On Saturday 9 October 2005 most of the strands that make up Dulwich life were represented at the unveiling of the statue of Edward Alleyn in front of the College he founded. It was appropriate that the 400th anniversary of his purchase of the Manor of Dulwich should be commemorated in this way, because without Edward Alleyn, Dulwich would not be the pleasant place it is today. It was also appropriate that the project for the long-overdue statue to this far-sighted man should be carried out by the Dulwich Society.
The Dulwich Society represents most of the varied interests of this unique suburb of London. Many of its members are closely tied to Edward Alleyn's Foundation, either as former pupils or governors of its schools or parents of pupils. Others have an interest in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the existence of which is in no small measure the due to Alleyn's legacy. A great number of others have chosen to live in Dulwich because of its beautiful and well-kept open space, another legacy of the Foundation.
The cost of providing the statue, together with its plinth and inscriptions, far exceeded the original estimate of £30,000. This was largely because the Selection Panel chose a design which had two figures, rather than the expected one! The difficulties with site access also made the treatment of the plinth a much more complicated and expensive issue. Fortunately, the sums subscribed by thirty-five generous patrons, a large donation from the Dulwich Estate on behalf of all its beneficiaries, including the Foundation Schools, together with almost 100 donations from individuals almost kept pace with the costs. As a result, there was a shortfall of £1500 on final expenses of just under £50,000. Further donations to erase this small deficit would be welcome.
While the statue is, perhaps, the Society's most significant contribution towards the Dulwich scene, it continues its role of fostering and safeguarding the amenities of Dulwich as set out in its object. It is therefore equally important to note the work its members do in the sub-committees through which it functions. Major improvements to pedestrian safety have been achieved by the Transport and Traffic Group, details of which are reported elsewhere in this issue. The Local History Group has assisted with the itemising of papers passed on to Dulwich College's Archives by the Dulwich Estate and with the cataloguing of Bill de Baerdemaecker's collection of slides presented to Southwark Local Studies Library. The Trees Group has continued to plant trees to enhance the Dulwich landscape and with the Wildlife Group has made an important contribution to the dialogue on the re-ordering of Dulwich Park and securing areas for wildlife to thrive. The Garden Group continues its extensive programme of garden visits to members' gardens, a useful medium through which members are able to keep in touch. Finally, the Planning Group keeps a vigilant eye on development proposals which might impact on Dulwich, and next year plans an architectural exhibition showing successful examples of local building which have taken place in recent years.
All these sub-committees welcome new members from the Society. If you think you can make a contribution to their work through your own expertise or are interested in being of help, then do contact the chairmen each group whose contact details are printed on the previous page.
Report by Hilary Rosser
What would Dulwich be like if Edward Alleyn had not purchased the Manor 400 years ago this October? There is no reason to think that it would have been a centre for educational excellence, with three Foundation schools at its core, and therefore a magnet for house-hunting parents from a wide area. Those of us who were not drawn to Dulwich by the schools were probably attracted by its environmental advantages; the open spaces, the trees and the playing fields which would long since have been built over but for Alleyn's College of God's Gift and the Dulwich Estate.
Alleyn has a lasting memorial in the Chapel, Edward Alleyn House and the schools, but a physical reminder in the form of a statue was long overdue. At the instigation of the Dulwich Society and thanks to the hard work and perseverance of some of its members this omission has at last been rectified. An Open Competition was held in 2004 and the design of a local sculptor, Louise Simson was chosen. A life-size sculpture to that design was unveiled on the green fronting the Old College on Saturday 9 October by our local M.P., the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell.
The occasion was blessed with fine, dry weather and was attended by around 400 people including many Dulwich Society members and other local residents. After Ms. Jowell had spoken briefly, we were treated to a colourful resume' of Alleyn's life as an actor, husband, entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist, delivered by Julian Glover, himself a former pupil of Alleyn's, where he received inspiration and encouragement for his subsequent distinguished acting career.
The three Foundation schools were in attendance: Alleyn's School pupils stewarded the event while music contemporary with Alleyn's time was provided by the Dulwich College Ensemble and the James Allen's Girls' School Ensemble and singers, enhancing the delightful nature of the occasion.
And what of the statue itself? It is a composition full of vitality, depicting a youthful Alleyn in doublet and hose bending towards a young boy who stretches out his hands in response, while Alleyn raises his other arm in the direction of the Foundation buildings. The sculpture claims the passer-by's attention by its sense of movement and by the engagement of the characters with each other.
