Sunday 19th Friends of Kingswood House - Open House Day 1pm-4.30pm. Beckenham Concert Band will play on the Terrace. Cream Teas available in the Billiards Room
Thursday 24th Dulwich Society Traffic & Transport Group PUBLIC MEETING chaired by Peter Kolvin QC to discuss a Dulwich Walking & Cycling network for schoolchildren. At 7.30pm in the Great Hall, Dulwich College.
Saturday 25th Lambeth Archives Open Day. 10am Minet Library, Knatchbull Road. www.lambeth.gov.uk
10am-4pm Dulwich Going Greener - Harvest Open Day in the Dulwich Vegetable Garden, rear of Rosebery Lodge, Dulwich Park.
Sunday 26th In aid of Dulwich Helpline - James Allen Community Orchestra Concert. At 6pm in the Holst Hall, James Allen’s Girls’ School. Tickets £7, concessions £5 send sae and cheque payable to JAGS, to Music Dept, JAGS, East Dulwich Grove SE 22 8TE
Saturday 2nd Dulwich Society unveiling of the RED POST, in the grounds of Herne Hill United Church, Red Post Hill at 11am.
Sunday 3rd Dulwich Society Local History Group Walk - “Edward Alleyn and Bankside” Meet outside the South Door, Southwark Cathedral at 2.30pm, No charge and visitors welcome.
Saturday 9th Chrissie Gittins reads from her book The Humpback Whale and from her other stories and poems in a family poetry workshop. 3pm Horniman Museum.
Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture Frenzied Gaiety or Else Bitter Tears - 19th Century Russian music and art by Nick Slope & Petra Casen. At 8pm at James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture theatre.
Wednesday 27th Dulwich Society Trees Group AUTUMN COLOURS trip. Morning visit to Sheffield Park Gardens with a Guided Tour. Afternoon visit to Nymans gardens and romantic ruins. Coach from Dulwich Picture Gallery 9am. Cost £18 (please complete the application form on page 37).
Saturday 6th - Sunday 7th Dulwich Quilters Exhibition. The Old Library, Dulwich College. 10am-5pm
Thursday 11th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - Minotaurs and Labyrinths - myths and Minoan art by Louise Schofield at 8pm at James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture theatre.
Saturday 27th Dulwich Orchestral Society 60th Anniversary Concert.- Huapango - Moncayo; Clarinet concerto in A major- Mozart; Soloist: Boyan Ivanov : Symphony No 2 in E minor - Rachmaninov. Guest Conductor Leigh O’Hara. All Saints' Church, Lovelace Road, West Dulwich, SE21 at 7.45pm. Tickets £8, concessions £5 and children under 16 free, and include an interval drink.
Sunday 28th In aid of Dulwich Helpline - Living in Victorian Dulwich Village - an illustrated talk by Brian Green - a continuation of last year’s talk on East Dulwich. Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery 3.00pm admission £7 (concs £5) tickets from Dulwich Helpline 020 8299 2623 or on the door.
Saturday 4th The Ionian Singers - Concert - Including music for harpsichord and seasonal music for chorus by Byrd, Morley, Gibbons, J.S. Bach, Cornelius, Howells, Bax, Barber and Warlock. Conductor: Timothy Salter, harpsichord Jane Chapman. At 7.30pm All Saints Church, Rosendale Road XDSE 27. Tickets at the door or in advance from 020 8693 1051 or firstname.lastname@example.org £12 students £6, including interval wine.
Thursday 9th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - From Yuletise to Nativity - Christmas in early England by Sam Newton 8pm James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture theatre.
The Dulwich Players will be presenting the fast-paced 'Bouncers' by John Godber at the Edward Alleyn Theatre on the 21st, 22nd & 23rd October 2010. Set in a northern nightclub on a Friday night, the audience will see four actors not only play the eponymous characters but their various clients - be it 18 year old girls, punks or the DJ entertaining the crowds. It is a sequel to Shakers performed by the Dulwich Players in 2005. Do come along to what will be an exciting production. Please note that this play contains adult humour and may be considered unsuitable for young children. Further details are available on the Dulwich Players website - www.dulwichplayers.org - or tickets (at £8 each) available from the Box Office on 020 8693 4830 or at The Art Stationers in Dulwich Village.
