What’s in a name?
The attentive reader might have noticed a slight change to the cover of this publication. The Dulwich Society Newsletter has been renamed the Dulwich Society Journal. It is not a hugely significant change but it has been felt for some time that the current publication is rather different in appearance to the title it set out to be 161 issues ago. In the early years of the Dulwich Society it was indeed a newsletter; several foolscap sheets of paper produced on a duplicating machine (remember those?) and stapled together. Successive editors have made changes to its physical appearance. It was made squarer and more compact. Extra pages were added and the newsletter was reproduced on a printing press.
Changes in technology, especially in the ability to produce photographs from the taking of the picture to its reproduction on a piece of paper have been reduced from about three weeks to three minutes. As importantly, the cost of reproducing images of any kind has also been dramatically reduced. These benefits have allowed us to illustrate articles and have, we hope, provided a different and interesting dimension. On the other hand, becoming familiar with desktop technology has been a steep learning curve, one which has not been entirely climbed. What my grandfather took five years to absorb as an apprentice compositor was condensed into a few weeks.
Technology has also been the medium through which a fascinating letter, written almost 150 years ago has been forwarded to us and is reproduced in this issue. The Journal and a number of other Dulwich Society publications are regularly put on the Society’s website and accessed by members of the public. This has proved helpful to a number of people who have been inspired to trace their ancestry.
News, as originally indicated by the title Newsletter remains paramount and matters affecting members and the Dulwich community in general will always take priority. Nevertheless, there has been a gratifying increase in the number of contributions on a wide variety of topics which have Dulwich as their focus. In this issue, the centenary of St Faith’s Church, North Dulwich is a cause for celebration and we are grateful for several articles on this anniversary. By contrast, the Dulwich Players celebrate 40 years of presenting am-dram to local audiences and this too makes fascinating reading. I am also grateful to our regular contributors who keep us up to date with what is happening in this part of South London.
Recently, the more mundane but essential task of the Journal’s distribution has come under scrutiny. Margaret McConnell, who has been hugely efficient in being in charge of distribution for some twenty years has said she would like to be retire from this responsibility (although Margaret will continue to be the Advertising Manager). For her long service in both these roles the Society owes her tremendous thanks. A number of other zone distributors, all who have served for many years would also like to be replaced. Details of what these essential tasks entail is listed elsewhere in this issue.
These are hard times financially and Dulwich is not immune from the effects of the credit crunch. Many residents were becoming worried over the potential loss of shop tenants in West Dulwich and Half Moon Lane (though both have been re-let) but there is now also considerable concern over the viability of several shops in Dulwich Village. Rumours abound but, at the time of writing, not only has Gill Holland, the dress shop, closed, but Studio 45 has given notice confirming that it too will close in September - and several rent reviews, including the Post Office, are due in the next 12 months.
People tend to blame the Dulwich Estate, saying that the rents they set are too high, but all shopkeepers will also have been affected by this year’s rise in business rates - in some cases these have risen by 60%.
The Estate responds that it is their job to maximise income for their beneficiaries, mainly the Foundation Schools, Dulwich College, Alleyns and JAGs, but it cannot be in their or their beneficiaries’ interest, to have empty units. Surely some rent is better than no rent and the danger is that too many empty units leads to the gradual downgrading of an area - a self-fulfilling prophecy as less shops mean less people buying, which means less shops.
Whatever leases may or may not say it must be in everyone’s interest to keep the shops trading. If that means rents paid one month in advance instead of three months, or, as in many shopping malls, turnover rents where rental levels are based on the actual shop’s takings, so be it.
More importantly, Dulwich residents must make sure that they use the local shops as much as possible. Yes they may be more expensive sometimes, but they are convenient, and not driving to the supermarket of DIY store helps the environment.
If the shops are not used, they will close. Some can still remember the time, not so long ago, when the Village had a butcher and a vegetable and fruit shop, do we want to be left just with estate agents and a garage?
Public Meeting with the Dulwich Estate
Tuesday 29th September 2009 at 7:30pm
St Barnabas Parish Hall, Dulwich Village
The Dulwich Society is arranging a series of public meetings over the next twelve months to discuss residents’ views on Dulwich as it is now and their aspirations for its future.
The first meeting will be with representatives of the Trustees of The Dulwich Estate, the Estate Management Office and the Scheme of Management Administrator.
The purpose of the meeting is to review the wider aspects of the Estate’s stewardship of the area. Queries regarding individual properties will not be discussed.
There will be opportunities for questions from the floor but, in order to cover a relevant balance of subjects, it would be helpful if these could be provided in advance so that they may be collated, and in order, to avoid any duplication. If you have any questions you would like put to the Estate please send them by email to the Dulwich Society Chairman, Ian McInnes, at
Topics to be covered include:
The Dulwich Estate:
A brief history
The Estate’s role today
The Scheme of Management:
A brief history
Trees on the Estate
Relationships with Southwark Council
The Advisory Committee
In addition, if you have not looked at the Estate’s new website at www.thedulwichestate.org.uk, you should do so as there is a considerable amount of information on it that may answer many more general queries.
