Mary Kemp, the daughter of Dulwich’s miller, Thomas Kemp, must have been a very attractive 26 year old in 1827 because she received two proposals of marriage that year. She chose to turn down an offer from a prosperous Dulwich lawyer, John Jephson, to elope with the less well-off Thomas Mace.
The disappointed suitor had sent the following letter to Mary:
“I can no longer struggle with a secret that has given me so much torture to keep…What I have to urge, is to ask you if you are disengaged, if not, permit me to offer myself as a candidate, and should I succeed, it would be the happiest moment I have ever experienced in my life, as in you I consider all my happiness is centred…”
Roger Mace, who is a direct descendant of this union, saw a reference to Pond Cottages on the Dulwich Society’s website and made contact. He is keen to contact other descendants of Thomas Kemp with whom his part of the family has lost touch over the years - particularly those family members who provided the information for the Dulwich Society booklet “A Dulwich Corner” edited by Patrick Darby and published in 1994. If you are one of these please initially contact the editor.
Roger has sent the transcript below, which is contained in a letter from Mary. One of her four sons, was named Thomas Kemp Mace. In turn, both one of his sons and grandsons was also named Thomas Kemp Mace. One of Roger Mace’s sons, named Thomas Kemp Mace, is the fourth generation to carry forward the name. The references in the letter to the artist, David Cox, are particularly topical, as Cox's picture of Dulwich Mill was displayed at the recent Exhibition of his work at Birmingham, 150 years after his death.
“You need not have any doubt about my father’s mill being painted by D Cox who was staying at Dulwich purposely to take different vies of the Mill and its beautiful scenery - it was situate on the most delightful part of Dulwich Common surrounded by the Woody Hills of Dulwich, Penge & Norwood, with a fine large Pond of Water (called the Mill Pond to this day) immediately before the house & a Turnpike Road between the Pond & premises leading through the Woods to the town of Beckenham, Bromley and Chislehurst which gave a pretty effect to the scene.
When the Lease expired my father solicited the College & tried very hard for a renewal of the Lease, he being attached to his old Mill but they strongly refused all his solicitations on account of its being so near the road the sails used to frighten the Horses and overturn them and the Carriages into the Lake. In such cases my Father’s Mill Ropes were the only means of extricating them from their perilous situation. There were several accidents likely to have ended in fatal results. Lord Auckland, his Carriage and horses, his family and servants on their return home one evening were thrown over the rails into the Pond and Father and his men rescued them all. His Lordship was brought into our house and attended to. Ever after that he used frequently to call upon my Father & purchase Eggs and Poultry of my Mother. A Biscuit Baker also met the same fate his cakes and gingerbread were floating upon the surface of the water and he under his cart and saved like the others by the ropes.
My Father finding all his entreaties of no avail he purchased the whole of the premises as they stood and had his old favourite taken down in 1815. He tried to get another piece of land to rebuild but the College could not on their Estate find a suitable spot for a Mill. They certainly found him a very expensive piece of ground on which he built two cottages about 100 feet from where the Mill stood known by the name of Kemps cottages so that my Father always had his favourite spot in view, it being on the opposite side of the Road. The House you see in the Landscape was let during the Summer to Gentlemen and Ladies who were admirers of the beautiful scenery. There was another attraction the Bourgeois Collection of Pictures in the Dulwich Gallery. There were several views were taken of the Old Mill in different positions. My father used to oblige Mr Cox by having the Mill turned round to suit him.
I have been drawn on two or three occasions in the Lobby of the Mill playing with a dog or kitten, for which kindness Mr Cox presented my Father with the drawing now in your possession. As far as I can recollect I should say it is quite 56 or 57 years ago since that Landscape was taken. I was quite a child - there was another house built upon pillars which is high from the position of the Mill that was taken bodily away as it stood. I think it was either 33 or 36 Horses it took to remove it. All the village were on the Common to see the then Wonderful sight. My Father had the dwelling converted into a Granary on his new Farm. Our family was very small consisting only of my Father, Mother and self being an only child with a servant comprised the whole of our family leaving the live stock out of the question my Father being famous for his numerous piggeries etc. and I should think the oldest inhabitant will remember Kemps delicious Pork. I have never tasted any like it since. He used to tell people it was fed on cream and almonds.
I must now conclude fearing I shall tire you with the history of my juvenile days but thinking as the eldest grandchild you would feel an interest in hearing a few trifling occurrences of your Mother’s early life which if my head and nerves would permit I could keep on for a month longer. I am sorry to hear that lovely spot is being cut up & spoilt for Railways etc.
