What might be termed ‘The Heineken Effect’ has recently become apparent in various parts of Dulwich. Translated, it means that those parts of Dulwich which have had pressure exerted by the Dulwich Society are indeed being revived.
You will read elsewhere in this issue about some of these efforts and the good news attached to them. The fact that many of the improvements are at Dulwich’s extremities is therefore faithful to the object of the Society which is to foster and preserve the amenities of all of Dulwich as well as to the message of the original advertisement.
Among the improvements are some listed buildings. These are being preserved through the Society’s efforts despite such action being lamentably low on the local authorities list of priorities. A particular extremity of Dulwich - the junction of Dulwich Common (South Circular) and Lordship Lane is especially disgraceful; indeed the area might even be described as a typical example of urban blight. The deplorable appearance to the entrance of the Streatham & Marlborough ground opposite the Grove Tavern is one example. This has, potentially, one of the most beautiful aspects in London, with the sweep of greensward rising to meet trees of Dulwich woods. Mention has already been made in these columns about the state of the fencing, the unsightly containers and the heaps of rubbish. The Society already has brought the matter to the attention of the Dulwich Estate which leases the land to the club. Around the corner are the debris littered grounds of St Peter’s and its hall. Both are listed Grade 11 buildings and for years the hall has been clad in scaffolding and had an ugly and unofficial wooden canopy put over its entrance. Opposite the church stands what was once a charming Gothic styled villa which has been allowed to sink into total dereliction. Again, the Dulwich Society has campaigned on each of these abominations.
The ‘Heineken ‘comparison in this potentially attractive corner of Dulwich is that some things have started to revive. The long -neglected War Memorial to the Dulwich Volunteer Battalion in the grounds of St Peter’s has been restored. You will read in this issue that the Victorian villa has been compulsorily purchased by Southwark Council and will also be restored. The Society is trying to work with the cricket club to see if the Dulwich Community Council will allocate any funds to replacing the fencing and the club has agreed to re-site and paint the metal container in an unobtrusive dark green colour.
This still leaves the matter of St Peter’s. It is clear that there is no individual or department at Southwark Council which has the day to day responsibility for the borough’s listed buildings, despite Southwark being one of London’s most historic boroughs with a large number listed buildings, of which, incidentally, Dulwich has almost one hundred. St Peter’s was served with a Notice years ago by Southwark to restore its hall. Like the owner of the Victorian villa, it failed to do so. Enforcement must be carried out and Southwark Council held to account that this is done.
Following on from the success of Southwark in the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition in 2008, where it won a silver medal, the Council is keen to promote Dulwich as a stand alone entry for 2009. As before, assessment is made under three main criteria; public spaces and public buildings, commercial retail areas and residential front gardens. Dulwich does the first one very well, the second adequately but, on front gardens, it does not do so well. While there are some excellent front gardens, walking around Dulwich trying to find a decent group of them for the judges to look at is a depressing experience. Why is this?
Many residents have turned their front gardens over to the car, understandable in many roads, but this does not mean that the rest of the area should look like a rubbish tip. Do we really have to have bins left in front gardens all the time? Can’t recycling boxes and bags be stored somewhere else?
The really depressing thing is the lack of even basic maintenance like weeding, particularly on the street side of front fences - yet the local magazines are full of landscape gardeners advertising for work and there seems to be plenty of gardeners’ vans parked on the roads during the day. What are they all doing? Are they only able to work on back gardens?
Is this a classic illustration of private affluence (the garden at the back) and public squalor (the garden on view at the front). Most of us live in Dulwich because we appreciate its inherent qualities, its rural feel, its trees and its green spaces. Is it too much to ask that we residents make a proactive contribution by making our front gardens look neat and tidy? While no one expects all gardens to be a sea of bedding plants, like the garden in front of College Lodge in Dulwich Park - and the ‘natural’ look is perfectly acceptable as it provides a good base for biodiversity, insects and wild life - whatever the style, they all just need to be cared for.
And residents are not the only culprits, what about the area in the centre of the Village where S G Smith had a petrol station? This is a prime spot yet company does nothing and the Estate seems unable to persuade it to do anything. It should be ashamed.
Discussions have been taking place between the Dulwich Society and the trustees of Herne Hill United Church on the possible siting of a red-painted finger post within their grounds at the crossroads of Red Post Hill and Denmark Hill. The red fingerpost would indicate the direction of Dulwich, Herne Hill, Camberwell and Loughborough Junction picked out in white lettering. An explanatory plaque would probably be also affixed.