Kingswood, as council estates go, is something of a paradox. There can be fewer public housing schemes where so much care and thought has gone into the design as this former gentleman’s estate at the southern end of Dulwich. Over the years it has remained attractive, a feat made easier by the enlightened retention of greensward and mature trees in the original design. Another success is the continued use of the original mansion - Kingswood House, as a focus for the community; its library being an essential anchor for this success. For a couple generations, until the growth of nursery places elsewhere in Dulwich, its council-run nursery was a godsend to astute but cash-strapped middle-class mums who arrived in a column of cars each day. The secondary school, Kingsdale, one of the earliest comprehensives was then less popular with such families. It had its difficulties and its high points. Once a centre of school teaching union militancy, it also, again paradoxically, developed a music department of national importance. Now the school has been totally reinvented, facilities always good are now superb and the economic recession has delivered a more even social mix.
Kingswood - a brief history
An estate was carved, partially out of woodland, at the southern tip of the manor of Dulwich in 1811 when most of the remaining land was let and an ambitious development plan by Dulwich College had been abandoned because of earlier economic woes. The first owner of what was an estate of originally 68 acres behaved like most of his contemporaries by becoming a gentleman farmer. However, this entailed keeping his day job. William Vizard was a successful lawyer, with offices in London, where he acted as Queen Caroline’s legal advisor in her divorce case with King George IV. Vizard, naturally had a large staff to maintain his estate which included a small farm.
During the nineteenth century the estate remained essentially intact and was occupied by a succession of prosperous businessmen owners. It was John Lawson Johnston, who acquired Kingswood in the 1890’s, who transformed the original and more modest Georgian house, into the extraordinary pastiche of the Scottish baronial mansion it is today. As a dietician he specialised in what is today better known as ‘C’ rations for marching troops. However, it was from his invention and skilful marketing of ‘Bovril’ that he amassed his considerable fortune; indeed Kingswood was once known locally as Bovril Castle! Johnston’s enthusiasm for his native Scotland and the failed cause of the Jacobites persuaded him to furnish the interior with displays of Claymores and as well as the actual bed Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have slept in after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
Johnston’s tenure of Kingswood was actually very brief and building works on the house and grounds (he also built a mock ‘castle’ where the parade of shops is today), must have occupied a good deal of the time he was actually living there. Happily for us, his extraordinary ‘improvements’ remain and we can still admire the elaborate wooden panelling and restored tapestries in the hall and stairs and the highly decorative fireplaces, said to have been removed from the Palace of St Cloud outside Paris.
Another owner, a brief occupancy as a convalescent hospital for wounded Canadian troops paid for by the Canadian firm of tractor manufacturers, Massey-Harris and then Kingswood Estate passed into the ownership of Sir William Vestey, who in 1922 “stepped out of cold storage into the peerage” when he was,made a lord by Lloyd George. Lord Vestey did not substantially alter Kingswood externally during his ownership which lasted until 1946 although he did make changes inside the house. The Jacobean ceiling in what was once the drawing room, which hides Johnston’s ceiling above it, was one of Vestey’s changes. At the end of World War II Lord Vestey proposed turning Kingswood into a hostel for his employees but London’s housing needs were so great that in 1946 the London County Council announced a compulsory purchase order for Kingswood. It acquired a total of 37 acres of which 30 acres was set aside for housing development and about three and a half acres allocated for schools.
In December 1947 the plans revealed that 748 dwellings would be built, in 3-4 storey flats, and 46 cottages. This came as a great shock to local residents who were only just getting used to the loss of the large Bessemer Estate for council housing at the opposite end of Dulwich. These compulsory purchase orders, followed in rapid succession by other orders for more land on Sydenham Hill, Lordship Lane and Dulwich Common gave the impression that the whole of Dulwich was being built over. Actually the LCC policy was similar to that adopted some eighty years earlier; to keep the centre of the Dulwich Estate as open as possible and to build densely on its periphery.
The Kingswood Estate was one of the last schemes designed by the London County Council Housing and Valuation Department rather than the Architect’s department, and this may go some way to explain its slightly retro 1930s feel. Careful consideration was given to preserving a large number of the fine existing trees and the generously spaced layout was planned around them. The shopping centre and pub (now demolished) were an integral part of the scheme.
When building resumed after WWII the clerk of the council at the LCC had recommended that, to improve efficiency, housing should be designed by members of the Valuation Department, hitherto only responsible for site acquisition and management. Despite opposition from the architectural profession and the LCC staff association, the change was approved. The Chief Architect, and author of the 1943 County of London Plan, J H Forshaw, resigned in protest.