Local History Day ‘Dulwich House Detectives’
Sunday 11 October 2009
12-4pm. In the Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery
In conjunction with the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Dulwich Society is organizing a day on the subject of researching the history of one’s house.
Those interested in finding out more are fortunate in that most of the land in Dulwich has been owned by one institution for a long period of time. Not only has this determined the character of the area, but also an exceptional series of records survive to throw light on building development.
Throughout the day, there will be an exhibition of maps, photographs and documents. Archivists from Dulwich College and Southwark Local History Library and local historians from the Dulwich Society will be present to give advice on the most useful sources for research. A leaflet will be available describing where they can be found. Gareth Martin from estate agents, Harvey Wheeler, will give approximate current valuations of properties in particular roads.
A programme of short talks will take place every hour:
12.30 The development of Dulwich up to 1920, by Brian Green
1.30 The development of Dulwich after 1920, by Ian McInnes
2.30 Sources in Southwark Local History Library, by Stephen Humphrey
3.30 Sources in Dulwich College Archives, by Calista Lucy
This is a good opportunity to learn more about Dulwich’s fascinating past and how you can find out about the history of your own property. Those who have old photographs, plans or documents relating to local properties would welcome to bring them.
There is no charge to attend
Cleaner Greener Safer awards
The Society application to the Dulwich Community Council for funding to assist in the repair of the decorative fountain in memory of Doctor Webster, in the middle of the Burbage Road/Dulwich Village roundabout has been successful. It also successfully applied for a grant for new fencing to the Marlborough cricket ground on the South Circular Road near the junction of Lordship Lane.
Other grants towards funding include a new gate from Great Brownings on to Low Cross Wood lane and the installation of a new pedestrian ramp in Giles Coppice - both of these are on Dulwich Estate developments and will require permission form the Estate to proceed.
The Stradella Road Residents’ Association also received backing for security improvements to the service area behind the shops on the south side of Half Moon Lane. This award is subject to equal funding from the Dulwich Estate which is the ground landlord of the shops.
Local History Sub-committee
The special character of Dulwich is due largely to its history and the way the area has developed within the Dulwich Estate over the last 400 years. There is a strong interest in the people who lived here, their houses, local schools, churches and other institutions from residents of Dulwich as well as from those with family connections.
The Dulwich Society’s local history sub-committee has lost several valued members recently for various reasons; and anyone actively interested in the history of Dulwich who wishes to join would be welcomed as a new member. The committee meets three times a year to organise local history walks, talks and events; individuals carry out research and contribute to the Society’s Journal. With an increased membership, more could be done to enhance the history section of the Society’s website, publish local history and generally make the Society more active in this aspect of its work.
Those who would like to know more or receive details about where and when the committee meets should contact the Chairman, Bernard Nurse on 0207-326-1786 or email
JOURNAL ZONE DISTRIBUTORS
The Society distributes its quarterly journal for free because a good number of members have volunteered to deliver copies door to door. The considerable postage thus saved is applied to enhancing the amenity of the area. A number of members who have been zone distributors for many years have indicated they wish to be relieved of this task.
The job entails collecting the journals, or having them delivered, from a central location (College Road, by the Tollgate) and delivering the relevant number of copies to the street distributors, who actually put the journal through the letter boxes. The zone distributor’s work takes no more than 3 - 4 hours, four times a year.
For this purpose, we have divided Dulwich into zones, each of which is lead by a zone distributor, and we are urgently looking for new volunteers to act as zone distributors in four of our zones. We would be most grateful if you could help us by becoming a Zone distributor for one of the zones listed below.
Zone A1: Central Dulwich Village area - 159 journals to 4 street distributors
Zone B: Central Dulwich Village and streets eastwards - 157 journals to 8 street distributors
Zone F: South and West Dulwich -136 journals to 3 street distributors
Zone G: Sydenham Hill area - 44 journals to 1 distributor.
If you are able to help please email Ian McInnes, the chairman, on
We are also interested to hear from other members who are prepared to help by delivering journals in streets any of these zones.
Conservation Areas at Risk
English Heritage have reported that 81 Conservation Areas in London are at risk. Regrettably Southwark Council did not fully complete all the surveys, those that they did were taken into account. Eleven London boroughs and the City of London failed to complete the survey by the deadline.
Conservation Areas were introduced by the 1967 Civic Amenities Act as ‘areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.
The top ten threats to the condition of conservation areas (based on an English Heritage survey of local authorities)
1. Plastic windows and doors (83% of conservation areas affected)
2. Poorly maintained roads and pavements (60%)
3. Street clutter (45%)
4. Loss of front garden walls, fences and hedges (43%)
5. Unsightly satellite dishes (38%)
6. Effects of traffic calming or traffic management (36%)
7. Alterations to the fronts, roofs and chimneys of buildings (34%)
8. Unsympathetic extensions (31%)
9. Impact of advertisements (23%)
10.Neglected green spaces (18%)
Historic Organ returns
The organ, which has been played in Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich Village for two and a half centuries, has been reinstalled following three years of restoration by the specialist organ builders William Drake of Buckfastleigh, Devon at a cost of £½million.
