Community Councils have been in existence for the past five years and have taken on the character of an Anglo Saxon Folkmoot whereby everyone in the community is allowed (briefly) to have his or her say. The Dulwich Community Council meeting held at the beginning of December was so crowded by residents who wanted to hear more about the proposals for traffic calming in the area that a separate public meeting, solely to discuss these proposals was held on Thursday 9th December in St Barnabas Hall. It was clear from the mood of the audience that while it was generally in favour of slower or less traffic it was extremely hostile to suggestions of more humps and bumps in residential roads. There was an acknowledgement that both College Road and Gallery Road need some form of speed restrictions, the most popular one being voiced was for average speed cameras. Numerous questions and criticisms of the Council’s plan were voiced, not least about costs, when it was learnt that each hump costs over £400 while raised crossings and speed table are in the region of £15,000-20,000. There was particular criticism reserved for the treatment proposed for road exits at both ends of Court Lane as well as incredulity at the proposal to make Townley Road the major road thus creating a potential hazard for Alleyn’s schoolchildren and other pedestrians. This particular junction has been altered at least twice, at great cost and inconvenience to residents.
Curiously, there seemed to be no realisation by the planners that Dulwich Village is one of Central London’s access routes from the south and that because of its concentration of railway lines and sports fields which act as barriers, roads like Turney Road and Calton Avenue are the only logical routes from east to west. To deny traffic along these routes is force the problem onto already busy roads elsewhere like Croxted Road and Lordship Lane.
It was also disconcerting that Southwark Council officers boasted of “pots of money from Transport for London” and elsewhere being available for this hugely expensive project. In these dire economic times, many of those attending were wondering if they were living on the same planet as those presenting the proposals.
Those households in the area who would be directly affected by the outline proposals received a consultation document and questionnaire from the Council to be returned by15th December. It will be interesting to hear if the results of this consultation will be made public and if they are will the Council take the slightest notice in its apparent enthusiasm for the scheme.
In the Dulwich Society News column in this Newsletter, Alastair Hanton sets out the Society’s additional proposals and invites the membership to comment.
There has been a good response to the appeal in the last Newsletter for assistance in distributing the quarterly issues. Five members have agreed to help and there are vacancies for more. Please contact the Chairman, Ian McInnes if you think you might be able join the distribution team.
The Newsletter always invites contributors to its columns. If you have an article or a photograph on a subject of local interest we would be delighted to hear from you. Contributions can be sent by post or by email, preferably as a WORD attachment to
The image of Dulwich as a leafy and pleasant living environment is a seductive one and for most residents largely true. However, attendance at two recent meetings of the local Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams (which consist of police, councillors, neighbourhood watch group representatives and other community activists) has shown that in some parts of Dulwich, this is not always an accurate picture.
Low Cross Wood Lane runs through the Dulwich Woods from College Road up to Crescent Wood Road. It is a very steep slope and is used extensively by residents in Great Brownings, Peckarmans Wood, Woodsyre, and the many other people who live off Sydenham Hill, as a short cut to/from their trains at Sydenham Hill Station.
Earlier last year it suffered a serious crime wave. People were mugged, during the evening and the day, school children were hassled, and stones were thrown at windows of the houses that border the upper parts of the Lane. The police were alerted to the ongoing problem through the Safer Neighbourhood Team and had some success in catching the perpetrators, but local residents lobbied for more to be done to make the lane safer for the longer term.
Following a detailed inspection by crime prevention officers, and a report prepared by members of local neighbourhood watch groups, Southwark Councillors have been active in securing improved lighting (due to be installed in March) and there are other possibilities that could be funded through the Council’s Safer Cleaner Greener funding. Many residents also feel that the Dulwich Estate could also have been more proactive in pruning overgrown vegetation and removing graffiti.
Further north, in Village Ward, statistics show that some crimes, particularly robbery, are much higher than the Southwark average (and indeed the London-wide average) - mugging for mobile phones in or near the Park seem to be the main reason. Again the Safer Neighbourhood Team has prioritised the local beat team who have achieved good results.
Every ward has its own Safer Neighbourhood Team and they need committed volunteers to participate. They are actively seeking involvement from all members of the community whether they are young or old, owner occupiers or social housing tenants. They offer genuine opportunities for public participation and a real opportunity to make a difference in the local community.
Dulwich Gardens - open for charity 2009
Enclosed with this issue is a copy of the Dulwich Society’s new annual publication ‘Dulwich Gardens - open for charity, 2009’. It has been compiled by the Society’s Garden Group to encourage residents to visit the many splendid local gardens that are open each year to raise money for charity.
Because of this Garden Group will not be opening any gardens in the future, so members on the Garden Group membership list will no longer receive “invitations” to garden openings. Instead, they and all members of the Dulwich Society, will receive a copy of ‘Dulwich Gardens open for charity’ which gives details of nearly 40 local gardens that are open for charity. Almost every weekend, throughout the summer, there will be at least one garden open. It is hoped that this new arrangement will greatly widen the scope of garden visits. A new Directory will be published each year.
Apart from the enjoyment of the garden and of meeting many other local people, you can learn a lot from these visits. You can discover new and interesting plants to grow and find out when and where to plant them. In this ‘going greener’ age, you can also learn which are the best fruit and vegetables to grow - and this can be done even if your garden is not much bigger than a window box.
Please keep this directory in a prominent place. Additional copies are available, free of charge, from some local garden centres and shops. If you have any suggestions for improving or adding to the directory, please contact John Ward on Tel. 020 7274 5172 or Email,
Enjoy your visits!
Dulwich in Bloom
This year, for the first time, Dulwich will be entering the Royal Horticultural Society’s competition, Britain in Bloom. In past years Dulwich has been included as part of the Southwark entry, and last year Southwark was one of the London finalists.
So we start from a strong position.
The judges will consider three main areas:-
1. Public space and public buildings - parks, recreational areas, etc.
2. Business and commercial - shops, retail areas, railway stations, etc.
3. Residential front gardens - both individual front gardens and streets or estates.
The judges are particularly interested in community involvement.
Judging will take place at the beginning of August. You can help Dulwich win by ensuring that your front garden looks at its best at that time, or by joining with your neighbours in a street or community project.
