belle by her family. Nothing is known of her schooling, but in 1891 the census recorded her as living in Lewisham, her occupation given as a 'kindergarten teacher'. At some point in the following five years Isabella became the principal of the kindergarten at 3 Woodlawn, Dulwich Village. According to an advertisement for the school in 1895, she held the Froebel Society's Certificate. The Froebel Educational Institute was inaugurated in 1892, but the college and school in West Kensington were not opened because of building delays, until September 1894. It would appear therefore that Isabella was within the first intake of students who trained and obtained the certificate.
The photograph below shows the pupils working at tables in the garden. An early example of 'group work'? Gillian Harris says that she inherited one of the tables and had taught children herself at it. The whole top has an indented squared grid she thinks might have been used for mathematical work. The back is hinged, so that it can be tilted and perhaps used for art work.
Woodlawn was one a numerous small private schools which existed in large houses in an around Dulwich at the time. There were over sixty such schools locally. These included schools in East Dulwich Grove, Half Moon Lane, and two on Dulwich Common.
Scores on the Doors
Those of us who travel to the USA will be aware of their 'scores on the doors' scheme whereby all restaurants are obliged to put a notice by their main entrance doors confirming the results of their last food hygiene inspection.
This scheme is now up and running in England - see www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk and Southwark is one of the first two London Boroughs to make this information available on their website. This means you can check the hygiene standards of any local restaurant, food store, and even school dining rooms, before you visit.
Southwark's website describes the criteria that their officers address on their site visits:
- Food hygiene and safety procedures - how hygienically the food is handled including temperature control
- Structure - the condition of the structure, cleanliness, layout of the premises, lighting and ventilation
- Confidence in Management - The food business operators history of compliance with food hygiene law and evidence of a food safety management system
The frequency of inspections ranges from every six months for the highest risk businesses, to once every five years for the lowest risks businesses.
The benefits to the public are obvious. By providing the public with useful information in a readily accessible location, the scheme should drive up standards of food safety and give the public the opportunity to make an informed choice about where they choose to eat. The scheme will also serve as a good advertisement for those food businesses that have high standards of hygiene.
Well done Southwark!
Most Dulwich residents will be well aware of the major changes that have taken place in the main teaching block at Kingsdale School on Alleyn Park - the pressurised ETFE roof over the central courtyard and the new auditorium space. However, unless they have recently driven along Bowen Drive on the Kingswood Estate, they will not be aware of two new unusual shaped buildings at the rear of the school - the new Music School and Sports Hall. These were completed earlier last year and replace older facilities dating from the late 1950s that were both spatially and acoustically inadequate.
As well as providing the most up-to-date facilities and complying with all the latest Department for Education and Science guidelines, the new buildings had to respond to a school brief which required maximum flexibility in use and the option of independent access and use out of hours.
By definition both music and sports require hermetically sealed buildings with substantial walls to prevent noise escaping and few windows to let passes-by see in. The design of what is essentially two large boxes, split by the vertical circulation routes, is imaginative. Driven both by functional and sustainability requirements, and the desire to create a forward looking image for the school, the architects dRMM (de Rijke Marsh Morgan), have been creative and innovative - while also making sure that the final result is an appropriate addition to the existing streetscape.
The prefabricated construction system of cross laminated solid timber panels imported from Austria provided benefits in terms of rapid construction, factory quality finishes and the removal of time consuming wet trades. The panels were used on both the walls and the hyperbolic shaped roofs and also serve as internal partitions. Externally the buildings are faced in insulation and metal profiled cladding with an embossed surface that, from a distance, actually looks like timber. Some might ask whether to import components from Austria is really sustainable but a case can be made when one compares the actual amount of travel that traditional construction imposes on both materials and men. Those who saw the speed with which the Huf houses went up in the Woodyard will understand the benefits that true prefabrication can offer.
Acoustic specifications mean that large parts of the music school are air conditioned - not so sustainable but understandable, but the scheme does includes a large amount of new cycle storage to actively encourage pupils to ride to school.