Trusting you will pardon all faults with united love
Believe me, your affectionate Mother
M E Mace
Saturday 5th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery - Concert - Jazz in the Gallery Garden Charles Cary Elwes and friends featuring vocalist Morag McLaren . 6pm-9.30pm £6 café open for light meals. (Linbury Room if wet)
Monday 7th Dulwich Community Council Planning Meeting
Sunday 13th Friends of Athol House - Funday Sunday - 2-5pm bouncy castle, market stalls many activities. Raffle drawn by Jo Brand.
Sunday 27th Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibitions The Polish Connection and Best of British close.
Tuesday 29th The Dulwich Society - Public Meeting with The Dulwich Estate. St Barnabas Hall, Dulwich Village 7.30pm
Thursday 1st Dulwich Community Council Planning Meeting
Thursday 8th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The wonderful Mediterranean- Cradle of Cultures and Civilizations by Patricia Wright. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form lecture theatre at 8pm, ( coffee 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Wednesday 21st Dulwich Picture Gallery Exhibition Drawing Attention: Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Van Gogh, Picasso and more opens.
Sunday 11th Dulwich Society & Friends of the Gallery - Local History Day Dulwich -House Detectives Linbury Room Dulwich Picture Gallery 12.00-4.00pm Free.
Thursday 22nd Friday 23rd Saturday 24th The Dulwich Players present ART by Yazmina Reza. 8pm Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College. Tickets £8 from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.
Wednesday 28th The Young Fabian Society of Dulwich talk The Attack on World Poverty speaker Benny Dembitzer. 7.30pm Methodist Hall, Half Moon Lane SE 24. More information www.ethical-events.org (tel: 020 7274 5406)
Thursday 29th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery - Concert - Chilling Classic for Halloween. Emily Atkinson, soprano, Susanne Hawkins, mezzo-soprano and Jessica Maryon-Davies, piano, will delight with songs from Mendelssohn, Fauré, Severac, Duparc, Saint-Saens and others, all with a spooky theme. 7.30pmLinbury Room £17, £15 Friends (includes a glass of wine before the performance and during the interval).
Saturday 31st Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery - Treasures Roadshow 1pm at the Gallery. £10.
Tuesday 10th Dulwich Community Council Planning Meeting
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture Mexican Art & Culture by Chloe Sayer. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form lecture theatre 8pm (coffee 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Saturday 21st Dulwich Choral Society Concert - Saint Nicolas - Britten, Choral works and ‘St Paul’s Suite’ - Holst, with the choir of James Allen’s Girls’ School. Musical Director Aidan Oliver 7.30pm All Saints Church, Rosendale Road, West Dulwich.
Sunday 22nd In aid of Dulwich Helpline - Victorian Dulwich - illustrated talk : by Brian Green - Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery 2.30pm admission £7 (concs £5) tickets from Dulwich Helpline 020 8299 2623 or on the door.
Saturday 5th The Ionian Singers Concert - The Voice of Advent conductor Timothy Salter Seasonal music includes excerpts from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Messiah Handel, and works by Berlioz (The Shepherds’ Farewell), Poulenc, Fauré, Praetorius, Swelinck, Wagner and Wolf. All Saints’ Church, Rosendale Road, West Dulwich 7.30pm. Tickets include interval wine £12 (students £6) at the door or from 020 8693 1051
Monday 7th at 7.30pm Christ’s Chapel. Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery present The Dulwich Assembly - A Georgian Entertainment by candlelight, with orchestra, harpsichord and organ, recalling the Life and Loves of Richard Randall of Dulwich and his musical career in Opera, the Stage and as Organist. Programme includes music by Handel, Stanley, Boyce and Arne. Tickets £18 (to include a seasonal drink)
Thursday 10th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture The Material Culture of Christianity by Andrew Spira. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre 8pm (coffee 7.30pm) £7, students £1
Lost Houses of Dulwich - Stonehills, 90 College Road, by Bernard Nurse
The present Stonehills Court in College Road gets its name from one of the largest Victorian villas on the Dulwich Estate. Although ‘Stonehills’ was demolished in the 1950s with many of the other old houses in this road, before this happened a series of fine photographs was taken of the building which unusually show the interior. The set kept in Dulwich College archives is not dated, but would appear to have been taken in the 1940s or early 1950s. The only indications of modern life are the electric lights, which would have replaced the original gas lamps, and a large radiogram. Otherwise, the rooms are depicted much as they could have appeared in the 1870s when first built.
The west side of College Road (then called Penge Road) developed rapidly with new housing about this time. Sydenham Hill station was surrounded by fields and woodlands when it was opened in 1863. The sale of land to the railway companies provided sufficient funds for the College to build a new school on a grand scale in College Road; the new railway links to London enabled the Governors to develop land for building and attract residents whose children would attend the foundation schools. Only expensive dwelling houses were permitted to be built near the College. John Ruskin, who was living on Denmark Hill, called the new villas ‘Frankenstein monsters’ because of the mix of architectural styles used, and moved away to the Lake District in 1872 to escape the suburban development.