Stella has been the Trees Committee Chairman for 25 years or more, ever watchful and devoted to our wooded landscape.
In this time she has organised (with others) the Historic Elm Slice (now in St. Barnabas Hall), planting in Bell Meadow, the Nature Trail and the Village Copse in the Park, the great illustrated Dulwich Tree Map, the new Dulwich Picture Gallery Tree map, and much more.
All this with charm, energy and determination, and while standing down now, is still full of ideas for projects, and I know we will continue to look to her for advice and inspiration. This can only be a very inadequate thank you from the Trees Committee and us all in the Dulwich Society.
After many regrettable delays over several years it seems that there may finally be an occupier for College Lodge, next to the main gate to Dulwich Park
The Council asked for expressions of interest late last year and the Society understands that a recommendation has been made. While the Society is keen to see the building refurbished and occupied, the key aspect of any tenant agreement must be that they offer public access and uses that are complimentary to the Park.
Southwark had asked for a substantial financial contribution from the successful applicant but has now accepted that this may take time in today’s more stringent economic climate. It has given instructions to its in-house team to start procuring a contractor to carry out external refurbishment works for which the Council already has funds set side.
This still leaves something to be done with the Roseberry Gate Lodge. The Friends of Dulwich Park want this used as a base for the park wardens who, at the moment, are based in Burgess Park, in the north of the Borough, a reasonable suggestion most would think, yet Southwark seems strangely unwilling to do it. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another five years before something is done.
New Police Station
While it remains unclear whether East Dulwich Police Station will remain operational in the medium term, there is a possibility that one of the empty shops on the Kingswood Estate shopping parade could be used as a base for the College Ward Neighbourhood Police Team. This is a positive step to locate beat officers in their local area and it should hopefully result in quicker response times to calls for assistance.
Half Moon Lane Shop Service Area
Service access to the shops on the south side of Half Moon Lane is via a car park accessed off Stradella Road. Local residents complain that security is lax - it has been a meeting place for drug dealers, and the shopkeepers are not as careful as they should be with their rubbish. The Dulwich Estate is responsible for the area and residents feel that their complaints are not being taken seriously enough.
Calming our Streets
by Alastair Hanton
As we go to press, we await the decision of the Dulwich Community Council on some significant changes to our streets in the Village. The changes which Southwark Council has designed are intended to calm traffic to a speed limit of 20 mph. The junction in the centre of the Village would be altered to favour pedestrians; the entrance to Court Lane from Lordship Lane would be narrowed to discourage lorries through the Village; the crossing of Court Lane to Dulwich Park would be made safer for pedestrians; traffic in Calton Avenue would be reduced by realigning its junction with Townley Road; and somewhat more controversially, more humps would be put in to slow vehicles.
Separately from these changes, the Dulwich Society, jointly with Dulwich Going Greener has suggested to the Community Council more measures to make our area cleaner, greener and safer. You can see these proposals on the Society’s website. They include:
Changes to make it pleasanter and safer to walk rather than drive, such as: repairs to damaged pavements, clearing back the vegetation on Gallery Road; traditional Dulwich white posts and chains protecting pedestrians on narrow pavements like parts of Court Lane, Red Post Hill and the South Circular; a raised crossing on Gallery Road opposite Lover’s Lane and a refuge or crossing between the shops on both sides of Half Moon Lane near Stradella Road.
Help for cycling, such as advance stop lines at traffic lights; more cycle parking and a local cycle hire scheme.
Changes to encourage more walking and cycling to school, such as an all-red phase at the junction of College Road and the South Circular; a possible safe route across the Velodrome site; shared use of footways by pupils under 13.
Better public transport, such as ramps at West Dulwich station for buggies, wheelchairs and cycles; seats, shelters and indicators at bus stops. Our Councillors have been lobbying for years to extend the 42 bus, now terminating in Red Post Hill, to Sainsbury’s, Dog Kennel Hill. This would provide a direct link between King’s College Hospital and Dulwich Community Hospital.
Do please let us know what you think about these ideas and any other suggestions. Alastair Hanton, Traffic and Transport Committee (tel 020 8693 2618)
Marlborough Cricket Ground
The condition of the Marlborough Cricket ground on the South Circular/Lordship Lane junction continues to give the Society cause for concern. It has repeatedly brought it up at its regular meetings with the Dulwich Estate but, despite assurances of action, little improvement seems to happen. Being located on the edge of the Estate is no reason for standards to drop and the site’s poor condition adds to the general deteriorating ambience in the area - including St Peter’s Church Hall and boundary wall, and the crumbling old concrete house on Lordship Lane. These are eyesores that the Council should have dealt with by now
Notice is hereby given that the 46th Annual General Meeting of the Dulwich Society will be held at 8.00pm on Thursday 2nd April 2009 at St Barnabas Church Centre, Calton Avenue, SE21 7DG.
1. Minutes of the 45th Annual General Meeting held on 29th April 2008 to be approved.
2. Chairman’s Report
3. Secretary’s Report.
4. Treasurer’s Report and presentation of accounts for 2008.
5. Appointment of Honorary Auditor.
6. Reports from Sub-Committee Chairmen.
7. Elections for 2009-2010. 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 2 April 2009 and must be endorsed by the candidate in writing. (Rule 9).
7 Pond Cottages
London SE21 7LE
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 2008, the Chairman’s report and reports of the Sub-Committee Chairmen may be seen on the Dulwich Society Website www.dulwichsociety.com A hardcopy may be obtained by application to the Secretary.
Finger posts and chain posts
The Dulwich Society has been having discussions with Southwark Council regarding Dulwich's unique finger post signs, many of which were looking worse for wear. Following Rosemary Dawson’s initiative in raising the matter, a grant was made from this year's Cleaner Greener Safer fund to carry out a restoration. However, Councillor Robin Crookshank Hilton investigated producing the finger posts from a new material and as a consequence a prototype of a new sign is being manufactured which should last considerably longer than the traditional timber signs. They will look exactly the same but be made of a 'timber effect' recycled material around a steel core. The first sign should be installed on the Dulwich Village/Burbage Road roundabout at the end of January. . As an interim measure the Council has carried out temporary repairs to the existing finger posts.
