A topsy turvy summer with drought in the early part and rain later has had its effect on our wildlife. In my last article I expressed the hope that our Blackbirds, Thrushes and Robins would manage more than one brood. As it happened the ground was excessively dry and worms were in short supply, so we noticed fewer than usual fledglings in our gardens. Tits on the other hand, dependent on small caterpillars in the tree canopies appear to have done very well and replaced population losses of the severe winter. There has also been success in some of our now small House Sparrow populations and Goldfinches are plentiful in our gardens. Blackcaps are plentiful again this year and Whitethroats are colonising areas of waste ground and are clearly now one of our breeding birds.
Swifts have returned in their usual small numbers and at the time of writing are exercising their young before their regular departure in the first week of August.
There has been some anxiety nationally about our House Martin population as they seem to be in trouble on their winter grounds. Our nesting population is undoubtedly smaller than in former years but there are at least five nests in Burbage Road and hopefully they will manage more than one brood before their departure in late September or early October. The one sad note is that the Little Grebes in Dulwich Park have failed in their nesting attempts this year. They make floating nests and are therefore susceptible to water level changes. Hopefully they will do better next year.
Once again Jersey Tiger moths have appeared in our gardens. They are a new addition to our fauna and are surprising people who are unused to day-flying moths, particularly as spectacular as these, and when butterflies are in short supply.
I get numbers of calls from people who are puzzled by what they see. Male Sparrow Hawks which have blue/ grey backs and wings can be mistaken for Hobbies or Merlins. Fledgling birds particularly Blackbirds and Robins can present a confusing appearance. Robins in London have a habit of singing at night and were perhaps the Nightingales of Berkeley Square, and even the mellifluousness of the Blackcap can tempt people to suspect something more exotic. I am always happy to advise on your observations so do keep the records and calls coming.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)
Rejoicing in the expanded house sparrow population eating and drinking in my garden the other lunchtime, I noted an unexpected visitor had alighted on a branch near the hanging feeder. Just as I wondered what this large, speckle-chested “mistle thrush” was up to, some two dozen sparrows got airborne, speeding skywards in a V formation that would have done credit to the Red Arrows.
No thrush, this intruder, as the sparrows sipping from the bird bath and devouring sunflower hearts and seeds had instantly twigged. Rather a bird of prey, a young kestrel. They are known to be breeding locally, so maybe this was one of this year’s brood from the nearby church tower? He (or maybe she, judging from colouring and feather markings) missed a meal on this occasion. But doubtless they will drop in again, when their hunting skills have become more practised.
Kestrels hover above their targeted (chiefly rodent) prey, before descending like the angel of death. Sparrowhawks ambush via a horizontal dash from one greenery hideaway to another and can even take a small bird in mid-flight. But this is not to say that “our” kestrel won’t get the hang of hunting around bird feeding stations. A not altogether welcome prospect, but seemingly a seal of approval for the sparrow population-boosting practice of year-round feeding with high energy seed mixes.
Conservation charities, such as the British Trust for Ornithology, believe that this is vital if adults are to gain enough energy to forage for the insect-based, meaty protein food that their nestlings need. Shortage of chick food such as caterpillars in our gardens (partly due to climate-change linked to a lack of synchronisation in bird and insect breeding timetables, as well as use of garden insecticides and too-tidy clearing up of vegetation) has contributed to recent sharp house sparrow population declines.
Sydenham Hill Wood has had a good summer for wildlife sightings. The volunteers have continued the weekly butterfly survey and report that species seen in the wood have included: green-veined white; ringlet; small, large and Essex skipper; peacock, red admiral, comma, holly blue, meadow brown and excitingly, a white letter hairstreak - a Priority Species.
In July a monthly moth survey was launched which involved using a portable moth trap that uses a bright light to attract the moths into the box, where they can be released unharmed. So far twenty-five species have been identified. During one of these evening surveys a lot of noise was heard coming from the border between the Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood and Cox’s Walk. The volunteers investigated and found three very loud Tawny Owls perched high in the treetops.