His successor, Robert Matthew, was appointed early in 1946 and he was determined to win the housing programme back. The architects' opposition focused on the monotony of the schemes emerging from the Valuation Department, the reliance of these designs on pre-war models, and the absence of open space or community facilities in completed work (in fairness not a concern at Kingswood). Opposition came to a head in 1948, when the influential architectural critic James Richards complained in a radio broadcast about the LCC's current expedience and ‘sheer bad architecture’. The council's leader, Isaac Hayward, invited other comments. The response was overwhelmingly hostile and, with the support of the LCC's Town Planning Committee, control of future housing was returned to the architects' department in 1949 - their good track record on the design of the Festival of Britain buildings probably being the deciding factor.
The LCC may be credited in making huge efforts to provide as an attractive estate as the money available would allow; although the austerity of the time is reflected in the appearance of many of the individual houses in for example, Bowen Drive and Kingswood Drive, where some of the poor materials used and the consequent land heave have resulted in a great deal of subsidence. Most disappointing of all are the two neat rows of attractively painted but largely shuttered-up shops, victims of both the current economic downturn and the change in personal shopping habits, indeed the Community Police ‘cop shop’ has the appearance of the sheriff’s office in a one horse-town and the Community policeman its lone sheriff. Creative thinking is urgently needed to return this small commercial space to its earlier estate focus.
Henry Vaughen Lanchester (1863-1953) - architect of Kingswood House
Professor Henry Vaughen Lanchester FRIBA received the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 1934 and in his address at the award ceremony he generously noted that “I feel not exactly a fraud in receiving this gold medal, but I feel I am more or less representative of a group, rather than myself, because my partners,... did so much towards the designs... My own work was of course very definite in character; it was the initial conception of the general idea of a building, but I was never permitted, at all events in Rickard’s days, to do anything towards the absolute completion of that conception.”
Born in London on 9 August 1863, the son of architect Henry Jones Lanchester, his three younger brothers, Frederick, George and Frank, were later the inventors and manufacturers of the Lanchester Motor Car.
He was articled to his father in 1879 but then, to gain wider experience, worked as an assistant in the offices of architects Frederick Eadle, Thomas Cutler and George Sherrin. He took classes at the Royal Academy Schools and the Architectural Association, winning the Aldwinckle Travelling Studentship, and, in 1889-90, the Owen Jones Studentship. He joined the RIBA in 18 November 1889.
His first major client was Bovril tycoon John Lawson Johnston. His work at Kingswood House, carried out 1891-93, was done at the same time as he was building Messrs Bovril’s office and warehouse premises in Golden Lane and Old Street. Now demolished, it was an interesting early use of a concrete frame.
In 1896 he went into partnership with James Stewart and E A Rickards, both of whom he had met in George Sherrin’s office. They entered various architectural competitions and their first success was the third premium in the Edinburgh North British competition in 1897. In the following year, they won the Cardiff City Hall and Law Courts competition - the first intentionally planned civic centre in the Country. They continued to win competitions including Godalming Town Hall (1899 & not built) Deptford Town Hall (1903) and the Hull Art School (1903).
Stewart died in 1904 but Lanchester and Rickards continued their partnership and, in 1905, won the competition for the Wesleyan Central Convocation Hall, more generally known now as the Westminster Central Hall.
In 1912 Lanchester was asked to report on options for the site of New Delhi, the proposed new capital of India and, while there, he also prepared plans for Madras (now Chennai) and other cities. He set up a successful branch office whose projects included the Post Office at Lucknow, the Birkmyre Hotel in Calcutta, and later, in the 1920s & 30s the stunning art deco style Umaid Bhawan Palace for the Maharajah of Jodhpur - a lavish monument to royal living which was apparently built as a public relief and employment project during a long period of drought.
Rickards died in 1919 and Lanchester then went into partnership with T A Lodge. Later successes included competition wins for Beckenham Town Hall (now demolished) and Leeds University. He was editor of the ‘The Builder’ between 1910-12 and, later, Professor of Architecture at University College, London.