A similar specification to the proposed replacement finger posts is also to be tried out on the chain posts which are also prone to rotting, and samples will be installed around the grass verge in front of Barclays Bank in early February
What about a Red Finger Post?
It would be a satisfying nod towards Dulwich’s heritage if a signpost could be placed on Denmark Hill, thus replicating “the sign of the Red Post”, which stood there in the 18th century and gave its name to Red Post Hill.* One arm would point to Dulwich Village with the other arms indicating Herne Hill, Loughborough Junction, and Camberwell. Of course the new post should also be painted red with white letters. There are three such red posts still in existence in Dorset and one in Somerset.
Name the Lane
It took several years of lobbying by the Dulwich Society to re-open the lane leading from Green Dale eastwards to the rear of Dulwich Hamlet FC ground and the Edgar Kail Park beside Sainsbury’s on Dog Kennel Hill. This is now a well-used route for shoppers, cyclists and pedestrians but it has yet to receive a name. What about Searchlight Lane (after its wartime use) ? or Observatory Lane (recalling Bessemer’s observatory which stood at its western end) ?, or Tommy Jover Lane (in memory of the Hamlet’s winger) ? or Gaumont Lane (recalling the Gaumont film studio which once stood nearby) ? Please send you suggestions to the Newsletter c/o The Editor.
Another Local Charity
The article in the last Newsletter about the Dulwich Almshouse Charity mentioned another local charity, and readers may be interested to know more about it.
The purpose of the Camberwell Consolidated Charities (reg no. 208441) is the relief of poverty in the former Parish of Camberwell, which comprised Dulwich, Camberwell and Peckham. The endowment of the Charity brings together a number of gifts and bequests from the nineteenth century and earlier - one of its last remaining properties, now sold, was a small shop on Denmark Hill on what was formerly the site of the parish pound!
The Charity concentrates on retired residents who are having to manage at or just above the minimum income provided by the State, and currently has about 150 ‘pensioners’, most of them elderly women. Under the chairmanship of the late Carol Kay, who will have been known to many readers, the Trustees have succeeded in substantially enhancing the resources of the Charity. The remaining properties have been sold and the proceeds invested, and other investments usefully deployed. Ten years ago, the Charity was able to give £30 a year to its pensioners, in £10 notes sent through the post. In the current year it has been able to distribute £200 each plus £45 from the grant made by the Dulwich Almshouse Charity, sent by electronic transfer into the recipients’ building society or accounts. This is still a modest sum, but very worthwhile to those whose needs are greatest. The work of this Charity reminds us that although the State provides a basic safety net it still leaves many in very straightened circumstances.
The Trustees are always keen to talk to anyone who might be interested in joining them in this worthwhile task, particularly those with financial experience, or those who can help extend the Charity’s reach within our increasingly diverse society. The point of contact is the Hon Secretary John Palmer on 020 8693 6856.
If a reader knows of someone who might qualify for a pension from the Charity, an application form can be obtained from the Clerk, Janet McDonald on 020 7525 7511 or
The Abbeyfield Dulwich Society
The Society runs two houses in Stradella Road SE24, in the Stradella Road Conservation Area, providing sheltered accommodation for elderly people in a comfortable and friendly environment. Each house has a full time housekeeper and relief and the residents have their own self contained flats or ensuite bedsits, which they furnish as they choose. Two meals are provided each day in a communal dining room and there is a large garden for the residents’ use. Unusually, we currently have one vacancy in each house. These might very well suit residents with elderly relatives they would like to have living near them but who feel they are no longer capable of looking after themselves in their own homes. If you are interested in further information please contact Mobbs Pitcher on 01435 865376 or 0772167 or Caroline Wilkinson on 020-7733 6387.
The society is run by local volunteers and therefore has low overheads. New volunteers are always welcome.
Following the announcement in the last Newsletter that “Dulwich Going Greener” is pioneering A Model Allotment in Dulwich Park, supported by Dulwich Park Friends, I am glad to report that a site has been selected and agreed by the Park Authorities. It is the former garden of Roseberry Lodge.
We are now in a position to start clearing this overgrown site of ground ivy and other weeds and to open it up to obtain maximum sunlight. After this we will initiate a planting programme for the first year, together with suitable landscaping.
The Park Manager and Head Gardener will be very much involved and if you would like to become a volunteer worker or know more about the project, please contact David Smart, 5 Roseway, Dulwich Village. Tel: 0207 733 8335; or email:
A successful outcome depends on the coordinated efforts of our volunteer workers.
Dulwich Festival 8th - 17th May 2009
If you are hunting for a little cheerfulness then look no further than the wonderful places and spaces we have in Dulwich this May. The Dulwich Festival will spring to life again from Friday 8th May with walks, talks, theatre, music and comedy. There is something in store for every reader, whatever your inclinations.
Exciting music will be on hand with contributions extending from classical to jazz via electro-acoustic. Everyone is welcome to join the scratch choral event on Sunday 10th May at JAGS which this year will be a performance of Carmina Burana under the baton of Leigh O’Hara. Local band, The Effras will be bringing their own special blend of music to the festival for the first time. The festival is also delighted to announce that the London Bulgarian Choir who appeared at last year’s Glastonbury and Latitute festivals will be performing their extraordinary repertoire on Thursday 14th May at All Saint’s Church.
A wonderful evening is promised for those who sally forth to hear critically acclaimed author and public speaker Fran Sandham as he tells the story of his solo journey across Africa. He will be visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Wednesday 13th May as part of the festival to tell of his amazing feat which was accomplished completely alone; no support team, no sponsors, no film crew, no cheering crowds and no strings attached! An event not to be missed!
Children’s events abound in this year’s festival with film workshops, storytelling, theatre and the delightful Children’s Concert which this year will take place on Saturday 16th May at 11am at All Saint’s Church. ‘Bang! Bam! Wham!’ promises much fun for children of all ages!
Art will also be very much on the menu with the Artist’s Open House event which this year will see approaching 100 artists having their work on display throughout Dulwich. The event will take place across both weekends of the festival.
