The Dulwich Society has over a thousand members, approximately 20% of the households in Dulwich. It ought to have more. Elsewhere in this Newsletter are reported issues that affect us all - the possible extension of the Dulwich Village Conservation area and the implications this has for residents within the proposed new area; the case for and against an additional bus route through the Village; a proposal from the Dulwich Society to allow the Belair car park to be used at nightime by residents returning by public transport to West Dulwich.
Membership of the Dulwich Society gives individuals a voice in matters which affect them. As you will see, the Chief Executive of the Dulwich Estate, John Major, urges residents to join amenity societies like ours. You, the reader are a member, and we hope you will want to renew that membership in 2004. Perhaps you might consider introducing new residents to the Society.
As you know, the Dulwich Society functions through a range of sub-committees, all of these welcome new committee members and the chairmen of each sub-committee will be pleased to hear from you if you are interested in serving. The Newsletter is hand-distributed by members in a remarkable team effort, four times a year. Recently, one or two of the long serving distributors indicated that because of advancing years they are no longer able to continue. This is an unsung but essential task and new volunteers would be welcomed by the Distribution Manager. The delivery is not onerous, just one road or so.
This year, two prominent Dulwich figures passed away. Philip Spooner and Bill Alexander were both veteran members of the Dulwich Rotary Club and active members of the community. Philip was a founder member of the Friends of the Horniman and for many years secretary of the Dulwich Forum. Bill had done tremendous work over a long period for the Friends of Dulwich Hospital. Both men were lay-readers of their respective churches, St Faith's and St Clement's. Such public spirited individuals are becoming increasingly rare and we mourn their passing.
A Conservation Area is: "An area of special architectural or historic importance, the character of which it is desirable to enhance and protect."
The special character of the Dulwich Village Conservation Area is officially described as:
- A semi-rural atmosphere, derived from the retained character of the historic village.
- Fine houses, and the occupation of these houses as single family dwellings.
- Wide grass verges and mature trees.
- Attractive shops facing onto an historic high street.
- A quiet atmosphere.
The Dulwich Village Conservation Area might be extended because:
- The current designation does not include some of the historic routes to and from Dulwich Village.
- Also the current boundaries exclude some fine listed buildings and open land, which would benefit from additional protection.
When Conservation Areas were first established, Dulwich Village was one of the earliest ,in 1968. During the past thirty-five years it has remained the same size, but it is clear that if it had been created now, under current policy, it would have been larger. So when a number of local people began to write to his department asking to have their streets included, the council thought it was time to look at the boundaries again. Indeed, they have a statutory duty to keep boundaries of conservation areas under review.
Currently the boundaries are well within the boundaries of the Dulwich Estate on the west and south, though they run together on the eastern side (see sketch plan). Possibly the boundaries of the Conservation Area could be altered to coincide more nearly with those of the Estate.
Basically, being in a conservation area affects the criteria for planning permission for certain works. Being within the Area will not increase the bureaucracy. Within the Dulwich Estate, we already have to submit two applications for planning; the council one costs £110, the Estate one anything from £50 upwards. Would there be a further fee? No, the status of Conservation Area affects what the Council Planning Department can allow but the Conservation Officer works within that department, liasing closely with other planning officers.
What advantages would it bring to residents? Is the area not already protected adequately by the Dulwich Estate? "No" said Michelle Pearce, one of our local councillors. "When the Woodyard site was being developed, the Estate had in mind to build a large number of small houses of no architectural merit. Instead, because it was already in a Conservation Area, the council prevented this, and refused planning permission until an alternative plan for larger homes, more space, and some interesting architecture was developed."
In a Conservation Area, the council would have power to prevent the demolition of large old houses to make way for smaller modern ones. There are still a few large old houses just outside the area which the Estate might feel tempted to demolish and replace and extending the area could give these protection, but only if the individual houses or the street in which they lay was held to have historical or architectural merit.
The council would be able to impose stricter limits on the size of extensions and the provision of dormer windows than it does now. Probably these new limits would be similar to those currently imposed by the Estate.
A priority of the conservation team in Southwark is to preserve the large areas of open land surrounding the Village, as part of the original pattern of Dulwich. Another priority is to include the historic routes into the Village, and buildings of historic interest along the way, including North Dulwich Station. To do this, they will have to include roads enclosing the open areas, even if these roads do not themselves possess an architectural or historic character meriting Conservation Area status. This is normal practice in Conservation Areas, and these roads are referred to in appraisals as 'neutral areas'.
It was pointed out by Cllr. Pearce and others, that the Dulwich Estate, unlike the Council, never consulted residents, and although the Estate's rule was generally benign, there was no way of finding out why a particular ruling had been made and no recourse against it. This, she claimed, was unlike the council's more transparent way of working.