On 3rd August 1754 the College resolved that a new organ be built to replace the one which had been assembled from the remains of the organ destroyed during the Civil War. Payments of £20 a time were made to the builders over several years, the fourth payment being in 1756. The new organ, made by the celebrated George England (‘Old’ England) and Thomas Whyatt (who may have made the oak organ case) was installed in the Chapel by the last Sunday in August 1760. The cost was £260 plus the old organ.
Dr William McVicker, the consultant on the restoration says, “There is precious little organ-building work by George England which has survived unaltered and of the original specification. The survival of so much early pipework gives the organ a national importance - the instrument has both the earliest surviving Gothic Revival organ case and Cornet stop in the United Kingdom”.
The Chapel Organ is at the centre of a Georgian entertainment - The Dulwich Assembly to be held at the Chapel on Monday 7th December which celebrates in music and prose not only this organ but incorporates the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and the discovery of the diaries of Richard Randall the chapel organist from 1762-82 who was a celebrated tenor and harpsichordist. Full details may be found on page 29.
Dulwich Park Lodge, College Road
Southwark Council has confirmed that a tenancy has been awarded (subject to contract) to Whippersnappers CIC to run a range of services including workshops for elderly and disabled people, a small cottage industry crafts/ gifts shop; and meeting, function and training rooms.
The Society understands that Southwark Council’s Planning Department has given the go-ahead for the Parks Department to undertake the external repairs and the tenant has submitted a planning application for a Change of Use. The building works on the external repairs should start in February 2010 with internal works following on in May. These works will include general upgrade and repair to exterior and installation of a lift to ensure that the building is DDA compliant.
The tenant aims to be in operation by July.
Dulwich Park Lake
Earlier this year Southwark received four expressions of interest to run the boat concession on the lake in Dulwich Park. The concession brief required applicants to make a financial offer that included an annual rental offer and a premium payment to part-fund the construction of a boat house - the park has CGS funding for their part of the construction.
There have apparently been some problems over the final contract wording but these have now been resolved and, if an appointment can be made sooner rather than later, it may be possible to have some boats running by this autumn. The aim is to have the boat house constructed by summer 2010.
Dulwich Garden Safari
A splendid day in June gave about 800 people the opportunity to visit seven local gardens on a round trip in the Village.
There was great variety, from the tightly controlled and comprehensive planting of flowers, fruit and veg in one of the smaller gardens, to the equally controlled space, designed to show the lovely Comus Kousa trees, at peak of perfection, with their unusual 4 petalled perfect white flowers, in a stark modern setting of another. At a further modern house the space had been well designed and the planting looked well established in a relatively short space of time.
The largest garden, with its surprise extension behind the shops, gave room for several large trees, herbaceous borders, and an attractive island bed. Another charming garden, with a half-pergola to articulate the space, dividing without obstruction, showed many well chosen planting companions; geranium Johnson’s Blue, alchemilla and artemisia, the blues being particularly lovely in the early evening light.
A further planted space, perhaps an example of ‘guerrilla’ gardening was a vegetable plot, the beds surrounded in grass borders and then using every portion of “borrowed” fence, which was offered with expert advice to all potential grow-your-own hopefuls.
Thanks to the hospitality in a further garden, there was an exhibition and sale of paintings by Gail Gosschalk, together with a very long and enthusiastic queue for cups of tea and excellent cakes - all going to make a very successful afternoon of peaceful enjoyment, and helping to raise over £5500 for a local charity, Dulwich Helpline, which has been offering friendly volunteer support to isolated people living in Dulwich and neighbouring areas, for the past fifteen years.
All new drives and hard standings will be subject to the new legislation on sustainable urban drainage systems for driveways (SUDS). Unless you use the special paviors that allow rainwater to drain naturally you will be obliged to seek planning consent from Southwark Council. All new works, including alterations to existing drives, also need the permission of the Dulwich Estate and it is likely that they will insist on this type of paving being used. Residents should also be aware that Southwark will not construct crossovers unless they have confirmation from the Estate that the new drive has the latter’s approval - an all to rare, but very welcome, example of the Estate and Southwark working together.
Memories of Alleyn’s
Following on from the success of the book, ‘Drama & Music: The Performing Arts at Alleyn’s’, the School will be hosting a series of reunion lunches for its former pupils to quiz them about their school day memories at Townley Road.
‘Drama & Music’ is a lavishly illustrated collection of personal memories of the musical and dramatic activities of pupils. It also tells the story behind the new Edward Alleyn Building, which houses the Michael Croft Theatre.
The School will invite all those Old Boys who were at the School in the 1930s and ‘40s to a reunion lunch on 2 March 2010. (For those wondering about Old Girls, girls didn’t arrive at Alleyn’s until the 1970s.) They will be given a tour of the Alleyn’s site, and then treated to lunch whilst sixth-form students interview and record them about their schoolboy days at Alleyn’s. Headmaster Dr Colin Diggory says ‘It is clear that there is a wealth of untapped information about our School and we really want to record it for posterity. When former pupils visit the School I am always amazed by the clarity with which they remember a whole variety of different aspects of school life. The stories they tell are fascinating.’
It is hoped that the format will be repeated for subsequent generations of pupils and that all their memories will be collected together and published in a book.