The pair of Kestrels which nest in the spire of St Peter’s Church, at the bottom of Cox’s Walk, have successfully fledged their third consecutive hover of three Kestrels. No doubt one of these is the juvenile Angela observed at her home in Dovercourt Road.
Strictly Come Dancing - the story of Grafton Hall
by Brian Green and Ian McInnes
The person responsible for the building of the Grafton Hall in Village Way was local resident Mr Charles Day who lived at Coombe Lodge, Half Moon Lane. He leased a large number of houses in the area including Fife Lodge, the next house along Half Moon Lane, and several houses in Hillsborough Road, and Warmington Road. He was also an early car owner, building himself a garage in 1904.
In May 1908 he leased the one acre field adjoining his garden for £5 per annum. Not long after, in February 1910, he asked the Dulwich Estate for permission to build a public hall on part of this field - using an area approximately 55 feet wide and 200 feet deep. He offered “to erect on the land, within two years, a detached hall, one story in height, in accordance with the sketch plans now submitted, at a cost of not less than £850”. Mr Day told the Manager that the possible uses to which the hall would be put included “badminton, club whist drives, musical evenings, gymnasium, social and other meetings, lectures, private theatricals, bazaars for charitable objects, and receptions.” He added that admission would be by invitation or ticket only, and that no money would be taken at the doors. The Manager was clearly impressed by Mr Day saying that he thought “he was not likely to allow the premises to be used for any purpose detrimental to the neighbourhood.”
Work started in June 1910 and in September Mr Day asked for consent to “add to the south east side of the hall a wide corridor with a glazed roof, and with wide exit doors at each end.” The Surveyor thought it an improvement - it is still there. The hall was completed by 24th November and the final cost was reported as £1235. In March 1912 Mr Hetherington Palmer produced drawings showing a proposed extension “a large supper room, kitchen and lavatory accommodation”. The Surveyor’s report said “I consider the addition a distinct improvement on the premises, and think the plans should receive the sanction of the Governors.”
Mr Day was secretary of the hall from 1912 to 1920 and also secretary of the Grafton Lawn Tennis Club which was based here for a time - presumably they played on courts on the remaining section of the field.
In 1925, following Mr Day’s death, the lease of the hall was taken over by the Misses E G and E H Harper and in June 1931 the Misses Harper applied for permission to let the back hall very Sunday evening, from 7-8pm, for the purpose of bible lectures by the Christadelphians. They said that “there will be no money taken and no music but a small poster is to be exhibited in the front garden.” The Christadelphians were considered acceptable but they were not allowed to put up a poster.
In April 1933 the Misses Harper tried to obtain a licence from the Estate to allow them to sell ‘intoxicating liquor’ when they wished but they were told that they would have to apply every time they wanted to. The Apostles Golfing Society Dulwich appeared to be one of the major users of the hall as they had temporary ‘intoxicating liquor’ licenses in October 1937, and January and April 1938.
In 1942 the hall was requisitioned by the London County Council and turned into a ‘British Restaurant’. British Restaurants, originally named Communal Kitchens, were created during the Second World War by the Ministry of Food and run by local committees on a non-profit making basis. Meals were purchased for a set maximum price of 9d or less. No-one could be served with a meal of more than one serving of meat, game, poultry, fish, eggs, or cheese. Restaurants in the UK were not subject to rationing.
The walls of British restaurants were decorated with posters issued by the Ministry of Food emphasizing the importance of avoiding wasting food. Most were designed by Dulwich artist James Fitton RA in the studio of his home at Pond Cottages.
British restaurants were more popular in London than in the rest of the country, although they were not at first welcomed in Dulwich - when the Grafton Hall’s British restaurant opened in 1942 a number of people remarked that they could not eat in such centres as “it was not meant for their type but only for people who were in ‘difficulties’. Miss J. W. O’Reilly MBE, the local agent for the London Meal Service remarked, “It is a part of an individual’s war effort to eat at the centre. Another thing to remember is that it provides meals quickly and is a great help to war workers. I want to get into the minds of Dulwich people the necessity of using the centre and not feel it is the thing not to do”.
