For most of the nineteenth-century, a few large houses, gardens and pastures occupied the southern side of Denmark Hill and Herne Hill. Part of this area comes under the Dulwich Estate but none of the older houses here survive today. However, one remnant of the fine gardens that belonged to Casino House, the earliest and most distinguished architect designed property, can be still seen in Sunray Gardens.
Casino House was on Herne Hill, just opposite the present Poplar Walk and had attached to it about 16 acres of land south of Red Post Hill. The name derives from Casina, Italian for a small villa, and was described around 1800 shortly after being built, as being on Dulwich Hill. Herne Hill at that time was a new name applying to the few houses on the Brixton side of the road. The house was built for Richard Shawe, a wealthy lawyer, who had successfully defended Warren Hastings, the former Governor-General of Bengal, on corruption charges in a case that lasted seven years. Shawe was well paid for this and also acquired a considerable fortune by marrying well. His tomb is the largest in the Old Burial Ground, Dulwich Village.
About 1797, Shawe acquired the lease of one of the best plots available from the Dulwich College Estate. It was near the main road and had fine views over the valley towards the hills on the south and east. Access to London had been improved with the completion of Westminster Bridge in 1750 and Blackfriars Bridge in 1769. Doctors recommended living south of the Thames because they said the air was purer with prevailing winds blowing from the south-west most of the time. As a result the road from Camberwell to Norwood was gradually being developed in the second half of the eighteenth-century and by the end houses had reached close to Red Post Hill.
Shawe had sufficient wealth to employ one of the leading architects, John Nash to design his new house. Nash had just returned to London from Wales and established a substantial country house practice with Humphry Repton. Nash received the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), remodelled the Royal Pavilion at Brighton for him, and planned the development of one of London’s most distinctive areas, the Crown Estate from Regent’s Park to St James’s Park via Regent Street. Repton also enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, and, through his commissions from members of the landed society and his writings, was the most influential landscape gardener of the period. Casino House was one of four commissions that Nash and Repton worked on together in 1797, Repton claiming that he was consulted by Nash on the ‘situation and appendages’ [the grounds]. Drawings of Nash’s designs for the house were exhibited at the Royal Academy the same year, and copies of some are now in the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The house was erected at the highest point of the hill and must have been built by 1800 as a contemporary, James Dalloway describes it then ‘as a new style of country house, by combining the advantages of an English arrangement, with the beauty of a Palladian plan’. Dalloway was referring to the striking classical design, influenced by the Italian architect, Andrea Palladio, whose birth 500 years ago has been celebrated by an exhibition at the Royal Academy this year. At the back, Nash designed a domed centrepiece with low wings and windows acting as patio doors opening onto the gardens. However, this section only contained four rooms, so he also provided a two-storey block to provide the accommodation with a grand entrance at the front facing the road.
An illustration of the house and description of the grounds was published in 1804 with special mention being made of the lake at the lowest part of the grounds, now the main feature of Sunray Gardens. Repton was credited with converting the former pits, from which brick earth had been extracted, into an ornamental canal and fishpond. His design curved the lake through the grounds with an island at each end to give the impression that it continued along the valley. Apparently his plan was to continue it towards Camberwell, but it proved impossible to put this into effect. It has been suggested that Repton’s concept influenced Nash later when he incorporated Regent’s Canal into Regent’s Park. The idea was not so far fetched as it might sound: Sir Henry Bessemer created an ornamental lake in his grounds nearby in the 1860s.
The kitchen garden and hothouses were placed next to the house, and the Head Gardener, James Brown, proved an innovator in finding ways to force on fruit in the British climate. About 1820, he contributed two articles to the Horticultural Society (now the Royal Horticultural Society) on his success in forcing pineapples, vines and peaches using steam heating and a specially designed roof at Casino House.
Richard Shawe died in 1816 and according to his original will left his wife the use of the ‘mansion house at Dulwich Hill…which I have at great expense erected’. However his later codicil makes it clear that she did not want to live there ‘having unequivocally declared that she will not live in the country after my death’. Security may have been an issue. Highwaymen seem to have frequented the road to London and, in the days before a police force, local residents including Shawe decided to subscribe towards a mounted patrol. In 1812, ‘on account of the extraordinary dangers to which the public are now exposed’, they agreed to provide an additional horse-patrol to improve security on the road from Camberwell to Dulwich. A great coat, hat, cutlass and a pair of pistols were purchased for the patrolman.