If you were at Alleyn’s in the 1930s or ‘40s, or are in touch with someone who was, please do get in touch with Susie Schofield, Head of Alumni Relations, on 020 8557 1466 or
To order a copy of ‘Drama & Music’ please send a cheque for £15 (+ £1.50 p+p) made payable to ‘Alleyn’s School’ to Alumni Office, Alleyn’s School, Townley Road, London SE22 8SU. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Alleyn’s Bursary Fund to provide free places to those with ability, regardless of background.
Obituary - Russell Vernon MBE (1916-2009)
Russell Vernon was educated at Alleyn’s School where he shone as sportsman, captaining both the Cricket First Xl and the Soccer First Xl. He also was a fine Rugby Fives player. On leaving school he reluctantly buckled down and studied architecture part time at the Regent Street Polytechnic while working for his great uncle, George Vernon (1870-1942), an architect with a very successful commercial and residential practice in central London.
Russell volunteered with his brother Ken into the Artists’ Rifles in 1939 and at the outbreak of war was transferred to the Royal Engineers and was soon in France. He was posted ‘missing’ following the Dunkirk evacuation but two weeks later appeared with all his equipment and unit intact, having sought an alternative means of escape via Cherbourg.
In the years waiting for D Day, Russell was charged with building defences along the South Coast against a possible German invasion. It was whilst engaged in these duties that he became friends with the historian Norman Mackenzie who was commanding a Home Guard unit. It was comforting for both that in their later years they were neighbours at Ryecotes Mead, Dulwich Common.
Following the Allied breakout and advance after D Day, Russell, by now a major in command of an engineer company RE built a bridge across the Rhine to speed the advance. Later his unit was ordered to enter Belsen Concentration camp and Russell was faced with the harrowing task of burying hundreds of rotting corpses, a task he reserved for himself by driving the bulldozer which pushed its human cargo into mass graves. For his work at Belsen, Russell was awarded the MBE.
Following demobilisation in 1946 he joined his uncle, Austin Vernon (1881-1972), the Surveyor and Architect to the Dulwich Estate, in practice locally and became his partner in 1948, after completion of his RIBA exams. The first major projects of the new practice, Austin Vernon & Partners, were the building of the new Dulwich College Science Laboratories and the almost complete reconstruction of the severely bomb damaged Dulwich Picture Gallery - opened by the Queen Mother in 1953. The restoration of the Gallery was a particular triumph for Russell and would lead to him and his wife Ruth maintaining a close association with it.
During the late 1940s he took a town planning degree and was heavily involved in the negotiations over the Dulwich Development Plan which received London County Council approval in 1955. This set the pattern for the redevelopment of the area over the next twenty years - its main objective being the regeneration of the Estate and the Foundation Schools.
The plan envisaged the demolition of many of the bomb damaged or run-down larger old houses that had suffered, not just from bomb damage, but also from a gradual drop in value since most had un-mortgageable short leases and to redevelop the sites at more realistic densities. Replacing them with more affordable small family houses would bring in new families to the area and hopefully create a supply of pupils to attend the Foundation Schools, which had declined in size and standards through the 1930’s and 40’s.
Although not widely publicised at the time, the work produced by Russell Vernon’s office during the late 1950s and 1960s is now appreciated as some of the highest quality spec housing in the country. Great care was taken to respond to the natural contours of the sites and existing trees were generally retained. Great efforts were made to keep all new developments below the tree line on the tops of the hills around Dulwich and with the sole exception of the block of flats on Sydenham Rise this was the case. Extensive hard and soft landscaping schemes were an integral part of all the developments and several received architectural awards.
He succeeded Austin Vernon as Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate in 1959 and was joined in the partnership by Victor Knight, a friend from his college days, and later on, Malcolm Pringle, Harvey Borkum, Victor Janes and Derek Fricker.
The practice designed well over 2000 houses on the Dulwich Estate, as well as buildings at Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School, JAGS, Dulwich College Prep School and St Dunstans College, Catford. The practice worked extensively with Wates and other housing developers in Croydon, Norwood, Windsor, Tonbridge, Oxford and Leeds. Their commercial work ranged from shop interiors through to offices and factories - particularly notable examples are in Crawley in West Sussex. In the early 1970s the firm worked extensively in Saudi Arabia rebuilding the Al Kharj Military Cantonment near Jedda.
Russell Vernon was an active member of the Dulwich community, being chairman of many local charities and he was also, for many years, architect and surveyor to All Saints Church, West Dulwich where he was also a parishioner for some 70 years. He retired in 1982 and the practice closed in 1995. By nature he was a cheerful personality with a ‘can-do’ character which his service in the army had demonstrated. Seemingly always dashing from one place to the next he nevertheless unfailing had time to stop and talk and encourage all those he met.
Obituary - Lieut. Mark Evison
Mark Evison of Court Lane, Dulwich, Lieutenant, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards, Officer Commanding Platoon No 7 was on duty in Afghanistan in May. Whilst on patrol in Helmand Province, Mark was shot in the shoulder on May 9th and very seriously wounded. Some hours later he was taken to a field hospital by which time he had suffered substantial blood loss. He was eventually brought to the Military Hospital in Selly Oak, Birmingham where he died on May 12th with his mother Margaret, and his sister Elizabeth and other friends at his bedside.