Kingswood House has a very active group of Friends. They organised a very successful Victorian Day in 2009, and, in conjunction with Dulwich Helpline, a Tea Dance, which exceeded all expectations, was held this year. On 19th September the Friends of Kingswood House are hosting an Open Day in connection with ‘Open House Day’. The house will be open from 1pm-4.30pm and the Beckenham Concert Orchestra will be playing on the terrace. Cream Teas will be served in the Billiards Room. As far as regular events are concerned, the Library is open Monday & Thursday 10-2, Tuesday & Friday 2-6 and Saturday 10-5. Southwark Adult Education runs many of the other events. On Mondays there is an Under 5’s Group from 10-12 noon, a fitness and Pilates session from 9.45-11.15am. Tuesdays there is Sure Start for under 5’s and an Over 50’s Social Club from 2-4 pm. Wednesdays fitness Keep Fit-Feel Fine 1-.11.30am, health and fitness beginners Pilates 1-2.30pm. Dulwich Helpline reminiscence group 1-3pm. Paxton Green Time Bank IT workshop 2-4pm. Thursdays Dulwich Helpline befriending group 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month 10am-12noon. Rainbow Arts & Crafts (age 50 plus) 12.30-3.30pm, Bingo club 7-10pm. Fridays 2nd Friday each month Tessa Jowell MP surgery and Kingswood estate police surgery. Saturdays 1st Saturday of each month - Councillor Louise Robinson surgery 10-11am.
Other events include a farmers’ Market which held its first market in the grounds in July. If this was judged successful it will be hold monthly and will alternate with the market held at Dulwich College. The Carl Campbell Company has moved into Kingswood and specialises in contemporary Caribbean dance and has a project for older people called The Recycled Teenagers. The Company is applying for Heritage Lottery funding for a project on African people going back to the 17th century.
However, the Friends of Kingswood urgently need more help for tasks like applying for local authority and other grants to maintain the building, editorial staff for its newsletter and a secretary. New members to augment the social committee are also sought.
Kingsdale School celebrated its 50th year in 2009. In recent years it has had massive funding to upgrade its existing buildings and provide a new auditorium and music and sports centres. Whereas, in 1959 its projected role was 2500 pupils it now accommodates a maximum of1200, with an eight form entry at year 7. Instead of being taken to Ewell by coach for games, it now has the use of the adjacent former Mary Datchelor Girls’ School ground (which it shares with DCPS) in Huntslip Road. It is the most over-subscribed first preference state secondary in Southwark or Lambeth and this year it received 1,100 applications for the 200 places available.
Mr S. H. Morrison, the headteacher, is keen to express his preference for Foundation over ‘old style’ Academy status. This, he argues, has been beneficial because it does not require another tier of authority above the governing body itself.. The school, through its governing body, is therefore in charge of its own budget and admissions policy and its own staff recruitment. The admission policy has changed significantly with Foundation status; 15% of admissions places go each year to pupils who are awarded either music or sports scholarships (mathematics is to be added to the scholarship percentage shortly). Scholars can expect to receive individual or small group tuition in their chosen subject. Of the remaining places; the majority are offered by random allocation to any child who wishes to apply, irrespective of distance from the school and to achieve a 50-50 boy/girl ratio. This has led to a wider social mix attending Kingsdale in the incoming Year 7, which earlier had its admissions policy based on a geographic entry with those nearest the school being accepted.
This September the school will offer sixth form places for 100 pupils in year 12 and 100 in year 13. Admission will be based on performance at GCSE level. Entry for the subjects of choice will require an A* or A grade in GCSE for Level 3 courses. While 80% of places in the new sixth form will be reserved for existing Kingsdale pupils, 20% will be offered to external students who meet the criteria for entry. The School has applied to offer the International Baccalaureate alongside traditional Level 3 courses including A and AS levels.
The school also offers a ‘Saturday School’ in a range of subjects, a breakfast club and Christian and Muslim prayers and fellowship on several days a week. A large range of clubs operate during the lunch break and after school and the school is prepared to form a new club if 15 or more pupils ask for it. Horse riding, archery, chess, films, choir and instrumental music clubs are some on the lengthy list. After-school clubs also exist for drama, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, art/textiles and the jazz band. There is an impressive list of homework or extra-tuition clubs after school.
Open Days are Wednesday 15th September 9.30-11am, and 5.30-8pm, Saturday 18th September 11am-1pm, Wednesday 22nd September 9.30-11am. Wednesday 29th September 9.30-11am. Saturday 2nd October 11am-1pm, Wednesday 6th October 9.30-11am, Saturday 9th 11-1pm.
Memories of the famed Kingsdale School Big Band
Arthur Dodd writes:
The information that the new music school at Kingsdale Foundation School was completed immediately invoked memories of the famed Kingsdale School Big Bad and the excitement and musical pleasure their discovery gave me, incredibly thirty years ago.
The prime mover and driving force behind the band was the late Eric Matthes who died in 1993. From a school which was hardly the Eton of South London he assembled a group of young musicians from a background as varied as it is possible to imagine and whose enthusiasm and accomplishment was outstanding.