Throughout most of the nineteenth century, the Dulwich Estate was able to find tenants for the house. One of the most famous occupiers is thought to have been Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother and former King of Spain, who stayed briefly in England in the 1830s. For about forty years from 1839, Casino House was leased by the wealthy silk merchant, William Stone and his son, William Henry Stone. The latter was a keen gardener, and allowed the Surrey Floricultural Society, based in South London to hold its annual flower shows in the grounds. These continued there in the 1880s after he had left.
The last resident, William Gover, director of an insurance company, died in 1894 and the Estates Governors found that no-one could be found to take on such a large property. They turned down the only offer received, which was for a large development of ‘small class property’. The garden rooms and grounds were still able to be used for at least one charity event. Over three days in 1902, a Coronation Bazaar and Garden Fete was held there to raise funds for the newly built Wesleyan Methodist Church on the corner of Half Moon Lane and Beckwith Road (Wesley Court is now on the site). A Ladies v Gentlemen cricket match was held in the gardens in which twenty-two ladies played against eleven gentlemen, who had to bat, bowl and field with the left hand. The result is not recorded.
In 1906 it was decided to demolish the house. The late Victorian and Edwardian housing boom was coming to an end; and the First World War put a stop to most house building. Temporary uses of the site were allowed - an allotment society in the former nursery, grazing in the paddocks and experimental fish farming in the lake. In 1920, the Dulwich Estates Governors agreed to lease the property to Camberwell Borough Council for public housing designed on garden city principles. With the land on the other side of Red Post Hill, it was incorporated within the Sunray Estate and developed as ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ between 1920 and 1922.
One of the requirements of the Governors was that the lake and land around it (amounting to about 4_ acres) should be preserved as open space with free public access. The Council agreed to this at the time, but a few years later the Borough Engineer proposed filling in the lake to remove the danger to children. Legal action to preserve it had to be threatened before a compromise was approved. The eastern end of the lake was drained to create a playground, a fence erected around it and the water level reduced in depth. The last remains of Nash and Repton’s design of two centuries ago have therefore been retained to create one of the most attractive, if smallest, parks in the area. Sunray Gardens make a significant contribution to the character of the Sunray Estate which is shortly to be designated a conservation area.
Joyce Bellamy, ‘Humphry Repton and ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ in London Gardener 4, 1998-9, pp28-32.
J Hassell, Views of noblemen and gentleman’s seats, 1804-5
Herne Hill Society, Herne Hill Hill Heritage Trail, 2003
Herne Hill Personalities, 2006
Corner House - by Patrick Darby
Until its demolition in about 1934, what is now the ornamental garden opposite the Mill Pond at the junction of College Road and Dulwich Common had at least one house on it, known in its latter days as ‘Corner House’ (officially 52 College Road).
We can trace the history of this property back to 13th April 1329, when Alan Gerarde of Dylewyssch sold to Roger and Matilda Berlyng two parcels of land, one of which was a tenement adjoining Eststrete (now College Road) on the east, and pasture called Dylewyssch Wode on the south, inherited by Alan from his father Hugh Gerarde. We can trace all the links in the subsequent chain of ownership (to be found in my book ‘The Houses In-Between’, published in 2000) down to Edward Alleyn, who bought it (with other properties fronting Dulwich Common) from Sir Edmund Bowyer in 1609.
In September 1616 Edward Alleyn leased the property to Edmond Rogers, Dulwich tailor. However, Rogers left within months, and Alleyn evidently had trouble finding a new tenant. A letter survives from his land agent, Robert Earle, dated June 1617, complaining about the behaviour of another Dulwich resident, Richard Stoughton, whom Earle called “that Apysshe Jack” (i.e. ‘jackanapes’), in giving potential tenants misleading information about the property.
There is then a gap in the records until after Edward Alleyn’s death in 1626. Perhaps the property stayed vacant, as the College Accounts record that it remained in the hands of the Warden until 1638 when it was leased to Charles Cox.
Cox was succeeded by Thomas Cranwell in 1675, Cranwell by Andrew Daniell in 1710, and in 1737 Daniell’s Executor, George Bowen, Dulwich Farmer, was granted a lease of the house, land behind it (formerly ‘The Pits’, now part of 48 College Road) and various fields across the Common, provided he spent £100 on the house and barns. In December 1774 Bowen’s renewed lease was, following his death, assigned to Josephus Jeffries. By the end of September 1776 his widow had assigned the lease to Maurice Suckling.
