Mr G F Ellyatt was an architect and builder who developed a number of high quality Arts and Crafts influenced residential developments on the Dulwich Estate between 1909 and the mid 1920s. His name is first mentioned in the Estate Minutes when, living at 10 Ruskin Walk, he applied to purchase a 30 feet wide site along the western section of East Dulwich Grove (now Village Way) immediately behind St Austins (now the JAGS Junior School) for the erection of a 'house to cost £800'. The Estate insisted he take a larger plot, at least 50 feet wide, and the Estate Surveyor later reported 'The exterior of the house will be faced with roughcast cement and the roofs will be tiled. I think the external appearance of the house decidedly pleasing'.
His next house, No.14 Village Way, was very similar and, early in 1912, he secured a building lease on the north-east side of Red Post Hill between North Dulwich Station and the 'site for the proposed new road between Red Post Hill and Green Lane' (now the entrance to the Charter School). He designed and built two detached and eight semi-detached houses (Nos. 14-32) and sales were good enough for his wife, to whom he had made over his house in Village Way, then called Whitecroft, to write to the Governors in October 1913 saying 'that the garden is not sufficiently large to form a full size tennis court', and applying for an extra frontage of 5 feet 'for which she is willing to pay the usual rate of rent, together with some backland nearly 5 poles in area, a shown upon the plan now submitted'. By 1914 he was building eleven further houses between the site for the new road and St Faiths Church Hall (Nos. 36-56). Work on the last five stopped in 1915, as demand fell away and there was a major shortage of labour as men went off to fight in the War.
On the 22nd January 1920, the Estate Surveyor reported 'I have received from Mr G F Ellyatt of White Croft, Dulwich Village, the plans herewith submitted for the last four houses to be erected in Red Post hill under the terms of his building agreement, the execution of which was interrupted by the War. The houses would be of two storeys and would contain, on the ground floor an entrance hall, drawing and dining rooms, kitchen, offices etc; and, on the upper floor, four bedrooms and bathroom with WC. The estimated cost is £1500 for each house the Governors might approve the plans submitted' (the pre-war cost was £750)
On the 10th February 1921, the Estate Manager reported under the heading of 'Mr Ellyatt's building agreement Burbage Road' that 'Mr Ellyatt desires to enlarge the area of the land agreed to be let to him. He now proposes to take a frontage of 240 feet instead of 160 feet and to erect six instead of four houses in order to try and meet the wishes of the tree and survey committee and he proposes that the boundary should be twenty feet from the fence of the Old Grammar school and to build on the Herne Hill side of the first plot so that the house will not be within thirty feet of the chestnut trees'.
Sales were clearly going very well as on 21st February he extended his frontage by 50 feet and then on the 14th April he offered to take a further additional 320ft 'from Michaelmas next upon the same terms'. His offer was accepted 'subject to a space of 40 ft. being reserved for a future roadway for which he shall not be held liable on condition that the houses do not come within 4 ft of said road' (the entrance to the sports fields).
In September 1921 he secured a Mr Stanley Smith as the purchaser for No 139 Burbage Road, the fine double fronted house nearest the Old Grammar School, and completions on the other properties followed shortly afterwards in November. No. 137 was leased to a Mrs EM Cowling (this house was bombed in 1940 and rebuilt in Georgian style in 1948), No. 129 to Mr Henry Amos and No. 127 to Mr Henry Carr.
In April 1922 he started buying sites in Alleyn Park, offering 5s 6d for the frontage of fields nos.339 and 339d. The Estate raised the price to 7s to reflect the competition for the site from Messrs. Marten and Carnaby, acting on behalf of the South London Real Estate Company, but Mr Ellyatt prevailed, and the Estate, noting his success in building (and selling) the 15 houses in Burbage Road, agreed to let 'the frontage of about 266ft between Waverton and the plot just let to Mr W Taylor, for a term of 99 years from 24th June 1922, at a rental of 7s per foot, the first year being at a peppercorn, for the purpose of erecting 5 houses similar to those on Burbage Road with 36ft frontages, one with a 40 ft frontage and one with a frontage of about 46ft' (Nos. 99-107).
In July 1922 Mr Ellyatt made offers in College Road, on the Lloyd's Register sports field in Gallery Road and 'in order to keep his men employed while he is waiting for possession of one of the above sites' he offered 7s 6d a foot for field no. 574 in Court Lane. The Estate declined his offers on the first two sites but agreed to sell him the site in Court Lane (Nos. 112-118) at 7s 6d per foot.
In October 1922 he bought two more double plots in Alleyn Park (Nos. 85 & 87 and 95 & 97) and then turned his attention back to Burbage Road. The Estate Surveyor reported 'I have received from Mr Ellyatt the plans herewith submitted for a house proposed to be erected for Miss Abbott on her plot of land next to No. 64 Burbage road. The walls would be 9" thick, covered with rough cast with a tiled roof. The house would contain on the ground floor a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen and scullery etc; on the 1st floor would be 6 bedrooms, bathroom etc; on the back elevation there would be a veranda, and a balcony running the full length of the 1st floor'.
By January 1923 he was working on the adjacent site between No. 64 and the railway bridge (Nos.48-60), even though the final building agreement was not actually signed until July, and in October 1923 he secured Field No. 292 on Dulwich Common at 8s 6d per foot but the Estate insisted he change the finish of the external walls from roughcast to brickwork (Nos. 2-32).
Following the completion of the site in Dulwich Common he did no more development work in the area and it is not clear whether he retired at this point or went bankrupt. However, one must assume the former as his next mention in the Estate Minutes is in January 1927 when he purchased the site on the corner of Dulwich Village and East Dulwich Grove to build 'Crossways' (No 1 Dulwich Village). The value of the house was 'to be not less than £2000 with a ground rent of £22 10s per annum'.
What of the houses themselves? His two houses in Village Way, Nos. 14 & 16, and No.139 Burbage Road are heavily influenced by Charles Voysey, with their battered rendered walls and heavy timber windows. His speculative housing is plainer but still has Arts & crafts overtones.
Perhaps their most noticeable feature is the very large window lighting the staircase and the four tall chimneys. All the houses except those on Dulwich Common had roughcast finished walls, originally unpainted. The earlier houses were slightly wider and shorter than the later ones and had a combined bathroom/toilet. The later houses at the Herne Hill end of Burbage Road were larger, with a separate toilet and larger rooms. They also had bigger windows to the front elevation and additional bays on the first floor rear. Some houses on Alleyn Park only, have hipped roofs on their front gables and two were built to a different plan leaving out the hallmark staircase window.
Compared with Edwardian houses the interiors were relatively plain with no cornices and much simpler panelled doors and skirtings, albeit still in oak - they must have been relatively dark inside in the winter. There was no other interior decoration other than the staircases where the newel posts are particularly attractive.
the houses had both electric and gas lighting installed. They also had a comprehensive set of bell wires to call the maid - presumably an essential part of life for someone who could afford a house of this size - with an outside toilet for her use, and a large coal store. Most of the houses were also located to one side of their sites to allow a car to be driven down past the house into a garage - another reflection on the relative wealth of the purchaser.
Inflation in housing prices is something we think of as a modern phenomenon but, looking closely both at the building costs and the cost of sites, this is not the case. Labour costs went up two and a half times between 1914 and 1918, though they had started to fall by 1921, while the cost of a site on the Dulwich Estate (measured on the basis of foot frontage) increased by 70% between 1920 and 1923 (5s per foot to 8s 6d).