‘Stonehills’ was erected between 1872 and 1874 on a vacant double plot of about 5 acres with a 300 foot frontage onto the road and the longest (northern) side stretching back 712 feet to the railway line. It was the largest house with the most extensive grounds on this side of College Road and was built for Alfred George Bessemer (c1840 - 1918), the son of Sir Henry Bessemer, who had made his fortune as an inventor, particularly of the steel process which bears his name. A few years earlier Henry Bessemer had acquired an even bigger property on the Dulwich Estate fronting on to Denmark Hill. Alfred Bessemer was described in the 1881 census as having no profession. He did not need one: as well as having a wealthy father, his wife, Mary Tetley, was the daughter of one of the founders of the Tetley tea empire.
Bessemer took out a lease on the plot for 84 years from 1872, and agreed to erect ‘a good and substantial dwelling’ for his own occupation at a cost of no less than £5000 not including outbuildings. This was a considerable sum and the ground rent payable to the College of £107 - 12 - 6 was higher than the usual rent because of the additional land. He agreed to pay the full rent from 1874, which suggests the building was completed by then. The architect is not recorded but was almost certainly the College Architect and Surveyor, Charles Barry. In College Road, Barry had designed St Stephen’s Church which opened in 1868 and the new Dulwich College which opened in 1870. He worked on several large houses for private clients in Dulwich, including Henry Bessemer’s house on Denmark Hill and Brightlands, now Brightlands School, 2 Gallery Road for Alexander Druce, the College Solicitor. In 1872 Barry was finishing his most prestigious commission for the government, the courtyard range of Burlington House, Piccadilly built for the use of learned societies. Many internal features are similar to those shown in the photographs of ‘Stonehills’. Flat pilaster columns painted to look like marble in the entrance hall, panelled doorways, the design on the etched glass windows, the tiled flooring and cornices around the ceilings can all be seen in Burlington House.
Bessemer called the house ‘Oakfield’, perhaps after the district of Hitchin near his father’s birthplace, and lived there for about ten years with his wife, three sons and five servants. The gardener and his wife occupied a lodge in the grounds. Bessemer’s wife died at the young age of about 35 and the following year, 1884, the lease was assigned to Sir William Ogg (c1824 - 1902) a City merchant, whose firm, Prince, Ogg and Co, traded with Australia. He was a member of the Fruiterers’ Company and knighted in 1882 when elected Sheriff. He lived in the house with his wife and three servants until his death in 1902. Three years later, Frederick Arnold took over the lease and changed the name to ‘Stonehills’, possibly to avoid confusion with two other houses in Dulwich also called ‘Oakfield’. He took the name ‘Stonehills’ from that of his previous house in Streatham. Arnold was a company director and the only resident of the property to send his children to Dulwich College. Five sons attended between 1903 and 1918.
About 1934, the remainder of the lease was acquired by Robert James Brunton (1895 - 1958), owner of the Peckham firm of manufacturing and wholesale stationers, Brunton & Williams. The business moved to Peckham Rye just before the First World War, and Robert took over from his father in 1926, developing the company’s ‘Ivy’ range of stationery products. He died in 1958 and his two sons, Godfree and John ran the business as a family firm until the 1980s. The business was taken over by Stormguard and moved to Sidcup but collapsed in the recession of the early 1990s.
It is likely that the photographs were taken when Robert and his wife, Miriam, were occupying the house. Robert had to leave ‘Stonehills’ when the lease expired in 1956. According to John Brunton, who remembers the house well, the original furniture, which his father had purchased when taking over the lease, was sold at auction. Most was bought by Harrods for the Australian market. The Estate Governors wanted to develop the land with higher density housing and demolished the house and lodge. The present Stonehills Court with 39 dwellings was completed by 1959, and only the former St Stephen’s Vicarage remains of the large Victorian houses that once lined College Road.
Wildlife Report by Peter Roseveare
Our summers have become unpredictable; last year was unremittingly wet and unseasonably cold, the year before excessively hot and dry, and this year mixed, with warm temperatures, rainstorms and some unusually high winds. What this means for our wildlife is that there is often a mismatch between breeding and optimum food supply. My garden, hopefully a haven for wildlife, has seen fewer fledglings than usual, with no young Blackbirds or Robins, although a Robin’s nest was probably the victim of a Magpie, that did indeed itself nest successfully.