The whole consultation, even with its poor organisation, was infinitely better than any consultation the Estate has ever had (has it ever had any?). The Council has chosen to consult with residents on this issue, although not obliged to do so. It is clear that the council's regulations are open to all and their application is closely monitored by our elected representatives.
This was primarily a preliminary consultation for residents in the affected areas. Questions and comments related largely to how the change would affect the wider community. Would the council's efforts, for instance be better spent in preserving other areas in Southwark?
It would seem logical to bring the boundaries of the Conservation Area more into line with the boundaries of the Estate. There would be double protection against unsympathetic development and some extra protection from arbitrary behaviour by the Estate when dealing with its own land.
As a consultation for residents, it reached a very definite conclusion. Well over a hundred were present, and on a show of hands the great majority were in favour of extending the Conservation Area.
Report by Margaret Hanton
If you would like to write with your views, the address is;
Design and Conservation Team
London Borough of Southwark
London SE17 2ES
The Dulwich Society Newsletter would also welcome its members' views.
The rights and powers of the Managers under the Scheme are conferred for the purposes of enabling them to preserve the amenities of the Estate for the common benefit. The Managers therefore welcome any measures by the Council which will assist in meeting this. In addition, designating parts of the Estate as Conservation Areas reduces the likelihood of applications for building works, which may have received planning permission from the Council, being rejected under the Scheme of Management. Recently the Managers have been pleased to encourage and approve new buildings of architectural merit, for which Southwark Council has granted planning permission. Extending the boundaries of the Conservation Area
The Dulwich Estate covers some 1500 acres of land, situated in three boroughs, Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham. Although it is unlikely that the Councils would consider all properties within the Estate's boundaries to be of such architectural and historic merit as to warrant conservation status, the Scheme of Management already applies to the whole of this area. Thus, the Managers are obliged to preserve, for the Estate as a whole, the amenity for the common benefit by seeking to maintain the character and appearance of individual properties, streets of properties, monuments, open space and woodland
The Dulwich Estate as landowner
The distinction must be made between the Estate in its role as Managers of the Scheme and its primary function, as a Charity endowed with property. As a Charity it is the duty of the Trustees to manage the assets in the best interest of the Beneficiaries.
Occasionally, there may be instances whereby this duty appears to conflict with the Scheme of Management and the situation apparently cited by Cllr. Pearce, regarding the Woodyard is such a case. The Estate was not the developer, it sold the site and it was the developer who originally wanted to build a number of small houses but the Council refused planning permission.
The Estate is not usually a developer and when sites are sold for development, these are of course subject to planning permission and generally, the Scheme of Management. In addition, although the Estate's own properties fall outside the Scheme, when carrying out works to these which may have an impact on the amenity of neighbours, the Estate goes through a similar consultation process of informing the relevant freeholders of its proposals (see below).
Consultation under the Scheme of Management
As regards the apparent lack of consultation and transparency under the Scheme of Management, this is an accusation often made and based, we believe, on ignorance of the operation of the Scheme:
When an application under the Scheme would have an impact on the common amenity or amenities of the immediate neighbours, the Managers write to those residents, advising them of the proposals and inviting comment (within 21 days).
If the proposals comply with the Policy Guidelines (as issued from time to time by the Managers) and barring adverse comments from third parties, the works will be licensed without further reference.
Works, which do not comply with the Guidelines and those proposals to which objections have been received, are put to the Scheme of Management, which meets monthly. The Committee will have regard to representations received from neighbouring properties, the Dulwich Society and other third parties, in considering the application. If the Committee approves the proposals, a licence is then issued.
If an application is refused, the applicant is always informed of the reason in writing. Generally, wherever possible, applicants will be invited to submit revised proposals after consultation with the Scheme's consultant architect or tree consultant. Where an applicant wishes to challenge the decision of the Scheme, there is an arbitration process.
The Managers do not automatically inform objectors of the decision of the Committee but it does encourage such individuals to telephone the office for information should they wish to know the outcome. The reason that the Scheme Managers do not advise the objectors of this in writing is cost.
It is also worth noting that under the provision of the Scheme there is an Advisory Committee. This body (which comprises an equal number of Trustees from The Dulwich Estate and representatives of the amenity societies) meets three times a year, in addition to receiving details of all applications made for works to properties. Residents of Dulwich are encouraged to join the amenity societies since one of the benefits is to be able to make collective representation to the Estate over any issues of concern.
Chief Executive, The Dulwich Estate
New bus routes for Dulwich?
Two new bus routes are being proposed for Dulwich. The No 42 that at present terminates near St Faith's Hall, Sunray Avenue, will have its route extended to Herne Hill. This would benefit those residents of Half Moon Lane who might like a direct connection with Kings College Hospital. This extension of routing is subject to consultation with residents along the proposed route. However the Half Moon Lane extension could possibly result in some of that route being designated as a bus lane In view of the proximity of the No 68 service from Herne Hill past Kings College Hospital residents will have to balance the extra convenience with the disadvantages of noise, pollution and possibly loss of parking space.