And this is just a selection of the delights in store! Tickets will go on sale from 14th April, so do make a date in your diary to visit the web-site and purchase your tickets to a series of wonderful events! www.dulwichfestival.co.uk
Alpha Hopkins (Director - Dulwich Festival)
Dulwich Mill Pond
In the autumn of 2006 the Dulwich Estate commissioned an environmental survey of the Dulwich Mill Pond as it had concerns over the amount of silt that had accumulated in it. The survey confirmed that this was the case - almost 50% of the potential volume of the water in the pond is silt, and suggested two possible options for dealing with the problem, both of them expensive. The pond comes under the Scheme of Management and any remedial work would be chargeable to local residents. The Society understands that the Estate is currently reviewing options for these works. The survey also noted a large area of Japanese Knotweed on the eastern bank and this has now been removed.
Dulwich was recently pronounced to have the highest concentration of schools in Europe. The basis for this could be challenged and it may have rivals, but there are probably few other places five miles from the centre of a major capital city where 1200 acres of land have remained continuously in control of the same educational charity for the past four hundred years. Dulwich has become an international brand name as closely linked to the excellence of a home-reared product as Melton Mowbray is to meat pies. Education is clearly its dominant local industry, as is evident to anybody who has survived an encounter with the daily Dulwich school run.
To change the analogy, the central attraction of Dulwich stems from its remarkable constellation of three high-performing independent schools, Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School and James Allen’s Girls’ School, all of which have evolved from Edward Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift established in 1619. This provided for the education of twelve poor scholars by endowing the College with the entire Manor of Dulwich after Alleyn’s death. The Charity currently provides education for about 3800 children, nearly all selected as scholars but mainly not poor ones, with a combined annual operating budget of £50 million for the three Dulwich schools, now well beyond the revenue that can be produced by the Dulwich Estate.
Dulwich also has a planetary system of private and state schools, infant and junior, preparatory and secondary, all on the Dulwich Estate. These schools contribute to the fact that houses in Dulwich command a high premium, as much within the narrow catchment area for its state schools as within easy reach of the Foundation schools. Particularly over the past ten years, Dulwich has developed an uncomfortable reputation for being a privileged enclave, protected from the less favoured outside world by a dual financial screen of high house prices and rapidly rising school fees. Both of these have considerably outstripped UK general price increases and average incomes. Fees at each of the Foundation schools, including extras like school uniforms, lunches and coach travel, are now over £14,000 a year, which families have to meet out of taxed income. The total cost of doing this for seven years would be close to £100,000. Many children at the Foundation schools have also received a number of years’ education in private sector infants’ and preparatory schools; some linked to the Foundation schools themselves. The average UK annual household income is now £24,000, making the cost of paying for one child’s education unreal and more than one child impossible.
This financial problem was compounded in 1997, when the Government terminated its Assisted Places Scheme for children at selective private schools. It is now a principle of state education that selection of children on the basis of academic ability is socially unfair, and that government resources for education are better directed at improving performance standards in all schools. This is supposed to improve the social opportunities of under-privileged children but the financial gap between rich and poor has widened considerably during the past ten years and social mobility has evidently declined. Since a child’s social and career prospects are still thought to depend largely on the school it attends, and the best of these are still selective, it would present the worst of all worlds if access to these schools were barred to all parents who could not afford the fees, as a result of which there were to be a greater educational, social and financial separation of an elite group from the rest of the community. This would be in complete contrast from the early post-war situation that many of us still remember when more than 90 per cent of children at the Dulwich Foundation schools were on local authority scholarships, which paid all their fees and transport costs.
Any financial help now has to come from the schools themselves. The Foundation schools are fully conscious of this and are making it their first priority to build up their capacity to provide scholarships and bursaries most of which are related to parental income. These now benefit 800 (20 per cent) pupils. The annual value is around £5million which coincides roughly with the Dulwich Estate’s annual income distribution to its beneficiary schools (including those outside of Dulwich). The Foundation Schools have also received in recent years, two tranches of capital transferred from the Dulwich Estate.
It is a serious question where more funds to put towards bursaries can be raised. Fees are already high and it is clearly unreasonable to subsidise bursaries from fees paid by other parents. In current financial markets and with low interest rates it is less certain the Dulwich Estate can be relied upon to contribute as much income in future years to the schools. It will therefore be a challenge for Dulwich College to be able to fulfil its objective of ensuring within the next few years that no deserving applicant is excluded from entry because his family cannot afford the fees.
All of the Foundation schools have recently embarked on major new capital works, including theatres, music centres, swimming pools and sports facilities, which enhance the attraction and educational quality of the schools. The schools are also keen to present them as being to the benefit of the local community thereby fulfilling the Government’s criterion that to enjoy the benefits of being exempt from taxation they must demonstrate they are contributing to the ‘wider community need’. These works are usually expensive, and also raise difficult questions as to how best they are to be funded. Certainly, needs to fund such works compete with the need to fund bursaries and separate appeals are usually made. Donors sometimes find it more satisfying to contribute to the creation of a tangible amenity than to endow a scholarship or bursary.
Division of opinion as to selective or comprehensive education is too deep to be resolved in a Dulwich Society newsletter. The history of how similar social issues have been met by the Foundation schools for four hundred years is admirably brought out in Dr Jan Piggott’s magnificent new History of Dulwich College. This is much more than a chronicle of the College but also of changing attitudes to appropriate education for the poor, which have persisted throughout and appear still to do so. That is the enigma of Louise Simson’s elegant statue of Edward Alleyn with one hand outstretched to a barefoot boy. Was this to help him gain an apprenticeship and put shoes on his feet, or to go on to higher education if he had the ability to do so? The Foundation schools have firmly believed the latter, especially since the Charity was reformed in the middle of the nineteenth century, and appear to have every intention of continuing to do so.
by Bill Higman
A luke-warm bed of Radicalism
I have mentioned before that my parents acquired what would become my shop from Albert Chapman in 1947. Albert had removed from Wisbech in the 1930’s and brought his family, his wife, two sons and a daughter to Dulwich where he took over an existing printing and stationery business. Albert’s main interest was in printing and he had an extensive, if somewhat disorganised and archaic print works in a building behind the shop which he continued to operate until the early 1960’s.