Overall, some may think the buildings a little too 'contemporary' for Dulwich but they reflect and respond to Kingsdale School's reinvention of itself and should be welcomed on that score alone. Compared with some other recent buildings in Dulwich's private schools they are in a different league.
Arthur Chandler died after a prolonged illness in January. If any person deserves the label 'multi-tasker' it was Arthur. Whilst still a six-former at Alleyn's he founded the Know London Society and published two small histories of the area; one of Christ's Chapel and the other of the village. After leaving Alleyn's he entered teaching and whilst at Oakfield School he taught both Michael Crawford and Norma Major; the latter being the more forgiving of the two. It was however in a new career in adult education which he embarked upon in the 1970s that he discovered where his true talents really lay.
He became Head of Centre at the Dulwich Adult Education office based in the infants' school in the village. His enthusiasm and management saw classes spring up in outlying sites around the village and its student role rise by leaps and bounds. It was one of the most successful adult education centres in London. When local council cut-backs forced the closure of most adult education centres he embarked on another new career in staging largely academic exhibitions. At the same time he was appointed archivist to the University of Surrey.
It was through his efforts that the archive left to the University, by E. S. Shepard, the illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh books became widely known. Key to this was Chandler's success in persuading a doubtful Dulwich Picture Gallery of the potential public interest in the illustrations. The Gallery finally agreed and what had initially been dismissed as an exhibition of children's' art became one of the Gallery's exhibition success stories. After the Dulwich exhibition the E S Shepard archive went on show in Japan, Australia and Canada and Chandler wrote the accompanying catalogue and lectured widely on the Shepard and his work. In recognition of his service as archivist at Surrey he was awarded the honorary degree of Master of the University. Arthur Chandler was invariably nervous when starting to lecture and this invariably resulted in a stern and perhaps pompous expression. After a few minutes however, when he got in his stride, this expression disappeared, to be replaced by the animated face of a born raconteur.
In addition Arthur Chandler found time for numerous voluntary activities. He was chairman first of the Camberwell Arts Council and later the Southwark Arts Council. In this role, it was he who first introduced Sam Wanamaker to Bankside where Wanamaker's Globe Theatre would eventually become a reality. Among the pageants he directed was one celebrating the unification of three London boroughs to create the present borough of Southwark. He directed and wrote the script for the 1967 Dulwich pageant celebrating its thousand years of history. He arranged art festivals, including one at St Barnabas and enjoyed singing Gilbert & Sullivan operettas at the Harvest Supper. To his delight he was appointed archivist at Alleyn's, writing two histories of the school and a presenting a final pageant to mark the 375th anniversary of the Foundation.
Brian Green recalls more stories from his fifty years as a shopkeeper in Dulwich Village.
As my first article suggested, my fellow shopkeepers and my customers have been an endless source of interest and amusement to me in my long career behind the counter of my shop in Dulwich Village. Let me share some more of these memories with you.
In the 1950s, restaurants and cafés, so much a feature of the Village today hardly existed. Even the Crown & Greyhound had largely eschewed its heritage of being the reincarnation of a Georgian coaching inn with a widespread reputation for good food. It was I suppose all to do with food shortages and austerity which followed the Second World War. By 1957, the year I started, these shortages were a thing of the past. Rationing was now a fading memory but the interval required between demand and supply had not fully elapsed. Indeed, the supply had been further curtailed by the closure of the British Restaurant at the Grafton Hall in Village Way - a well-used wartime emergency facility. The sole establishment equipped to cater for the taste-buds of the village's population was The Village Cake Shop.
The Village Cake Shop
The Village Cake Shop was in Calton Avenue, in premises now occupied by Aqua. It was owned by Miss Ensor. She was a very good cook, producing for her lunches; excellent roasts and splendid English puddings like apple crumble or Eve's Pudding. During the war years, and before she realised her life's ambition of owning her own little teashop, Miss Ensor had been head cook at Kings College Hospital. Miss Ensor shared a physical handicap with her single member of staff, let us call her Ellen for her name real name escapes me; both were very hard of hearing. Ellen was I suppose in her late forties, she wore an unusual shade of orange hued lipstick which she often inaccurately applied. Having lunch at the Village Cake Shop was like being amongst the audience of a floor show, indeed no cabaret could match the experience.