A more ambitious scheme proposed by Southwark Cllr Michelle Pearce and London Cllr Val Shawcross is a new route originating at Crystal Palace and travelling along Alleyn Park, Gallery Road, Dulwich Village, East Dulwich Grove to Goose Green, then proceeding past Sainsbury's on Dog Kennel Hill and King's College Hospital to terminate at Camberwell Green. The proposed route would be operated by a single-decker bus in order to pass under the railway bridge in Alleyn Park. Residents will want to consider the increase in noise and congestion this potential service might cause and whether the expense can be justified bearing in mind the service already offered by the No 3 route along Croxted Road which gives reasonable access and connections to most of central Dulwich. Comments on these proposed routes should be sent to Cllr Pearce at 264 Rosendale Road, SE24 9DL or e-mail
The finger-posts which are so much a feature of the Dulwich streetscape are to be restored by Southwark Council. Additional strengthening will hopefully give them a longer life than has recently been the case. Thanks to the persistence of The Dulwich Society's secretary, Patrick Spencer, site meetings have been held with Council officials and action is promised. At the time of going to press, another overdue responsibility, the replacement of the chain-links and posts along the Village, has begun. Let us hope that by the time this issue appears, this long delayed task will have been completed.
More Policing for Dulwich
In the last issue of the Newsletter we announced the arrival of P.C. Shaun Mulcathy as Community Officer for the Village area. He has recently been joined by P.C. Alastair Gellatly who has been appointed the Community Officer for North Dulwich and parts of Herne Hill. His beat's boundaries are; west of Sunray Avenue, Herne Hill, and parts of Croxted Road and Burbage Road. Areas like the North Dulwich Triangle, Half Moon Lane and roads adjoining are in Alastair's 'patch'. However, he and Shaun work closely together, covering each other's leave periods and overlapping their respective areas.
Alastair is a local man, having grown up in the Norwood area. He now lives in West Wickham. He is married with two daughters aged 10 and 12. His interests include music and gardening and mastering the intricacies of the digital camera. He would welcome meeting any residents with concern over crime and can be contacted on tel. 020 8284 7364.
Earlier this year we commented upon the success that local bee-keepers were having with their hives in various parts of Dulwich. This success has been carried further and Dulwich Honey is being sold at Panino D'Oro Delicatessen in the Village. Apiarist, Stephen Furst of Dulwich Village is the supplier and he is donating the proceeds to charity. An ideal Christmas present?
In the last issue of the Newsletter we highlighted the role, played by John Beasley of the Peckham Society in successfully organising opposition to the development of neglected playing fields leased by Dulwich Hamlet FC in Green Dale into a Homebase site. As a consequence John has been expelled from the club's Supporters' Trust. He commented, "I am not upset by the expulsion but it saddens me that there are fans that are blinkered. I joined the Trust as a tangible way to show support for Dulwich Hamlet Football Club."
From time to time, the Society receives enquiries on historical matters connected with Dulwich. Usually, the Local History Committee can supply the answers. This time however, the wider membership is invited to participate! For good measure, three enquiries have been received. We should be delighted if any reader can answer these queries. Solutions to the Editor please.
Puzzle No. 1 - The Grove Bowling Club
Terry Humphrey from Wandsworth writes to say that he has seen two wooden bowls, said to be 400 years old, in an antique shop. They were presented by S.W.Fells Esq., to the Grove (Dulwich) Bowling Club on 4 May 1927. According to the inscription, they were found on the site of Christ' Hospital School, Newgate Street, in the City of London.
Christ's Hospital School moved to Horsham in 1902 and an extension to the General Post Office was built on the site between 1905 and 1911, so the wooden bowls were probably found some twenty years before being given to the club. Any information on Mr Fells or The Grove Bowling Club will be gratefully received and passed to Terry Humphrey.
Puzzle No. 2 - George Albert Smith, Film Pioneer
Tom Ruffles, who grew up in Court Lane, now lives in Cambridge. Tom has been awarded a British Academy grant to research the life of film pioneer George Albert Smith. Smith became well known in the 1890's, after he moved to Brighton, but Tom is interested in tracing the connections between his film work and his earlier involvement with the Society for Psychical Research. In 1886 Smith was living at 2 Elms Road (later renamed Gilkes Place and renumbered). He may only have lived at that address briefly because in 1891/2 he was living at 2 Howlettes Road, having spent several years in Kent in between. He worked as a stage hypnotist and magic lantern projectionist and in July 1903 he made a film in Dulwich titled '52 Dancers dressed as Playing Cards'. Smith also filmed regularly at the Crystal Palace.
Tom Ruffles is keen to find out more about Smith's time in Dulwich and if he got involved in local activities.
