Annual General Meetings, important as they might be, are not usually the content of gripping stuff, griping stuff perhaps - not that that happens at the Dulwich Society's AGM!
No, the reason for pointing out the importance of this year's AGM, which takes place on 27 March, is to highlight it as a time when people might find more about how the Society functions, and, if they are so moved, to become more active within it.
As you probably know, the Dulwich Society, now in its 44th year was founded to foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich. It does this through the work of its Executive Committee and a number of Sub-Committees. The AGM is an occasion when you can meet the people that lead and form these important committees, and, perhaps offer yourself as a potential member of one.
The Executive Committee appoints four Dulwich Society members to the Scheme of Management Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is composed of the Trustees of The Dulwich Estate, and appointed members from amenity societies such as ours. It meets three times a year and can bring up any matter affecting living in Dulwich. It was appointed by Parliament, following13 representation by the Dulwich Society through the courts, following the Leasehold Reform Act 1967.
The Planning & Architecture Sub-Committee is consulted by both the Dulwich Estate and by the planning departments of local councils on all applications made to them. It thus has a powerful voice in determining the visual character of Dulwich. It is currently seeking to maintain a high quality of architecture of any new building within Dulwich and will resist, together with the Dulwich Estate, attempts by home owners to demolish existing houses with a view to rebuilding in what might be considered an inappropriate style.
The Trees Sub-Committee is active in the preservation of existing trees and the planting of new trees throughout Dulwich. It is strongly resisting attempts by insurers to demand the automatic removal of trees, without sufficient evidence of blame, in cases of house subsidence. It has in the past year applied for a number of Tree Preservation Orders from the local authorities to thwart the peremptory removal of trees.
The Wildlife Committee is active in the Greener Dulwich Campaign and supports the London Wildlife Trust and other bodies in the promotion of ecology. It has successfully brought pressure to bear on local authorities on the preservation of opportunities for wildlife to flourish within parks and open spaces. It maintains a record of wildlife sightings in the area.
The Gardening Sub-Committee is active in encouraging gardening through visits to members' gardens through the year in addition to lectures by gardening experts. Three hundred Dulwich Society members are on the Gardening mailing list for receiving garden visit invitations.
The Local History Sub-Committee is active in historical research of the area and its findings are regularly published in these columns.
If you feel passionate about any of the issues raised above, then you could do no better than seeking out the appropriate officers of the Dulwich Society on 27 March, and over a glass (or two!) of wine find out how you might make a contribution.
On the other hand, if you think the pen is mightier than the sword, then you are invited to join the contributors to this Newsletter. Articles connected with Dulwich on diverse, emotive and interesting topics are always welcome by me.
The Trees Committee have planted over thirty trees in the past ten years in what is now called Long Meadow, but which was once known as French's Field. This is the large meadow lying between Dulwich Wood Avenue and Gipsy Hill. This meadow was leased by the Dulwich Estate to Southwark Council some years ago as a public amenity. As the photograph taken in the early years of the 20th century shows, it was used for pasturing milk cows. There is still one living resident in Dulwich Wood Avenue who can recall this.
The Trees Committee has had mixed success with Long Meadow. There have been acts of vandalism which have caused trees to fail but the main cause of failure has been the condition of the soil. Long Meadow acts as a watershed for water coming down the hill to the south and this causes water- logging.
The good news is that about twelve of these trees survive and they include a Holm Oak, Deodar Cedar, Scots Pine, Beech, Oak, Balsam Poplar, Willows and Alders. The real success story however has been the Native British Hedgerow planted in the gaps around the perimeter fence. With Hawthorn, Briar and Guelder Rose and other hedge species it is thriving.
The Society has also persuaded Southwark Council to stop mowing the top of the field to encourage wildflowers and wildlife. The Buttercup display in summer is quite spectacular.
The Society is to plant five new trees in Long Meadow - a Swamp Cypress, two Coal Bark Willows and two Black Poplars.
There will be a Trees Walk on Saturday May 12th in pretty little Sydenham Wells Park led by our excellent guide Letta Jones. Meet at the park entrance in Wells Park Road at 2.30pm
After some months of negotiation, the bronze statue raised in honour of Edward Alleyn by the Dulwich Society and sited in the forecourt of the Old College is now insured by the Society, through the Dulwich Estate, against theft and vandalism.