Our initial discovery of the band was about 1976 at an open-air fete in the grounds of the Maudsley Hospital. Whilst searching amongst the stalls I became aware of the unique sound of a big band performing of all things, ‘A Night in Tunisia’. How could this be? Was I hallucinating, were my aural responses playing tricks? Not so.
Arising out of a discussion with the late Tony Hogg, their conductor, trombonist and part-time music teacher at Kingsdale School we were invited to a concert at Fairfield Hall, Croydon, where the band would display in a proper setting all they could offer. What a feast this was. Nothing it seemed was beyond them. The discipline, the interplay between sections of a large Big Band contrived to produce the sheer power and excitement which only such an aggregation can summon.
Their party piece was the theme music from the T.V. programme ‘Hawaii Five -O’, which if short in intellectual content was high in rhythmic thrust. Their programme included the most advanced scores from such as Lennie Niehaus, Pete Rugolo and I think Billy May. Amongst their musicians was local boy Jamie Talbot who I have seen in the theatre bands in recent times in such as ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and ‘Anything Goes’ and is I believe a well known personality in the Musicians’ Union. Also prominent was multi-instrumentalist Gail Thompson, who with Virgi the trombonist who played with an almost seamless vibrato worthy of Tommy Dorsey himself, and drummer Nigel Green became professional musicians.
The school, which received the award of ‘outstanding’ in a recent Ofsted inspection, has revived its Big Band and has some very impressive young musicians.
Dulwich’s little corner of National History
There is one part of Dulwich, which had played out within its walls, some of most desperate moments of national history. Indeed, the religious fundamentalism in England at the end of the sixteenth and much of the seventeenth centuries was as extreme as other religions today. Many historians now argue that the English Civil War was caused just as much by religious issues as by the king ignoring Parliament or the imposition of oppressive taxation. That place is Christ’s Chapel, built in1613-1616 and which forms the central aspect of the foundation of a college for 12 poor scholars and an almshouse for six poor men and six poor women. It was built as an act of benevolence by the celebrated actor and theatre owner Edward Alleyn. While this of course is common knowledge, what is not so readily appreciated is the defining role this small chapel has in understanding the complex currents and undertones of religious fervour which once gripped England.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott (1562-1633) consecrated the chapel on Edward Alleyn’s birthday on 1st September 1616 he had been translated only five years earlier. He performed the act of consecration because of a vacancy in the see of Winchester, the diocese in which the chapel was then situated. Abbott was a moderate Puritan but upheld the Apostolic Succession, the doctrine that properly ordained bishops inherited the spiritual authority conferred upon them by the Apostles, who in turn received this authority from Jesus Christ. George Abbott also tolerated other aspects of Roman Catholicism when occasion required it. On the other hand he was averse to popery and suppressed opinions with which he disagreed with excessive harshness. Abbott, a Calvinist, had feuded with the rising fellow cleric William Laud. They clashed over doctrinal issues; Laud being influenced by the teachings of Jacob Arminius who emphasised the concept of free will and good works over predestination as a means of salvation. Laud’s interpretation of Arminianism also included ordered and uniform practices of worship.
It can be safely assumed that Christ’s Chapel, in its first twenty years or so, was a plain place of worship, equipped with an altar, pulpit, font and convenient seats as early records tell us, but without stained glass in its windows, railings around its altar table, pictures or painted walls. According to its statutes it had a choir. Its clergy wore plain surplices but not highly decorated copes.
It was typical of Abbott’s resistance to the Crown’s interference with Church matters that he spoke out against the Declaration of Sports. The Declaration of Sports, said to have been drafted by William Laud, was a device by James 1 to humour those who affectionately looked back on pre-Puritan times when maypole dancing, jumping and vaulting and the laying of rushes on church floors were customary on Sundays after church service. While such practices were totally alien to puritans, some of whom still refused to accept that the Reformation had actually been completed, the King was aware that to maintain peace among the many religious factions which then existed he had to ease some of the puritan restrictions. George Abbott, however, resisted the King on this issue by refusing to have the Declaration read in churches of which he was the Peculiar (which included Christ’s Chapel).
Abbott was clearly on good terms with Edward Alleyn and Alleyn dined with His Grace at Croydon and visited on other occasions. After Alleyn’s death in 1626 and following an incident at the Chapel involving one of its preachers, a Rev Robert Wells, who was expelled for ‘divers misdemeanours’ Archbishop Abbott was obliged to take a closer look at what was going on here. He admonished the College, now administered by two of Alleyn’s cousins as Master and Warden, to “support the poor & scholars and to behave themselves soberly and modestly and observe the statutes according to their oaths”.