Would Alleyn himself have approved? One suspects not! The self-image he was keen to promote once he had bought the Manor of Dulwich in 1605 and established his College of God's Gift some ten years later, was of a respected, philanthropic man of property. We are all familiar with this image through the portrait Alleyn presumably commissioned, which shows him as a soberly but richly dressed bearded man full of years and gravitas. Were Alleyn to have commissioned a statue of himself to stand in his College's grounds, it would presumably have been designed to convey the same message as his painted portrait. Such a statue, like many London statues of nineteenth century worthies, would have lacked vitality and hardly have prompted a second glance from passers-by.
The Garden Group
This has been a good summer for the Garden Group. A wide variety of local gardens were opened for our members and we are truly grateful to the owners for all the work that they put in to prepare them for our visit and for the helpful advice they give. One garden had a large- scale model railway, which appealed not only to the children - a 90 year old was spotted taking a ride! A number of charities benefited from these openings, and our plant sale organised by Sylvia and Ken Daniel raised £220 for the Mildmay Mission Hospital.
Every year we hold a competition. This year, to celebrate the Group's 25th anniversary, it was for the best silver (or white) flower. The winner was Judith Ward with a splendid Begonia, closely followed at joint second by Maureen Springbett with an outstanding Hydrangea and Eric Hamilton with a most unusual and attractive Clematis.
The weather was perfect for both of our full day outings. The first was to two of the finest gardens in England, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. More recently we had a thoroughly enjoyable day at Kew, which included a particularly interesting guided tour.
John Ward (Chairman, Garden Group)
Traffic and Transport
A number of improvements in road safety have recently been achieved by the Dulwich Society through the "Walk to School Campaign" promoted by Transport for London (TfL). These improvements followed consultation by the Society with local schools, Southwark Council members and officers and TfL. The places identified by the Dulwich Society and where work has been carried out include new zebra crossings built across Burbage Road and outside Alleyn's School in Townley Road and the entry treatment at the junction of Woodwarde Road and Calton Avenue. These measures will make it safer for children to walk to and from the Village schools as well as JAGS and Alleyn's.
The new speed table and crossing on Red Post Hill makes it safer for pupils from roads on the west side of Red Post Hill, including those in the North Dulwich triangle to get to school. It also slows the traffic in Red Post Hill, which was a big problem for residents there. The Dulwich Society worked with the Red Post Hill Residents' Association to achieve this change.
In the Village, changes to the layout of the roundabout at the south end are an improvement with the new island and cycle slip slowing southbound vehicles, but there are still conflicts between traffic coming from Gallery Road and traffic coming round the roundabout.
Finally, as the Newsletter goes to print, a new crossing is being built across the South Circular Road near the Queen Mary Gate. There, road crossing has previously been very hazardous for people alighting from buses and wanting to reach the Park or various sports grounds as well as for residents of Hambledon Place attempting to cross the road.
Alastair Hanton (Chairman, Traffic and Transport Group)
Herne Hill Velodrome
Cycling has now returned to the Velodrome but local residents have been concerned over the management of events. In one recent case, the track's managers, the Velo Club de Londrés, failed to open the gates to allow cars to park on the site. This caused chaos in Burbage Road and considerable annoyance to everyone in the area.
At the same time the Society understands that the Estate is continuing negotiations with Citygrove Estates to look at various development options which might provide a more secure future for the track. Both the Society and local residents' associations have reminded the Estate that any development not directly related to cycling will be unwelcome.
Mobile Telephone Masts
Southwark recently refused applications for a mast on the corner of Allison Grove and Dulwich Common and hopefully they will do the same for one in Alleyn Park by the railway bridge. Lambeth has also turned down a proposal for a mast on the corner of Rosendale Road and Lovelace Road.
A large number of people objected to the proposed mast on the Pelo Sports Ground, the subject of a recent consultation exercise by the Estate, and the Society awaits alternative proposals on suitable sites which will not impact on schools and homes.
Controlled Parking Zone
Southwark's proposed extension of the Controlled Parking Zone in Burbage Road, Carver Road and North Dulwich is rapidly turning into a consultation disaster. Despite requests for further discussion, the Council's consultants have consistently refused to meet local residents' associations and we understand that even Councillors are having trouble in finding out what is actually happening.
Village Petrol Station
S G Smith's application for Planning and Conservation Area Consent to remove the old tyre bay building on Gilkes Crescent, and demolish the canopy over the petrol station and turn both into car parks, has been turned down by Southwark on design grounds. The Council considered that the scheme did nothing to maintain or enhance the character of the conservation area.
Unfortunately the petrol pumps have already been removed - their retention is not a planning matter, and the site is being used as a car park for cars waiting to be serviced.
