On the Street Where You Live - Frank Dixon Way by Ian McInnes
Austin Vernon, the Estate's Architect and Surveyor, prepared the original layout for the site, them known as the College Road and Dulwich Common development, during the early part of 1946 and the initial proposals were approved by the Governors on 25th May that year. The Architect reported 'I have prepared a sketch layout plan showing the development of the 'Ryecotes' meadow and the formation of a road from Dulwich Common through to College Road linking up with Alison Grove. It will be necessary to acquire the following properties to put the scheme into affect, viz., 'Papplewick', No 33 College Road, and the sites of the two demolished houses adjoining, also the kitchen garden of 'Oakfield', No. 41 College Road and a portion of the garden of 'Glenlea', Dulwich Common'. The two demolished houses were Elm Lodge and Manor Lodge, Nos. 35 and 37 College Road, that had been bombed during the war, and the site also included a large part of the rear garden of Bell House abutting Dulwich Park. The lease of Bell House had been handed back to the Governors by Dulwich College in 1941 (it had formerly been the headmaster's house) and it had then been most recently used as a store for some of the pictures from the Picture Gallery.
The original intention was to develop the site by setting up a building society or 'public utility company' as it was then called, in a similar fashion to the Governors' earlier development in Roseway and Turney Road after the First World War, but this idea was not pursued. During 1947 a major problem arose when the site was included in the Borough of Camberwell's proposed compulsory purchase programme on the Dulwich Estate along with Bessamer Grange, Kingswood House and various areas around Herne Hill and Sydenham Hill. The Governors were very concerned but successfully lobbied against the site's inclusion in a meeting with Council Officers in October 1947, obtaining an agreement that the College Road and Dulwich Common site would be left for the Governors own development.
The London County Council granted planning consent for the scheme on 19th February 1950 just prior to the publication of the draft County of London Plan. The consent contained two provisos; the first required the development to take account of a possible future widening of Dulwich Common, while the second required the incorporation of part of the site into Dulwich Park. The Governors objected strongly to losing any land to the Park reminding the LCC that they had previously 'dedicated the whole of Dulwich Park, an area of 75 acres, for the use of the public without consideration'. The LCC backed down.
Drawings and specifications for the new road were prepared in March 1951 and tenders were returned early in May. There was some concern over the disparity in the two lowest tenders but, in the end, the Governors chose the cheapest, the appropriately named 'Road and Drive Surfacing Company'. Work went on for nearly four years, presumably because of problems obtaining materials, and the road was not finally completed until May 1955, after work on the first houses had begun. The names Frank Dixon Way and Frank Dixon Close were approved by the LCC in June 1954, Frank Dixon having been the Chairman of the Estate's Trustees in 1946-48.
During 1953, the original scheme which included three blocks of flats behind Bell House was re-appraised after the Governors had difficulty in securing finance, and it was decided to go for an alternative layout of ten houses around a close (Frank Dixon Close) as that was clearly where the demand was. After some initial reluctance from the LCC, planning consent for the revised plans was obtained in February 1954. At the same time the Estate tidied up the boundary with the Park, the Architect reporting 'In connection with the development of the new roadway and footpath, it was considered desirable to straighten out the irregular boundary of Dulwich Park. The LCC parks department were approached on the matter and the revision of the boundary has been agreed'.
The sites had been advertised from early 1953 on the basis of an annual ground rent of £33. By 1956 these had risen to £35 with £37.10s the going rate in Frank Dixon Close. Sales were slow but consistent with most purchasers already living locally. In October the Manager reported that he was negotiating with at least five doctors amongst the applicants for sites and there was some concern over a potential proliferation of brass plates in the road.