What contributed to what I called the Floor Show was determined both by the hearing handicaps of the participants and physical layout of the teashop. The kitchen was on the floor above and food was delivered by a lift operated by means of a frayed rope. If an order had not been received or was found to be incorrect in the teashop by Ellen what followed was a dialogue conducted by shouting up the bare stairway to the kitchen by a flustered Ellen and received, invariably inaccurately, by Miss Ensor. This difficulty was compounded on Fridays when The Village Cake Shop offered fish on its menu. The problem was that the establishment only possessed five sets of fish cutlery. The waiting time on Fridays for lunch was therefore protracted. One Friday the entire crew of a road surfacing gang entered the cake shop en masse for lunch. Ellen very nearly collapsed on sight.
The Village Cake Shop had its regular customers. Amongst these was the scholarly, balding and bespectacled slight figure of Mr W. G. Hoskins, the author of a spectacularly dull tome entitled The Life and Times of Edward Alleyn. On one occasion even the mild Mr Hoskins, sitting in the window corner seat behind his copy of The Times was alarmed when Ellen bellowed up the stairs for the umpteenth time - "Mr. H. still hasn't had his coffee!", a statement accompanied by much inaudible muttering under her breath. Two bachelor neighbours who were regular customers for lunch on Saturdays then entered, their arrival announced by further bellowing up the stairwell: "The one o'clocks are in!"
One day each week Ellen had the day off. On these days Miss Ensor took over Ellen's duties in addition to her own. How she managed to both wait at the tables and prepare the food I never discovered. Was there another invisible hand helping in the kitchen? I don't think so. With the double duties Miss Ensor had to move about quickly. This she did by rapidly weaving her way around the teashop, body and arms swaying around the tables, holding a tray aloft. Her elbows and shoulders were raised parallel to the tray and those who were uncertain of her name called her 'Miss Tennis Elbows'.
Sadly, Miss Ensor could not make the Village Cake Shop pay, and when she sold up to an Italian couple who later would introduce pizza to the village, she and Ellen were much missed. Surprisingly, Margaret Ensor did settle immediately into retirement, although by this time she was approaching sixty. Instead she took a post as cook at an Outward Bound Centre in Wales, and after that became cook at Westminster School.
The Crown & Greyhound
The expansion of the Crown & Greyhound into providing food was also not without incident. Of course it had a purpose built coffee lounge to the right of the entrance but the intervening war years curtailed this facility. When the new licensees, the Kitchings decided to restore catering they resolved to eliminate the public bar and make the entire pub into an open area.
The public bar occupied the left hand side of the building and to this day it still retains a different atmosphere to the remainder of the premises. The attractive other bars were more popular and the public bar was less and less patronised, despite its prices being marginally lower than the others bars. It did however have two die-hard regulars, two elderly widows named Alice and Ivy. Alice and Ivy were outraged by the landlord's proposal to convert the public bar into an extension of the lounge bars and to show their disapproval, for about a month made a nightly pilgrimage to The Greendale, a small pub on the Bessemer Estate. The long walk along the ill-lit Green Dale finally proved too much of an effort to save a penny on their pint of Guinness and their protest made they returned to their regular seats in the now open-plan Greyhound.
Another Lottery Winner?
In my first collection of memories I mentioned the 'Lucious Linda' who had the amazing good fortune to win a large sum on the National Lottery, not once but twice. There was another character in the Village, and no one deserves the appellation of 'character' more than 'Bernie', who had a similar stroke of good luck arriving at a similarly opportune time.