Frank Dixon Way
There has been a recent application to Southwark to demolish an existing 1950s house in Frank Dixon Way and replace it with a larger mock- Georgian style house. The architectural character of the road has always been medium sized detached houses on relatively wide plots. Over the years many houses have been extended but generally in such a way that the overall appearance has been preserved. While the Society is not against demolition in principle it is concerned that the new house will be much larger (to justify the costs of the site) and that this will impact upon the open character of the area. The society has objected to the current application.
The spate of residents carrying out unauthorised works on their properties, particularly to hard standings, continues. The latest problems have been in Red Post Hill, where the garden walls that protected the listed village mile post have been removed leaving it exposed and a prime target for reversing cars.
Dustbins & Enclosures
There was no response to the note in the last magazine about the growing problem of the impact of the green and brown dustbins on front gardens. Are residents generally happy with the visual clutter caused? Are they happy to trip over the bins left on the pavement? Do they not consider that there may be a better way?
Memorial Seat to Brian McConnell QGM
In association with Margaret McConnell, the Dulwich Society has provided a fine wooden bench-seat in memory of the late Brian McConnell QGM, the erstwhile editor of this Newsletter and distinguished Fleet Street journalist who died aged 75 in July 2004. The inscribed seat is located outside the College Road Gate of Dulwich Park.
Gatherings of Friends, invoked to support worthy local institutions, monuments and open spaces, have grown and multiplied in recent years. Dulwich has developed its own impressive array of them As with amenity societies, residents' associations and other voluntary organisations the only certainty is that, however many of them one has recognised there will always be yet another one that has been left out, often to the indignation of its supporters. It is clearly high time to make a proper taxonomic study of the nature, behaviour and common features of an important species. This is little more than a cautious introduction to an emotive theme.
Who Needs Enemies?
One class of single issue group emerges when there is a cause to fight, with a clearly defined opposition. The Crystal Palace Campaign was a notably successful example: the Save Dulwich Hospital campaign was another. It is sometimes more difficult to maintain community support for what happens subsequently. When more than one body exercises a proprietary voice on behalf of the community this can make life difficult for the local council, hospital authority, or any other body which actually owns the property, especially if it may unguardedly have expressed an intention to dispose of an underperforming asset. One has some sympathy with hard-pressed local authorities trying to allocate scarce financial resources. At the same time there has been deep suspicion, often justified, of development with an eye only to financial gain. Friends' groups have arisen to assert the community's interest in preserving a local amenity where its survival is threatened, or where it has manifestly been neglected for some time, perhaps with a conscious eye on "planning blight".
We are still not free of the painful long-term consequences of a country virtually bankrupted by two world wars. Destruction of the Crystal Palace occurred independently of these, but cumulative neglect of our public parks and other Victorian features has continued for most of the last century. Buildings become obsolete. Some local institutions such as Dulwich Hospital have lost their original functions and have sought new ones. Victorian cemeteries have filled and public baths have emptied, horse troughs and drinking fountains provide less succour than petrol stations to needy travellers; cycle stadia no longer meet metric specifications; libraries founded through the charity of public-spirited Victorian figures like Carnegie and Passmore-Edwards now give more shelf prominence to CDs and DVDs than to books; the permanent collection of the South London Gallery is now cocooned in bubble-wrap and is in deep storage.
Areas of Conflict
Identifying a new community need for superannuated assets is often a necessary first step in bringing about their rescue or rehabilitation, but it is not enough to see the process through. Local authorities have now become more responsive to the declared wishes of local communities. Friends' groups have certainly helped to articulate these. Local authorities may also welcome them because they hope to raise more money in this way from local communities, but this is probably only a long-term aspiration. Councils must sometimes regard Friends' Groups as being as much an irritant as a blessing, but the Heritage Lottery Fund has been a positive godsend in obtaining new funding to renovate local parks and galleries, and the existence of active Friends' groups has certainly been a key feature in securing this. The Dulwich Park Friends, for example, helped Southwark Council considerably in assembling the Lottery Fund application.
Local councils have not only been the custodians of less than welcome long-term assets. Dulwich Picture Gallery was for many years owned uncomfortably by Alleyn's College Estates. The contrast between what the Gallery now is and was in the 1960's could hardly be more acute. Then it showed every symptom of being little more than an expensive liability, instead of a priceless asset. The Estates Governors were reluctant to provide even heating or artificial light. The Gallery has been probably the most striking local example of where a vigorous Friends' organisation has contributed greatly to the success of the Gallery's now thriving and widening reputation. Last year the Friends' celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. They have been largely instrumental in providing much of the Gallery's civilising atmosphere and amenity, in close co-operation with a recent succession of active Directors.
The status of the Gallery was transformed when it parted from the other beneficiaries in 1995 into a separate Trust, when Alleyn's College Estates was reorganised as The Dulwich Estate. Independence such as this has invariably been the most effective way of focussing the management and finance of similar institutions. This has certainly served the Horniman Museum well, but also leaves these institutions with the responsibility of finding most of their financial capital (either with or without the support of the local authority).