Puzzle No. 3 - The 'Cross' on Dulwich Grove Church
The Rev. John Key, who retired as Minister of Dulwich Grove in three years ago and is the author of The Dulwich Grove Story - Part Two is fascinated by the unusual design of the cross on the spire of his former church. He says that he has never seen such a design of this cross before and asks if anyone can identify the style.
Tuesday 2nd 10.30-11.30am - the Victorian Lecture Series - Late Turner and the Early Victorians Nicholas Alfrey. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room.
Friday 5th Concert of Christmas Music, Carols and seasonal music Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. £12, £10(Friends), Children Free. Christ's Chapel 7pm
Saturday 6th The Dulwich Society. 40th Anniversary Party. The Great Hall, Dulwich College at 7.30. Admission by ticket only
South London Chorus - Concert - Monteverdi's.Vespers. Conductor Sue Farrow. 7.30pm St John's Church, Auckland Road, SE 19. Tickets £12 (£10 concs) available on the door.
Thursday 11th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society. Lecture The Life and times of Jane Austen Andrew Davies. James Allen's Girls' School 8pm
Sunday 14th Children's Event - Science, Magic, Interactive demonstrations of weird and wonderful Heath Robinson machines Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. £6 Adults, £5 children aged 6 and over (includes tea) 2pm and 3.30pm Linbury Room
Thursday - Saturday 18th, 19th,20th The Dulwich Players present Return to the Forbidden Planet - The rock, sci-fi musical. Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College at 8pm. Tickets from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.
Sunday 21st All Saints' Church, West Dulwich. All age Carol Service at 4pm
St Barnabas Christmas Carol Service at 6.30pm. Featuring English music prominently, including Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin, Vaughan Williams setting On Christmas Night and Holst's Lullay mine liking.
Tuesday 6th 10.30-11.30am - The Victorian Lecture Series - The Art of Victorian Advertising Brian Green. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. Admission £6.
Thursday 8th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - The Age of Silk; C18th fashion and the influence of the Huguenot silk weavers. Frances Musker. James Allen's Girls' School 8pm
Thursday 15th 12.30pm. Dulwich Picture Gallery Lunchtime Lecture, Napoleon and his British Admirers Christopher Woodward. Linbury Room, Collection
Sunday 18th Last day. Dulwich Picture Gallery Heath Robinson Exhibition
Tuesday 27th 10.30-11.30am - The Victorian Lecture Series - The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Valerie Woodgate. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. Admission £6
Sunday 1st 4pm Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Lecture Residential Development in Edwardian Dulwich Ian McInnes. Linbury Room
February 4th- 18th April Crystal Palace at Sydenham Exhibition to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of The Crystal Palace. Dulwich Picture Gallery
Tuesday 3rd 10.30-11.30am - The Victorian Lecture Series - The Victorian Museum Giles bbbWaterfield. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. Admission £6
Thursday 5th 12.30pm. Dulwich Picture Gallery Lunchtime Lecture.- Crystal Palace- Jan Piggot. Linbury Room. Collection
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - Newlyn 1914-50 David Evans. James Allen's Girls' School 8pm
Tuesday 17th The Victorian Lecture Series - Victorian Public Sculpture- Hilary Rosser. The Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. 10.30-11.30am Admission £6
Thursday 19th Friday 20th Saturday 21st The Dulwich Players present The Mollusc an Edwardian comedy, at 8pm at The Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College. Tickets from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.
Tuesday 24th The Victorian Lecture Series - Interior Design and the Aesthetic Movement Diana Lloyd 10.30-11.30am. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room. Admission £6
Thursday 26th 12.30pm. Dulwich Picture Gallery Lunchtime Lecture- How to rebuild the Crystal Palace John Greatrex. Linbury Room. Collection.
A review by Ian Mcinnes
Between the Wars the Dulwich Estate had had difficulty in attracting home buyers into the area and the problem was exacerbated after 1945 by the high level of war damage that had been incurred. The leases of many of the houses built around 1900 had less than 45 years to run and they had effectively become unmortgagable. As a consequence they were often converted into flats for rental. Many houses had also been requisitioned by Camberwell Borough Council who were keen to expand council house development in the area through compulsory purchase. The Bessemer and Kingswood estates were typical examples.
The Foundation schools were also suffering. Educational standards had fallen in the Thirties and there was a serious lack of children living in the area after 1945. The Dulwich Experiment introduced by Christopher Gilkes, Master of Dulwich College, was a way of keeping the schools going by bringing in children from outside the area. It was a great success but only a short-term solution dependent very much on government policy. The Estates Governors became very aware that their existing policies were not working and that a more imaginative approach was needed to attract younger families into the area to support the Foundation schools. They also needed more income from ground rents.
Early in 1954, just prior to the removal of wartime Building License controls, the Estate requested Russell Vernon of Austin Vernon & Partners, the Estate Architect and Surveyor, to prepare an estate wide development plan. This was approved by the LCC later in 1955 and, shortly afterwards, the Estate entered into a development agreement with Wates, the national house builder.