Bernie, after leaving Dulwich Hamlet School, turned his hand to decorating, window and office cleaning and had his own little firm. He was a capable and reliable tradesman but perhaps not the most efficient book-keeper. Whether it was the Inland Revenue, the VAT department of Customs and Excise or his bank that were making his life a misery I do not know. What is a fact is that almost overnight Bernie appeared reborn. Gone were the frayed decorator's overalls and instead Bernie was to be seen sauntering about the Village in an expensive overcoat complete with a fur collar of the Arthur Daley variety. Bernie began to stand drinks at the bar of the Crown & Greyhound on a regular basis and hold court there to a throng of newly acquired cronies.
The story I heard was that a substantial cheque had arrived from the National Lottery, the amount of which Bernie wisely never disclosed. He took this down to his bank at Herne Hill, clutching with it the latest letter from the bank regarding his overdraft that he had received, apparently in the same post. He then thumped both cheque and letter down at the counter and walked out and started to live his life of Riley. As far as I know he never took up decorating again, his van lay abandoned on the forecourt of North Dulwich station and instead of cleaning windows Bernie began a new career of cleaning up Dulwich by entering politics and standing as a Liberal Democrat councillor. He laid great emphasis on his newly acquired responsibilities, letting potential voters know that, if necessary, to get to an appointment he was prepared to use a helicopter air-taxi at his own expense.
Bernie's character however had some unexpected facets. One of his first actions following his new-found wealth was to buy a small valley in Wales for his wife, which in spring blossomed with snowdrops. He declined the idea of moving to a smart new house in this valley, preferring to live in the home he was born in at North Dulwich station. Behind the house, in the long but narrow rear garden he continued to maintain his menagerie of all manner of animals and birds. He had considerable skill in restoring sick creatures to health and was often brought such animals to nurture by the local RSPCA. Visits to see the menagerie by classes of local schoolchildren were continued. In the garden beside the house he strung coloured lanterns which gave a cheery welcome to weary commuters arriving on evening rush-hour trains from London Bridge. These same commuters had been given a rousing send off to their offices on the morning trains by Bernie's two raucous peacocks which sometimes escaped onto the platform roof canopies of the Down Line. Spare a thought for Bernard Webb as you pass or sit on the seat to his memory outside Barclays Bank in the Village.
It is only in recent years that banks have dispensed with their managers. Now business enquiries are handled by call centres spread throughout the country and abroad. A significant figure in the community has thus been lost, and just possibly some of the bank's profits also. The manager of Barclays Bank in Dulwich Village, in addition to his other duties, was invariably appointed as honorary treasurer of a number of charities connected with the village. He handled the financial affairs of the Village Infants School, a task which today requires at least one full time school administrator. He was also treasurer of the Dulwich Rotary Club and thus came into social contact with many of his business clients - what better way to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Jack Gibson was manager when I began my career in the village. He succeeded Stanley Turpin who was friendly with my parents and followed them into retirement at Bexhill. Jack Gibson, in common with several other managers was a pipe smoker. Like Harold Wilson, Jack would thoughtfully puff his pipe when considering enlarging or granting an overdraft or some other proposal which could compromise the bank. The pipe would be removed, a page turned and the pipe restored. It gave Jack a margin of thinking time to arrive at a decision.
When I proposed expanding my business to add a third shop to my small empire, Jack reviewed my plans, asked a few questions, drew on his pipe and gave his blessing. And the necessary finance. Soon after this interview there was an armed bank raid at the bank in the village which in those days had no security screens, merely a raised wooden counter separating the customer from the cashiers. Jack confronted the robbers and was shot in the arm. He returned a few months later, still as cheerful and still puffing his pipe.
I am not quite sure what he would have made of one of the bank's later cashiers named Janice. Fortunately Jack had retired by the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1978, when in a burst of patriotism Janice displayed her Union Jack patterned underwear at the Village Business Association's party. Perhaps he would have approved, certainly the revelation did not appear as a charge on local bank statements.