Both of these institutions have benefited immeasurably from having active Friends' organisations. The Picture Gallery has achieved financial independence largely through the generosity of its patrons, and like other galleries in London it has established a slightly privileged hierarchy of access among its Friends. Unlike the Horniman Museum the Dulwich Gallery charges for general admission, so the Friends derive financial advantage from belonging, as well as from their admission to special exhibitions, for which the Horniman is able to charge. Both institutions have also benefited from large Lottery Fund grants and the Friends have helped to raise substantial additional finance.
The Picture Gallery's current total of around six thousand Friends is a continuing source of pride. Friends' activities, both in the Dulwich Picture Gallery and in the Horniman, continue to be organised through programmes separate from the exhibitions and special events arranged by the Galleries themselves, which can cause occasional confusion to visitors. There is a current debate in several galleries whether to bring Friends' organisations "in house" to avoid this, but it is generally regarded as important that Friends are a valuable measure of community support and should have their independent existence.
Friends' groups help to assert that local communities regard their public assets as being of social value which is greater than merely their financial development value. They seem to function best where they work in close collaboration with the authorities responsible for managing these assets, where individual institutions are under active and imaginative direction, and where the adequacy of their finances is assured and budgets are under their own control. This is a formula we hope can develop further.
Not at Your Service
Numerous complaints have been made at the monopolising of public road space around the S.G. Smith Motors Group's showroom and garage in Dulwich Village. Not only can customers using Village shops not find a parking space, but residents in Gilkes Crescent are facing a similar problem caused by the parking of cars awaiting servicing, in front of their houses. Further concern over the appearance of the garage is also being voiced - weeds are growing in profusion and the entire service complex is unsatisfactory in a Conservation Area. While it begs the question whether businesses of this type should be located in a Conservation Area, it has to be accepted that the garage is a long established feature of the area. Paradoxically, many residents like the 1930's style filling station and some would like to seek a building listing from English Heritage.
So, what to do? Parking restrictions around the Village centre are a long overdue. Treated sympathetically, as has been carried out in Lordship Lane, some restriction would seem to offer the best solution. There, 30 minute waiting is permitted in marked bays. One thing is certain; the situation cannot be allowed to drift on. The general public should not be inconvenienced by the cavalier treatment of a commercial company and a half-dismantled petrol station at one end of the complex is hardly a good advertisement for either SG Smith or Dulwich.
Finding a safe spot
Two recent news reports, one good and one bad, might influence those of nervous disposition. In the first report, in the aftermath of the New Orleans flooding, fears were expressed concerning global warming and the possible rise in sea levels. The report said that in the event of the Thames Barrier failing to control exceptionally high tides, parts of Lambeth would be inundated. History also reminds us that Peckham flooded in the middle ages. Not good news for residents in the Effra or Peck river flood plains. Out of sight, the rivers might be, being now converted to sewers, but not apparently out of mind.
So what about the good news? Well, at the same time as this bad news was released, came the announcement that among the national monuments that have been provisionally listed for international protection in case of war under The Hague Convention of 1954, is the Horniman Museum. It thus joins a list which includes13 other national museums (but not the Dulwich Picture Gallery), 23 world heritage sites and Britain's seven legal deposit libraries.
Thus the nervous resident is advised to move to the high ground close to the Horniman Museum and thus avoid being both flooded and bombed!
Oil in Dulwich?
You may have seen what you thought was an oil drilling rig in Calton Avenue recently. We have to report that it was not drilling for oil but it is an exploratory part of the scheme for a 50 mile Ring Main to transfer water supplies around London. Thames Water is proposing a 3 mile extension tunnel between Peckham and Brixton, hence the investigation in Calton Avenue. The average depth of the Ring Main will be 40 metres and the giant pipe will be large enough to drive a car through. As with the original Ring Main, work will be completed by underground boring machines to minimise disruption at ground level. The main ring will be well below the level of the oyster beds along Dulwich Village which have been revealed by other local digging operations.
Hotline - Southwark
Dulwich Society member, Barrie Warrener, who lives at Woodsyre, Sydenham Hill was irked by an outburst of graffiti in that area and found the service offered by Southwark Council which arranges for it to be removed free of charge (even on private property) quite excellent. Barrie says the department is prompt and polite. If you have problems with graffiti they can be contacted on 020 7525 2000 or by email on
Barrie says it's usually dealt with in 24-48 hours.
Potholes in Roads
The Dulwich Society Traffic and Transport Committee has received an increasing number of reports of potholes appearing in local roads. These potholes are a particular danger to cyclists, especially in wet weather. The hotline for reporting this hazard is the same as quoted above. In addition, identification of the location of the potholes can be reported to the same email address. Faults in TfL roads can be reported by ringing 0845 305 1234.