As ever on the Estate, things did not quite go to plan. The removal of building licence controls in November 1954 with their restriction on house size was good news, but some building materials were still in short supply, and the problems in completing the road, and the very bad weather over the winter of 1954-55 meant that many of the houses were delayed. Parts of the site were also affected by water and there is a plaintive note from one potential owner who, writing to the Estate to request an extension of time to his building lease, noting that 'the site is particularly difficult as it is low lying ground with water on the surface, which will call for a greater expense in the foundations. My architect has found it very difficult to obtain a satisfactory estimate for building the house, but efforts are being made to secure a builder and I hope to commence work without delay'. Costs seemed to be a general problem and it was clear that either purchasers had not fully appreciated the amount of money required to build a new house or the amount of work going on in the area had meant that prices had risen.
There were other problems with securing agreements. Some potential purchasers began negotiations and then moved away while others were delayed by domestic problems such as illness. In one case the Estate withdrew their acceptance of an offer because of the delay but, in the end, it was advised that they should not do so on lest they be taken to court.
Plots 1 and 2 (35 & 37 College Road) were leased to a Mr Styles, a builder, and the designs prepared by Austin Vernon in his preferred 'white cement render and pitched roof' style. On the 8th March 1954 the Architect reported that 'Mr Styles has been ill and has also been unable to commence building operations because the new road has not been completed. He asks if the Governors will agree to the building agreement commencing from the 25th March 1954, the period for building and the period for the peppercorn rent to be 12 months from that date.' The Governors agreed.
During 1957, Austin Vernon designed an entrance gate noting 'I submit a sketch of a proposed entrance to Frank Dixon Way from College Road utilising the wrought iron gates removed from No. 1 Crescent Wood Road'. By 1958 the scheme was complete although in May the Estate tried to fit one more house in Frank Dixon Way. It was stopped by the new residents. The Architect noted 'This land, which was formerly attached to the lease of Papplewick, No 33 College Road was surrendered to the Governors as from the 29th September 1956. It was intended that the land should be let on a building agreement for a detached house, but representations were received from the lessees of the houses in Frank Dixon Way, who maintained they designed and erected their houses on the assumption that this land would not be developed.' Professor Kendal, the owner of No. 1 Frank Dixon Close agreed to incorporate the land as part of his garden at an additional ground rent of £20 per annum.
Most of the houses were designed by Austin Vernon & Partners, the houses by Austin Vernon himself can be identified by their white render finish, 'white cement' as he called it, and also the Dutch gables. Apparently he was very interested in Dutch architecture and spent many of his holidays in the Netherlands. Whether potential purchasers were advised to go to him is not recorded but those who used their own architects often had a hard time from him. He had a clear idea of what the development would look like and was not prepared to consider alternative design approaches; as Estate Architect he had to approve all the designs. David Goddard, the architect of the 1930s modernist 13 College Road (now demolished), had more difficulty than most but the unluckiest was an architect called Harrington who designed No.18 for a Mr F P Fisher. In this particular case Austin Vernon was extremely tardy about responding to correspondence and the owner wrote to the Governors requesting that they instruct their Architect to be more helpful.
One of the innovations at the 2005 Dulwich Festival was the appearance of a film evening of short films made by local directors. Out of that successful evening has sprung the Dog and Hat Film Society which has a programme of monthly showings of more local film-makers work at the Crown and Greyhound, Dulwich Village.
David Grey, Programming Director of Dog and Hat says:
"What is different about the Dog and Hat film society is our links to film production. Most film societies just show films to film buffs. Our members are not only film fans, but local film- makers as well. And we want to expand that. We are linked to Village Film, a not-for-profit company providing film training to young people in South London and screening their films. Dog and Hat is also linked to a documentary production company, Silver City Films, which specialises in social issues and human rights stories. We want Dog and Hat to be a fulcrum around which no-budget, emerging film-makers of South London can get their first efforts made and screened. And we want to bridge the gap between audience and film-maker, creating a thriving film community in South London"
Screenings are held (usually) the first Thursday of every month. Food and drink is available at the bar. Each evening is themed and some will include talks and Q&A sessions with directors. There is a mid-screening intermission to enable socialising and networking. Dog and Hat is a division of Village Film Ltd., which aims to train local young people as community filmmakers to exhibit and distribute local filmmakers' work.