There was however one ‘springtime watch’ event. My daughter had kindly given us a nestbox that for some years waited empty for an occupant. This year, to our delight, a pair of Great Tits obliged and a family duly hatched. The next day to our horror a male Sparrowhawk swooped in and snatched the female, proceeding to consume her, in full view of both ourselves and all the agitated other small birds. We thought all was then lost but to our great surprise the male Great Tit took over total responsibility and went into overdrive, feeding the young at a rate of two caterpillars a minute. We did not see them fledge but have presumed that the family groups of Great Tits in the garden might be ours. I then read in the National Press that there is ongoing research in human reproduction that might result in men becoming unnecessary and thought of the superiority of the natural world.
There have been other events in this rather unusual year. At the Late Spring bank holiday weekend suddenly Painted Lady Butterflies were seen everywhere. They were very active and Brian Green was lucky to get a photograph. And then, almost as suddenly, most of them were gone. In fact they are migratory butterflies that breed in huge numbers in North Africa and in some years explode in northward migration, flying hundreds of miles and they were reported to be crossing the Channel in thousands. But where they went next I am uncertain. It has however been a better year than last for butterflies with Orange Tips in May in our garden, and Peacocks, Red Admirals, Brimstones and Commas, not perhaps in numbers comparable to the Painted Ladies but reassuringly present after the lean last year. There is more summer to come and we will undoubtedly be able to see some successful second broods. And once more the spectacular Jersey Tiger Moth is on the wing.
The most unusual bird report was a Reed Warbler which was seen by Dave Clark for two days in Dulwich Park. Not its natural habitat so it didn’t stay, but a first record. Our warblers are, by and large not our most spectacular birds, most being Little Brown Jobs (LBJs) or Little Green Jobs but identify themselves to us and presumably to each other with distinctive songs, the Reed Warbler being no exception (American warblers by contrast have spectacular plumage but boring songs). Hence the Blackcaps that have become common in an around our gardens are more readily heard with their rich fluty song than seen, and a Whitethroat took up territory in the Velodrome brambles where it was impossible to tell if it was in fact breeding. Apart from this the good news is that the Little Grebes are breeding again on Dulwich Park lake. House Martins and Swifts are breeding in what appears to be their usual numbers (a screaming party of four Swifts in July is usually two adults and two juveniles who will leave promptly in the first week of August).
Following my request for records in the last issue I can report that the endangered Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has been regularly observed in Dulwich Park and the endangered Stag Beetle also continues to be seen. So please keep these records coming.
Wildlife Recorder (Tel. 020 7274 4567)
It’s Nature’s Way by Dave Clark
We are part of nature - hold that thought.
It was only 4 years ago that the lake in Dulwich Park was redolent of the last days of the Roman Empire; it had become an anarchic law unto itself, a rather fetid stagnant over nutifried mass, populated almost entirely by Canada Geese (over 70), a virulent population of rats who enjoyed the large border areas of bare earth with no vegetation at all.
Nature had become decadent and apathetic, obese and slothful.
Go and take a look now... go on take a look and be proud because we are part of nature and we have shaken ourselves out of our torpidity.
The lake now contains a much more balanced wildfowl population with the natural addition of two new species, Little Grebe (which have successfully bred for three seasons) and Mandarin Duck, whilst the lake margins with those fantastic Bullrushes and Loosestrife have had their first Reed Warbler, a rather anonymous looking but wonderfully vociferous bird. It’s funny that put in some reeds and you get reed warblers... it’s nature’s way.
The insect population has visibly increased. Damselfly, Dragonflies, butterflies abounded this summer and now you can see the bottom of the lake and watch the antics of tufted ducks and grebes as they dive for their food. Nature has become vibrant, exciting, colourful, beautiful and enthusiastic.
Goldfinches are having a successful season; they absolutely adore the big upright teasels in the relatively new copse area of the playing fields. There, where teasels have been planted, it is not surprising that you can see goldfinches along with an abundance of several species of bumble and honey bee.
What has happened in Dulwich Park is a microcosm of what can be achieved more globally. If we stay apathetic, nature’s way is to create a rather drab bloated moribund environment, but if we engage with it, then nature’s way to repay us with vitality and beauty.
These positive changes to the flora and fauna of the park have come through vigilance, education, responsibility, enthusiasm and importantly by opening communication channels. Thanks go to the efforts of the Park Management, the Dulwich Society Wildlife Committee, Dulwich Park Friends and a special thanks to Ric Glenn the head gardener and his team.
The discovery of the diaries of Richard Randall (1736-1826) in the Archives at Dulwich College has provided a happy coincidence with the return of Christ’s Chapel’s celebrated organ and the 250th anniversary of the death of George Handel.