The first scheme was completed in 1956 in Farquhar Road. It was a great success and for twenty years from 1957 onwards the Estates Governors and Wates carried out a series of developments resulting in the construction of three thousand houses. The houses were often quite small but were generally built to a high specification for the time, including central heating and, later on, two bathrooms. The other feature was the quality of the landscaping. The houses sold for a relatively high price but, nevertheless, large numbers of young families did move into the area, sending their sons and daughters to the schools, and the Estate did increase its revenues through the additional ground rents.
The most interesting developments are the low rise/high rise estates in South Dulwich (winner of a Civic Trust award in 1964), the Radburn layout town houses in Croxted Road, the developments on the steep sloping sites in Dulwich Woods, the courtyard houses and the large house estates in College Road
Typical examples of the Radburn layouts (the name came from the town in the USA where this type of layout was first used) are, Pymers Mead, Walkerscroft Mead and Lings Coppice. Routes for cars and pedestrians are separated and the houses are arranged in U shaped terraces with their small gardens opening on to common landscaped amenity areas. Pymers Mead and Walkerscroft Mead are relatively standard three storey town houses but the houses in Lings Coppice are more adventurous. They have two storeys with internal atrium style dining areas acting as the main circulation space. The designer was Manfred Bresgens, a German architect working for Austin Vernon & Partners.
A series of naturalistic and organic schemes designed to integrate with the steep sloping sites in Dulwich Woods include Peckarmans Wood and Great Brownings. The latter's houses were all timber framed because the steep slope prevented easy access for normal heavy building materials. The architect was Malcolm Pringle, a partner in Austin Vernon & Partners.
Giles Coppice shows a different approach. It was influenced by Seiglen Hallen, a widely published contemporary Swiss housing scheme planned in straight terraces overlooking each other as they stepped down the hill. Wates had employed Atelier 5, the Swiss architects, to design a project in Croydon and many of the ideas transferred themselves to Dulwich albeit in an anglicised 'arts and crafts' form.
Courtyard themes included Perifield, Cokers Lane and Coney Acre on Croxted Road and the less well-known Courtmead Close at the western end of Burbage Road. It is one of Dulwich's hidden jewels and won a Good Housing design award in 1976. Victor Knight , another of Austen Vernon partner was the designer. Other similar developments included Loggetts and Morkyns Walk, both in Alleyn Park
The Estate still wanted some large houses and the best schemes were Woodhall (another winner of a Good Design Award). Ferrings and Tollgate Drive. Woodhall saw a series of Californian ranch style houses cleverly laid out so to avoid overlooking yet maximising views. Front gardens were left without fences. These houses were very expensive (up to £20,000 in 1966) and reputedly took some time to sell.
Ferrings and Tollgate Drive are more interesting architecturally and are considered to be the classic Dulwich modern house partly because of their high visibility from the nearby railway line. A series of linked bungalows and two storey pavilion style houses are generous in plan area and well landscaped. They were allegedly not particularly well built and original owners still living in Dulwich tell stories of the problems they had with them. The original roofs were copper-covered felt and few now remain.
By the late 1960's the local amenity societies were becoming vocal in their objections to further developments in the Dulwich Woods. There were also very few other development sites left and the pace of building started to slow. The Leasehold Reform Act passed in 1967, had allowed existing leaseholders to buy their freeholds and this had a very interesting side effect in that it enhanced the value of older houses. Their shorter leases could now be converted to freeholds which were then mortgagable. One Dulwich Society member recalls that he bought his house in Walkerscroft Mead in 1966 for the same price as the Edwardian house at the corner of Burbage Road and Half Moon Lane. The latter is now worth more than five times as much.
The extent of sixties housing in Dulwich is little known outside the area. Even locals do not always appreciate the number of estates hidden up in the woods. The increasing respect for the quality of these houses is reflected in the number of people turning up for the 'sixties architectural walks'. Recently the Twentieth Century Society undertook a walk to look specifically at the courtyard houses - it was twice oversubscribed!
By Neil Allen and Kevin Kelly
The hopeful revival of activity at a refurbished Herne Hill stadium in Burbage Road provides an opportunity to emphasize that this is the only Victorian facility of its kind still in use in London and one unique in the rich history of its events.
The London County Grounds, as they were known, were officially opened by the L.C.C. in May 1891 to help satisfy the public's vast enthusiasm for cycling. Provision was also made for similar facilities for cycling and athletics at Catford, West Ham, Putney, Kensal Rise, Wood Green and Paddington, now all gone.
Herne Hill's original ground comprised a banked wooden cycling track with a cinder athletics track inside, though this has now been replaced with a cement one of 450 metres circuit while the 440 yards running track has been grassed over. Ideally, we would hope that the venerable grandstand and changing rooms could be spared because of their association with British sporting champions.