Abbott had meantime fallen from influence and favour, possibly by absenting himself from the Council because of the effect of an accident in which he killed a servant with a crossbow bolt while hunting. His critics accused him of abusing his office by hunting and sought to discredit him and for the last few years of his life he was sidelined by the ambitious Laud. Nevertheless, Abbott enjoyed the support of James 1 and this support was continued by his heir and Abbott placed the crown on the head of Charles 1 when he ascended to the throne in 1625.
Laud succeeded to the Primacy in 1633 on the death of Abbott and almost immediately began bringing the Church into the uniformity he so highly prized, by requiring all parishes and priests to adhere to the Prayer Book. The Prayer Book of 1559 already had printed in its Preface the draconian code of punishments of those in England who did not strictly adhere to its use, including massive fines and the threat of life imprisonment. These were however rarely enforced. All was to change when Laud sent his agents throughout the country to ensure the uniformity of worship as prescribed in the Prayer Book. Laud also insisted on the reading the Declaration of Sports in all churches, so we must assume it was read out here in Dulwich and was quickly acted upon.
Laud was described as a man of small stature but of great ambition who had sprung from humble roots. Some writers have explained his single-mindedness of purpose and his ruthless manipulation of power was a way of compensating for these aspects of his personality. Certainly Laud brooked no interference and took savage action against his critics, among them the publishers of the numerous pamphlets then circulating which were critical of his power. William Prynne, a radical Puritan who, like his fellows, wanted to close all the theatres, had already incurred royal wrath by writing a book which denounced the staging of plays. This was seen as an attack upon the Queen who had performed in a play at Court. It was also interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on the King himself for allowing such conduct. Prynne was sentenced to mutilation by having his ears cut off. When Prynne later wrote a tirade against Laud in a pamphlet he was seized again, tried and sentenced to mutilation in the pillory a second time when the remainder of his ears were cut off and he was branded on his cheek with the letters - S.L. signifying Seditious Libeller ( Prynne, on returning from the hands of his torturer, brazenly composed a poem in which the initials S.L. stood for Stigmata Laud).
In Dulwich, Laud had facilitated the appointment of one Simon Mace as Preacher. Mace was quarrelsome and argued with the Master “abusing him with uncivil words and calling him a hypocrite and a Cussenor”. The dispute was brought before the local magistrate and Mace promptly abused him as well. He told the boys that learning Latin and singing would do them no good at all. He also took some boys to the alehouse with him and they were ‘overtaken with drink’. At dinner, Mace was reported to have said that the Archbishop of York was “ a devilish plotter of villainy and would make a brave Pope. He went on to call the Master “a base rascal”, and challenged him to a fight. Probably to get rid of this tiresome cleric, William Laud gave Mace leave to appoint a substitute at Dulwich so he could join the pinnace ‘Greyhound’ as chaplain. His subsequent career has sadly not come to light.
Laud held his first visitation to Dulwich in 1634 and at once queried whether the Fellows wore surplices during divine services and sang in the choir. On finding out that they did not Laud admonished them and then went on to ask where the altar candles and basin were, to which the Master confessed to removing them. Laud commanded him to put them back. He also gave orders for a bell for the Chapel to be cast at the College’s expense but bearing the inscription “William Laud made mee 1634”. It still hangs in the bell-tower. Undoubtedly he insisted on moving the altar from the nave to be set lengthways against the east wall and railed off.
In 1639 Laud’s Vicar General, Sir Nathaniel Brent made a further Visitation to Dulwich, one many he conducted throughout England to enforce conformity, correct irregularities in the conduct of services and inspect the fabric. As far as the fabric was concerned he did not like what he saw. The tower had fallen down shortly before and there were insufficient funds to rebuild it. Brent reported back to the Archbishop. Laud immediately closed the whole College down for 6 months to save money on salaries and expenses. The poor brothers, sisters and boys were returned to their respective parishes for the period. In 1641, with finances presumably restored, Laud commanded the College to reglaze the plain East Window “in divers coloured glass of the same worke and fashion as the east windows of the Parish churches of St Martins in the Fields and St Clement Danes”.
Some of the changes Laud was obliging parishes to adopt, such as the moving of altars to a position sideways to the east wall and protected by rails, replacing ordinary bread for the sacraments with wafers, the use of candles and ornaments, stained glass and decorated vestments have been explained by some as an effort of brighten churches up from their Puritan plainness, and by others as placing emphasis on the sacramental and ceremonial aspects of church services above those of the preaching The Word.