Richard Randall was appointed organist at what is usually known as the College Chapel in 1762, just two years after the ‘new ‘ organ by George England was installed. Randall would remain at the College as organist until he resigned to marry in 1783. His diaries give a vivid insight into the busy life of a professional musician in the second half of the eighteenth century. He was a favourite singer of George 11, appeared at the Opera House, Covent Garden, Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Theatre Royal Haymarket where he was a principal tenor and where he sang many of the arias from Handel’s oratorios. He was also in great demand for private concerts as both a singer and a harpsichordist. He performed regularly at Vauxhall and Marylebone Gardens and at Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital. He was also a noted organist, playing frequently at Westminster Abbey.
Between this busy professional life he was regularly (but not always assiduously) attending to his duties as organist and music teacher at the College. As a young and eligible bachelor able to provide gossip from the most fashionable quarters and with an expensive taste in clothes, he was naturally sought after by all of Dulwich’s hostesses and invitations for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper arrived on a daily basis. He escorted dozens of young Dulwich ladies to dances and assemblies and had two particular loves in his life - his music pupil, Sally le Coeur and his cousin Nancy.
Brian Green has written and devised The Dulwich Assembly - a Georgian Entertainment which will be performed in costume and by candlelight with orchestra, harpsichord and organ, recalling the life and loves of Richard Randall and his musical career in opera, the stage and as organist, on behalf of the Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The programme will include arias from Messiah, Semele, Acis & Galatea (Handel), Organ voluntaries (Stanley), works by Boyce, Arne, Concerto for organ (Handel)
The Dulwich assembly - a Georgian Entertainment will performed at Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich Village at 7.30pm Monday 7th December. Tickets from the Friends of the Gallery £18 (includes a seasonal drink).
The Dulwich Players - the early years by Lorraine Greenslade
The Dulwich Players came into being in October 1969 when they presented ‘The Venetian Twins’ by Carlo Goldoni ( the play is to be performed again in the 2009-10 season). The play was directed by R.J. Greenslade who had also directed plays for the Dulwich Dramatic Society, a well-established company that staged plays in Dulwich, the Fortune Theatre and the Guildhall.
The Dulwich Dramatic Society had earlier opted for a more ensemble type of group; one that created their own scenery, hired less and made more of their own costumes and props. Supported by the Camberwell Arts Council, they staged a number of plays in the Council Chamber, including ‘The Rivals’ and ‘The Beaux Stratagem’. A move to St Barnabas Hall in Dulwich Village saw the production of ‘Arms and the Man’ , ‘The Noble Spaniard’ and ‘She Stoops to Conquer’.
During this time, another well-known local company, The Village Players were also presenting plays at St Barnabas and one or two actors were members of both companies. In addition, both the Village Players and the Dulwich Dramatic Society had taken part in the Dulwich Millennium Pageant in 1967. Finally, after much thought and consideration a happy decision was reached and the two oldest established drama groups in Dulwich amalgamated and became known as The Dulwich Players.
Under their chairman, the late Ivor Martin, the Players settled very happily into the St Barnabas Hall and players from both previous companies made up the cast of ‘The Venetian Twins’. With clever settings constructed by Dick Mynott and splendid costumes designed by Joyce Tunna the company thrived and ‘Charley’s Aunt’, ‘The School for Scandal’ and ‘Boeing Boeing’ followed.
Until the end of the 1980’s the Players met for play readings and parties in what became known as The Studio, a large room on the top floor of our house in Half Moon Lane. It had a stage area with tabs and lighting and could accommodate a audience of around 30 people.
The fire at St Barnabas Church in 1992 occurred while we were in the throes of producing ‘Hobson’s Choice’ which made it necessary for the Church to use the village hall for services and the Dulwich Players were suddenly without a home. After a great deal of searching and negotiation, the chairman, Ruth Franklin managed to arrange for the aptly titled play to be performed at the recently opened Prissian Theatre at James Allen’s Girls’ School.
The Dulwich Players - the later years by Mike Foster
The Dulwich Players is the largest of the three societies currently performing for Dulwich audiences. It has more than 100 members and stages three main productions a year, plus fringe productions, making a total of 170 since its foundation. Its website (www.dulwichplayers.org.uk) gets 250 hits a month, according to Brian Burch, who created it ten years ago.
Main autumn and spring productions are staged at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College, which holds an audience of 120, with facilities which mirror those offered by small professional theatres. Since 1998, the Players have also staged five Shakespeare summer plays in the grounds of Dulwich Picture Gallery, the majority directed by Jan Rae. This year it returned to produce The Adventures of Alice, co-adapted from Lewis Carroll’s stories by Jill Alexander and Jill Kevan.
The Dulwich Players likes to think big on occasion. Its larger productions have included Amadeus, Animal Farm, Oh! What a Lovely War, Return to the Forbidden Planet and Toad of Toad Hall. Productions last season were Daisy Pulls it Off, The Rivals and Waiting for Bono .