Red sign posts are rare in Britain, there being only three in Dorset and two in Somerset. The fact that one existed on Denmark Hill in the 18thcentury and which gave its name to Red Post Hill, which was formerly named Ashpole Lane, is recorded in J. Edwards Companion from London to Brighthelmstone, in Sussex published in 1801 but surveyed in 1789. The Companion describes in detail the route up from Camberwell and along Denmark Hill. ”On the right is the IV mile stone from the Standard, Cornhill and IV from the Treasury, Whitehall. Division of roads, at a cross of direction called the Red Post - The oblique road which leads to the left is the road to Dulwich. On the right. About 60 yards distance, is a small genteel white house just built by Mr Smith. A gradual descent begins, and continues to a road on the left which leads by Ireland-Green to Dulwich”.
A new sample fingerpost has now replaced the old one at the fountain in Dulwich Village. It utilises a ‘timber effect’ recycled material around a steel core. It looks exactly like the old type but lasts far longer.
In 2004 Southwark Primary Care Trust invited the Dulwich Society’s Local History Group to carry out a survey at Dulwich Hospital to record aspects of the building of historical significance prior to the demolition of the east wings. Among the items recorded or photographed was the base of the First World War Memorial to the 119 soldiers who died as a result of war wounds during the time the hospital was used by the army medical services from 1915 until the end of the war. Some 14,000-15,000 soldiers were treated at the hospital.
The Dulwich Society made an application for a grant for the memorial’s restoration to the War Memorials Trust and Southwark Primary Care Trust has now officially applied to English Heritage for the restoration, using the list of names recorded by the Society on the memorial.
No decision on the future of the remaining part of Dulwich Hospital has yet been made. The Society has pressed for the retention of the attractive centre block and water towers and although a case for Listed Building Status was not accepted by English Heritage, there remains considerable local interest in the preservation of that part of the hospital.
On 17th April 2009 the "Transforming Southwark's NHS" consultation on NHS Southwark's clinical strategy for care outside hospital was concluded. This strategy sets out the vision for the development of four geographically based networks of care covering primary care and community health services in Southwark. The consultation paper proposed that each network would include the development of a central Health and Social Care Centre, with the Dulwich Health and Social Care Centre to be developed on the cleared site at Dulwich Community Hospital.
The network of care services at Dulwich would consist of the Dulwich Health and Social Care Centre and between six and eight linking GP practices and the existing dental, pharmacy and optometry services. The core services proposed for the Dulwich Health and Social Care Centre are:
The next step is for NHS Southwark to consider the responses to the consultation and take a Board level decision on the new clinical strategy. From there further detailed modelling of clinical care pathways, activity levels and finances will be undertaken and then a new specification developed for the design of the Dulwich Health and Social Care Centre.
No decisions have been made on the future of the existing buildings. The PCT will carry out an options appraisal on the future of the part of the Dulwich Community Hospital site currently in use once full approval has been given to proceed with building the planned new Dulwich Health and Social Care Centre on the cleared part of the site.
An application to demolish and rebuild 39 Alleyn Road was recommended for approval by Southwark planning department but refused both by the Dulwich Estate and by ward councillors at the Dulwich Community Council meeting held at Dulwich Library on the grounds that “The proposed dwelling by reason of its continuous height, extensive depth and overall bulk and mass would result in a loss of visual amenity and is considered inappropriate to the local context. Further the expanse of glazing and balcony to the rear would result in a loss of privacy to the adjoining residential properties.” The planning officer’s report could only say that the design was no worse than that of the existing building.
Local residents from Alleyn Park which backs on to the rear of the proposed new house spoke effectively at the meeting, as did David Roberts, chair of the Dulwich Society Planning Committee who pointed out that the application failed 3 of the 4 Southwark Council written policies on new housing! This is considered an important decision for Dulwich residents and the Dulwich Society to reject gross and poorly designed new houses.
The Dulwich Society has previously highlighted the run-down appearance of that corner of Dulwich around St Peter’s Church at the junction of Lordship Lane and Dulwich Common. Initially it asked the Dulwich Estate to request their tenant to repair or replace the fencing at the Marlborough Cricket Ground. However, the Society has become aware of the Club’s financial difficulties and has applied to Dulwich Going Cleaner, Greener, Safer for funding to replace the existing derelict concrete and wire fencing with a hardwood paling fence similar to that found elsewhere along Dulwich Common. Discussions are ongoing about moving the metal container and painting it a dark green colour to remove its unsightly presence from everyone going along Dulwich Common towards Lordship Lane.
The attention of Southwark Council has also been drawn to the ignoring of orders under Listed Building regulations both by the trustees of the church hall (used by the Deeper Life Bible Church) and the owner of the derelict Victorian villa opposite.