At that time Captain Suckling was Comptroller of the Royal Navy, having had a long and distinguished naval career, captaining in succession the Dread-nought, the Lancaster, the Raisonnable and the Triumph, against the Spanish and the French. Of even greater interest to us is that he was the favourite uncle, and mentor, of Horatio, later Admiral Lord Nelson. Suckling’s tenancy only lasted six months, and one wonders why he took it at all. Could it have been to provide a quiet retreat, but within reasonable distance of Greenwich, for his then 18-year-old nephew (at that time studying for his lieutenant’s examination and recuperating from a serious bout of malaria)? An intriguing thought.
Writing in 1909, Tom Morris, whose parents and grandparents had also been born in the Village, claimed that in “about the year 1785” (old Tom was never very precise, or for that matter accurate) what became ‘Corner House’ was “a small farm house kept by an old lady, who sold sweets and cakes”. The unidentified ‘old lady’ may have been a sub-tenant of Henry Spencer, who took over the lease from Capt. Suckling in 1777. Fleetwood Bury succeeded to ‘Corner House’ and the adjoining property ‘Howlettes Meade’ in 1792, occupying the former himself. By 1795 (when ‘Corner House’ is so named for the first time), Bury had spent between £3,000 and £4,000 on both properties, and was granted two new leases, one of which he assigned to James Bartlett. In 1798 Bartlett was granted his own lease of ‘Corner House’, and built a semi-detached pair of houses on the site, both facing the Common. The most easterly flank wall was only a foot or two from the road, and with the roots of the burgeoning zelkova eating into its foundations, structural problems must soon have made it obvious that there was room for only one house on the site, preferably as far from the tree as possible.
By 1825 the site was leased to the newly married 22-year-old Thomas Devas, of Herne Hill, on condition that he laid out £1,000 on erecting one new dwellinghouse, to replace the previous two. With the Devas family on Census Night 1841 were three female servants, a manservant, and the exotically named Marcello Nugent, although how he fitted into the household isn’t explained. Mrs Devas was the former Louisa Hennings, daughter of the lessee of ‘Toksowa’ (now the site of the Dulwich Gate development on the south side of Dulwich Common). By 1848 she had inherited ‘Toksowa’ from her father, and the family moved there from ‘Corner House’. Her husband assigned his lease of ‘Corner House’ to John Druce, apparently without the requisite notice of assignment being given to the College, although Druce, as the College’s Solicitor, could hardly serve notice on himself!
John Druce lived at ‘Corner House’ with his wife, their five daughters, a nephew, and four female staff. The lease passed, in or before 1870, to his widow Ellen, who continued to live there with her spinster daughters Caroline, Ellinor and Margaret, and (in 1871) a cook, a parlour-maid, two house-maids, and a page. On Ellen’s death, c.1883, her Will gave her daughter Caroline a life interest in the premises. Miss Druce (as she was invariably referred to - never as Miss Caroline Druce) remained in occupation until her death in 1911, aged 80. The Estates Governors told her Executors that they would be released from their obligations on, inter alia, paying the £225 cost of “making good” (which evidently involved underpinning the foundations to halt subsidence, again probably caused by the zelkova’s roots.)
In 1913 Charles Clavell Hore was granted a fourteen-year lease of ‘Corner House’ at £75 a year, and was to be allowed £300 towards the underpinning costs and putting the premises into repair generally. Clavell Hore’s builder could not have done a very good job, or the property’s structural problems were insoluble, for following his death the Estates Governors resolved in 1926 (throwing, as it turned out, good money after bad) to authorise the expenditure of £800 on repairing and modernising the premises.
Later in 1926 the Estates Governors granted a 21-year lease of ‘Corner House’ to Mrs Mary Russell Otway, the wife of Loftus Hastings Otway “at present residing at 45 South Croxted Road, Dulwich, Gentleman”. The Lessee was relieved from liability “for any repairs which may be rendered necessary by settlement in the main walls of the said dwellinghouse and building”, which suggests that subsidence was still a real cause for concern. Mrs Otway gave notice to end the lease on 24th June 1934, and later her Solicitor wrote offering to settle the Governors’ by now habitual claim for dilapidations by payment of £150, which the Board accepted. Mr and Mrs Otway, with their son and his wife, then emigrated to New Zealand, to be near the family of Mrs Otway junior (née May).
The house must have been demolished shortly afterwards. In ‘Dulwich Discovered’ (1966), my father claimed that in “its last derelict days” ‘Corner House’ afforded shelter to ‘Old Strawberry', the crossing-sweeper, with his naval peaked cap and his club-foot, and his inevitable “Come on you boys, you’ll be late for school!”, but when ‘Old Strawberry’ (real name David Champion) died in 1922 Clavell Hore was still in occupation, so perhaps he meant a tramp known as ‘Paper Jack’, who resided in the Otways’ stable until he was evicted by the Estates Governors.