Many of the directors are Dulwich based and already work in TV and Film. Charlotte Rowles is currently working in TV productions like Big Brother and has made a short documentary herself about the jury system. Bob Sohanpal has just completed Ducks, a short drama about two elderly couples, filmed at a pub off Red Post Hill. Adam Young, who works on BBC's Spooks, was the winner of the Best Newcomer prize at this year's Dulwich Festival for his first independent film, the comedy Bloody Squirrels filmed in Ruskin Park and is about a man who learns not to mess around with our fluffy-tailed friends. David Grey has lived in Dulwich since 1966 and has been making short documentaries about human rights and social issues for two years. Next March, his 60 minute documentary about political prisoners in the Caribbean will be premiered in London.
The next screening of Dog and Hat will be 12 January and the programme will include Common Ground a charming yet insightful short documentary by Yvonne Halloran about London's eclectic and ethnically diverse allotment communities, and Yam a feature length satire in which a put-upon middle-aged woman starts growing yams in her attic as a natural remedy for her menopausal problems. When the police jump to the conclusion she is a cannabis trafficker, chaos ensues - with surprising and far reaching consequences!
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) is a household name in America, considered by many to be America's greatest artist. There he ranks alongside James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, both so much better known in Britain. Homer's watercolours are some of the best anywhere, crystalline in freshness and quality. His accent is uniquely American, and his vision has become part of America's self-image. Although so little known in this country, he did visit, painting seascapes in Northumberland from 1880-81.
This exhibition - the first ever one-man show devoted to Winslow Homer in this country - will reveal the full wealth of his talent, linking him to the great tradition of Western painting represented so richly on the walls of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Homer painted fine military scenes, inventive images of domestic life, portrayals of black experience, but he is perhaps at his most magical in his landscapes and seascapes, both in oil and watercolour. These works demonstrate well his freshness of vision, his humanity, his inventiveness, his emotional and psychological complexity.
This exhibition (curated by Sophie Lévy, curator at the Musée d'Art Américain, Giverny, and Turner expert, Eric Shanes) will come as a revelation to the British public. Exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery 22 February-21 May 2006
An Exhibition titled Young Art was held at Dulwich Picture Gallery from 17-21 May 2005 in association with Cancer Research UK, with the theme "Everyday Life". Work by a number of South London schools was on display and that of Turney School was exceptional. We asked Sid Robinson, Head of Art at the school to tell us about the school.
Turney School opened at the end of the 19th century although the original building was replaced in the 1960's. It would seem that Turney has always catered for children and young people with special educational needs and today the school has pupils aged between five and sixteen years, who have a range of needs including Down Syndrome, ADHD (attention deficit hyper-activity disorder), EBD (emotional behaviour disorder), but increasingly with Autistic spectrum disorders. For those students who lack effective language skills, a variety of communication approaches are taken, including Makaton, a variant sign language, and PECS, a pictorial (symbol) exchange communication system.
Turney School draws pupils from a wide catchment area; from Maida Vale, through Westminster and on to Croydon, though increasingly, as special needs schools are closing and more of the children with moderate learning difficulties are catered for within mainstream provision, the demand is great for the few places offered each year at Turney School.
As in all schools, Turney children and young people follow the National Curriculum and enjoy extra curricular activities such as after-school football club and sporting tournaments. The pupils enjoy music and have performed four successful musical productions. Visits to art galleries and visits from artists enrich the curriculum for all our pupils. The pupils are encouraged to learn in every way. We have 150 children on role and the school offers a calm and nurturing environment, which allows the pupils to learn in small classes to achieve success in examinations and develop personally. There is a heavy emphasis on life skills and independent learning and the children are supported not only by the teachers and support staff, but also by speech and occupational staff and physiotherapists. The school endeavours to make learning both meaningful and enjoyable.