Laud’s insistence on total conformity of the Liturgy of churches in England, as well as attempting to force churches in Scotland to use the 1559 Common Prayer Book, on the one hand alienated English Puritans who sensed Laud was adopting Roman Catholic practices (some 16,000 emigrated to America) and on the other led the Scots to reject both the prayer book and the episcopacy. This refusal to conform obliged Charles to invade Scotland to try force uniformity upon it and so fermented what became known as The Bishops’ War.
Laud’s high handed actions, his adherence for what were interpreted as Roman Catholic practices, his influence over the King and his central role in the Administration alienated Parliament and he was arrested for treason and imprisoned in the Tower in 1643. In 1645 Parliament passed a Bill of Attainder (which only required a presumption of guilt) and Laud was beheaded. The Civil War, meanwhile, had commenced in 1642 and the four Fellows of Dulwich fled to the Royalist stronghold of Oxford. The Master and Warden remained in post (wisely putting the College plate into pawn for duration as a means of safeguarding it). In 1644 Parliament took over as watch-dog of the College, declared the missing fellows delinquents and through Parliament’s Committee for Plundered Ministers appointed a preacher and a schoolmaster of their own choosing. As these two new men were doing the work of four they not unreasonably demanded double wages which the Master and Warden refused. The new men complained and Parliament ordered the Sergeant at Arms to arrest both Master and Warden - they were released without charge.
Desecration of the Chapel then took place - the new stained glass window fell a victim, together with the altar rails and organ. The choir was disbanded, singing during service stopped, the font probably smashed and baptisms banned. The altar was placed lengthways in the nave; surplices, candles, icons and pictures were also banned. Troops were billeted on the College in 1647 during July and August when the New Model Army occupied London before withdrawing to Putney for the famous Putney Debates.
Actually, in many ways, the Commonwealth was a good time for the College. A particularly gifted Schoolmaster Fellow - Edmund Colby, who had sympathy for the Parliamentary cause and because of his politics had been driven out of his home in Cornwall and had his books burnt by Royalist sympathisers, was engaged by the Committee for Plundered Ministers. During his tenure in Dulwich, four boys went to university, the largest number in the College’s history.
By 1658, puritan sympathy was on the wane and when the Master and Warden told Parliament they could not sign new leases for tenants as they had no elected Fellows as required by the Statutes, Parliament discharged both the preacher and Colby and let the College elect its own men. There was uproar by parents in the village over Colby’s dismissal and a letter was sent to the Committee appealing for his retention. It was refused. The Preacher was replaced with someone apparently more ambivalent about puritan sympathies, because he held his post until 1670 - well into the Restoration. The new priest was not stupid however and whatever he might have thought in private he was not going to prematurely make changes until he could see which way the wind would blow in the attempt to restore the Monarchy.
Although the Restoration would eventually deliver the Church back into uniformity, it would take some time as the example of Dulwich demonstrates. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Sheldon who was translated in 1662 did not risk promoting the, immediate restoration of altars for fear of upsetting anti-Laudians and Londoners hostile to the High Church. It was not until after the Great Fire that he was able to insist on returning to pre-war conditions such as bringing back railed altars and demanding the Prayer Book be used. Some 2000 ministers who refused to accept these demands were deprived of their livings.
In Dulwich, Archbishop Sheldon’s Visitation was spread over several years, interrupted by plague and the Great Fire. Undoubtedly, what with the introduction of the new Prayer Book in 1662, he had his hands full. Even so, in 1665 in the chapel in Dulwich where he was the Peculiar, Sheldon must have been horrified to find that surplices were still not being worn, that the “force of the late tymes of disorder and rebellion” had caused singing to be put down, the organ broken into pieces and carried away, the communion table turned endways east to west “and several other disorders now crept in”. He ordered the altar be put back behind rails lengthways, the Reading Desk for lessons be brought back to the middle of the Choir and the College were “to provide a Litany Desk there to sing or say the Litany”. Pew rents would be charged and a small organ obtained. Services were to be as near that of the Cathedral service at Westminster Abbey. The College set about repairing what was left of the old organ and ordering cloth for new surplices for the Fellows and the scholars.
For Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich, its moment in the history of the Anglican Church had passed.
The native Black Poplar is now the least common of all our native trees. Yet until about 1850, it was widely planted because its timber was much sought after because of its special qualities. It was fire-resistant and used for floorboards around hearths. Its shock-absorbent qualities made it suitable for making wagons. Its pale colour lent itself to furniture-making, its hardness lent itself for weaponry - from arrows found on the Mary Rose to more recent rifle butts. But the native tree was replaced in popularity by hybrids and clones, which account for most of the Black Poplars we are likely to see now.