Trees, like houses, must eventually pass into history. When the giant zelkova finally goes, and an archaeological excavation in its former shadow becomes possible, perhaps some evidence of the human occupation of the site over at least 605 years will be uncovered.
Dulwich Architects - George Fellowes Prynne, 1853-1927 by Ian McInnes
All Saints Church on Rosendale Road is one of Dulwich’s major landmarks and one of South London’s three grade 1 listed buildings. Although never completed to its original design, and the victim of a serious fire in 2000, it remains one of the architect George Fellowes Prynne’s most important works.
George Halford Fellowes Prynne was born in April 1853 in Plymouth, Devon. His father was a minister and an enthusiastic supporter of the Oxford Movement, the revival of high churchmanship in the Anglican Church. George was sent away to school to St. Mary’s College, Harlow, then to Chardstock College and finally to Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy at Southsea.
He originally had ideas to become a minister like his father but, with several brothers and sisters, there were apparently insufficient funds for a University education. An uncle, who farmed in the United States, offered him a position and, at the age of 18, he opted to travel to Iowa. It seems that, after two years, he decided that the winter weather, the austere lifestyle, and the lack of opportunity, did not suit him, and he moved to Canada. Here, via an introduction through a family friend, he found a place as a junior assistant in the office of R. C. Windyer, a well-known Toronto architect.
By January 1875 he had been promoted to a senior position but his father was keen to see him come home and he arranged for G E Street RA to offer him a post - Fellowes Prynne’s father had given Street one of his earliest commissions and no doubt asked for a favour in return.
He worked in Street’s office for two years and, before he set up his own practice in 1880, he also worked for Swinfern Harris, R.J. Withers, A. Waterhouse R.A., and at the London School Board offices. He was a student at the Royal Academy from 1876 to 78.
Fellowes Prynne’s first real job on his own was to extend his father’s church, St. Peter’s, Plymouth. All Saints was his first major project in the London area. It was built between 1888 and 1892, and followed on from work he carried out on the west end of St. Peter’s Church, Streatham. Some critics consider All Saints to be one of his most ambitious designs, ranking with his scheme for Christ Church Cathedral in Colombo, Sri Lanka (which was much the same size as the original scheme for All Saints).
The Rev. James Beeby, the first incumbent, was the main motivating force behind the building of All Saints’, presumably the size of the church reflected an optimism that the immediate area would grow rapidly. Unfortunately this proved not to be the case for many years. The church was originally intended to house a congregation of 1600, the nave was 68 feet high, 40 feet wide, and would have been 128 feet in length if completed.
Fellowes Prynne’s practice was mostly churches and included new build, extensions and extensive restoration work. Between 1880 and 1914 he worked on nearly two hundred, mostly in the South East and South West England.
He was a deeply religious man but, regrettably, his family life turned out to be tragic. He lost of two of his sons, Edgar and Norman, in WW1, and two other sons, Aubrey and Harold, were seriously injured. His designs subsequent to this catastrophic event were almost exclusively war memorials, though he did win the competition to build the Ealing Town Hall at the end of his life - he was a local resident for many years.
Dulwich Trees Profile
The Mulberry (Morus nigra) by Judy Marshall
On the way up the path to the front entrance of Dulwich Picture Gallery, on the left hand side, you will pass a mulberry tree. That is the one I am writing about, although there is another one hiding between the corner of the building and a huge magnolia. At the time of writing they are still looking very wintry, as they are one of the last trees to come into leaf.
The black mulberry comes from the Morus family which includes 12 species from temperate and subtropical regions of the northern hemisphere; principally the Caucasus mountains and Nepal. It was probably introduced to Britain early in the 16th century but opinions vary. However it is likely from archaeological evidence that the Roman army of occupation also introduced it much earlier, unless the soldiers were fed on dried mulberries. Certainly the classical writers were aware of mulberries. Britain also has the white mulberry which comes from China and is the favourite diet of silkworms, but it is much rarer here as the climate does not suit it. In 1607 James 1 ordered the planting of mulberry trees to encourage a home grown silk industry, however it was not realized that silk worms prefer white mulberry, and the trees which were planted at such places as Oatlands Palace and Hatfield were Morus nigra.
There are records of some very old mulberry specimens, though some of their dates are challenged. There was a tree at Drapers’ Hall in the City of London which is reputed to have lived from 1364-1969. At Syon House there are some ancient specimens from Persia of a more bushy shape than normal, which may have been the inspiration for the nursery rhyme “Here we go round the mulberry bush.”