We at Turney School were thrilled to have three pieces of work chosen by "Young Art" in aid of Cancer Research UK, to hang alongside work by some of the best and most able students at schools across London. Some of the students who exhibited at the Royal College of Art also had their work shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. This was a fabulous opportunity to meet representatives from other local mainstream and independent schools and see the standard of work achieved by their students. In addition it was wonderful that one of the Turney students was able to attend the Private View and enjoy the attention paid to her and her work, which was a real boast to her self-esteem and confidence. Two of the students featured in the exhibition, one highly commended, have since expressed an interest in courses at college involving art.
Art is such a rich sensory experience for our students, not only because of the enjoyment and learning, but also because it enriches their lives and challenges their thinking. Our children deserve quality experiences. Because of this, art plays a major role in the curriculum and the school regularly collaborates with a variety of organisations including "Children's' Art for Children", for which we supply artwork for display in the children's' wings of local hospitals. We are currently involved in a project with "Arts Community Exchange" who came to the school over the autumn term to work as artists in residence with three class groups.
House of Secrets, the first book in a series by Dulwich author Jennie Walters, follows a year in the life of a working class girl in the 1900s. The author has turned the typical adults' upstairs-downstairs tale into an attractive children's book, opening a door to the world of a 14-year-old Polly Perkins, a new maid at a large manor house. Polly is thrown into an unfamiliar environment of harsh workloads and sharp mistresses. However, just as she is beginning to settle down and find her feet, she discovers a shocking secret that serves to undo the familiarity she has sought to build up throughout the time she has been working at the house.
One of the most engaging aspects of the book is the depth Walters creates through authentic characterisation and setting. The contrast between strict and spiteful Jemima and the kind, supporting Iris invokes understanding and sympathy for Iris and Polly. To support the underlying historical background the author has clearly researched the context of the story thoroughly, which is evident in details of servant life. A particular strength of the novel as a children's book are the intimate details of working class life, such as the revelation that they used to mop the floor with teabags. These details make it a more interesting read.
Extracts from literature written in the early twentieth century and quoted at the beginning of each chapter are related to later plot developments. Not only are they again evidence of the research and thought that as gone into the book, they make the chapter each chapter meaningful. They also act as a reminder that there were people who lived their lives as servants and mistresses and would abide by the strict rules set out by the extracts; this validates the harsh treatment Polly receives throughout the book.
Walters skilfully chose to use first person narrative to tell the story, strengthening it because it is told through the eyes of a young girl the age of the target audience of 11 to 13-year-olds. Through this tale one comes to understand the role of the servant in those times and, although the plot line is hardly new, strong character development will provide a good basis for series. I thought this book was a well written, enjoyable read, and believe Jennie Walters has left issues open to answer in the sequel, which explains the slight lack of exciting adventure needed in a book for this target audience.
St Stephen's Church, South Dulwich, is dedicated to the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death in Jerusalem a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Stephen's martyrdom is commemorated in a famous fresco on the north wall of the chancel opposite the organ. The church was built in the late 1860's on land given by the former Governors of Alleyn's College of God's Gift (now The Dulwich Estate). Five of the present trustees are Patrons of the living. It was consecrated on 28th November 1868 and the architect was Charles Barry junior, the Surveyor of the College and son of the architect of the Houses of Parliament. A painting of the exterior of the church from College Road by Camille Pissarro in 1870 shows what a handsome building it was in its leafy and tranquil setting.
It was painted, like a number of other local views, while Pissarro was staying in Norwood with his family for a few months during the Franco-Prussian War; "a charming suburb" where he "studied the effects of fog, snow and springtime". He was accompanied to London by Claude Monet who stayed in higher class accommodation at the Savoy Hotel where he painted a number of memorable views of the River Thames at Westminster. The painting of St Stephen's by Pissarro formed part of the Cargill collection and was put up for sale by auction at Sothebys in l963. The then vicar of St Stephen's, the Revd. Harold Little, did his best to persuade the purchaser to keep the painting in England but, having paid what now seems the modest sum of £27,000 for it, he removed it to the USA where it has remained ever since.
A charming water colour on the south wall of the church also shows the exterior of St Stephen's in the late nineteenth century with affluent parishioners descending from their carriage, the ladies in their finery which made other residents refer to them going to "The Butterfly Ball". In those days no collections were deemed necessary and it was not until after the First World War that the church had to look beyond the generous few who saw that it was properly maintained. Now, of course, things are very different!