The Grafton Hall remained a British Restaurant long after the war had ended, finally closing in 1950, after which it was retained by the LCC for two more years for use as school classrooms before becoming vacant. It took a further two years for the Estate to notice. In October 1954 the Manager reported that “the building has been empty for a considerable time and has assumed a very neglected appearance and is suffering damage”. In September 1956 an offer was received to use the building for the assembly and storage of plastic decorative work and floral decorations. However, a more promising offer for the lease was then made by Phyllis Walker ANATD to use the building as a dance academy.
The dancing school started in the autumn of 1957. Within a few years the Grafton would become one of the leading dance establishments in the world; South London, at the time, was the epicentre of dance. Grafton, along with ‘Starlight’ in Streatham, ‘Top of the Stairs’ and Semley’ in Norbury were the places anyone in the dancing world would frequent. In 1968 the 1961-2 World Professional Dance Champions, Bob Burgess and Doreen Freemen took over the Grafton, running it until 2001. The couple won a host of amateur and professional British and World titles over the years including joint and individual Carl Alan Awards. For eight years, Doreen partnered Victor Silvester in the very popular BBC television’s ‘BBC Dancing Club’. They were succeeded at the Grafton by Brenda Bishop, who with her husband Paul was senior British dance champion. In 2010, the present owner, Paul Burbedge and Anna Chan took over. Paul is a former Scottish Amateur Ballroom Champion.
Among the current instructors at the Grafton are Stephen Hillier, the former British and World amateur champion and holder of numerous professional titles. In 2009 Stephen was awarded the MBE for services to ballroom dancing and last year was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Ballroom Dancing by Japan. His wife, and dancing partner, Jennifer was a semi-finalist in World and European championships. Michael Stylianos and Lorna Lee are Latin American champions and Carl Alan award winners. They are the only Latin American dancers to have performed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Barbara McColl was runner up in World Latin American Championships and is a former European and International Champion Latin dancer.
Today the Grafton is enjoying a revival in interest in ballroom dancing, no doubt partly due to the popularity of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. It offers two different kinds of programme; a social or ‘community’ side and a competitive side. Flamenco and Latin instruction are included in the programme and earlier this year a course was also offered in Argentine Tango which proved so popular that it is to be repeated. Classes for all styles of dancing are held every evening.
For more information contact Paul Burbedge on 020 7274 0157.
The Grafton is also the home of the Dulwich Ballet School and classes for children in ballet, tap and street dance are offered by the Dulwich Ballet School on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 4pm and Saturdays 9.15am-4.30pm.
For more information, including enrolment, for The Dulwich Ballet School at the Grafton contact Sally-Ann Hodge 020 8659 6354
Lost houses of Dulwich: Breakspeare House, College Road
by Bernard Nurse and Ian McInnes
Breakspeare House was situated in the triangle of land between Sydenham Hill station, the railway line in the cutting below and College Road. The extension of the railway from Herne Hill to Bromley in 1863 opened up the possibility of development in this area by providing faster access to central London. The house, completed in 1873, was occupied by two wealthy families until the Second World War, after which it was converted for use as a School of Nursing, and then demolished in 1963 to make way for the present Breakspeare Court.
The first occupier was Walter Lazenby (c1835-1910), a sauce and pickle manufacturer. He was the head of the long established firm of wine merchants, which traded as E. Lazenby and Sons. What had been a small business employing twenty to forty employees expanded under his direction to manage a large factory in Bermondsey making bottled sauces and employing several hundreds. The company was absorbed into Crosse and Blackwell in the 1920s.