I don’t have a date for the Picture Gallery mulberry, though it looks very ancient, mainly because it has a hollow trunk and is propped up with a stake. On looking more closely you will see that the trunk has been filled in with concrete, this was an old practice used to stabilize the tree. Exactly the same was done with a specimen at Downe House. That one is thought to be over 200 years old, as Darwin refers to it when he moved into the house.
However, mulberry trees are often not as old as they look because of a curious method of propagation used owing to their ability to sprout very easily from a chunk of wood. “Truncheons” were planted - these were lengths of wood about 1.5metres set about half a metre in the ground to make a trunk which then sprouts branches. It is a rather unsatisfactory practice as the trunk can be a lot older than the branches and account for the hollow boles. The reason for its use, as J.C. Loudon pointed out in 1875, was that you got fruit the following year. This was obviously preferable to waiting 20 years for the first fruit. Nowadays you can buy trees ready for planting, but they may take 10 years to become fully established.
The mulberry at the Picture Gallery is in the traditional place - on a lawn. There are many such trees on college closes, vicarage lawns and in old walled gardens. Basically this could be because of the ripe fruits dropping to the ground when they at the most palatable state for eating - that is very ripe. It is easier to gather them from a nice soft lawn, and also does not mess up a paved surface.
If we are to believe Christopher Hirst’s article in The Independent in May 2000, the mulberry tree nearly came to grief during the Gallery’s reconstruction. He quotes Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the previous Director, as saying that the architect Rick Mather had intended to “complete the quadrangle with a pergola-like structure reflecting his glass and bronze construction”. This would have involved the loss of the mulberry tree. “Nature and Art were brought directly into confrontation. Eventually we decided that the quadrangle already makes such a strong statement that the continuation was not required. Anyway, if we’d decided to chop down the tree, we’d only have 20 Friends of Dulwich Gallery lying down in front of it.”
Mulberries can be eaten raw with cream or cooked using recipes for raspberries or blackberries in summer pudding etc. The very strong colour of the juice means that it has been used to improve the colour of cider or even wine. Pliny in the first century AD mentions how the juice stains your hands. Mrs Beeton gives a recipe for preserving them, for which they “should be ripe, but not soft enough to break into pulp.” Elizabeth David has recipes for mulberry jam and jelly. Certainly jam made from the Picture Gallery mulberry, cooked by Stella Benwell, has been sold at the summer fairs, and people continue to pick them.
Swifts and Martins By Dave Clark
With the spring it is the time of year for migrating birds to return to Britain to nest, breed and raise their young. Two particular long distant migrants are attracted to the Dulwich area because of the abundance of food and nesting sites.
These are Swifts and House Martins, both of which consume insects in the air and our large green areas, gardens, and park lakes provide ample opportunities for a good feed, More importantly, they are dependent on our us for nesting sites. Both species nest on, or close to buildings. The Martins build a mud nest under the eaves of houses whilst Swifts look for any nooks and crannies that can accommodate their tiny frames, again often under the eaves of houses.
The House Martin in particular has recently shown signs of a decrease in population. Apart from the fact that they may encounter extreme weather conditions on their trip from Africa, there are also indications that nesting sites are being reduced, often inadvertently. Both species return to the same nesting sites year on year unbeknown to us. During home improvements we have sometimes removed, painted over or just simply filled in their nests.
So to continue to enjoy their fantastic aerobatic displays we need to apply a tad of diligence and a degree of encouragement.