The Players often funds small-cast plays in fringe venues and regularly performs as part of the Dulwich Festival. Well-remembered productions include No Way Out, Shakers Restirred, The Real Inspector Hound, The Last Yankee and Painting Mrs Jones. Its productions have been entered for drama festivals and have won several awards. One noteworthy award winner was Brokenville, directed by Tracy Brook and staged by junior members of the society.
The Dulwich Players prides itself on encouraging new talent; it is not unknown for a new member to walk straight into a lead role! It gives an annual award to new members who have contributed most to the society, with special regard to back-stage work. It is named after the late Pat Evans, renowned for making each and every new member feel welcome.
Some members have sometimes found fame, on and off the stage. One actor from the days of the Dulwich Dramatic Society was Robin Butler now Lord Butler and the costumes for the Village Players were once put together by Norma Johnson who later became wife to Prime Minister John Major. The current collection of costumes is maintained by Jane Jones. The society’s longest-standing actor is Frank Ralfe, who played the frog footman in Alice this summer at the age of 80. He has performed for the Village Players and Dulwich Players for 60 years.
According to society records, a majority of Dulwich Players members can expect main or fringe production parts in any given year. Many of the actors help behind the scenes, and the much-valued minority devote themselves entirely to back-stage work, including lights, sound, publicity, make up, production management and set construction.
Lasting friendships, even marriages, have built on shared experiences. Social events are frequent. The society organises quiz nights, social readings, theatre outings, jumble sales and theme evenings. Its 40th anniversary dinner is to be held at the Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club in September.
The society primarily owes its continued success to the efforts of key individuals prepared to sacrifice valuable time for it, including those who serve on an elected committee which manages and co-ordinate activities. Particular thanks are due to the pioneers who set up the society forty years ago, many of whom are still active. More work than you might think goes on behind the scenes to give actors their 15 minutes, or more, of fame.
As it moves into its 41st year, the Dulwich Players has found rising costs are starting to pose problems. The society is currently looking for a new home, at a reasonable price, for its costumes, sets and props. However, despite the need to tighten belts, the society is continuing its tradition of making a donation to a charity favoured by the director of each of its productions.
Dulwich Players present ‘Art’
In October 2009, the Dulwich Players are putting on ‘Art’, thirteen years after it opened in the West End going on to win the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy of the Year. This is a special production for the Dulwich Players for it not only coincides with our 40th anniversary but for the first time in our history we’ll be doing a signed performance of the show on the opening night, making it accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people
Written by the French playwright Yazmina Reza in 1994, the show was translated by Christopher Hampton for English speaking audiences. The play explores themes of friendship and the degree to which we are defined by these relationships. The question is: Are you who think you are or are you who your friends think you are?
Art will be performed over three nights at the Edward Alleyn Theatre between 22 and 24 October. The signed performance will be on Thursday 22 October. The box office opens 15 September and you can email
Desperately Seeking Conservation
When the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s collection of paintings was sent for safety to be stored in a mine in Wales at the outbreak of the Second World War, it was not possible to send all of the reserve collection. Many of these were badly damaged when a V1 Flying Bomb exploded in Gallery Road in 1944 and destroyed the Gallery. In 1988 an Adopt an Old Master scheme was launched to conserve the collection and over 120 paintings have been adopted. A display of rarely seen Gallery paintings in need of conservation will be exhibited this autumn in the hope that people will come forward and adopt some for conservation. What the conservators uncover during conservation provides both a context for scholarly research and for visitor enjoyment.
Drawing Attention - Dulwich Picture Gallery 21 October - 17 January
The Art Gallery of Ontario has put together a great collection of drawings. This group of a hundred of its best works ranges from Renaissance Italy to modern times. It includes Guercino, Boucher, Gainsborough, Ingres, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Turner, Léger, De Kooning and Canada’s remarkable Tom Thomson.
The Development of West Dulwich by Brian Green
While Croxted Road was once the parish boundary between St Mary’s, Lambeth and St Giles, Camberwell and the road would later become the boundary between the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, some areas west of Croxted Road have historically been referred to as ‘Dulwich’ or ‘West Dulwich’. Indeed, the sale to Alleyn’s College of land which now forms part of Rosendale Road, Lovelace Road and Knights (Peabody) Hill by Charles Ranken in 1858 properly defines that area as Dulwich.
