Letters to the Editor

Public Access to Dulwich Old Burial Ground

Dear Editor

Dulwich Old Burial Ground sits in the heart of Dulwich Village as an historical site hosting Grade II listed tombs and wrought iron gates. The grounds were declared ‘full’ in 1858. There have been no new burials since; and the public are denied access. I believe that Dulwich residents should have access at least during daylight hours and call upon The Dulwich Society to persuade the Estate Trustees to allow this.

Edward Alleyn established the burial ground as part of the Foundation of his College of Gods Gift; it was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on September 1st 1616.

Whilst numerous famous people were buried in the grounds there are also unmarked graves where 35 village residents who lost their lives during the Plague in 1665 are buried.

Throughout London, there are several Victorian cemeteries and pre-Victorian burial grounds that exist and which are free to access by the public. Cemeteries have always provided a respite from the bustle of city life as well as a fascinating insight to long gone eras. Victorians saw cemeteries as a place to visit, a place to reflect and contemplate.

I do not understand why such a gem as our own burial ground remains closed off to public access.

Reviewing the CABE Space briefing (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) in 2005 it cited that many of the difficulties faced by local communities in keeping their cemeteries and burial grounds open to the public was the cost of upkeep and maintaining safety as tombstones go into disrepair. Despite these concerns the briefing was overall in favour of burial grounds being considered as being ‘places of specific local heritage interest, as well as being very much a part of the historic townscape’.

‘The 1994 report on the management of old cemeteries (Dunk & Rugg1994) enumerated 4 different kinds of values which cemeteries represent to today’s society; historical, ecological, education and leisure.’

Whilst that statement is now 16years old I believe it is as true today as ever.

The ministry of Justice issued a report on Burial Grounds in 2007. This followed a survey throughout England and Wales which captured information on all burial grounds ranging from open modern cemeteries through to historical closed burial grounds and churchyards. The survey found that the vast majority of burial grounds permit public access to the site at any time. Just fewer than 30% of grounds were closed to public access at night and only 6% were closed to the public except by prior arrangement. Burial grounds in London had reported a higher incidence of antisocial behaviour and vandalism acts compared to other regions; this was reflected in the closure of many grounds over night.

Please can we look into the practicalities of reuniting the Dulwich Old Burial Ground with the community which cherishes it?

Beth Christian

Preventing Heart Attacks from being fatal

In the last issue of the Journal an article by Annie Price entitled A Life-saving chain of events in Dulwich Village was received with much interest. Two specific responses have been received. The first is from Katherine Opie-Smith. She writes:

I read the article by Annie Price, about Boris Lams life-saving at Pizza Express (I’d heard the story already on the grapevine but it was good to read how kind everyone was). It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to publicise something for a while which has a bearing on what happened.

A little while ago I bought a defibrillator for my dental practice for emergency use (I hope we never have to) and it is stored in the surgery at my house at 112 Dulwich Village. I am aware that it is probably the only one in the Village at the moment, unless any of the shops have one. I should like to make its presence a bit more widely known for precisely the sort of scenario that happened at Pizza Express as I would obviously be happy for it to used in an emergency elsewhere.

Defibrillators are the most successful way to get a heart started gain if it goes in to fibrillation, I believe, so it might be useful to somebody. The staff at the practice are trained in its use too, and as Dulwich has such a high density of doctors and medically qualified personnel, I’m sure there are lots of people locally who have come across them before. Actually, it is one of the types which have a voice-operating flow of instructions so really anybody can use it, you don’t need to have qualifications….it tells you what to do. The staff here also have training in Emergency Procedures every year, and have a full set of emergency drugs and oxygen as well.

I’m not suggesting anyone should rely on us rather than calling 999, which is clearly the best thing to do and should be done immediately in any emergency situation, but rather as an adjunct to what is available in Dulwich, just in case!

Dogs in Dulwich Park - a response

In response to an article regarding the presence of menacing dogs in Dulwich Park, Dianne Flynn writes-

As a 365-day-per-year user of local parks, I fully support the increased police presence in Dulwich Park targeted at careless dog owners. The park should be a safe place for all of its users, even when the police aren’t present and while we are waiting for better legislation against irresponsible owners of all breeds of dogs, such as the Dog Control Bill (http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2008-09/dogcontrol.html) currently being considered by Parliament.

In areas where dogs are present, it is important to remember that just because a dog seems to be all muscles and teeth, it isn’t necessarily dangerous or aggressive. Conversely, the cute ball of fluff isn’t necessarily safe, either. Safer Pets has some very good information on their website (http://saferpets.co.uk) about safety around dogs. Most importantly, you should always ask the owner for permission before approaching or petting a dog and you should stand still if you are approached by a strange dog and you are frightened.

There are several areas in Dulwich Park where dogs are forbidden, including the children’s playground which offers grassy space and picnic tables. Perhaps this area could be expanded further into the East Lawns to allow for more dog-free eating and play space. The park also requests that dogs be on leads on the paths around the boating lake and in the wildlife conservation areas. These areas are also off-limits to cycles, making them ideal for leisurely strolls. If you see anyone breaking the rules in these areas, you should report them to the Park Office on 0208 693 8635. In case of emergency and to get immediate police assistance, you should always dial 999 first.