For further information contact the writer or check out these internet sites -
Keeping Bees by John Senter
Bees collect and store nectar and pollen. A variety of different plants will provide food for most of the year. The nectar is used to make honey. Pollen is carried to the hive by the worker bees, attached to their two rear legs. In the early spring the bright yellow pollen from catkins and spring flowers makes the bees look as though they are wearing fashionable boots. The beekeeper is pleased to see the bees arriving at the hive with generous supplies of pollen because it is a good sign that the colony has survived the winter and the eggs laid by the queen are maturing into the next generation of bees. Many insects survive the winter in a state of solitary dormancy. Honey bees live through the winter as a colony and massed together they have some control of their body temperature. The ability of honey bees to control the hive temperature allows the queen to lay eggs and new bees to be reared when it is cold outside. In the autumn and early winter the number of bees in the colony falls dramatically. The stores of honey and pollen collected the year before will feed the growing colony through the winter. On warm days in the winter the bees will be active cleaning the hive and looking for food. Ivy produces an inconspicuous flower that is an important food source for many insects late in the year. The queen will begin to lay eggs early in the year to build up the size of the colony ready to take advantage of the spring flowers.The beekeeper provides a home for the colony of bees in exchange for a share of the honey store. If the bees are well managed and plenty of space is provided, a healthy colony will make at least sixty or seventy pounds of honey that is surplus to the needs of the bees. Because the queen is bigger than the worker bees, it is easy to exclude her from the part of the hive where the honey is stored by dividing the hive with a mesh that the workers can climb through but the queen cannot. The queen is confined to to the area of the hive adjacent to the entrance, the eggs are laid here and the young reared. Space provided above the brood from which the queen is excluded will be filled with stores of honey by the workers. The main ingredients of honey are nectar and water collected by the worker bees. The source of the nectar will determine the taste and consistency of the honey. Trees are the most important nectar source for the Dulwich beekeeper. Bees will make honey from other sources of sugar, and bees are often fed a syrup of sugar and water by the beekeeper to replace the honey that has been removed from the hive. I have been told that, as the result of a broken window at the Cadbury chocolate factory, honey in Bourneville tasted of peppermint cream.
Our interest in the honey bee goes beyond the culinary. We seem to see our complex society and our industry mirrored in the beehive. A keen interest is taken in stories that predict the pending extinction of the bee. This disaster can be seen to herald our own destiny. The causes are attributed to human activity, from global warming and the destruction of the natural environment to the use of mobile phones. There is nothing new here. The ancient Greeks recognized that each colony of bees was controlled by a single bee that was substantially larger than the other bees. The assumption was made that this bee must be the king. Other bees were warriors defending the hive with weapons. For the ancient Greeks these bees had to be male. It was not possible to explain reproduction in this male-dominated world and it was thought that new bee colonies were the product of spontaneous regeneration from the carcass of an ox.
That life for the honey bee and some humans in the agricultural countryside has been precarious since pesticides became an integral part of food production should not be a surprise. It is for this reason that city suburbs with a variety of species of mature trees and large gardens have been seen as a haven for bees. Over the last few years many of these colonies have not survived the winter. The beekeeper has opened his hive in the spring to find it empty, all of the bees gone.
If the hive is inspected more closely new residents can usually be found. The caterpillars of the wax moth will have reduced the comb to threads and then chewed into the timber of the hive to pupate. Slugs and sometimes mice will be found disposing of anything edible. There is a special ecology devoted to recycling empty bee hives.
The most likely culprit for the recent high mortality in suburban bee colonies is a parasitic mite. The Varroa mite has its origins as a parasite of the Asian honey bee. Varroa arrived in the UK in the early 1990s and spread very quickly throughout the country. Unlike the Asian bees the Western honey bee has not evolved defences against the Varroa mite. The mite feeds on the adult bees and destructively on the developing brood. The mites also spread viruses. The successful beekeeper must keep up to date with the methods developed to control Varroa numbers.
Varroa is the most recent threat to the bee colony but the others have not gone away. There are several highly contagious diseases that damage the developing brood. There is a legal requirement to notify the authorities if these diseases are found. In the past, infected hives would automatically be destroyed. There is now some scope for treatment if the infection is not too severe. Some birds eat bees and woodpeckers can be very destructive particularly in winter. This year I found a number of holes drilled by a woodpecker through the walls of the hive. The holes were just big enough to allow one bee to emerge at a time and crawl through, and the woodpecker was able to pick them off as they emerged at the entrance. Bees are naturally curious and tapping the walls of the hive will encourage the bees to leave the hive to find out what is going on. Hornets will take bees on the wing. Wasps and other bees will soon empty a weak hive of the honey stores.
It is becoming difficult to keep bees unless you are prepared to devote some time and skill to the activity. The amateur who pursues a policy of benign neglect is unlikely to be successful and will not be popular with other beekeepers. Some of us find that the introduction to the world of insects holds many fascinations. These animals have played an essential role in the evolution of life over a period of four hundred years million years. There would be no flowers without insects. This quotation from the beautiful book by the entomologists David Grimaldi and Michael Engel, Evolution of the Insects, summarises the debt we owe to these animals. ‘In terms of the biomass and their interaction with other terrestrial organisms, insects are the most important group of terrestrial animals. Remove all the vertebrates from the earth, by contrast and ecosystems would function flawlessly (particularly if humans were among them.’
John Senter keeps bees in Dulwich.
An update by David Smart
I am glad to report excellent progress on this project, designed to be a feature of interest in Dulwich Park and to encourage the rewarding activity of "grow your own" self sufficiency.