Lord Thurlow, Chancellor to George 111, owned the land which now forms part of both West Dulwich and West Norwood and had a mansion built in what is now Elmcourt Road. 160 acres of this land was part of what was known as ‘the detached portion of the Manor of Leigham Court’. Earlier, some of this land to the south side of Knights (Peabody) Hill was once in the ancient manor of Levehurst. In the 17th century the manor of Levehurst was carved up, although by 1744 the manor was reunited by the purchase of its parts by James Wall. Wall was clearly at the forefront of Georgian development, owning the land between Norwood and Croxted Roads as far south as Norwood Common (Norwood Park). Wall’s estate was superseded in 1772 by an even larger estate created by Lord Thurlow. When he died in 1806 his trustees were not able to dispose of much of the estate because of access difficulties. Such sales of land for development as there were tended to be piecemeal, some by private treaty but usually by auction
It was not until 1846, when what remained unsold was auctioned, that development of the area could be contemplated. Lot 12 (12 acres) in the auction was the land now occupied by the row of houses in Rosendale Road south of Thurlow Park Road and the row opposite was Lot 10 (6 acres). According to the Lancaster Road Residents’ Association who conducted a detailed study of the area in 1986 (with a view to obtaining Conservation Area status), it appears that the land changed hands over the next 15 years being divided into smaller plots. By 1864 a large part was owned by Charles Blake. Together with a John Davies he began what was known as the Blake estate which included, by the 1880’s, Chatsworth Way, Idmiston Road and Ardlui Road; a development prompted by the opening of Tulse Hill and Norwood railway stations.
Although that part of Rosendale Road as far south as Park Hall Road had been laid out by Lord Thurlow’s trustees in 1844 to encourage developers, building was still slow and houses in Rosendale Road numbered 117-159 which are pairs of double fronted houses appear not to have been built much before 1890. There is a shorter row diagonally opposite clearly by the same developer which might have been built somewhat earlier.
In Dulwich itself, there was a flurry of building activity following the Dulwich College Act 1857, which established a board of governors with a remit to develop the Dulwich estate in order to provide money to build schools. This activity was further stimulated by the success of the Crystal Palace Company in developing not only the new Crystal Palace, but by providing building plots adjoining it. After a few years of almost frenetic activity a downturn in the economy made the take up of development sporadic, both in the area west of Croxted Road, and the road itself, as Ian McInnes makes clear.
On the Street where you Live - South Croxted Road and Alleyn Park by Ian McInnes
The Governors of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift started leasing building plots at the southern (Paxton Green) end of Alleyn Park (then called Palace Road) and Alleyn Road in 1859. At that time the land at the northern end of Alleyn Road and south of Park Hall Road (then called Park Road) was the grounds of a large house called ‘The Manor House’, located roughly where numbers 64-74 Park Hall Road stand today.
Mr Frederick Doulton, of ceramic fame, leased the land east of Alleyn Park and Mr John McDonald Henderson, a chartered accountant, leased the land to the west. There was some limited construction on both sides of Alleyn Road during the 1860s, ‘Glenthorne’ at 12 Alleyn Road was built in 1867 by architect Henry Wilbur Webster, and Pissarro’s 1870 view over the area from College Road confirms a few houses at the south end of Alleyn Park, including the house of the headmaster of Dulwich College Prep, which still stands,
Mr Henderson sold an interest in some of his land in July 1869 to a “Mr George Baron Holroyd of Dartnall Park, in the County of Surrey, gentleman.” and they both continued to develop plots in Alleyn Road and Alleyn Park over the next twenty years, as demand required. Mr Holroyd had also engaged a new builder, a Mr Edward Van Vliet. The Estate Surveyor found him to be,” a man of some means and bearing a very good character, having carried out large building operations in Sydenham in a satisfactory manner”. The Estate Map of 1876 shows that, by that date, Mr Holroyd and Mr Van Vliet had completed a set of 6 semi-detached houses in Alleyn Road and 11 houses along the west side of Alleyn Park (No. 5 Alleyn Park is the only original one left). The future route of South Croxted Road was denoted as a path ending roughly where Church Approach connects to Alleyn Road today.
Meanwhile, a few years earlier, in 1871, a Mrs Jemima Smith, the lessee of the ‘Manor House’ since 1857, had agreed to sell the house and all its remaining land to a Mr John Westwood. Westwood was a property developer and he gave the land for the construction of Emmanuel Church in Clive Road, (architect E.C. Robins), which was commenced in 1877. This church, which was demolished in 1966 after a fire, made the area more desirable and, by 1883, Mr Westwood had completed Nos 149-219 inclusive on the west side of South Croxted Road (then referred to as ‘New Croxted Road’). Two pairs of semi-detached houses opposite what is now the junction of South Croxted Road and Church Approach (Nos. 105-111) followed in 1885. On the 1886 Estate Map ‘New’ Croxted Road was noted as “partially formed but not yet made up”.