For the past twelve months Society members, Willis Walker and Graham Nash have been carefully restoring what appears to be the original Dulwich Village postal cart discovered in an antique shop near Tower Bridge in 2005. The wheels, which were in need of specialist repair, have been restored by Andrew Ball of the Gloucester Wheel & Carriage Company at a cost of £500.
Dr Ian Bristow, a friend of the Society and a local resident who is an expert on paint restoration has examined the cart. He is at present advising the Corporation of London on the restoration of the Lord Mayor's Coach.
He reports that the springs and wheel-spokes of the cart appear to have had five phases of decoration, the earliest being an undercoat of deep pink, two coats of scarlet with the second layer diluted with varnish. The spokes were also the same ground but picked out in black. At some later date they were overpainted in a thin greenish yellow. The dilution using varnish is typical of high-quality work of this type.
Main body of the cart. The samples appear to show only a single scheme in dark blue-green, with scarlet lining-out and gilded lettering. There were up to five coats of grey undercoat. The lining out was on the earliest scheme. The gilding may have been in a later scheme. An inscription on the side of the body is difficult to decipher, but appears to read 'Queens//Mogleton/Builders/1909/Camberwell and seems likely to be associated with is and to have succeeded physical alterations which can be seen at various points. Thus while the lower part of the body is pine, the upper part appears to be an extension in a different timber (perhaps teak), and the angle irons which support it appear to be associated. The ventilator at the front may also represent a modification.
It appears that the Royal Mail has decided, with no consultation and minimum publicity, to close the Herne Hill Sorting Office in April and move its operations to Station Road, Camberwell which is about a ten minute walk from Camberwell Green.
On behalf of the Dulwich Society, its chairman, Adrian Hill has written to oppose this closure which will bring considerable inconvenience to those members living near Herne Hill or in the SE24 postal district.
A number of houses in this road periodically suffer flooding of their cellars and other parts of the premises. Thames Water has offered some of the owners a Floodark device to hold back water seeping through the sub-soil. These are a form of water barrier. The Dulwich Society asked the Dulwich Estate their view of these devices and whether their installation requires approval under the Scheme of Management.
The Estate's response was that the Consultant Architect had reviewed the device and the installation of this would require approval as it requires permanent fixtures at the side of each doorway and this has a visual impact on the external appearance of a property. The initial view is that such fixtures would have a detrimental visual impact. The Managers also question the effectiveness of this device (which is basically a barrier which slots in front of doorways to hold back water - it would not appear to address the problem of water seeping into basements).
In 2004, Dr William McVicker, Director of Music of St Barnabas Church, and an authority on church organs wrote in these columns concerning the history and future of the historic organ in Christ's Chapel which was in need of substantial repair. He said that the organ which was built by George England in 1760 is of national importance. The instrument has both the earliest surviving Gothic Revival organ case and Cornet stop in the United Kingdom.
The organ is now under reconstruction in the workshop of William Drake Organ Builders in Devon. When the initial examination took place, it included laying out all the organ pipes. It was found that far more of the original pipework has survived than was earlier thought, and there are also indications that the case might have been made in France. The restoration is expected to take much of this year and cost somewhere in the region of £400,000. This cost will be born by the Alleyn Foundation which now includes Christ's Chapel as one of its beneficiaries. A fuller report on the restoration will be published in due course.
Christ's Chapel is used by all three of the Dulwich Foundation schools and Dulwich College now has a Chapel Choir made up boys and staff which sings at a Choral Eucharist and Choral Evensong several times each term It also has its own Director of Music, Mrs Marilyn Harper, and offers Services of Holy Communion and Mattins, using the Book of Common Prayer, on Sundays at 8am and 10.00am. Visitors to these services are welcomed.
Christ's Chapel is administered by the Revd. Canon Diana Gwilliams, Vicar of St Barnabas and Foundation Chaplain.
The St Barnabas Choir under its Director of Music, Dr William McVicker has made its fifth recording. The new CD will be released in time for Christmas.
In the same issue of the Newsletter mentioned in the article above, we reported that East Dulwich artist Heather Burrell who designed the wonderful wrought iron gates featuring aspects of wildlife at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Marsden Road, was being commissioned by Southwark Council under the Bellenden Renewal Scheme, to design front gates for all the houses in that road to compliment the Centre's gates. The restoration of the whole of Marsden Road is now complete, in addition to repair and repainting, all the houses now have wrought-iron gates, and decorated railings with depictions of wildlife; frogs hop on gates, dandelions bloom on walls and squirrels climb the new lampposts. It gives this part of South London a wonderful mix of art and whimsy.