After the athletics club, the Herne Hill Harriers, was founded at Milkwood Road in 1889 the Burbage Road ground became the Harriers' summer headquarters, often featuring joint promotions with the Catford Cycling Club. In 1892 the new track was christened with a 15 miles world record run of 1hr.22min.15.4sec. by Sydney Thomas and in 1911 walking records were achieved over 15 miles and 25 miles by Harold Ross and Sidney Schofield.
Ghosts lingering affectionately might include the 1924 Olympics 100 metres champion Harold Abrahams and his coach, "Sam" (Scipio Africanus) Mussabini who were portrayed by Ben Cross and Ian Holm in the memorable film Chariots of Fire.
Mussabini, whose other Olympic gold medal winning charges included sprinter Willie Applegarth and the 800 and 1500 metres champion Albert Hill in the 1920 Games, lived for several years at 84 Burbage Road and Abrahams himself, a leading British athletics administrator and broadcaster, told us that he was first coached by Mussabini at the Herne Hill stadium when he was only twelve years old.
The Amateur Football Cup Final was played at the ground in 1911 between Bromley and Bishop Auckland and the London Welsh Rugby Club trained and played there for many years - hence the reason why The Commercial pub, opposite Herne Hill Station, is filled with framed rugby shirts presented by leading London Welsh players including Welsh international John Taylor, ITV commentator on the 2003 World Cup.
Modern consecration came in the summer of 1948 when the stately old arena was chosen as the venue for the track cycling events of the Games of the XIVth Olympiad, staged so courageously by this country while the rest of Europe was still recovering from the ravages of the 1939-45 war.
The official Olympic report says: "Herne Hill track was the only suitable one. Minor repairs were carried out, spectator accommodation increased by the erection of permanent stands, gates and turnstiles were augmented and a temporary stand erected on the back straight. Press accommodation was increased, 12 telephone boxes installed behind the press seats and the BBC erected a stand with a control room beneath. First aid and refreshment accommodation for competitors and officials were provided in marquees in an adjacent field."
The admirable spirit of "Britain can fix it" was underlined by the competitors' solution to the insistence of the organisers that they must travel with their precious bicycles to the ground. Seats were stripped from one side of a 32 seater coach so that it could carry about 12 machines plus the riders and their trainers
Fifty years later, when a group of 1948 French Olympians made a sentimental journey to Wembley Stadium, where King George VI had formally opened those Games, an elderly French cyclist wiped a tear from his eye as he recalled : "I will never forget, never, the way in which the people of 'erne 'ill, you Londoners, made us welcome."
(Neil Allen, who has lived locally for 40 years, reported 14 summer and winter Olympics for The Times, The Evening Standard and The New York Times.
Kevin Kelly is an athlete, sports archivist and author of the recently published history of Herne Hill Harriers, Into the Millennium.)
A Literary Survivor
Edward Upward A Renegade in Springtime Enitharmon Press £15
As one grows older the images of men you knew in youth - the politicians, writers, poets, actors - slip away into the mist and you are surprised when a beam of light falls on one still there. I remember a conference some twenty years ago on ' Writers in the Thirties' where Tom Harrison (of Mass Observation) was speaking, with Stephen Spender in the chair. "Poor Jack", said Harrison of a Euston Road painter, "killed in the war", "Tom", Spender gently intervened, " he's still alive. I had lunch with him a month ago". Not a wit abashed Harrison continued. "Delighted to hear he recovered from his wounds".
Spender as a focus of memories is appropriate for this book by a man who, in the Thirties, was counted along with Spender, Auden and Isherwood as a star of the literary Left. It was Edward Upward who, as it happens, recruited Spender into the Communist Party, was the closest friend of Isherwood at Cambridge and co-author with him of the Mortmere fantasies which made a stir just before the war. And it was there that Upward remained as a literary figure when others moved on - a Marxist still when they had defected, a man remembered for one novel of that period (Journey to the Border), and some stories. He didn't then write much for thirty years, came back with a similar range of stories as he aged, and is still at the typewriter as he approaches his centenary. Yet he worked as a dedicated schoolmaster of a now vanishing type, and this is how many men in Dulwich will remember him: head of English and a housemaster at Alleyn's for thirty years.
It is hard to judge a volume of stories written at intervals since 1928. They retain much of the sense of fantasy which marked Upward's earliest work; they have, intermingled with the poetic prose, flashes of sharply perceived realism which remind one that he never really lost the radical impulse that, for a short period, made him an icon of the Popular Front. And they are paradoxical in a way that show him always trying to resolve the tension between the two elements of his life. The most striking thing about his writing, and I find this sad, is a sense of lacking fulfilment; it expresses itself in the implicit but recurring self-question - why have I not been a success, what is it that has denied me the recognition I have sought? Survivors tend to feel like that as the world moves on: even a man who has lived such an admirable professional life as Upward can still feel that as he carries the baggage of his youth with him through the years.