The same year, 1886, Mr Westwood was in financial difficulty and Mr J M Henderson acquired all his outstanding interests under his original agreement with the governors of the recently formed Dulwich Estate in ‘New’ Croxted Road. At the time the Surveyor reported that “Mr Henderson alleges, and is I think justified in doing so, that houses in this locality must be of moderate size and some of them quite small ones to have any chance of speedy letting. I do not see that damage can accrue to the adjacent property of the Governors by compliance with his request, and should the effect of doing so be, as he anticipates, a more rapid occupation of the land, that will be to the direct interest of the estate, since there will be nearly £12000 more expended on the land, the rents will probably be better secured, and an additional ground rent of 20 shillings a house for 125 houses will result.”
Both Mr Henderson and Mr Holroyd continued their building in Alleyn Road, using Mr Van Vliet as their builder, and the latter only moved on to South Croxted Road in late 1894. He was living at 79 Alleyn Road at the time and made a formal application to the London County Council “for consent to form a new road to be called South Croxted Road, to be the continuation of the existing road”. The specification included a 36 foot roadway with 7 foot wide pavements on either side, a total of 50 feet overall.
At the Board Meeting on 24th January 1895 the Surveyor submitted plans for the first 18 of Mr Van Vliet’s houses on the west side of the road - it is not clear whether he was still working directly for Mr Henderson and Mr Holroyd at this point or they were just acting as his mortgagors. The Surveyor noted that “their gardens will abut on the boundary of the College Estate there……the same specification will be used as has been adopted in the other houses built by him (Mr Van Vliet) on the Manor Estate. I think that approval may be given.” The houses were to cost £450 each. More details were provided at a meeting in February and in June, he submitted the drawings and specifications for the first 8 houses on the east side which were larger and were to cost £750.
Mr Van Vliet, however, was also still busy working in Alleyn Road, on Nos. 3-17, and he sublet some of his South Croxted Road sites to another builder, Mr Bodley. Work carried on through the summer until November when the Surveyor reported that “several old doors have been used in the houses being erected by Mr E Van Vliet in Alleyn Road and in South Croxted Road by Mr Bodley, and I have requested their removal.”
Later in the month the Manager, in the absence of the Surveyor, read the following report “I have inspected the houses in course of erection by Mr Van Vliet and Mr Bodley in reference to some doors and fittings not of new material therein used. Mr Van Vliet’s house is a detached one in Alleyn Road. There are several doors and some closet fittings, in bath room and bedrooms, which were bought by Mr Van Vliet at a mansion which was being demolished at Norwood. They are good and well-seasoned and need not, I think, be objected to. Mr Van Vliet is also using some doors made several years ago by Messrs Bowyer (who had been building in Alleyn Park in the 1880s), but which have not been used by them and were therefore sold; they are of course well-seasoned.
Mr Bodley’s buildings consist of a pair of semi-detached houses in South Croxted Road, one of which is completed and occupied, the other nearly complete. There are 14 doors in one house and 18 in the other. Although these are not new they are well made and well-seasoned, and therefore as good if not better than new doors might be.”
In March 1896 Mr Van Vliet submitted further plans for the remainder of the semi-detached houses on South Croxted Road “on plots having each a frontage of about 26 feet” on the west side, and on plots “having each a frontage of about 30 feet” on the east side. No. 22 was one of the first houses completed and it was sold in June 1897.
It appears however that Mr Van Vliet may also have become overstretched, or Mr Holroyd was, because later in 1897, another developer, the Eastman Brothers, “Hugh Thomas Eastman, Archibald Tennant Eastman and Edward John Eastman all of 23 Bucklersbury in the City of London, surveyors” acquired “the uncovered land in New Croxted Road comprised in the lease of 28th January 1886, to Mr J M Henderson, now vested in Mr G B Holroyd”. They continued to use Mr van Vliet as the builder but nothing more is heard from him until March 1899 when he applies for permission “to hold a sale by auction on the premises of his furniture and effects” – a possible sign of bankruptcy - yet in 1900 he was still working for the Eastman Brothers and is reported as selling on his leases of Nos. 6 - 28 (even), 46-48 and 21–39 (odd) South Croxted Road in 1908.
Nos. 13-23 inclusive and 87 and 88 were complete by June 1898, and Nos. 18 & 20 “the fifth pair from Park Road on the east side” followed in February 1899, along with “The Kraal and a semi-detached house not named or numbered (seventh pair from Park Road on the west side)”. Nos. 6-16 and 26-32 on the east side, and nos. 29-31 on the west side were finished by January 1900.
Building in South Croxted Road was substantially complete by 1901 and it rapidly became an important traffic route south towards Crystal Palace. It has had a bus route since 1912 and in May that year, the Manager reported that “during the last fortnight, I have received complaints from many of the tenants in Croxted Road and South Croxted Road as to the nuisance and injury to health and property occasioned by the incessant passing of two hostile motor bus companies’ vehicles along these roads, and the lessees ask whether the Governors could take any steps to abate the nuisance complained of” The Governors agreed that it was a public highway and said there was nothing they could do.