Redundant Road Signs
Southwark Council is systemically visiting every road in the Borough and removing all redundant road signage and repositioning signs which remain relevant but whose fixing location could be improved by utilising an alternative location and removing its post. In conjunction with this Southwark is also formalising a policy of streetscape design, part of which will reduce the numbers of unnecessary items being installed. An example of this is within 20 mile per hour speed zones where signs formerly gave warning of humps. Such signs within the zones are to be removed. A change in traffic regulations also means that where double yellow lines exist there is no longer a requirement to display an enforcement sign plate. These are being removed, together with the posts.
If members wish to notify Southwark Council of any redundant item of street signage, the same Hotline number above may be used or by email at
Building the past into our future - exhibition at Dulwich Community Hospital
Over 200 local people attended an open day at Dulwich Community Hospital in July to open a new exhibition called Building the past into our future and learn about the many varied local health and social care services provided in Dulwich. The permanent exhibition celebrates both the history of Dulwich Hospital and shares Southwark Health and Social Care's exciting plans to develop the new community hospital.
The plans for the new building show a three to four-storey building on the east of the site. The compact design of the building makes it easy for patients to receive treatment at different points when they visit and combine appointments with access to a wide range of health and social care professionals. The community hospital will include services such as:
- A primary care centre staffed by GPs, social workers, health visitors and district nurses
- A dental practice
- Community chronic disease centre, supporting patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes or coronary heart disease.
- There are also plans in the pipeline for a wellbeing centre and café.
There will be a strong emphasis on rehabilitation services designed to get patients back on their feet and into their own homes.
A programme to move services into temporary accommodation on the site and undertake other preparatory works will begin in the New Year.
For further information, please contact Wendy Foreman on 020 7525 2245 or visit www.dulwichcommunityhospital.nhs.uk.
The London Borough of Southwark has developed a Planning Brief for the site which was adopted on July 5, 2005. For further information please contact Sarah Beuden on 020 7 525 5418 or email
Grade II Application Fails
The Dulwich Society's application to English Heritage to preserve the 'chateau' style main block of Dulwich Hospital has been rejected. The building was assessed in 1994 and again in 2002. On both occasions it was considered that the building was too altered and not of high enough architectural quality to recommend listing. The main arguments for its rejection were that the former St Saviour's Workhouse Infirmary which opened in 1887 was not innovative for its date in terms of plan form, which by then was a fairly orthodox pavilion plan. English Heritage concede that there is 'some fine detailing, particularly the impressive central range (the chateau element)..it has been systematically altered and extended so that on balance, it is not of sufficient interest, in the national context to merit listing."
The Dulwich Society however thinks that English Heritage have considered the Hospital in toto for listing, not the chateau block alone, and a re-application is to be made.
A recent visit to the Hospital by a member of the Society led him to express great concern over the deterioration of the fabric "It has clearly had no external decoration for many years; window cills were rotting and vegetation was growing out of the gutters and parapets. There is also evidence serious damp penetration internally. While we know that the medium term plan is to demolish parts of the hospital to build a new community hospital, that is no reason to let buildings that will be remaining go into decline".
When is a Park not a Park?
The area around the lake in Belair is fast becoming a battlefield between the Friends of Belair Park and Southwark Council. The cause of conflict is over the appropriate use of this part of the park ; wildlife conservationists, no doubt encouraged by the return of flora and fauna to the lakeside when it was left to go wild following the dredging of the lake itself, are now pressing for a wildlife walk along the banks. Other lovers of Belair Park are keen it is returned to its original state as an ornamental lake, with neat lawns sweeping down from the mansion and regard the obstruction to the view caused by long grass and foliage as an irritation. The idea of siting an ecology area in that corner of Belair where the spill from the lake was dumped is surely the most satisfactory conclusion.
On a more encouraging note; the refurbishment of Belair's tennis courts is a splendid improvement. The 'free-play' on the courts at present being offered is also to be welcomed and the temporary skate-board ramp sited next to the courts appears to be a great success.
Confessions of a Bad Mother - Stephanie Calman
Review by Hazel Broadfoot
Are you a super-duper, totally fulfilled mother twenty-four hours a day? Do you give your children home-made risotto, help them with their homework, read a fairy story and sing them to sleep? Or do you give them chicken nuggets in front of the telly, herd them to bed and slump down exhausted with a large glass of wine?
Local author Stephanie Calman, founder of www.badmothersclub.co.uk tells it as it really is in her brilliantly funny new book Confessions of a Bad Mother - read it, and know - at last - that you are Normal!