One of his sons, Arnold, was the black sheep of the family and was to cause Albert some difficulty in his business because Arnold was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. After World War Two, when the Cold War started, the direction of Albert’s eldest son’s loyalties gained a local, modest notoriety. I do not know whether Arnold had been politicised in his youth by his abhorrence of seeing William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw), proclaiming the virtues of National Socialism on a soapbox, on the corner of Calton Avenue, just a few yards from the shop and printing works or whether it was the inspiration of the International Brigade’s intervention in Spain’s civil war, a doomed venture which included so many British printers. By 1947, when I began to overhear conversations in the shop or over the kitchen table, it was not as trendy to be a communist as it had been in the Thirties, because of the perceived threat to peace from our wartimr ally, Russia. Albert’s other son Spencer, by contrast, was of a more placed nature and was also a talented artist who specialised in wood-cuts. Spencer had inherited some of his father’s skill in graphic art, maybe Arnold some of Albert’s politics.
I actually do not know what Albert’s politics really were although I suspect he began his working life as a radical and gradually as the years passed became more mellow but I do recall that during a national printing strike around 1960 Albert came to me in great alarm. His dilemma was that he was a member of the one of the printing unions involved in the dispute and he had been instructed by his union to come out on strike. But as the owner of a printing business Albert was also a member of the Federation of Master Printers, in other words - the employers, who were vigorously opposing the strike. What should he do? He argued that he could hardly strike against himself! In the event Albert decided to carry on printing but behind locked doors and curtained windows. All through the lengthy dispute Albert quietly continued as a black-leg, an action I suspect quite alien to his character.
As a small but versatile printer, Albert drew to his printing -works, and hence to the shop, an interesting mixture of clients. Among these was a Dr S. D. Cudjoe who had come to Britain from the Gold Coast in the early 1930’s and practised medicine as a G.P. in Camberwell. In the immediate post-war period London had become the centre of African nationalism and Dr Cudjoe was an articulate proponent of the movement for colonial change. He blamed the failure of young African literates to go back to work in their villages on the general contempt of the professional classes for the uneducated which he considered were directly inherited from the European colonialists. His politics, combined with his enthusiasm for art made Cudjoe a popular visitor during discussions over the printing of his book (Aids to African Autonomy) the book jacket of which he so brilliantly designed and which Albert published under The College Press imprint.
To our sorrow, Dr Cudjoe returned to the Gold Coast when the colony’s independence was becoming apparent. I often wonder what happened to him in the newly created Ghana.
Interestingly, another thread of Post-Colonialism also had its roots in my shop in the early Fifties. A local poet, Lionel Monteith had already founded a branch of the British Poetry Association in Dulwich in 1949, with regular meetings at the Crown & Greyhound. Another local poet, Howard Sergeant was the Association’s president. The guest poets at their Dulwich meetings in those early days read like a literary Who’s Who: Stephen Spender, Laurie Lee, Dannie Abse, Marie Stopes and Michael Croft. Out of this organisation sprang Poetry Commonwealth which published the works of poets from around the former Empire, all printed by Albert Chapman and the shop and printing works became the poste restante address for the enterprise. One poem which was submitted recently turned up among some press cuttings. It was by the distinguished Indian poet Pritam Singh.
No Use The Rose
No use the rose that blows so red,
No use the cypress tree,
When she I love is far away
And cannot be with me.
In vain the evening shadows lurk,
In vain the moon doth rise;
To me their charm is naught without
The magic of her eyes.
The Bizarre Bazaar
It is said that everyone can remember what they were doing when they heard the news of the assassination of President John Kennedy. Such an odd claim but I have to say that in my case it is absolutely true. I was buying white and pink coconut ice from a stall at Doris’s Christmas Bazaar when I heard the news.
The Christmas Bazaar, which I nicknamed the Bizarre Bazaar, was the highlight of Doris’s year. She was one of my assistants at my shop and because of this I was party to the politics of this annual Christmas bazaar held at Herne Hill Congregational Church (now Herne Hill United Church) at the top of Red Post Hill.
Doris had risen to be the supremo of the two-day bazaar by virtue of succeeding her mother as leader of the Women’s Pleasant Hour, a Monday afternoon gathering the membership of which was a springboard to the coveted membership of the bazaar committee. Membership of the committee carried certain privileges, one of which was to preside over the ‘ pre-buy’ evening at Doris’s house in Woodwarde Road. Those patrons considered by the committee as being sufficiently affluent (as Doris’s employer I fell into this category) were invited to a private viewing of the merchandise which would later stock the stalls of the bazaar on the following Friday evening and Saturday.
On arrival at Doris’s house one found embroidered handkerchiefs, lavender bags, bars of soap tastefully decorated with sequins (which had to be carefully removed before use), hand-painted cards and all manner of other objets d’art over which the committee and their friends had patiently laboured all year. All of the gifts were displayed on the seats of Doris’s dining room chairs, behind each one of which a member of the committee waited expectantly to make a sale. After an interval for admiration, consideration and purchase those awarded the social distinction of being invited to the Bazaar Pre-buy would then be rewarded with complimentary refreshments on a generous scale - if only the Oxford Street stores had learnt from Doris’s marketing strategy they would not have had to stage pre-Christmas reductions at all.
At my shop, a month or so before that fateful day in November 1962, Doris, while pricing up some Basildon Bond pads and envelopes, shared with me a considerable dilemma the bazaar committee had just faced. The committee met throughout the year and its members sent dozens of letters to various companies, appealing for a donation or any goods it made which could be sold at the bazaar. One company’s response had been such that the committee was sworn to secrecy by an anxious Doris.
The dilemma in which they found themselves stemmed from the strict temperance ethic which Herne Hill’s Congregational Church minister was promoting. The gift the company sent to the bazaar was a case of six bottles of white port. Admittedly the bottles were only halves but that did not make problem seem any the less. In view of the Church’s stand the wine could not be put on sale at the bazaar. After much discussion the doors of the hall were locked in case the minister turned up unexpectedly and the committee settled down to remove all traces of the demon drink by the best means they could think of. They spent the afternoon drinking the entire case load.
Are you being served?