In 1873, Lazenby was granted an eighty-four year lease on the land, stabling and detached house. It was designed by Beck and Lee, architects of 33 Finsbury Circus, whose plans were approved by the Dulwich College Surveyor, Charles Barry Jnr. in 1871. Beck and Lee are best known today for the blocks of flats they built for Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, such as the Waterlow Buildings in Bethnal Green. The house in College Road was large and detached, about 40 feet square, on a sloping site with three storeys above ground level at the front and a basement which led into the garden at the back. When the Lazenby family moved there from Clapham it consisted of just Walter and his wife Charlotte and their two children. By the time of the 1881 census there were five children living there with five unmarried female servants aged between 17 and 52. The Lazenby family fortunes were growing as fast as the family and later in 1881 they moved to an even bigger house, Castlebar, 44 Sydenham Hill, now used as an old people’s home. Five sons and five daughters attended Walter’s funeral at St. Stephen’s Church in 1910. Why the house was called Breakspeare is not known. Most places with this name derive from Nicholas Breakspeare, who lived in the 12th century and was the only Englishman to become pope, as Adrian IV; but no Catholic connection with the family has been traced.
The next occupiers were Hermann Fortlage and his family who occupied it for nearly 60 years. Fortlage was described in the census as a colonial merchant, but was more specifically involved in the sugar trade as were many Germans in England. He was a partner in the firm of A. Tesdorpf & Co, 147 Fenchurch Street, whose global business is illustrated by the case of Harrison v Fortlage heard in the US Supreme Court in 1896. The issue concerned a cargo of sugar shipped from the Philippines to Philadelphia, which took nine months instead of the usual three. The vessel had to be repaired after being hit by another in Port Said and also met exceptionally rough weather during the Atlantic crossing. The American importers refused to pay for the cargo, but lost their case.
Hermann Fortlage and his wife were both born in Germany, but became naturalized British citizens, which was fortunate as they were not interned during the First World War. In the 1870s, they lived on Champion Hill, an area favoured by wealthy German families such as the Beneckes on Denmark Hill who were related to the composer Felix Mendelssohn, and the Kleinworts, merchant bankers who lived in The Platanes, now student accommodation for King’s College London. A German Protestant Church was built for the community in Windsor Walk attended by the Fortlages. In 1875, when living on Champion Hill and shortly after the birth of their second child, Mrs Fortlage advertised in The Times for an experienced house and parlour maid and also “Good Cook wanted, age between 25 and 35. Must be thoroughly respectable and clean, and understand refined cooking”. Later, after the arrival of their third child, she advertised again from Champion Hill in 1880 for: “Under Nurse wanted at once - a strong active girl of 17, plain needlework required”.
They must have been looking for somewhere larger at the time because the following year, the census records them at Haighlands, Alleyn Park with their children, nurse, a 19 year old under nurse, a 59 year old cook, a housemaid, a garden boy from East Dulwich, (the only servant to have been born locally) and the wife’s mother. Perhaps they were waiting for Breakspeare House to become vacant, while Lazenby was building Castlebar, as Breakspeare was assigned to them in May 1881. Five Westendarp grandchildren were staying in Breakspeare at the time of the 1911 census, and the eldest son Alfred had joined the Territorial Army serving in the field against the German forces with the Royal West Kent Regiment in 1918. After Hermann died in 1920, his widow, Cecile, continued to live in the house sharing it with Henry Ronnefeldt. Her daughters all married into Anglo-German families and she moved to north Wales at the beginning of the Second World War, dying in 1942.
Mrs Fortlage had rented the upper part of the house to Camberwell Borough Council to store furniture from bombed out areas, leaving a caretaker in the basement. The lease was surrendered by her executors in 1943 and the period of private interest in the property came to an end. After the war, Camberwell requisitioned it for housing purposes and carried out war damage repairs but decided eventually not to use it, releasing the property back to the Estate Governors in 1947.