On the Street Where You Live - Ian McInnes continues his series on Dulwich's development
Saturday 3rd South London Chorus (performing name of The Dulwich Choral Society) Concert - Mozart's Vesperi and Handel's Dixit Dominus. Conductor: Susan Farrow. At 7.30pm at St. John's Church, Auckland Road, SE 19. Tickets at the door.
Sunday 4th Holy Communion and Meditation Service for Advent with choirs of St. Barnabas, Christ's Chapel and All Saints, West Dulwich. Director of Music: Timothy Penrose with William McVicar, organ. The music includes Missa Festiva by Flor Peeters and the anthem O Thou the Central Orb by Charles Wood. 6.30pm St. Barnabas Church.
Thursday 8th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society All done on Ginger Beer - Creation of the E.N.O., the Royal Ballet and the National Theatre lecture by Sarah Lenton, archivist to E.N.O. 1979-1987. 8pm James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Tuesday 13th Dulwich Subscription Concert - Phantasmagoria - vocal ensemble, Poulenc, Graham Ross, Monteverdi - Followed by a Christmas Party. The Old Library, Dulwich College at 7.30pm. Tickets £15 (concs £10) from Sabrina Faulkner 020 8761 6659
Concert of Christmas Music - Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery. In Christ's Chapel, Dulwich Village at 6pm. Performed by pupils of Alleyn's School and celebrity readers. Tickets £12 (includes wine and mince pies and free entry to Beatrix Potter Exhibition)
Sunday 18th St. Barnabas Church 6.30pm Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Music includes Adam lay ybounden by Howard Skempton, Angelus ad Virginem by Andrew Carter, O Little Town of Bethlehem by Ian Hubbard and A babe is born all of a May by William Mathias.
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society A History of Chinese Art as seen at the Hotung Gallery at the British Museum. Lecture by Carol Michaelson, Assistant Keeper, Dept. of Oriental Antiquities. 8pm James Allen's Girls' School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Tuesday 24th Dulwich Subscription Concert - The Alea Quartet. The Old Library, Dulwich College at 7.30pm Amanda Lake - violin, Esther King - Violin, Lydia Bunn- viola, Yu-Ting Tseng - cello. Tickets £15 (concs £10) from Sabrina Faulkner 020 8761 6659
Tuesday 9th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Baron Haussman' Paris, Capital of Modernity Lecture by Thirzaq Valois. 8pm James Allen's Girls'School Sixth Form Lecture Theatre.
Monday 22nd - May 21st Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibition Winslow Homer - Poet of the Sea.
What is it about the Alleyn Park area that has made it such fertile ground for actors and actresses? During the selection of the design for the Edward Alleyn statue, Prunella Scales mentioned that she attended the Old Vic Theatre school in the early 1950's which was then occupying the present Rosemead School premises in Thurlow Park Road and had 'digs' in Alleyn Park. She must therefore have been a near neighbour of Julian Glover who told us at the statue unveiling that as a schoolboy he lived in Alleyn Park and when he went to Alleyn's he was launched on his career by one of its teachers - the inspirational Michael Croft.
Were either aware that the film star Rosamund John (1913-98) also lived in Alleyn Park with her husband, the politician John Silkin? Although she got her first notice for the 1934 film "The Secret of the Loch" it was in the 1940's that she dominated the screen with "Johnny in the Clouds", "Spitfire" (1942) "Green for Danger" (1946) and "The Way to the Stars" (1944) in which she starred as Michael Redgrave's wife in that patriotic and popular film. In the 1950's she largely abandoned her acting to involve herself in supporting her husband's political career and her last film was "Operation Murder" in 1957.
Curiously yet another famous actor was also a resident of Alleyn Park at this time - David Farrar (1908 -95 ). Born in Forest Gate, Essex he was originally a journalist before taking to the stage. After spending some time in repertory he became actor-manager of his own company in 1930. In the same year he took over the lead in The Wandering Jew in the West End, bringing notices that immediately established him as one of most promising young leading men in the West End. He took over Grafton's Theatre in Tottenham Court Road for a series of plays.
He says he was 'lured' into films in 1937 and made his screen debut in "The Face behind the Scar". During his sojourn in Dulwich, Farrar's theatre was bombed and he was called up by the Ministry of War and put to work making propaganda films. He was responsible for the feature "For those in peril" (1944), much of which was shot during actual manoeuvres in the English Channel. Handsome and authoritative, Farrar flourished as a dashing romantic lead in the 1940's. He moved effortlessly from "B" picture intrigues such as the character Sexton Blake to the more prestigious environs of "Black Narcissus" (1946) and "The Wild Heart" (1950).His other memorable films were "The Small Back Room" (1949) and "Gone to Earth" (1950).