The Village Dairy
On your way through the Village today you will pass Panino D'Oro, the cheerful deli where harassed Dulwich mums catch their breath after the school run. I remember the premises many years ago as The Village Dairy; presided over by 'Tommy Tomsett'. Mr Tomsett's shop was a cornucopia of tins arranged into pyramids, stacked boxes and assorted jars. Tommy himself was tall and thin, and occasionally the ghost of a smile hovered about his mouth. He seemed to glide around the shop in a state of perpetual slow motion. His actions were careful, deliberate and S- L- O- W. By contrast, his wife was short, plump, jolly and quick. He had what is called a 'helping hand', a device which had opening jaws on the end of a long rod and operated by a lever. With this Mr Tomsett would carefully remove whatever jar or tin was on the shopping list of his customers. At the request for some cheese, he would unwrap a large whole cheese from its muslin cover and place it on a marble slap. He would then carefully cut the cheese with a wire and rewrap the required slice in greaseproof paper, taking great care to fold the corners neatly. If there was customer in front of you at The Village Dairy you were in for a long wait. Which was probably why there was a cane backed chair for customers' use beside the counter.
Of course The Village Dairy had competition from other grocers' shops in the Village - not that that made any difference to its speed of service. Next to the Crown & Greyhound stood Mercer's Stores, run by Mr Page, next door to which was a branch of the United Dairies. I have to confess a minor misdemeanour in connection with this local UD. When putting up a lighted Christmas tree on its roof one Christmas I was unable to resist switching the letters on its fascia and for several months it bore the legend United Diaries.
A Ghost Story
I did not think I believed in ghosts, not that is, until I heard that the Dulwich Estate's bailiff, Mr Clout had died. I had never actually been introduced to Mr Clout, merely knew of him by reputation, but I did know his wife. Mrs Clout was a diminutive, smiling, white haired lady who lived in one of the cottages opposite the Crown & Greyhound. The Mr Clout I thought I knew was a robust figure, tall and well built. I was therefore surprised one day in the early 1960s to hear that he had died. A day or so after I had heard this news, the Mr Clout I knew walked into my shop. I had never seen a ghost before. "Can I have a bottle of ink please?" the apparition asked as it approached the counter. Not quite knowing how to converse with my first ghost I replied "How are you?" to which it responded, "I'm not dead yet!"
I went an even paler shade as the tall and burly figure of the ghost of Mr Clout left my shop. It was only later that I discovered that his name was not Mr Clout, but his neighbour Tom Bruce.
Yet that is not quite the end of my ghost story because about eighteenth months ago, and more than 40 years after the incident described above, the resident of another of those little cottages came in to ask me if I had ever heard of a tragic event in his cottage, because his wife (who like himself had a most balanced disposition) was convinced that she had on several occasions seen what she was thought was a ghost in her house. I was unable to say that I had.
Our dear old dog has died. Which means that my wife and I are no longer members of those extensive sororities and fraternities, the dog-walkers of Dulwich Park. Those of you who rise early in all weathers and gather at Court Lane Gate to exercise your canine charges will no longer see my wife, clad in yellow wellingtons and red raincoat, or myself wearing broad-brimmed hat and green jacket, huffing and puffing after a bouncy Golden Retriever called Nelson.
Which is sad. Because in the months in which Nelson took over our lives and snuffled his way along the muddy paths of the park's perimeter, the new friendships we forged with humans and dogs alike really did make us feel that Dulwich is a community, not simply a neighbourhood or suburb, not just, as the politician's somewhat bitter adage put it, "a wealthy enclave in a deprived borough".
For Dulwich has solid institutions, churches, schools, shops, restaurants, a fine pub or two, a good library and an art gallery of international renown. There are sports clubs galore and the Dulwich Society is only one of a number of organisations to which citizens repair for cultural and social sustenance. On the more formal side, there is the Dulwich Community Council, a useful sounding board for opinion and complaint. The list of such bodies is almost endless and, if, through ignorance, I fail to mention your favourite association, guild or union, you must forgive me.