One positive outcome of pressure from the Society was reported in an article which appeared recently in Private Eye which says that Southwark Council has imposed a compulsory purchase order - subject to confirmation by Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, on the owner of this long derelict house in Lordship Lane. The article is reprinted here by kind permission of Private Eye.
Possibly designed by Charles Barry junior, architect of nearby Dulwich College, it is known as The Concrete House because its walls are, oddly enough, constructed of mass concrete.
Built in 1873 by Charles Drake’s pioneering Patent Concrete Building Company, it is one of the earliest surviving concrete structures in London, and in Britain, and is listed grade 11. The owner has applied to demolish this remarkable curiosity five times and is largely responsible for its present state of shameful ruin, with floors, woodwork and ornamental features stripped out.
In 2007, Wandsworth council successfully prosecuted a developer who unlawfully demolished the former caretaker’s cottage at Brandlehow School. This house was part of the primary school in Brandelhow Road built in 1950-53 which was one of two schools designed by that greatest of modern British masters of reinforced concrete, Erno Goldfinger, and is listed at grade 11. The developer was fined £11,000 and told to rebuild the house according to Goldfinger’s original drawings and specifications by November this year. Two months ago Wandsworth secured a high court injunction that if he fails to rebuild by the deadline he will be guilty of contempt of court and may risk a prison sentence and the seizure of his company’s assets.
Now it is not just that useful but unfashionable building material, concrete, which links these two rather different maltreated listed buildings. 549 Lordship Lane was bought in 1996 by Birballa Chandra, who in 2000 sold part of the land to his associate Rajiv Laxman, who was then allowed to build a block of flats in the same style right next door on condition that he made the Concrete House habitable (which of course, he has not done - but Southwark, stupidly, failed to record that a listed building was involved) Mr Chandra, Mr Laxman and the latter’s company, Abrus Ltd all share the same business address in Croydon. And Mr Laxman, the sole director of Arbus Ltd, is the developer who has been prosecuted by Wandsworth for the unlawful demolition of the Brandelhow caretaker’s house and who, with any luck, will be imprisoned if he fails to rebuild it. It is a small world.
According to Philippa Sadleir of Eastbourne, the Concrete House was actually named ‘Lyddon House’, by her grandfather Philip Lyddon Roberts who was once the owner. The restoration of The Concrete House (Lyddon House) will be carried out by the Heritage of London Trust Operations.
Over many years the Dulwich Society has promoted the concept of 20 mph zones. By slowing traffic, these zones make the street environment quieter and safer for residents.
Until now there have been two 20 mph zones in the Village, separated by Dulwich Village itself. Proposals by the Council last year sought to bring these two zones together by calming Dulwich Village itself. The proposals also sought to make the junction at Calton Avenue safer for pedestrians, to calm traffic on Court Lane and to make cycling safer.
The Council consulted local people on its proposals through an illustrated leaflet to five thousand local homes and by a well-attended public meeting in the Parish Hall in November. Many people expressed dislike of humps, which were a feature of the design in several roads. Nevertheless a majority of local people expressing an opinion supported most of the proposals. Analysis of the questionnaire returns showed very strong support for the proposals in Court Lane and Calton Avenue, and for the overall approach in Dulwich Village itself.*
As we go to press, the Council is doing some more detailed design work on some of the proposals, including alternatives to speed humps in the short roads between Dulwich Village and Turney Road. Work is due to start on the ground in the near future and to finish before November.
Alastair Hanton Chair, Dulwich Society’s Traffic and Transport Committee
*The Consultation, conducted in the roads affected produced 500 replies (10%).
The Traffic & Transport Committee has submitted the following proposals for grants by Southwark Council.
The Dulwich Society, through Southwark Council’s Cleaner Greener Safer scheme has placed two benches along Cox’s Walk, where the hill rises steeply. Its suggestion for another such bench on Low Cross Wood Lane, to give rest to weary commuters ascending that steep hill from Sydenham Hill station was rejected on the advice of the police, following incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area (reported in the last issue of the Newsletter).
Dr Martin Heath has been awarded a Southwark Volunteer Star in recognition of more than one hundred hours of volunteer conservation work on Belair Park’s lakeside Community Wildlife Site. In fact, Martin - who is chair of Belair Park Friends and lives in West Dulwich - has put in thousands of spare-time hours since he first began the project - which includes a rush and willow bordered wetland walk and an amphibian “ladder” pond and ditch. At its start, though, the scheme did not elicit official approval, let alone a pat on the back. Martin says; “The council is now much greener in its philosophy and the award is a recognition of the value of the project and bodes well for the future. Belair has pioneered the use of public green space for the creation of carbon banks, through tree-planting, and wildlife corridors across the urban landscape.”