The church as originally built ended without the present west end, with a virtually freestanding tower surmounted by its slated spire at the south-west corner. This is odd as a drawing by Barry at the back of the church dated l865 clearly shows that it was intended to build the church out to include its present west end and with a gallery over it. Whether it was a question of funds not being available to complete the church as originally planned is not known but the church was extended a few years later in about l875 due to the increase of residents in the area, though without the planned gallery, as appears from another drawing on the same wall. The junction between the original building and the extension is marked by the rather unsatisfactory juxtaposition of piers and angels, the first of the new angels which decorated the internal walls being squashed up against the one that marked the end of the original building. There are over 20 angels guarding the church, each of a slightly different design
The interior of the church when built was flamboyant with its rich colours and decoration. The surfaces below the clerestory windows were painted with beautiful designs as can be seen from a water colour painted in l870. The whole of the interior of the church was decorated in one way or another, typical of the High Church movement to which St Stephen's and other churches in the area belonged. The chancel ceiling, painted today as it was at the time of the church's consecration, shows what the church must have looked like in those days. Note also the beautifully painted organ pipes in the chancel and the attractive wall tiling made at the Doulton factory nearby. Following war damage from flying bombs in l944 the interior of the church was left totally plain until the Centenary in l968 when it was once more adorned with attractive designs but more modestly than before. The patterns on the ceiling are still in good order but the walls are in need of urgent redecoration for which an appeal is presently under way.
In the chancel, on the south wall, is the fine and famous fresco of the The Trial and Martyrdom of St Stephen, painted by Sir Edward Poynter PRA in 1871-1873. Fresco is the art of painting on fresh lime plaster in water based pigment which sinks in and becomes part of the surface. The painter needs to work quickly before the plaster dries as corrections are almost impossible and he needs a sure hand and steady purpose. It is remarkable that bomb damage (to which reference will be made in a moment) and subsequent shocks to the fabric coupled with the south Dulwich climate has left the fresco intact and unblemished. It is one of very few frescoes to be found in an English parish church and its recent renovation has left it as vivid and striking as it was when Sir Edward painted it.
As Sir Edward himself described the fresco, the upper panel depicts the trial of St Stephen and the amazement and horror of the High Priest of the Council at the "blasphemy" of Stephen with two false witnesses behind him. The treatment of the architecture of the colonnade of oriental alabaster is regarded as particularly fine. The lower panel shows the martyrdom of St Stephen. The populace is eager to stone him before they reach the execution ground outside the city and Saul (subsequently Paul the Apostle) is to be seen at the left hand corner holding the clothes of the false witnesses. The Roman soldiers represent the temporal power, keeping order. The movements of the mob, soldiers and Stephen make the lower panel an exciting contrast to the static grandeur of the upper panel. A cartoon of the lower panel is to be seen on the north wall of the nave.
Opposite the fresco is the organ case built by JW Walker and Sons in l877 and rebuilt by William Hill and Son in l905. The decoration of the pipe work is in keeping with the richness of the decoration elsewhere in the church. In recent years the organ itself has sadly become unplayable but, in view of the huge cost of restoration and other demands on the parish's limited funds, (eg the liturgical reordering in 1992, the construction of a new hall in l999 to replace the temporary one erected after the Second World War and the need to re-slate the spire in its entirety in 2003), the question of restoration must be left to a future generation. Instead an attractive but smaller organ has been constructed by Roger Pulham of Woodbridge in Suffolk at the west end of the church with a fine organ case of American oak, the new organ being dedicated on Advent Sunday 2005. In any event the original organ case remains an important feature at the east end of the church.
The other notable feature in the chancel is the east window which miraculously escaped damage when the church was subject to bomb blast during the Second World War. The stained glass was made in the studio of the famous glass designer Charles Kempe and was installed in l924 in memory of Sarah Baroness Vestey who died the year before. It can be identified as a Kempe window by the presence of his "trademark", a wheat sheaf borne by the figure of Christ in Majesty in the upper light. The other figures represent the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John standing at the foot of the Cross.