(Professor MacKenzie is the only surviving member of the list of 38 suspected communist sympathisers compiled for the British Government by George Orwell in 1949. and released earlier this year. He was a founding member of the SDP and is the author of several books on the Fabians)
A Thing in Disguise
The visionary life of Joseph Paxton by Kate Colquhoun
The "thing in disguise" is glass, the structural use of which was Paxton's most spectacular contribution to Victorian England. The ghost of the Crystal Palace stills seems to hang over Dulwich, glinting above the horizon. While the monument of Sir Christopher Wren is still visible in the Thames valley below, that of Paxton can no longer be seen. It was, in its transparency and slender ironwork, six times larger than St Paul's Cathedral and half as high.
There is almost nothing left of Paxton's impact on South London. Brian McConnell recalls being sent as a schoolboy to try to find the site of Rockhills, the house on Crystal Palace Parade which Paxton occupied while the Crystal Palace was being transferred from Hyde Park. Even then it was difficult enough to discover traces. The whole site has remained virtually derelict for the past sixty years. The ornamental grounds below it have been fragmented, its stupendous fountains stifled. Nevertheless, we continue to be amazed by the sheer scale of the ruins on the hill.
Kate Colquhoun has used the extensive archives at Chatsworth and contemporary public records, to write a clear, thoroughly researched biography. Paxton, as a man steps vigorously out of its pages; from his economic and social background, with which we may have thought ourselves familiar, to be the authentic Victorian prodigy who could turn his hand to anything. He had great charisma and this coupled with his extraordinary practical capability made him a figure the public almost worshipped. "Ask Paxton" became a popular catchphrase for any major new project needing flair and application.
This was a remarkable apotheosis for the son of a Bedfordshire farm labourer who left school, at thirteen. As soon as Paxton began work as a gardener's boy on the Duke of Bedford's estate at Battlesden Park he started to absorb practical and aesthetic information like a sponge, from every source and to use it to maximum effect. He was the supreme example of Victorian self-help and created his own luck and fortune as he went. His personality, conspicuous intelligence and powers of application secured his appointment as superintendent of the gardens at Chatsworth at the early age of 23.
There, characteristically, he hit the ground running on arrival at 4am, after an overnight carriage journey, climbed the outer wall, surveyed the estate on foot, put the garden staff to work at 6am, met the housekeeper for breakfast, and by 9am had fallen in love with her niece, Sarah. He proceeded to marry her and set a pattern for the rest of their lives, at a pace which he maintained often to her dismay for most of the next forty years.
Paxton also impressed his new employer, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, equally quickly. With an aesthetic taste that matched the Duke's, he intuitively carried out the former's ambitious plans to regenerate the Chatsworth Estate. The close friendship that developed between him and his patron was soon followed by rapid social ascent.
Paxton created a spectacular illuminated water entertainment at Chatsworth for the young Victoria in 1832 and capped this by meticulous preparations for her state visit as Queen in 1843. This brought him to the favourable notice of the Duke of Wellington who admired Paxton's capacity for large scale organisation. He was soon called upon to undertake a succession of national tasks.
Paxton's role in establishing the framework and character of the 1851 Great Exhibition became legendary. The Duke of Wellington's approval for his submission helped. Paxton's first sketch was made on a piece of blotting paper during a meeting about something else, detailed plans were prepared in a week and construction completed in five months. The Queen loved the design, the public loved the design. To cap even that, the Exhibition made a profit which contributed to establish the Albert Hall and the Royal Colleges and museums of South Kensington.
The book is a sobering account of what one man can be called upon to accomplish. We are also reminded of just how effective, at a price, the Victorians could be. What they did in months we seem unable to achieve in as many years. This concentration of economic power and Vulcanian release of new industrial energy may never come again. Perhaps the great ball of fire over Sydenham Hill is the most fitting final symbol of Joseph Paxton. Mere mortals might now at last think hard about what could possibly measure up to this out of the ashes of the Crystal Palace.
Bill Higman and Brian McConnell
A Thing in Disguise by Kate Colquhoun is published by Fourth Estate £18.99 h/b 307pps.
See What's on in Dulwich for details of lectures and exhibition in connection with the Crystal Palace's 150th anniversary.
Imagine my surprise one gloomy, wet, early Saturday morning last December, when I looked out of my kitchen window to see a beautiful white goose in my garden. I closed my eyes a few times and re-opened them again to make sure my imagination was not working overtime! But no, there it stood, some distance from the window, but clearly a white goose in all its glory.
At first, I wondered whether it was injured, or maybe resting from a long migratory flight. Was it a snow goose? I decided to contact a near neighbour, Angela Wilkes, the chairman of the Society's wildlife committee. She soon came round, armed with food for the goose. We spent some time just watching its movements and enjoying the magical spectacle. The goose was certainly uninjured, fit and well - but what to do?