Mr Richards was tall thin and wore a brown overall and had a commanding voice. He might well have been the model for Captain Peacock in the sit-com “Are you being served?” series. Mr Richards presided over Cullen’s the Grocers in premises now occupied by Oddbins. White marble counters ran along three sides of the shop and in the centre was an ornate mahogany cubicle in which sat the cashier. At the sight of any hesitancy on the part of a customer in making a selection, Mr Richards would spring to attention and would invariably summon Ron, a short and willing assistant who suffered from a gammy leg. Ron would be despatched, limping, to the farthest corners of the shop under the direction of Mr Richards military arms movements and commanding tone, to gather items on ‘Madam’s’ shopping list, after which Ron would be directed to take the pile of parcels, often larger than Ron himself, out to ‘Madam’s’ awaiting car. Mr Richards would then open the shop door with a flourish for ‘Madam’ whilst at the same time assuring her of his continued attention to her requirements.
This of course caused a great deal of mirth amongst visitors, especially American ones and Mary Welch tells me the story of the day she found a bottle of champagne amongst her Cullen’s grocery and milk bottle delivery with a note on to say “With the Compliments of Mr Richards” on the champagne. It was only later that her American friends owned up that they were the culprits.
The Dulwich Bombshell
Just in case you are thinking that all my tales are of a vintage character, let me tell you what happened a few weeks ago. A local resident was clearing her late father’s effects from his former home when she found his small cache of wartime ‘souvenirs’. Like many boys during WW 11 he had made a collection of the fragments of expended munitions he picked up in the streets on his way to school. His collection, small but probably much admired by his fellow pupils, included a fragment of a V1 Flying Bomb, a 40mm shell case (empty) and an incendiary bomb. Knowing my interest in local history she brought these ‘treasures’ into my shop and asked if I might find a suitable place to deposit them.
On inspecting the incendiary bomb I was mildly surprised it was so heavy and appeared intact, apart from some white paper stuck around the business end. From my experience of seeing such specimens at Dulwich Hamlet School I knew that such an intact bomb was very unusual. I asked the lady if she was sure it was not a ‘live’ bomb. “Oh my father was very careful” she said, “I am sure it is not”. On the other hand I was not quite so sure but leaving it with the two other items I promptly forgot about it for several days.
When I remembered it again on the following Tuesday afternoon, I thought I would have a quiet word with Bomb Disposal, perhaps suggesting they pop in my shop the next time they passed and perhaps have a look at it. “I shall have to send this up the line” the operator said, “Can you hold on please”. It was a quiet moment and I had nothing better to do so I agreed. “Please leave it where it is” came the reply, “Someone will be down to have a look at it”. I was delighted. It was just what I had anticipated, a nice quiet inspection of the bomb and no fuss.
Eight minutes later, six police cars, sirens screaming, blue lights flashing appeared outside my shop. Rolls of “Police Line Do Not Cross” were festooned about the Village. People were evacuated from their houses, shops closed, the dancing class in the Village Hall ushered out. Children still at the Village schools were warned to duck under their desks if they heard an explosion and four P4 buses parked up one behind the other along the Village street. Even the Village opticians, who, with a commendable show of Dunkirk spirit had refused to budge, were ordered out of their shop.
The police cars were now joined by two fire engines and an ambulance. All was eerily quiet. Then more sirens as two high speed cars arrived with the Bomb Disposal Squad. This was made up of two very genial middle-aged gentlemen in black pullovers with a bursting bomb woven on the breast. Hardly a good luck emblem I thought.
Of course, an inspection showed that the bomb was a dud (or partially dud) because the removal of the sticky paper revealed a neat hole its base.. I had put it in a bucket pending the arrival of the squad, a tip I had picked up a few months earlier when another good-hearted person had brought me in another souvenir found in someone’s loft. It was an instruction leaflet on how to deal with a fire bomb.
Wednesday 4th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture Islamic Art - Spain by Miriam Rosser 10.30am Linbury Room £10.
Thursday 5th Dulwich Picture Gallery - Director’s Lecture Sickert in Venice 12.30-1.30pm
Saturday 7th Concert - All Saints Church Annual Concert at 7pm followed by supper and auction, in aid of the new church organ. Programme includes Haydn: Nelson Mass; English Songs - James Bowman countertenor. Concert tickets in advance £15 (concs £12) supper tickets £25 from Brockwell Art Services, 232-234 Railton Road SE 24 Tel 020 7274 7046
Sunday 8th Dulwich Society Garden Group. ‘Pruning Clematis’ - demonstration, discussion, information with Denise MacDonald, committee member British Clematis Society. Wet or fine, in the garden of 137 Burbage Road SE 21. at 2pm-3.30pm. Free
Monday 9th Dulwich Park Dawn Chorus Walk. 6am-7am Meet at the College Gate.
Tuesday 10th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture - George Frederic Watts by Peter Scott. Linbury Room 7.45pm Tickets £10
Wednesday 11th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert - Malcolm Martineau and Friends Wendy Dawn Thompson mezzo-soprano. Programme includes songs by Mozart, Schubert, R. Strauss and Copland. 7.30pm Tickets £20 (incl.glass of wine)
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The World of Carpets by Roderick Taylor, James Allen’s Girls School 6th Form Lecture Theatre at 8pm (coffee from 7.30pm) £7 students £1
Sunday 15th Dulwich Walk led by Ian McInnes. Meet North Dulwich Station 2.30pm and finish at the South Circular. History of the houses and former occupants. Tickets £4
Tuesday 17th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture Gwen & Augustus John by Linda Smith. Linbury Room 7.45pm. Tickets £10
Wednesday 18th Dulwich Park Head Gardener Walkabout. 1.30-3.00pm Meet outside the Pavilion Café. Tour of Park looking at spring growth with gardening tips. Free.
Dulwich Subscription Concert at 7.30pm The Old Library, Dulwich College. Jane Friend cello, Tim Barratt piano. Tickets £15, £10 (concs)£5 (students) Tel 020 8761 6659
Thursday 19th Dulwich Society Gardens Group illustrated talk “London’s lesser known Public Gardens” by Colin Jones. St Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue 8pm Free.
Saturday 21st Flamenco Supper with Juan Ramirez and his Troupe. St Barnabas Hall, Dulwich Village 7pm. Tapas on sale, bring your own wine. Arranged by Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery. Tickets £17 from the Gallery.
Wednesday 25th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture Islamic Art-Iran by Sheila Canby. Linbury Room 10.30am £10.