Mark had, unusually, kept an extensive diary during his short time in Helmand; sometime later it was handed with his effects to his mother and eventually published in the Daily Telegraph on July 14th. His commanding officer, Lt Col. Thorneloe, who was shortly after also killed in Helmand , said at the time “Mark Evison was one of the finest young officers of his generation and a truly remarkable young man. He was a natural leader and his platoon would have followed him anywhere. Mark demonstrated great humility and an innate decency in his dealings with others.” His company commander, Maj. Henry Bettinson said simply “Evison embodied all the attributes of a fine soldier, and his life, tragically cut short, would have gone on to shape history”.
Mark was born in 1982 and attended DCPS and Dulwich College where his gift in music developed. It was at the College that he won a music scholarship in ‘cello and piano to Charterhouse School. Thereafter he studied Land Economy at Oxford Brookes University followed by the exacting demands of the course at the RMA Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Welsh Guards in December 2004.
Mark was exceedingly fit, at the age of seventeen he ran the London Marathon in 3 hours 14 minutes. Aged eighteen he managed an Australian sheep farm. In his attempt to become the youngest person to walk to the South Pole, he trained for two weeks in Norway doing glacier training and living in sub-zero conditions in an igloo he had built himself.
His funeral took place in the Guards Chapel, Birdcage Walk on May 27th. Members of his platoon and members of his family spoke of his kindness, charm and bravery: Mark had remained protective of his men for as long as he could; it was, they said, a heroic endeavour. The occasion was both a moving lament for his passing and a positive appreciation of his life, his courage and commitment to his country, his regiment and the men in his care.
Margaret Evison has established ‘The Mark Evison Foundation’ in Mark’s memory. It is designed to help young applicants (aged 16-20) to develop and mature. More details from Margaret Evison, 118 Court Lane SE 21 7EA or Mr Sholto Moger 07723 317 073 www.charitiestrust.org/charities/markevisonfoundation/index.html
Continuing Brian Green’s reminiscences of fifty years of shopkeeping in Dulwich
The Cricket Match
Before the onset of the run of recessions, Village shopkeepers not only closed for lunch but also took a half-day off on Wednesdays. This convenient midweek break made it possible to stage what became known as The Great North versus South Cricket Match. So enthusiastic were the players that the joinery department of W J Mitchell & Co Builders, Dulwich Village (est. 1797) made a beautiful wooden spoon some three feet in length for the winning side to hold until the following year. On a brass plate on the spoon was engraved the name of the winning side. There were only two sides in this competition; the North End, which comprised those shops and other businesses north of Calton Avenue, and the South End which was made up of those gathered around the Crown & Greyhound.
I think the cricket match was played for a maximum of three seasons; the anticipated permanency of an annual fixture being swiftly curtailed by the onset of the first of the series of recessions which like North Atlantic gales upset the equilibrium of everybody, closed businesses down, made staff redundant and obliged most of us to open on Wednesdays. Not that Dulwich Village lagged far behind the wider retailing fraternity; after all, John Lewis once closed on Mondays and Harrods on Saturday afternoons. During its brief life, The Cricket Match became immensely popular.
I cannot admit that it started seriously. At the beginning of the first match, played on the hallowed ground of the Old Alleynian Club on Dulwich Common, some of the players wore motor cycle helmets for protection. This was actually quite a sensible precaution because simultaneously with the bowling of a ball a firework would usually be exploded behind the batsman. Nevertheless, as the game progressed things settled down and a lively afternoon was enjoyed.
The following year the match was taken far more seriously, it was as if the players had all read Hugh de Salincourt’s classic story of village cricket over the winter. So closely-fought a game it was that by the time the third annual match came round players were being recruited by both sides from among the shopkeepers’ customers. The South End was rumoured to have secured the services of a Surrey CC Second Xl player and another from one of the better league elevens.
As captain of the North End team I felt it my duty, for the honour of that part of the Village, to respond in kind. It was fortuitous that almost as soon as I heard of the skulduggery of the opposing team, who should appear in my shop but a regular customer named T.C ‘Dickie’ Dodds who had been the opening batsman for Essex and whose record 423 runs partnership is still unbeaten. He was such a powerful batsman that Neville Cardus recalls that on one occasion he hooked a six into the tented tavern, where the ball ricocheted off the beer pump and knocked out both barmaids. Although retired from cricket he gamely agreed to turn out for the North End team. A few days later I also managed to recruit another player from among my customers. John Dewes who lived in Burbage Road, played for Cambridge University and Middlesex and had made his England debut at the famous last Test Match at the Oval in 1948 when Don Bradman’s played his last Ashes game, a match at which I was present. It seemed my two cricketing customers were heaven-sent. Indeed they might have been because they were both church workers.
Although I tried to hide the identity of my two ‘secret weapons’, the news leaked out and the great day of the match, to be played at the Griffin ground in Dulwich arrived. Unfortunately Dickie Dodds was unable to play but the sight of John’s England sweater with the lions rampant emblazoned upon would I hoped send shivers down the opposing team’s spines. It was a close fought match and appropriately the game ended just as Sir Henry Newbolt might have predicted. The South End’s last man was in. There was one over to play and some six runs needed to win. Everyone played up, played up and played the game. Then the first of the recessions arrived.