Having lived in this community for more than 21 years, my debt to the place now is as one who is spending his retirement here. To wander through the Village, especially on a quiet morning when the school run is over, to down a pint over a book purchased from Hazel and Julian, or to chat with John about the shocking price of coachwork repairs in the lugubrious interior of Park Motor Garage, are all pleasures which help to dispel some of the more sombre memories of life as a journalist in foreign parts.
So, when I ponder the books on the shelves in my comfortable Dulwich home, I sometimes find it hard to believe that I once observed the Killing Fields of Cambodia, lived through the violence of Lebanon and stood up to the stony-faced obstruction of communist officials in Czechoslovakia.
And yet Dulwich too has its dark side. From my short stint as chair of the Metropolitan Police Safer Neighbourhood Panel, I know a bit about crime in our area. It pains me to realise that we have enough villains and con-men around to make life difficult for old people and schoolchildren alike. It's not because of our proximity to Brixton and Peckham which some of us think of as "no-go" areas. That in itself is a nonsense and we must accept that even pleasant and prim Dulwich has to live in the real world, and that vandalism and anti-social behaviour in our bailiwick are sometimes home grown.
For all its leafy charms, Dulwich is London. And as Henry James put it, if in a slightly different context, "all human life is there". And there are plenty of dogs as well!
Friday 9th May - Sunday 18th May
There is a wonderful surprise being created for you even as you read this and its name is the Dulwich Festival! Many people across Dulwich are beginning to meet in unusual settings to plan this annual cultural celebration. Each of the previous fourteen festivals have uncovered hidden gems throughout Dulwich and brought similarly exciting pieces to the area; this year is no exception. Why not sit down now, find your diary and plan to be entertained this May!
The festival opens with a weekend of art on display throughout Dulwich in the Artists Open House event. A vibrant array of over 100 artists will show their work in a range of intimate settings; a wonderful opportunity to take a glimpse at the tremendously varied work being made on your doorstep.
The opening weekend also sees the start of a series of debates which will examine our future world; our future community. Speakers will include Craig Sams, the founder of Green and Black's who will be in conversation with Felicity Lawrence, investigative food journalist for The Guardian as they examine the future of food. Later in the week the Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre, David Lan will be in conversation with Prof. Paul Heritage of Queen Mary College, London University as they consider the impact of theatre as a tool for social and environmental change. Come and add your voice as we discover how the future might unfold!
Music and dance will once again play a central role in the festival this year ranging from the delights of Salsa through to the more courtly Elizabethan dance music. Live contemporary music will range from the popular to an opera premiere. The choice is yours! The festival will also present what promises to be a truly magnificent evening with the acclaimed Dante Quartet as they perform the Schubert Mass with the choir of St Barnabas church; not to be missed!
There will also be an array of children's events to suit all ages, from the delightful children's concert to a range of literary events including a wonderful poetry event at Dulwich Library with nationally acclaimed local poet, Chrissie Gittins.
With such a feast of cultural delights on offer it is essential to book your tickets early. Each event has a limited capacity and tickets are not always available on the door. This year you can even purchase your tickets online at www.dulwichfestival.co.uk Why not try it out?
The festival will once again celebrate in style with the Festival Fair on Goose Green on Sunday 11th May and a fair to end the festival in Dulwich Park on Sunday 18th May. Come and join in!
Tuesday 4th Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture Joseph Wright of Derby - "The Spirit of the Industrial revolution" by Val Woodgate. Linbury Room 8pm £10
Wednesday 5th Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert - Wihan Quartet String Quartets by Beethoven Op 18/4, Smetana, Dvorak Op 96 'American'. In the Gallery 7.30pm Tickets £20 (includes glass of wine)
Saturday 8th Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert - Viva Flamenco: Juan Ramirez and his Troupe 7.30pm at St Barnabas Hall, Dulwich Village. Tapas from Barcelona Tapas on sale during the interval. Tickets £17. Children under 16 £10.