Although there is no sign of it now, save for the steel ties across the nave, the church suffered considerable damage during the Second World War on no less than three occasions. The first disaster occurred in September l940, during the Battle of Britain, when the church suffered considerable blast damage. Thereafter services were conducted in the vestry, the only inhabitable part of the church, which was given the title Chapel of St Paul. After the building was pronounced safe and the damage had been cleared up, the congregation was able to move back into the chancel in July 1941, a huge screen, made from long strips of wedding carpet, blocking off the rest of the church. With the removal of the choir stalls, there was room for nearly 100 worshippers but, owing to black-out restrictions on the use of light, Evensong had to be held elsewhere in parishioners' houses. In l944, with the arrival of the V1 flying bombs, disaster struck again twice in quick succession. On July 3rd blast from a nearby flying bomb resulted in the north aisle losing its roof and all the glass in the windows on that side of the church, masonry being scattered all over the garden. The interior of the church was "a catastrophic picture of destruction" as the then vicar, the Revd Lionel Hart, put it. Somehow order was restored to enable worship to continue in the chancel until August 6th when another flying bomb landed at the back of the church which caused substantial damage to the roof of the nave. For six weeks services were held in the vicarage study and thereafter in what is now The Cheshire Home at the top of College Road. Thus things remained until Palm Sunday l945 when it was possible to move back into the church. With the end of the war that summer, it might have been thought that St Stephen's troubles were over but it suddenly transpired that the walls of the church were moving outwards, no doubt because the roof had shifted in the blast the previous year. The walls had to be pushed back straight and it was then that the steel ties were used to keep them in position. The church was to suffer other indignities during the next few years, including the failing of the heating system and the organ being "stricken with illness" and it was not until September 20th l952 that it was possible to hold a Thanksgiving Service for the church's eventual restoration. Hart's account of the church's history during the war is entitled "The Second Stoning of St Stephen".
The glass in the west window had of course been lost during the war and a memorial window by Moira Forsyth was installed in l952 and paid for out of the War Damage claim. It depicts St Stephen and St Paul, St Stephen being shown as at the time of his martyrdom; the stones used lying at his feet. St Paul is illustrated in his maturity as preacher and teacher rather than as the young man then called Saul who witnessed Stephen's death. The window also contains the coats of arms of the three dioceses in which the parish of St Stephen's has been and there are also the arms of Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich. Finally there is an interesting depiction of what is known as the pelican in her piety which, rather than see her fledglings starve, fed them with her own blood, just as Christ shed his blood for mankind on the Cross
Turning back for a last look up the church, one is struck by the beauty and symmetry of the building, its glorious decoration and openness for worship, not to mention the exciting presence of the new organ at the (liturgical) west end!
Annual General Meeting
Notice is hereby given that the 43rd Annual General Meeting of the Dulwich Society will be held at 7.45pm on Thursday 23rd March 2006, at St. Barnabas Church Centre, Calton Avenue, Dulwich SE21 7DG.
1. Minutes of the 42nd Annual General Meeting held on 17 March 2005, to be approved.
2. Chairman's Report
3. Secretary's Report.
4. Treasurer's Report and presentation of accounts for 2005
5. Appointment of Honorary Auditor.
6. Reports from Sub-Committee Chairmen.
7. Elections for 2006-2007.
President, Vice-Presidents, Officers, Executive Committee.
8. Any other business.
Note: Nominations for election as an Officer or Member of the Executive Committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary by two (2) members not later than fourteen days before 23 March 2006 and must be endorsed by the candidate in writing (Rule 9).
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Please note that subscriptions for 2006 are due on 1 January
If you pay your subscription by cheque please send me a cheque for £10 payable to the Dulwich Society. Paying promptly saves the cost of sending out reminders. If you would like to pay by standing order I should be happy to send you a form.
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A Happy Christmas and New Year to all our members !
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