The Day I Joined the Luvvies
The telephone call came soon after I opened my shop one November morning. It was from the PA of a company producing a programme about Dulwich for Channel 5 asking if I could assist with some local history input. It was arranged that I would meet the show’s producer at Belair restaurant at 2.30 pm the following day.
The autumn sun was shining as I arrived, a good light for filming I thought. The TV programme makers turned out to be a short, jolly, roly-poly man named Russell Grant, a very young looking cameraman and a rather worried young woman who turned out to be the PA. They were having lunch with the actor- owner of the Belair restaurant, Gary Cady, who before taking on Belair and transforming the derelict mansion into an upmarket restaurant, lived in Turney Road and was appearing in a modestly successful ‘soap’.
Now my knowledge of making TV outdoor programmes is very limited, but even I considered some daylight during filming might be helpful. To my surprise however, there seemed no urgency to dash into the fading sunlight and start to roll. The only roll in evidence was the bread one on the starched white tablecloth. The conversation was ‘shop-talk’ of the television variety. Russell Grant was bewailing his lack of luck at failing to get a spot in the recently launched TV draw of the National Lottery in which, in those early days, an astrologer might make a prediction of the likely winner. Apparently Mr Grant had lost out to a trade rival named ‘Mystic Meg’ and he wasn’t too pleased about it. I thought to myself that if he was such a hot shot at astrology he would have been able to have predicted his own lack of success.
The arrival of the dessert signalled sudden enthusiasm from Russell - “Ooh, lovely, fantastic” he enthused as the confection approached the table. “Bring it in again and we’ll film it!” The now slightly less firm ice cream bombe was thus wheeled in again and with a flourish and with the camera rolling Russell took a knife and cut the pudding into five (rather small) portions, one of which I was invited to share. There was more talk about the privations within the TV industry and Russell Grant explaining that he was having to roam all over Britain making micro-programmes - 5 minute ‘postcards’ of local beauty spots to make ends meet. It transpired that he was paid £250 per ‘postcard’ by Channel 5; not a huge sum considering the distances involved.
At 3.30pm with the earlier bright sunshine dissolving into more an autumnal gloom, Russell announced he was ready to embark on the ‘Postcard from Dulwich’. There was more “Darling” this and that with Gary Cady on the steps of Belair, when after kisses all round we departed on a whirlwind tour of Dulwich.
The change which came over Russell was amazing. He was transformed into the consummate professional, directing me and asking the right questions which invited an explanation of whatever the camera was pointing at. It was only while we were standing on the safety of the Fountain roundabout in the Village that his composure slipped. A couple of white-van-men driving past were unable to resist shouting ribald comments, to which he replied in kind, a reply I regret was not retained in the resultant ‘Postcard’. We arrived at St Barnabas, then newly rebuilt after the fire, as dusk firmly settled. Still the camera rolled, and still Russell pressed for more information on Dulwich’s history.
Russell Grant was able to produce three postcards from Dulwich in the short time we had. Through either some of his magic or modern technology, the gloom was lifted from the scenes we shot. He went on to make a further 300 and they still occasionally appear on screen.
The Puppet Man
Of all the customers who have put us in hysterics, none compare with The Puppet Man. He only came into the shop on two brief occasions. He had a tone of speech which might well have formed part of the repertoire of the late Kenneth Williams. “Hello”, he said from around the shop door one day, “Have you got any puppets?”. He was directed to the toy department where he made his purchase of two glove puppets. He reappeared a couple of days later. “Hello” he said once again, “You know those puppets I bought? Well all the children were sitting waiting for my puppet show and I said - Hello boys and girls - and then I didn’t know what else to say.” We directed him to the Village Bookshop in the hope that they might provide The Puppet Man with a suitable text.
The Marking of Carts by Jeremy Gotch
On 15th July anyone visiting the Post Office in the Village might have expected to see the beautifully restored Victorian Post Office Handcart in its customary position on the plinth - and been disappointed. The Handcart was taking part in an ancient ceremony in Guildhall Yard in the City of London - the Marking of Carts by the Lord Mayor and the Master of the Worshipful Company of Carmen of London. What, you may well ask, is that all about?
The Carmen’s Company is one of the 107 Livery Companies of the City. It dates back to 1517 as a “Fraternitie”, and received its grant of Livery from Queen Victoria in 1848, becoming the 77th Livery Company. Today’s post-war Livery Companies include the Information Technologists (no 100 as appropriate for binary counting), the Management Consultants, and also the Hackney Carriage Drivers. All share four principal objectives - to support the Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation, to promote excellence in their trade or craft, to donate to selected charities (nearly £50 million per year in total) and to enjoy the company of their fellow Liverymen. There are over 25000 Liverymen of the various Worshipful Companies today.