The British Black Poplar, sub-species betulifolia (populus nigra betulifolia) is a massive, fast-growing tree, reaching about 30 metres (100 feet). As it thrives in soil subject to flooding, it was planted alongside rivers and streams, by farm ponds and in wet meadows. A common field and parish boundary marker because of its distinctive shape - arching lower branches and leaning trunk - it can be seen in the background in many Constable paintings, including The Hay Wain. It lives for about 100 years before starting to decline, so any surviving specimens will be coming to the end of their lives.
In the early 1800s, male and female clones (populus canadensis) were developed. They were popularly used as screening alongside railways, so became known as 'Railway Poplars'. However, the female trees went out of fashion, as they are considered to be a nuisance because of the “fluff” shed from their catkins in May/June. Nowadays, only about five per cent of Black Poplars nationally are female. Both the male and female trees have catkins, but they do not last long in the male, whereas the windborne white seed-down that litters the ground around a female Black Poplar is a very distinctive feature of the species. The seeds, with their tufts of cottony hairs, are wind pollinated and will readily hybridise, although the fruit of the clones is usually sterile. From about 1850, the hybrids produced from the European Black Poplar and the North American Cottonwood (populus deltoides) became the preferred varieties, as they proved to be even faster growing and more easily propagated. The most familiar form is the tall, slim Lombardy, which is a male clone.
A number of different forms of the Black Poplar can be seen here in Dulwich and East Dulwich. They are in the Top Ten of trees that support wildlife species. The heart-shaped leaves of all the Black Poplars are very similar, but there are subtle differences, some of which can only be seen through a magnifying glass. (It’s worth carrying one in your pocket if you’re going on a tree trail). The male tree on the corner of St Aidan’s Road and Piermont Green has galls on its leaves, caused by aphids. Although the female trees are uncommon, a fine hybrid specimen can be seen on Peckham Rye, alongside the path from Barry Road to the main gates of Peckham Rye Park. This retains the beauty of its natural habit. It is in an open position and has been allowed to grow relatively unimpeded. Three types can be seen on the margin of Long Meadow on Gipsy Hill, although they have been too severely pruned to be attractive examples. There is a male hybrid as well as a male clone, a Lombardy Poplar. The photo shows the tree before the latest pruning, when it still retained one of its characteristic lower arched branches. The photo shows the tree before the latest pruning, when it still retained one of its characteristic lower arched branches. The other photo shows the bosses on the trunk, a characteristic absent in the cultivars. This could well be a rare native specimen, given that all that remains of these original trees are isolated specimens in wet meadows. If this is the case (and it would need a DNA test to prove it conclusively) and the tree is reaching the end of its lifespan, perhaps cuttings should be taken to provide successors locally of this historic landmark British tree.
Dulwich Society Trees Committee
A very dry early summer has given me very little to report, with no unusual sightings during the migration season. There were a good number of Orange Tip butterflies in May but surprisingly the midsummer butterflies have been in short supply without last year’s huge influx of migrant Painted Ladies.
The appearances are that our resident breeding birds have done well with good numbers of young Tits in feeding parties and some extremely tame young Robins. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs which migrate relatively short distances have come in to breed satisfactorily with a few Whitethroats on areas of rough ground such as the velodrome surround. However the anxiety has been the welfare of the long distance migrants, namely the House Martins and Swifts.
The House Martins arrived late and did not establish themselves into their nesting sites until well into the second week of May, and then into less than half their usual numbers. Their actual wintering ground in Africa is not well known as there have been very few ringing recoveries but the suspicion is that there is a problem either in their winter territory or their migration route.
Swifts on the other hand may have a problem finding sufficient breeding sites. They require crevices rather than holes for access which means penetrating defects in brickwork or roof tiling in tall houses, which many householders for obvious reasons are correcting. The RSPB is encouraging us to acquire Swift boxes which have an aperture suitable for entry, but it will be important to place these at a height equivalent to the second storey of a house. A young Swift on leaving the nest has to be able to get enough momentum to thrust itself into the air. It is unable to take off from the ground as its legs are too short and too far back on its body. We occasionally find one on the ground and if it is still alive the advice is to take to the highest available point and launch it. Unfortunately these young birds are often found too late and will not have survived. Readers may have noted that the screaming parties of July Swifts have increased the numbers and this will be due to the inflation of the young which are learning their flight technique. Hopefully we will be able to maintain our small population.
I shall be interested to hear if readers have any further observations.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)