How and why it actually landed in the garden remains a mystery, but it would clearly not be able to take off again. Although the garden is a reasonable size, numerous shrubs and trees and the central arch would certainly jeopardise any attempt at flight.
A series of telephone calls ensued, including the Wetlands Centre at Barnes and Slimbridge, and from my description they were able to identify the goose as probably 'domestic'. Contact was also made with the Council, Dulwich Park Rangers and even the Police, to ask if anyone had reported a missing goose (probably not such a good idea on reflection bearing in mind the approach of Christmas!). In fact the latter enquiry was not met with laughter and derision, but quite touching concern.
The remaining line of contact - the RSPCA - did bear fruit. Numerous calls resulted in a lady RSPCA volunteer ringing me from her mobile unit. Obviously realising our close proximity to Dulwich Park she suggested I catch the goose myself. "Quite simple", she stated, "and once a blanket has been thrown over it, you can easily transfer it to your park". I fully understood her problem in that her function was to rescue injured animals not healthy ones, but I was also well aware of the difficulty I would encounter in attempting to capture a large strong goose!
Another matter for concern was that once darkness fell the goose would be at risk in our garden. A further call was made to the Park Rangers who did agree to accept the lone goose, once caught. After a little more time had elapsed, with delight and a large amount of relief, I was contacted again by the very nice RSPCA lady to say she was in my area and volunteered to catch the goose before going off duty for the day. She duly arrived before dark, just after the return of my husband Robert, and with his assistance the 'goose-chase' around the garden began. It was quite a scene and worthy of a 'Candid Camera' show! It ended with the goose cornered behind a bush, where it was caught 'bare-handed' and expertly by the lady volunteer, and no sign of a blanket!
I felt so relieved that it had not been my task. It was then popped into a large box and transported to its final destination - Dulwich Park - where it appeared quite at home swimming in the lake and bonding and grazing with all the other ducks and Canada Geese.
The white goose had remained in my garden for about six hours and I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to observe it roaming about and appearing at ease whilst investigating its surroundings. For me, a far more interesting Saturday had been spent at home than was originally planned - a crowded Christmas shopping exercise. I also felt extremely happy to have assisted in what may have been the Goose's bid for freedom from the Christmas Table !
A few hedgehogs are being spotted in Dulwich, sadly the most recently sighted was flattened on the tarmac near Dulwich College. But its luckier local relatives are still around our area, despite traffic perils, and there are positive steps that we can take to boast their survival chances.
- Don't accidentally fence hedgehogs in. Adult hedgehogs walk up to two miles a night in search of food - mostly insects and invertebrates such as earthworms, slugs, millipedes and the like, plus any small rodents and other little mammals (dead or alive) that come their way. A thorough garden makeover that seals up all the gaps in fencing can shrink a hedgehog's foraging territory in half. It won't be able to eat enough to see it through the winter hibernation period. Hedgehogs can climb quite well, but they can't bite, dig or head-butt their way through solid barriers! An impenetrable line of fencing also cuts hedgehogs off from potential mates, leading to localised die-off. So leave a gap or two.
- Don't burn leaf litter, fork compost heaps or strim under hedges etc., without checking that a hog isn't snoozing under there. Hedgehogs are active at night and sleep under dry leaves and twiggy litter during daytime. Most common injuries among wildlife hospital inpatients are strimmer cuts (often necessitating the animal being put to sleep), other garden tool injuries, burns - ands road accidents.
- Don't use slug pellets - or any chemical insecticide. If you must use pellets put them under a low tile that hedgehogs can't crawl under.
- Do put out clean water, in a shallow dish, for hedgehog visitors. Milk can cause severe upset stomachs in hedgehogs, especially young ones, leading to their death through diarrhoea/dehydration.
- Do adopt an underweight youngster - anything that tips the kitchen scales at under 1lb (450g) in early winter won't have enough fat on it to make it through to the following year. Either overwinter the lightweight youngster yourself, in your home, shed or garage, or get it to a wildcare organisation who will keep it until Spring. Young ones need food, warmth (and if very young orphans, help with their toileting). Put on thick gardening gloves if you need to pick up a (usually curled) hedgehog.
- Do put out a little support feeding for your garden hedgehogs, fresh raw mince, a small amount of meaty (not fishy) dogfood, a few hard dog or catfood pellets (to help clean teeth, hedgehogs have awful tartar and wear problems, muesli, dried fruit, scrambled egg (no white bread and milk please, just clean water!)
- Do trail something (chicken wire a bit of rope etc) over the edge of sheer-sided pool/swimming pool as an escape route for hedgehogs that fall in.
Chair, Wildlife Committee
For more advice on sick, injured or underweight hedgehogs, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (01584 890801), London Wildlife Care (020 8647 6230), RSPCA emergencies (0870 555 5999), general advice: 0870 333 5999