We have now finished clearing the ground, which was a major undertaking. Some dozen volunteers have been hard at work since February, and the very much overgrown garden has been transformed. Removing deeply rooted rogue trees and the ground scrub was a major undertaking. The material has been built into a wide nature hedge (a project of the Head Groundsman - Ric Glenn).
We now await the arrival of railway sleepers so that we can start positioning the raised beds. There will allow access for wheel chairs. The park authorities will select the pathway material and take care of this side of things. The main entrance is to be at the back, up the track leading to the stables entrance. It would be nice and sensible to have an entrance through the front gate of the lodge, also.
I have been asked about the crops we shall grow there. What I would say at this stage is that the project cannot obviously be completed in the short term. If we can get the raised beds in place by the middle of May, we have time to plant a wide variety of crops for this year, but we may be too late for some, and definitely too late for others (eg potatoes, parsnips). Of course we need not worry about this, as we are thinking in the longer term. Some crops such as asparagus or strawberries take some years to get established Other crops like brassica, corn, spinach and beans can go in quite late and should do well straight away. I will not enlarge on this aspect at this stage as it would take up much space and possibly lead to some controversy! We have plenty of other things to do first!!
Might I add that anyone who wishes to inspect the growing of examples of virtually all fruit and vegetables grown in the UK may find them in the Dulwich Village Fruit and Vegetable Garden, which can be reached via 5 Roseway. Members of the Dulwich Society may well know about this as the garden which has been open each summer under the scheme promoted by the Garden Group. This will be, as it were, a trial ground for the Rosebery Garden. This is open for inspection at any convenient time for anyone interested (phone 02077338335).
In conclusion, may I say well done and thanks to all volunteers.
On the Street where you live - Carver Road and Half Moon Lane - by Ian McInnes
Following the less than successful attempts to develop the land to the north of Half Moon Lane between 1904 and 1906 (see the last newsletter’s article on Ruskin Walk), on 24th January 1907, the Manager reported “th at Messrs Bass & Blackmore, who will shortly complete their building agreement with the Governors for land in Burbage Road are prepared to take the building land between Half Moon Lane, Ruskin Walk, and the rear of the gardens on Herne Hill”. Messrs Bass & Mr Blackmore had been working on Nos. 63-81 Burbage Road since 1902, and the draft building agreement required them to construct and maintain, at their own cost, the proposed new road, “with sewer there under” and, within two years, to build up to 101 semi-detached houses on the whole site within five years.
The drawings for the first houses on Half Moon Lane were received early in May from an architect called E H Dance, of 185 Victoria Street SW. The Surveyor noted that “At my request, Mr Dance has seen his way to avoid the monotony of a long row of houses of similar design, by providing three different elevations which are herewith submitted, and lettered A, B and C respectively . . . . . . Mr Dance, has to my knowledge taken great pains with the view of meeting the Governors’ wishes in the matter of the varied designs of the houses, and I have pleasure in recommending the approval of the plans submitted.”
The Building Agreement was signed at the end of May and drawings of the smaller houses in Ruskin Walk were approved at the end of June. The front projecting bays and plinth were to be faced with red brick, the rest of the walls being covered with cement rough cast under a slated roof. The actual projected cost of the houses was £512, 15% more than the agreement figure of £450.
On 9th July the Manger wrote to the builders complaining that they were “shooting earth” (fly tipping) on the land, and, in reply, received a long letter saying that they had stopped but “they appeal to the Governors to allow them to make up the land in the rear of the site of their houses.” Apparently they were getting 1s a load and, “as they have made a loss on their houses in Burbage Road, they hope the Governors will allow them to take in as much as they require for levelling up the land on the understanding that they will, cover the site with good mould.” The Governors were unsympathetic.
Things got worse and, on 12th November, the Surveyor reported that the London County Council had rejected the proposed route of the new road noting “I understand that the LCC would sanction a road running from Ruskin Walk to Herne Hill, as giving more direct communication in the district. Personally, I consider the opposition of the LCC to the original scheme somewhat captious, but I am informed that they will not recede from the position they have taken on the matter.” The Estate appealed to the LCC Tribunal of Appeal, and finally won, but Bass & Blackmore had had enough and, when the Estate refused to renegotiate their agreement, they issued a writ claiming “(1) A declaration that they are relieved from further performance of their building agreement on the grounds that the Governors have consented to an alteration by the Tribunal of Appeal in the plan of the road, without Messes Bass & Blackmore’s consent; (2) a declaration that they are entitled to leases of all houses erected by them and not already leased; (3) an order on the Governors for the grant of leases in accordance with such declaration;(4) damages; (5) costs.”
