The current planning application for change of use by SG Smith & Co who has already removed the petrol pumps from their garage at the southern end of Calton Avenue is only the most recent change to this little patch of the Village.
In the 19th century, there was a little road just there: Elms Road, now Gilkes Place. The 1876 map of the Dulwich Estate shows a short road with medium sized houses with small gardens. Yet the 1891 Census returns for that area make fascinating reading. It was a real mix of occupants. And it is amusing to speculate how they came to live there, and how such a diverse mix of people ended up living in this short stretch of urban London.
One of the houses was rented by Charlotte Russell, aged 49 who gave her occupation as dressmaker. She was either not very successful, or had hit upon a good way to add to her income, as she had six boarders. There was a family of four called Neale, father aged 50 from Margate, presumably a widower, unemployed, and his three student sons aged 20, 18, and 16, all born in Liverpool. The fifth boarder was Percy Young, also from Liverpool, I would guess a nephew who might have been placed in Mr Neale's care to receive the good education of Dulwich. The sixth was a 45-year old single woman surnamed Insole from Sussex. Finally, to look after this large household was one girl servant, aged 16, who was born in Sussex.
Next to Charlotte lived the Rev Charles Hartley, aged 58, clergyman, from Cornwall, married to Hannah from Peckham, and their two sons: Alfred aged 25 was a student, Arthur aged 21, described as a brewer, a strange occupation for a clergyman's son. They were served by 16 year old Martha Trigg from Herts, where both boys were born. So one can guess that the Rev. Hartley had a parish there at some time. He does seem to have come down in the world in this less than select part of Dulwich, a professional man would not usually live amongst clerks and dressmakers.
Next to them was another dressmaker, Elizabeth Pheddy, aged 56, from Dulwich. In the house lived Sarah Vivash, aged 59, also Dulwich born and described as 'Assistant'. There were two boarders, Thomas Lovegrove, 36, a stockbroker's clerk from Shrewsbury, and William Wright, 25, a member of the Stock Exchange. They had a male servant, Reginald Ogg, aged 27 from Putney. Those of us who love Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, will remember how important male servants were to all female households, when crime was so much feared. And there was a crime panic at the end of the 19th century, 1888 was the year of Jack the Ripper. However, a male servant must have been a bit of a worry to the other households, who must have feared that this single man would distract their girls from the housework, let alone been liable to marry one of them, thus causing the great inconvenience of having to find and train a new girl; see Cranford again.
Next to this busy household lived a young couple, William and Marion Morris, aged 33 and 30 respectively, and their one year old son William Junior. Mr Morris is described as a Commercial Clerk (London, and particularly South London was a veritable city of clerks at that time) born in Lambeth, She comes from Staffordshire, but their son was born in Dulwich. William senior was still making his way in the world, they had no resident servant and must have used local women for the rough work, whilst Mrs Morris presumably did quite a bit around the house as well as looking after her men.
The next house sheltered a large family, the Prescotts. Edgar, 42, was a stockbroker from St Pancras, his wife Jane, 40, was born in St Marylebone. They had four sons, aged from 15 to 8, and two daughters aged 5 and 3, all the children were born in Lewisham. So the move to Dulwich must have been fairly recent. One wonders how they all fitted in the house, especially as they also had 2 live-in servants, Jane Mason, 24, and Elizabeth Jelley, 17, born in Paddington and Leicestershire respectively. Those poor girls must have had a pretty hard life.
The last house mentioned in the 1891 Census housed the Goodall family, father John, aged 56, a Civil Service Clerk born in London, his wife Frances, 50, born in Surrey (at that time Dulwich was in Surrey), and their 3 children, Thomas, 24, an artist painter, born in Anerley, and Lucy, 17, together with Arthur, 10, both born in Dulwich. Again the family had no live-in servants.
Taken all together, with children going to school, men going off to their various occupations, women going to the shops or to visit friends, dresses being made and tried, servants going on errands, boys delivering from the local shops, Elms Road was a busy little corner of Dulwich in 1891! Now it is a very select and sedate area, except during the twice-daily madness of the school-run!