Thursday 26th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture Andrea Palladio - His Life and Legacy by Graham Greenfield. Linbury Room £7.45pm. Tickets £10 (incl glass of wine).
Saturday 28th Dulwich Choral Society Concert - Mendelssohn’s Elijah 7.30pm . St Barnabas Church Calton Avenue SE 21. Tickets from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village or on the door.
ALSO Dulwich Helpline Charity Concert starring Jo Brand and The New Foxtrot Serenaders 7.30pm Michael Croft Theatre, Alleyn’s School. Tickets £15 (concs £12) Tel 020 8299 2623
Tuesday 31st Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture John Singer Sargent by Frank Wioodgate. Linbury Room 7.45pm. Tickets £10
Thursday 2nd Dulwich Society Annual General meeting 8pm St Barnabas Centre.
Thursday 2nd, Friday 3rd, Saturday 4th at 8pm The Dulwich Players present ‘The Rivals’ by Richard Brinsley Sheridan directed by Katie Lipsidge at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College. Tickets £8 from The Art Stationers, 31 Dulwich Village SE 21.
Sunday 5th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Children’s’ Event Easter Egg Trail 10.30am-12.30pm £5 per child
Local Walk - The Casino Estate led by Ian McInnes. An exploration of the ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ estate. Meet North Dulwich Station 2.30pm Tickets £4
Thursday 9th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - Northern Lights: Scandinavian Design in the 20th Century by Deborah :Lambert. James Allen’s Girls’ School Sixth Form lecture theatre 8pm (coffee 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Wednesday 15th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert - Vienna Piano Trio Beethoven Septet, Schubert Piano Trio in E flat. 7.30pm Tickets £22 (incl glass of wine).
Friday 17th Practical Action SE London presents a Charity Concert - programme includes works by Vivaldi, Ysaye, and Ravel. Jane Ng Violin, Cameron Roberts piano. At 7.30pm St Bartholomew’s Church, Westwood Hill, Sydenham. Tickets £12 (includes glass of wine) Tel. 020 8656 4084
Saturday 25th James Allen Community Orchestra Concert - 7.30pm in the Holst Hall, James Allen’s Girls’ School. Programme includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 in E Minor. In aid of Dulwich Helpline. Tickets £7 (cons £5) on the door
Thursday 30th Friends of Dulwich Park AGM 7pm in The Francis Peek Centre, Dulwich Park.
Friday 8th - Sunday 17th The Dulwich Festival.
Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - Four Women Artists: Artemesia Gentileschi, Rosalba Carriera, Angelica Kauffman & Berthe Morisot by Pamela Halford. James Allen’s Girls’ Sixth Form lecture theatre 8pm (coffee 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Sunday 17th Dulwich Festival Historical Walk led by Brian Green. Meet 2.30pm outside The Dulwich Wood House corner of Crescent Wood Rd and Sydenham Hill. 1_ hour hilly walk.
Monday 18th Dulwich Subscription Concert 7.30pm in the Old Library, Dulwich College. David Juritz violin and friends. Programme to be announced. Tickets £15, £10 (cons), £5 (students) tel 020 8761 6659
Thursday 11th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - The Turner Prize - its History and Controversies by Barry Venning. James Allen’s Girls’ School Sixth Form lecture theatre 8pm (coffee 7.30pm) £7. students £1
Tuesday 23rd Dulwich Society Garden Group full day visit to Cherkley Court Gardens and Denbies Wine Estate. Both visits include guided tours. Price £30 includes transport, admissions, tours and tips. Booking: Ina Pulleine tel. 020 8670 5477 (after 11.00am)
Frederick Austin Vernon 1882-1972
Austin Vernon was Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate for over twenty years and the founder of the architectural practice, Austin Vernon & Partners, which designed most of the developments on the Estate during the 1950s and 1960s. He lived in a large Victorian house ‘Cavaick’, 185 Tulse Hill (now demolished), with his wife, a senior buyer at department store Swears & Wells.
A pupil at Dulwich College from 1898 -1901, he undertook his architectural studies part time at the Regent Street Polytechnic and the School of Arts & Crafts while articled to architect Horace Field. Following promotion to assistant, he moved on to work for a short period with his uncle, George Vernon, and then relocated to Birmingham to work for Swann, Harvey & Wides.
He started practice on his own in 1910 returning to London in 1913. He served with the forces for the whole of the First World War and set up a partnership with architect H Courteney Constantine in 1920. The firm carried out a considerable amount of work in the West End. Their most important buildings (still standing) included 82 Mortimer Street (where they had their office), 100 Oxford Street, Henlys Garage in Euston Road and Kelvin House in Cleveland Street.
He applied to be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1929 (aged 47) and, in his application, he described his experience as “Involved in the erection of private houses, business premises, hospitals and, in particular, the Children’s’ Hospital at West Wickham, Kent”. Amongst his many other projects were the St Marylebone Hospital Nurses Home, the Unic Motor Factory, Alperton, the Splintex Glass Factory in Morden, and houses in Keats Close, Hampstead, Northwood, Kingston, Bushey Heath, Herts. and Sunningdale.
The partnership with H Courtenay Constantine broke up around 1933 but he continued his practice from an office in Cavendish Square completing several projects in Charlotte Street and Berwick Street for Schmidts’, the well-known Austrian restaurant. He also carried out several smaller projects in Dulwich, including alterations to Bell House for the Governors of Dulwich College, and was clearly known to the Estate Governors when he applied for the post of Architect and Surveyor in March 1937 following the death of C E Barry. He was 55 at the time.
The Estate at first considered that they might not need to appoint a new Architect & Surveyor but a sub-committee set up to review the position finally decided that they did, albeit at a reduced stipend of £100 per annum (C E Barry had received £350). The post was advertised late in the summer and the names on the final short list were Mr R J H Minty, Mr F C Button, Mr C K Buysman Mr F A Vernon and Mr C A Barry.
The Board interviewed the candidates on 28th October 1937 and “having considered their respective applications, it was Resolved that Mr Frederick Austin Vernon be, and he is hereby, appointed Architect & Surveyor to the Governors.” His appointment saw the end of the long Barry family dynasty in the post - the family having held it from the 1830’s.