The case began in the afternoon of Tuesday 12th April 1910, before Mr Justice Neville, and continued the whole of Wednesday. However, before the court sat on Thursday morning, a consultation was held with Counsel “which the Chairman, at the request of Counsel, was good enough to attend; and although so far as Counsel could gather the case was proceeding satisfactorily for the Governors, they strongly pressed the desirability of a settlement.” This desire to settle suggests that perhaps the case was not proceeding quite as well as the minute suggested and, on completion of the builder’s case, the following terms were agreed:
“Stay proceedings in the Action and Counter Claim without prejudice to the Defendant’s right to rent due under leases granted, or the lease to be granted as hereinafter mentioned, on the following terms:
- The building agreement to be treated as at an end.
- A lease of the house in Ruskin Walk being the 13th from the end (No. 44 Ruskin Walk) . . . The other hostage house, being the 14th from the end, to be taken by the defendants and kept by them as their own property.
- The defendants are to take the hardcore brought on site by the plaintiffs and release them from any claim that they should remove any clay brought by them on the site.
- The plaintiffs to be at liberty to remove any plant belonging to them
- No costs on either side.”
The 14th house was No 46 and Bass & Blackmore attempted to buy it off the Governors to complete it. The Governors refused and tried to get other local builders to take it but without success until they approached C B Core. The Surveyor reported “In these circumstances I applied to C B Core of Dulwich Village, who is well known to most of the resident Governors as being reliable and reasonable in his prices, as I thought the Committee would wish to have some figures before them.” C B Core suggested £212, against the Surveyor’s estimate of £200 and he agreed to purchase No. 46 Ruskin Walk “now in carcass” for the sum of £200, and to completely finish the premises at his own cost “to the satisfaction of the Governors” and to accept a lease for a term of 99 years from Michaelmas 1910, at a ground rent of £7 10s per annum.’
Negotiations over the main site then began with the other builder who had been working in Burbage Road, Thomas Kingsman and, in December 1910, the Manager reported that “after considerable negotiations, Mr Kingsman has made an offer to take the building land in Half Moon Lane, recently surrendered by Messrs Bass & Blackmore”, the Governors having to agree to “construct at their own cost the proposed new road …., with sewer under”. The lease required 58 semi-detached or detached houses to be built on the land within five years with values as follows - Half Moon Lane (14 houses at not less than £750) and, in the proposed new road (44 houses to cost not less than £500 each). The Estate was looking for a ground rent for the site of £320, but it was finally agreed at £300.
By January 1912 the new road between Herne Hill and Half Moon Lane was finished - the contractor was Messrs Mowlem & Co, and Mr Kingsman asked the Governors to select a name for the road “as he is anxious to advertise the houses he is shortly to erect”. The Governors chose ‘Carver Road’ “in commemoration of the long period of service rendered by the late Canon Carver to the Foundation”. It was agreed by the LCC on 6th March.
Early in July 1914 Mr Kingsman assigned his building agreement to another builder, Mr William Marshal of St Brelade’s in Dulwich Village, and the latter continued to develop the site until September 1916 when he wrote to the Governors about suspending the agreement because of the War. He informed them that, on 14th July 1916, the Minister of Munitions had made an order under the Defence of the Realm Act requiring a licence for “commencing or carrying on the construction, alteration, repair, decoration, or demolition of buildings, except where the completed cost of the whole completed work in contemplation does not exceed £500 and does not involve the use of constructional steel.” The Governors sought clarification but in November 1916 Mr Marshall wrote again confirming that he had been refused a license to complete his building agreement, but would “be permitted to complete the four houses, Nos 34, 36, 53 and 57 Carver Road, now in the course of construction.”
Work recommenced in April 1919 with Mr Marshall telling the Governors that, because of the increase in costs and the scarcity of materials, he could not “afford to continue to put up houses of similar design to those already erected”. He submitted revised designs and the Governors agreed to the required changes. The development was largely complete by 1922.
Carver Road was seriously damaged by a V1 flying bomb that landed on the south side of the road at 9:00 pm on the evening of 10th July 1944 - 6 houses were demolished and 50 other badly damaged. Nos. 20-32 were demolished and rebuilt after the war in a very similar, but slightly simplified, style.
Carver Road’s other claim to fame was No. 7 - this is the house that Jim Callaghan lived in for a short while in 1967 when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer and had to leave No. 11 Downing Street in a hurry.