Sunday 9th Dulwich Going Greener - Practical Group Workshop in association with 'Food up Front'. To encourage people to grow food in the space they have available. 3pm Francis Peek Centre, Dulwich Park
Monday 10th Dulwich Subscription Concert - The Rautio Piano Trio. 7.30pm in The Old Library, Dulwich College. Tickets £15 concs £10 (tel Box Office 020 8761 6659)
Thursday 13th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The Islamic Garden in Architecture Painting and Poetry by Sarah Searight MA at 8pm at the James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Friday 14th Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibition Coming of Age of American Art 1850s - 1950s opens.
Saturday 15th Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Treasures Roadshow with Paul Atterbury, Rupert Maas and Fergus Gambon. Two items per person. 5pm in the Gallery and the Linbury Room. Tickets £15
Tuesday 18th Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture James Gillray - "A caterpillar on the green leaf of Reputation"by Val Woodgate. Linbury Room 8pm £10
Friday 21st Herne Hill Velodrome Southern Counties Cycling Union Good Friday Race Meeting 10.30am
Thursday 3rd, Friday 4th Saturday 5th The Dulwich Players Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Dulwich Society Garden Group: Talk and Practical Demonstration - "Plants and planting in a small town garden" by Tony Pizzoferro. 8pm The St Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue. Admission free, Refreshments.
Thursday 10th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The Arts of Bloomsbury: Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles by Lady Marina Vaizey at 8pm at the James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Sunday 13th Christ's Chapel, Dulwich Village. 6.30pm Choral Evensong with London Gallery Quire.
Tuesday 29th Dulwich Society Annual General Meeting 8pm St Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue.
Thursday 8th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture In Praise of Follies by Dr Celia Fisher at 8pmat the James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Saturday 10th Dulwich Festival - Dulwich Society Trees Walk in Dulwich Woods led by Letta Jones. Meet at top of Grange Lane 2pm. Tickets £3
Sunday 11th Dulwich Picture Gallery Focus Exhibition The Agony and the Ecstasy: Guido Reni's paintings of Saint Sebastian closes.
Tuesday 13th Dulwich Subscription Concert - The Aoyama Trio Flute, Viola and Harp. At 7.30pm The Old Library, Dulwich College. Tickets £15 concs £10 Tel Box Office 020 8761 6659.
Sunday 18th Dulwich Festival - Dulwich Society Local History 1 hour Walk 'War-torn East Dulwich'. Led by Brian Green. Meet at Dulwich Library 2.30pm Tickets £3 from the Box Office in advance.
Tuesday 3rd Dulwich Picture Gallery Focus Exhibition The Lion & the Dragon: Photographs from China 1903-5 opens.
Sunday 8th Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibition Coming of Age of American Art closes.
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture A New Golden Age: Sculpture since 1945 by Eric Shanes at 8pm at the James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Thursday 26th Dulwich Society Garden Group - Coach outing to 'Nymans and Squerries Court'. Tickets £28 from Ina Pulleine, 1 Perifield SE 21 8NG or telephone 8670 5477 after 11am.
Notice is hereby given that the 45th Annual General Meeting of the Dulwich Society will be held at 8.00pm on Tuesday 29th April 2008 at St Barnabas Church Centre, Calton Avenue, SE 21 7DG.
1. Minutes of the 44th Annual General Meeting held on 27 March 2007 to be approved.
2. Chairman's Report
3. Secretary's Report.
4. Treasurer's Report and presentation of accounts for 2007.
5. Appointment of Honorary Auditor.
6. Reports from Sub-Committee Chairmen.
7. Elections for 2008-2009. President, Vice-Presidents, Officers, Executive Committee.
8. Any Other Business.
Note: Nominations for election as an Officer or Member of the Executive Committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary by two (2) members not later than fourteen days before 29 April 2008 and must be endorsed by the candidate in writing. (Rule 9).
7 Pond Cottages Patrick Spencer
London SE21 7LE
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 2007, the Chairman's report and reports of the Sub-Committee Chairmen may be seen on the Dulwich Society Website www.dulwichsociety.org.uk A hardcopy may be obtained by application to the Secretary.