The Carmen’s Company has historically been the body which licensed “Carts” to ply for hire within the City. The Liverymen were Licensed Carmen, and had to present their vehicle or Cart for “Marking” with a date letter branded with a red hot four-foot branding iron each year at Guildhall. Since the introduction of our modern system of licensing of commercial vehicles the Carmen’s ceremony has become a traditional parade of vehicles old and new, large and small, from a handcart (the removal firm of Evan Cook in Peckham began with a handcart in the 1890s, and their original cart has been in recent Cartmarking Parades) to a Horse-drawn Pantechnicon and on to a new military vehicle almost too large to fit through the arch into Guildhall Yard.
This year Dulwich Society member Jeremy Gotch, a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Carmen, with the great assistance of Vice President Dr. Kenneth Wolfe and Hon. Secretary Patrick Spencer, presented the Dulwich Post Office Handcart under his Licence No. 348, and it was duly marked with the date letter “R” by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Ian Luder. The Cart is now back in the Post Office in Dulwich Village, still bearing the oak board marked “348 - R”, and none the worse for its adventure. Kenneth Wolfe brought great credit to the Society by the vigour of his Cart-pulling, and by the splendour of his 19th century postman’s uniform. Patrick and Jeremy looked on with admiration, and their ladies applauded from the seats in the Yard, after which suitable refreshment was taken in the Guildhall itself with a company of 500 guests. A colourful little piece of civic history.
100 Years Young - St Faith’s Church by Hugh Dawes
St Faith’s Church on Red Post Hill - St Faith’s, North Dulwich, to give it the proper parochial title - is perhaps the least known of the Dulwich areas Anglican churches. The present church building has a narrow and rather sombre frontage onto the road, while it’s location at an often busy junction means it can easily be passed by unnoticed, whether in a car or even on foot. Inside its impact is much greater - but the realities of church security nowadays make it hard to get in other than on a Sunday. If people know the site, they are much more likely to know St Faith’s, the Community Centre, than St Faith’s the Church.
In reality, for 48 years between 1909 and 1957, the Community Centre was the Church. The idea of a church in ‘the North Dulwich end of Herne Hill parish’ goes back to 1903, the brainchild of the then vicar of St Paul’s, F H Roberts. Planning began a year later, when a group of men gathered ‘at the house of Mr Dixon, Belle Vue.’ With approval from the Bishop of Southwark, a site was negotiated with the Dulwich Estates at the junction of Sunray Avenue and Red Post Hill, for a church which that same initial meeting determined should be called St Faith’s.
The team plainly worked hard. Architects - Greenaway and Newberry - were secured in 1908 and plans drawn up. The architects’ artistic drawing shows a massive, gothic church running along a large stretch of Red Post Hill in an almost rural setting, with a small and more modern ‘arts and craft’ type hall alongside. Only the hall ever got built. It was opened as a ‘Mission Hall’, and temporary church, and first used for worship on 9th October 1909. Two days before, W W Alsopp had been appointed as the first priest in charge.
The Dulwich Estates initially insisted that the permanent church should be completed within five years. The doughty development team countered that there was no need for so large a building unless and until the Estate was prepared to develop further housing. But already economic circumstances were changing. The cost of the Mission Hall was £2,944, but there was a debt of more than £600 when it opened. Subsequently the First World War, and the building by Camberwell Council of Lloyd’s George’s ‘homes fit for heroes to live in’ on the Sunray Estate’ changed the social demography of the area. Though some modest fundraising continued over the years, it was clear that the grand scheme of Greenaway and Newberry could never be completed.
So St Faith’s remained part of the parish of St Paul’s Herne Hill, but as a Mission District from 1921, and soon with its own parsonage house at 228 Denmark Hill. Where St Paul’s had a modest central churchmanship, St Faith’s quickly became the place where High Church curates got away with more. Photographs from the inter-war years show quite elaborate Anglo-Catholic arrangements and ornaments - albeit in a restricted space!
It was Fr Kenneth McIsaac, who arrived as priest in charge in 1941, who in the context of the new post-war enthusiasm and hope of the Festival of Britain took up the challenge of a permanent building. The small hall attached at right angles to the altar end of the Mission Hall was extended first, to form the line of buildings at the back of the courtyard today. The unlovely vicarage was built next, for Fr Mclsaac now had a heart condition and there was concern that he should not be constantly toiling up and down Red Post Hill several times a day.
McIsaac was intimately involved in every detail of the new church’s building, and was present at the laying of the Foundation Stone on the 6th October 1956 the Foundation Stone was laid. It was his vision to encourage the architects - David Nye and Partners - to place an open wooden screen at the rear of the sanctuary to provide a haunting glimpse of the chapel beyond to worshippers in the nave. Tragically he died before the new Church was completed and so never was never able to see his vision realised.
The new church was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwark on the 5th October 1957. The cost was £36,709 - a considerable bargain given that the vicarage cost £5,500. Much of this bill was met from War Damage Commission payments made to the Diocese for churches which had been destroyed and not rebuilt. One of those - St Mark's East Street - had had a bequest of £2,536 for stained glass which was itself transferred to St Faith's, and resulted in the unexpected jewel of the windows in the chapel by Laurence Lee.