From 1951-59 Farrar commuted between London and Hollywood. He was generally cast as a sardonic villain, a rare exception being his anguished portrait of Alfred Dreyfus' s justice-seeking brother in "I Accuse" (1958). He retired from acting in the early 1960's and following the death of his wife, the actress Irene Elliot in 1976, resettled in South Africa to be near their daughter. In 1948 he published his autobiography No Royal Road
It's that Sparrow Hawk again
Following the dramatic reports of Sparrow Hawk kills of pigeons in previous articles comes the sad tale of a Collared Dove in Ron and Pat Kidd's garden in Half Moon Lane, caught and plucked on 31 July with photographic evidence. We don't have too many Collared Doves in Dulwich so cannot really have spared this one. They are much less intrusive than the ubiquitous Feral and Wood Pigeons, although the monotony of their calls can grate (sometimes depicted by the words "It's awful, it's awful"). One other dove made its appearance this summer, the easily overlooked and very shy Stock Dove about five of which took advantage of the closure of the velodrome to feed on the central grass. They probably are resident here in the cover of our woodlands, distinguished from the Wood Pigeons by their smaller size, blue-grey colouration and an emerald green area on each side of the neck. It was the first time I had definitely seen them in Dulwich but perhaps I had simply missed them over previous years.
Our Dulwich birds this summer appear to have had a good enough year. House Martins and Swifts clearly bred well with sometimes over 50 of each species to be seen at one time. A Whitethroat and two or three Blackcaps nested in the velodrome site, House Sparrows once more returned to our gardens and a good number of Blackbird, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tit families are now feeding in flocks together with the occasional Coal Tit. There was also a report by Mr and Mrs Harrod who live nearby of Nightingales singing in Sydenham Hill Woods, though by the time I went to listen it was past their singing season. The year also yielded a surprising number of Goldfinches which clearly successfully bred although these are now much less in evidence. The endangered Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was once more seen in College Road and both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been visiting our gardens regularly, the Green Woodpeckers being partial to ants.
The Wildlife Group of the Dulwich Society asked David Clark and myself to conduct a survey of birds in Dulwich Park during the breeding season and we made a prolonged visit on the morning of May 17th. We found a total of 32 species but probably counted half the birds present as it was evident that most of their better halves were sitting on nests. Most numerous were Robins and Blackbirds with respectively 36 and 38 territories representing twice that number of birds. We counted seven singing male Song Thrushes which I estimate must be 50% down on past times, but twelve singing male Chaffinches was a larger number than I expected. Ring Necked Parakeets are becoming a regular feature of the park. We counted five and I see a regular party of six or more commuting between Dulwich and Brockwell Parks and Brian Green tells me that they have taken up residence in hole in a tree next to his garden.
Butterfly numbers fluctuate from year to year and this year I saw fewer Orange Tips than usual. But the wild area of the velodrome carried significant numbers of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Large and Small Skippers, Common and Holly Blues with both Red Admirals and Tortoiseshells breeding in the nettles. These insects are clearly the residual population from more rural times and if we wish to retain them we will need to keep this as a wild area.
Ian Holt of the London Wildlife Trust tells me that they have been trapping and surveying the Bats of the Dulwich Woods on which I hope to report next time. In the meantime keep giving me your reports and any photographs that you may have taken.
Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)
Many of the older folk will remember when the Dulwich Hand Bell Ringers used to come round at Christmas to collect for the Greater London Fund for the Blind and it may be of interest to learn something of the history of these bells of which the oldest dates from about 1883. The main two octaves were made by a long defunct firm called George Welch who had a foundry on Bankside. The next part of their history is a little uncertain but in the 1920's they were acquired by my late uncle, Mr Arthur Combes when he purchased them from the Rye Lane Baptist Chapel. It is probable that they had acquired them from Spurgeon's Orphanage at Stockwell whose headmaster, Dr. Green, was also organist at Rye Lane Chapel. It is known that Spurgeon's had a set of bells and that they used them regularly. I, myself, heard them ringing at Rye Lane Chapel in 1925.
After Dr. Green left the chapel it seems that the bells may have been left behind and my uncle extended their range to make a three octave chromatic set. These were cast by Mears & Stainbank at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. My uncle had a small team of Alleyn's boys meeting at his house to practice ringing and eventually the bells were used at a couple of local churches for concerts and other entertainments and the door-to-door street collections for the Greater London Fund for the Blind followed. The aim was to cover every street in SE21 and SE22 from Forest Hill Road right over to Herne Hill! Barry Road was always excluded on the grounds that it was too noisy and too long! The bells were accompanied by a small portable organ and the music for each ringer was on a little tray with a lamp on it, suspended round the ringer's neck and the bells were on ropes around the ringer's shoulders so they could not drop to the ground. At around 9.45pm we would go back to my uncle's house to count the money and have a much needed cup of tea and mince pies. After my uncle's death, I carried on the tradition for many years and then passed the Dulwich Hand Bells on to my neighbour, Ruth Lyon, a music teacher at Bessemer Grange School.