Often house owners on the Dulwich Estate appear to be unaware of the need to obtain prior consent under the Scheme of Management, for most alterations to the external appearance of their property.
In many instances, planning or other consent of the local authority is not required - even for extensions to buildings where these fall under the permitted development regulations. However, for those properties which are subject to the Scheme, changes, for example, to windows, doors, boundaries, gardens and additions such as satellite dishes and garden sheds, need the prior consent of the Managers. The Managers have produced a series of Guidelines to assist owners and in the majority of cases, where the freeholder's proposals comply with these, obtaining consent is a relatively simple process - an application giving full details is submitted together with the applicable fee and a licence is issued for the works. As part of the consultation process, immediate neighbours and those members of the Dulwich Society who sit on the Scheme of Management Advisory Committee receive details of all applications to the Scheme.
Although consent may be granted retrospectively, where owners have made unauthorised changes, they are at risk of the Managers requiring them to 'undo' (no matter at what cost) the works carried out in order to reinstate the original appearance of a property. Unlicensed changes can delay (or even thwart) a sale of the property since solicitors and would-be purchasers will usually require evidence that changes to a property have all relevant consents.
Information regarding the Scheme of Management, including copies of the Guidelines, can be obtained from:
Ms. Nina Rees, Administrator
The Scheme of Management Office
The Old Grammar School
Burbage Road, SE21 7AF
Tel: 020 8299 5666, Fax: 020 8299 3105
Nicola Baldwin, who has a child at Alleyn's Junior School was one of script writers of the play performed at the School to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Edward Alleyn's purchase of the Manor of Dulwich in 1605. Each child in the play took it in turns to play Alleyn and a very lively and enjoyable piece was presented. From the idea of a play about Alleyn, Nicola developed a script and this was presented as a drama on BBC Radio 4 at the end of December.
Edward Alleyn's Devil relates the story of Alleyn's performance in his signature play Dr Faustus and the apparition of an extra devil on the stage, which so shocked Alleyn that according to the seventeenth century gossip and collector of anecdotes, John Aubrey, "So worked on his fancy that he made a Vow that he worked at this Place." (i.e. turning to good works by founding his College)
In the last issue of the Newsletter we reported on the proposed excavation on the site of a series of mounds in Horniman Play Park. It was noted that the careful investigations of any changes in this field prior to 1945 had not revealed any activity. It subsequently occurred to the Society that a check should be made up until 1960 in case its change of use into a Play Park was the result of these features.
By coincidence, one of our members, Steve Grindlay, also thinks this may be the case and writes as follows:-
The suggestion that there was any mystery about the "earthworks" surprised me. I had always understood that they were relatively modern, probably post- war.
I discussed this with a friend who was, for many years from the mid-1950's, a gardener at Horniman Gardens. He remembers the triangle (field) during and immediately after the war when it was a smallholding. He remembered walking down Sydenham Rise and seeing chickens and geese in the field and he could also remember the cottage at the top, called Sydenham Rise Cottage, later The Chalet. Of course there was no paddling pool at the bottom, no sandpit where the cottage stood and, he is fairly sure, no mounds in between.
During the 1950's, when the field became a public park, it was landscaped with particular attention to the needs of children. The paddling pool and the sandpit were built, and the spoil from these was, we believe, used to create a series of banks and pits that children could climb over and hide behind.
The land was laid out by the London County Council as "an extension to Horniman Gardens in the summer of 1954".
Another member, Alfred Gates who lived as a child in Underhill Road also writes concerning this piece of land. He recalls there being pig sties there and says he found what he was told was a flint arrow head nearby.
The Dulwich Society will conduct further research in the London Metropolitan Archives on the work carried out by the LCC, so watch this space! Any other reader with memories of this field is invited to contact the Editor.
Alleyn's School is organising a joint twenty and thirty year reunion for all those pupils who left the School in 1977 and 1987. The reunion will be held at Alleyn's on Saturday 16 June. Alleyn's would like to reach as many people from these years to ensure the success of the reunion