With the new church open, the Mission Hall did for thirty years finally fulfil its original purpose as a church hall. Then in 1986 the then vicar, Lindsay Urwin (later a bishop, and now administrator of the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham), together with others, conceived the vision of a community centre at St Faith's. Their initiative - together with intensive fundraising of £450,000 by church members and other local people concerned for the needs of the neighbourhood, and also the youthful and inspired architectural skills of Pam Jenkins and Mark Newall - transformed the hall into the centre it is today; a building used by all sorts and conditions of people, and a home for them and the wide range of groups and organisations working with them.
October 2009 - in the week between Saturday 3rd and Sunday 11th - will see Church and Community Centre celebrate together of 100 years of St Faith’s in this place. We have called our celebration ‘100 Years of Church and Community’, because that has always been the vision; to belong to a place, a physical space, a local community, and support all who live there to feel that they belong as well.
Virtually all this article - and many of its words - draws on the work of Philip Spooner, who loved St Faith’s, and worshipped in it for most of his lifetime. The church’s story lived in him, and he had the knowledge to write a history of it which would have been a fascinating narrative not simply of St Faith’s but in a sense of the Church of England as a whole in the twentieth century. His vicar begged him many times to do so.
Philip never did. Because, for all his delight in its past, his concern was actually always for its present. For the needs of the local community now. For what the church should be and should do in and for that community. For - though he might not have used these words - for the building of the commonwealth of God here and now. October will be a celebration of course. But will also be a time for rededication of both Church and Centre communities to that purpose. We truly want all local people to share in the celebrations, and to join with us in that future commitment too.
The Architecture of St Faith’s and its Architect David Nye by Ian McInnes
The church forms the northern wing of a three sided, open ended courtyard. The opposite wing consists of a very handsome Edwardian Arts and Crafts style church hall, which was designed by architects Messrs Greenaway & Newberry and built in 1907. The two wings are linked by various administrative rooms and vestries. ??The structural frame and the roof are in reinforced concrete and it is clad externally in brickwork - the solid external walls are built from multi-coloured stock bricks are laid in flemish bond. The window jambs and sills and the door surrounds are decorated in red chamfered brickwork and the window frames are steel.
Internally the Church consists of a wide nave covered by a slightly pitched roof supported off large concrete beams that span across the nave from wall to wall. Surrounding the nave are two narrow side aisles on the north and south, which in turn lead to slightly larger transepts and ultimately to the chapel at the east end via ambulatories around the sanctuary. Leading off the north transept is the choir vestry and sacristry.
The nave is lit by tripartite pointed gothic arches with rubbed brick tracery. The side aisles are lit by small rectilinear tripartite windows. Eight simple lancet windows illuminate the chapel at the east end. The south transept and porch is lit by an extremely intricate quinpartite window of brick tracery, similar, though more elaborate, than the nave windows. The exterior of the west end is decorated with a sculpture by Ivor Livi of Christ on the Cross attended by St John the Evangelist and St Mary Magdalene. The Architect - David Evelyn Nye OBE (1906-86)
Born in 1906, David Nye was articled to T F W Grant and, in 1930, was awarded the first SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) scholarship - this enabled him to travel throughout the country learning about ancient building crafts and the careful restoration of old buildings, an interest he retained throughout his life. The Society’s report on his performance noted “The appointment of the scholar was a new venture for the society. It is one which has turned out well. Mr Nye made the best use of his time, visited work in a number of buildings where it was being conducted in association with this Society, and proved himself a man who could be fully trusted to carry out repair operations. The Society was fortunate in having an opportunity to aid in the training of a man so sympathetic towards its principles and so ready top learn from its experience.”
David Nye’s connection with Dulwich is as the architect of St Faiths Church on Red Post Hill, which he designed in the mid 1950s. Pre-WWII, however, and despite his interest in old buildings, he was best known as a cinema architect. He had set up in practice in 1931, when work was very hard to come by, and, after securing an appointment as honorary architect to the Essex Rural Community Council based in Maldon in Essex, he managed to obtained his first cinema project in the town for the relatively little known Shipman & King cinema circuit.
Over the next 8-9 years he built at least 40 other cinemas and, when queried about his success in the 1980s, said that his unique selling point was an ability to build cinemas more cheaply than his contemporaries. His most notable cinema was probably the Rex, Berkhamsted, which is generally regarded as one of the finest examples of a typical suburban 1930s art deco cinema in the country - its interior featured superb decorations of sea waves and shells. It opened in 1938, showing ‘Heidi’ starring Shirley Temple and, although turned into a bingo hall in 1988, it reopened as a cinema in 2004 after an extensive refurbishment.
Nye spent the war years in the Navy and, although he restarted his practice rebuilding several bomb damaged cinemas, he then managed to specialise in the church work and historic building conservation and repairs that he loved.
He was a committed Christian, abstainer and vegetarian. He was appointed Architect to the Southwark Diocese, Surveyor to the Diocesan Parsonage Board and Architect and Surveyor to Guildford Cathedral. Dulwich lies within the Southwark Diocese and his other ‘local’ churches included St Mark’s, Bromley (1953-54), St Swithin’s, Purley (1954-55), and Christ the King, Salfords, Surrey (1958-67). His practice also worked for the National Trust and was responsible for the reconstruction of All Hallows, London Wall after WWII and the new Pewterer’s Hall in Oat Lane in the City in 1960. He also chaired the SPAB’s Technical panel for many years.