I well remember the sound of the hand bells in the street outside, heralding the Christmas season. I am very pleased to be able to carry on the tradition of hand bell ringing at Bessemer Grange Primary School where I teach two teams of ringers using the Dulwich bells. In addition to performing at school and at local festivals, we have twice played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, providing hand bell parts in specially commissioned works. Other performances include the Globe theatre and numerous appearances on the HMS Belfast. Perhaps the most memorable concert was the magnificent production of 'Noah's Fludde' at St Barnabas Church in 2000. At the beginning of this rarely performed work the hand bells accompanied the voice of God as he speaks to Noah, and at the end they played as the rainbow appears.
Our most recent performance was in Mr. Gildersleve's front garden, where our team of eight players set up stands and music. As he opened his front door the children began their programme of three pieces much to his delight. They then presented him with an enormous home made card and some chocolates in appreciation of his kindness and help.
Lorchy Blane? That was how I knew Lordship Lane when I was 4 years old in 1923. I can clearly remember being wheeled along in a push chair with the rain pattering down on the hood on one of the many weekly shopping expeditions. There was no traffic apart from the occasional horse and cart of some local trader or a coal merchant on his way to make a delivery. I remember the sound of the rattle and bang of an electric tram bouncing on its way to Forest Hill.
There were no supermarkets in those days. The nearest approach to a supermarket was David Greig's at numbers 145-153. I am not sure, but I think the name is still on the tiled entry to one of the shops. One went to the right-hand counter for bacon and ham, which was sliced on a lovely hand-operated bacon-slicer which could be adjusted for thickness of slice and went "Kersway, kersway,kersway, kersway" as the handle was turned and the slices cut. When the right amount was cut, it was wrapped by the operator who then gave you a bill with the cost marked on it. You then took this to the very posh mahogany cash desk with a big clock above it. The cashier took the money and receipted the bill and you returned with this to the bacon counter to receive the wrapped bacon. The left-hand counter was for sugar, biscuits etc., and the same procedure was followed. Sugar was kept loose in big red bins and shovelled out as required. I have one of these bins at home.
A few yards further on was Piper's, a more comprehensive grocer. This was on the corner of Hansler Road. Many of the old names were still around until fairly recently. Shinkfield has had several different shops in Lordship Lane from time to time. Opposite what is now Somerfields (formerly Whybrow's radio shop) was a large ladies' wear emporium comprising about four shops knocked into one. This was Trundle's which sold millinery and lingerie. It had a fascinating cash collecting system whereby, the cash and the bill were put in a screw-capped wooden container which whizzed along overhead wires to the cashier and was returned with your change.
Between Trundle's and Goose Green was a large greengrocer's which was there until recently and almost opposite was Redgewell's which was a very good butcher's. Recently this was opened as a restaurant and upon restoring the shop front the name Redgewell was exposed in large gold leaf lettering. It was decided to keep the name for the new restaurant.
Going south from here there were many assorted businesses including three branches of Curtis Brothers and Dumbrill, the predecessors of the United Dairies, which eventually became Unigate after merging with Cow & Gate Dairies. On the corner of Bassano Street was the Champion Hill Steam Laundry. This had a huge boiler in Bassano Street where I spent many happy moments watching and listening to the steam!
Crossing Lordship Lane and continuing south at 263/5 was Mr. Marsland's South London School with a classroom in the back garden. This was my class for a short while. It is still there as a dwelling with the entrance in Heber Road. Beyond this were residential properties until the shopping complex around the Plough P.H. was reached. This area was badly bombed in WWll but has not basically changed much except for the 'new' St. Thomas More R.C. church, and from there onwards was housing until the junction with Court Lane where there was a Fire Station where the telephone exchange now stands. On the site of Bew Court flats stood no. 508, this was Marsland's South London Preparatory School, a large dilapidated house, of which I have pleasant memories of slaving away in the first floor front room on a hot summer's day with the sound of the trams gliding down the hill with the soothing "toc, toc, toc" sound of the current collector clicking over the joints in the live rail in the slot beneath the road surface.
Beyond was the Grove Tavern and then St. Peter's church, which had a pleasant country-sounding clock chime, now, sadly, disused. To conclude this interesting street was the railway bridge just before the Horniman Museum where there was also Lordship Lane station, on the branch line from New Cross to Crystal Palace High Level station on the Parade.