As well as his work as Architect and Surveyor, Austin Vernon built up his practice on the back of various projects he secured in Dulwich either as a result of war damage or private commissions from local residents. He was joined in the practice in 1948 by his nephew, Russell Vernon, and their most important joint work was the reconstruction of the bomb damaged Dulwich Picture Gallery (what you see there now is primarily their work) and war damage repairs on Christ’s Chapel and the Almshouses.
Other Dulwich projects where he was the main designer included the bijou cottages in Park Hall Road and Lloyds Bank around the corner in Croxted Road. He also master planned the Frank Dixon Way/Avenue development and designed several of the houses - he was very fond of white render finish, ‘white cement’, as he called it, and also Dutch gables - apparently he was interested in Dutch architecture and spent many of his holidays in the Netherlands.
Although remembered as a very smartly dressed gentleman - he tended to walk around Dulwich wearing a waistcoat and Fedora hat and carrying a cane, he became more irascible as he grew older and probably held the post of Architect and Surveyor far longer than he should have done. In the mid 1950s potential purchasers of plots in Frank Dixon Way, and their architects, had considerable difficulties with him - unless of course they had asked him to design their house. Whether purchasers were informally advised to go to him is not recorded but those who used their own architects had problems - as Estate Architect and Surveyor he had to approve all the designs. David Goddard, the architect of the 1930s modernist 13 College Road (now demolished), had more difficulty than most but the unluckiest was an architect called Harrington who designed No 18 Frank Dixon Way for a Mr F P Fisher. In this particular case Austin Vernon was extremely tardy about responding to correspondence and, following a series of complaints from the owner, the Governors were forced to instruct him to be more helpful.
He became more and more difficult to deal with and by December 1958, when he was 76, the Governors had had enough. At a board meeting later that month the Chairman noted that “in view of the advancing age of Mr Austin Vernon, the increasing volume of duties attached to his office, and the heavy accumulation of work resulting from the numerous developments on the Estate, and bearing in mind the previous decisions of the Board, the Architect has been asked to consider tendering his resignation or, at least, giving the Governors one year’s notice of his intention to resign.” The Board discussed the matter at some length and unanimously agreed to give him a maximum of 6 months to make up his mind and they also set up a special committee to decide on a replacement.
Austin Vernon promised to give the matter further consideration, and hopefully pointed out “that, as there were so many developments on the Estate, in prospect and in hand, in which he was personally involved, it would be unfair to him and the Governors if he resigned at this stage.” It was to no avail and the Governors appointed Russell Vernon, his nephew and partner, to the post on June 1959.
Austin Vernon retired to the Sussex coast shortly afterwards but lived on until his 90th year.
by Ian McInnes
For some years past, the society’s trees and wildlife committees have been trying to persuade local schools to “set aside” green areas for nature and wildlife. So it was gratifying to see the recent decision by Alleyn’s School to plant a belt of trees and a mixed-species hedgerow around the perimeter of its playing fields. Elsewhere, however, the news has gone down less well.
The tree-planting has produced a chorus of protests from residents living around the playing fields, on both sides of Townley Road. Objections included the “mess” created by the honeydew from lime trees, plus worries about the density of planting and the potential loss of light to gardens. Some young trees from a previous planting have meanwhile mysteriously disappeared; others have been gouged in what may have been an attempt to kill them off. The school is now believed to be rethinking its planting plans.
At the same time, fuelled by the recent growth in environmental awareness, a new fashion for food-growing has swept through Dulwich. Householders are turning parts of their gardens into vegetable patches, or re-colonising derelict allotments. There is a scheme for a “model allotment”, with Dulwich Park earmarked as a potential site.
All well and good, one might think, except that all too often, the allotments or veggie patches entail the loss of existing green space. The model allotment may be sited in one of the park’s few remaining wild corners - which will not only mean the wildness being tidied away but will almost certainly generate pressure for removal of trees, again for reasons of shading. Resident non-human life-forms will suffer, too - biodiversity and horticulture are uneasy bedfellows. More food for humans will mean less food (and habitat) for wildlife. There will be a further, less tangible, much less quantifiable, but equally serious penalty - the loss of that ingredient we struggle to capture when we talk about wildness or natural beauty. Whatever that ingredient is, life, especially in cities, would be inestimably poorer without it.
Local food growing is, of course, said to be green. And clearly it is - up to a point. But how do you measure the green gains of food cultivation against the green losses of nature and habitat? Which is more truly green? For example, what could be greener than cycling, and bike paths? The bike charity Sustrans has won environmental awards galore for its national bike routes initiatives. Yet what may suit cyclists doesn’t always suit practitioners of that other green transport mode - walking. Sustrans has angered parts of the Ramblers’ Association because its plans have involved a high-tech, hard-surfacing approach on previously “natural” paths. Similarly, in Dulwich, there has been talk of linking up hard-surfaced cycle routes across local parks.
Against a background of international food crisis, to argue that preserving greenery may be more important than growing food - or to challenge the assumption that food-growing is a paramount environmental desideratum - may sound perverse, even “anti-human”. After all, which is more important - feeding homo sapiens or leaving space for nature? Yet if the environmental crisis we face is fundamentally about human impact on the planet, then true greenness surely lies not in increasing that impact, but in reducing it wherever possible, so that other life-forms - not to mention nature itself - have room left to live and breathe and regenerate.
Humans can do this by reducing their numbers or by reducing their activities and consumption, or by a combination of the two. They key concept these days is footprint - the overall impact we make on the planet - and ours (that is, Homo sapiens’) needs to be smaller. In practice that may mean a bigger stress on the planetary value of trees - as opposed, say, to bedding plants - and a rethink of our enthusiasm for food-growing where it involves the loss of greenery. Maybe, instead of cannibalising existing green space, some small part of the human footprint could be reclaimed for our veggie patch or allotment, for example. Maybe we could remember that bees (vital for food growing but currently in steep decline) are partial to lime blossom and we could learn to tolerate larger trees in, or at least near, our gardens. On both counts currently, it seems, Dulwich has a long way to go.
David Nicholson-Lord is an environmental author and journalist and a member of the trees and wildlife committees. He is policy director of the Optimum Population Trust - www.optimumpopulation.org
by David Nicholson-Lord