There was no demand from private buyers for large houses in Dulwich at this time and Breakspeare then entered its final phase in institutional use. Negotiations began with the Bethlem Royal Hospital and Maudsley, which had just merged and were looking for premises in Dulwich for nurses’ homes and training purposes. The Ministry of Health was granted a 21 year lease for Breakspeare and other properties in Dulwich Wood Avenue dating from December 1948 and conversion began. In Breakspeare, five bedrooms and a bathroom were provided on each of the top two floors, a classroom, demonstration room, sitting room and office were on the ground floor with a dining room, kitchen and library in the basement. About forty students a year carried out their training there in the 1950s and a hospital coach linked all the sites. During this period the school had a reputation for innovative approaches under the principal tutor, Annie Altschul (1919-2001), who wrote a highly influential textbook Psychiatric Nursing whilst there. She described their activities in the hospital Gazette for June 1956:
Breakspeare House [is] a large, old, somewhat draughty but very comfortable and attractive house in College Road. The large amount of luggage unloaded there from time to time would make one believe Breakspeare House is a holiday residence. On the contrary, it is the Nurses’ Training School; the place where serious and concentrated study takes place. Only Miss Atherton’s (the Warden) deliciously prepared food and Mr. Wilcox’s prize show of flowers help to maintain the illusion of a holiday resort.
The school moved to Dulwich Wood Avenue in 1960 and a few years later to the Maudsley. In February 1961 the Estate negotiated with the Ministry of Health to secure the return of Breakspeare and in June 1962, Russell Vernon, the Estate Architect recommended the redevelopment of the Breakspeare site with flats and maisonettes but work did not actually start until April 1964 - the old house being demolished in the autumn of 1963. The contract was awarded to the small firm of Taylor, Phillips & Co who had just completed Baird Gardens and a few years later built 46-52 Alleyn Park.
The replacement scheme provided four flats and eight maisonettes in a block on the north of the site and a block of sixteen garages with three ‘mews’ flats over in the south. Both were set at right angles to College Road facing a large landscaped open area. Work on the site was slow, initially because of bad weather, but most units were complete by the end of 1965 and the present Breakspeare Court replaced the former Breakspeare House.
Who Was Who in Dulwich: The Rev William Rogers (1819-1896)
by Sharon O’Connor
William Rogers was an energetic social reformer particularly devoted to education. He took a leading part in the reconstruction of Dulwich College and the formation of Alleyn’s School and was Chairman of the Governors of Dulwich College for 34 years.
Rev William Rogers by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1894
Reading a brief outline of the career of the Reverend William Rogers or glancing at his portrait in Dulwich College you may assume that he was a fine upstanding member of the Victorian establishment, and so he was, but dig a little deeper and you learn that he was a bon viveur, good-natured, amusing, undogmatic and devoted to the cause of education at a time when it was far from fashionable to be so. He committed public gaffes but was always the first to laugh at himself and was described as “one of the merriest… and most human of Anglicans”.
In 1843 he was appointed assistant curate in Fulham but he didn’t get on with his old-school vicar and after just two years was transferred, at his vicar’s request, to become Perpetual Curate of St Thomas’s, Charterhouse. This was a “Peel” district, a slice cut from an older parish where the population had become unwieldy. An extremely poor area on the northern fringes of the City with nearly 10,000 souls squeezed into 17 acres, Rogers called it Costermongria. Within two months of arriving he had opened the parish’s first school in a blacksmith’s shed and within two years he was educating 800 children who paid twopence a week according to their means or in most cases nothing at all. He worked for education among the poorest of his parishioners despite his clerical colleagues pointing out that these recipients of his charity were not attending his services; indeed he was not surprised by this, “it is ludicrous to think that an individual with the scanty education and loose habits of a costermonger would voluntarily sit through a liturgical service of which he could not understand a word and subject himself to a sermon which… being free from expletives necessarily seems to him dull”.
His schools went from strength to strength and he raised thousands of pounds to fund them, although there was never enough money and he often made large contributions himself; by 1854 he had started five schools, spent his inherited wealth and personally owed his bank £700 on an income of £55 pa. In 1856 some of his old school and university friends clubbed together to pay his debts, keeping the whole thing a secret until they had raised the full amount. As a mark of its own respect the bank remitted the interest. Typically, Rogers described himself “in high spirits” at this generous act and began plans for his sixth school because, “my ragamuffins still vexed my righteous soul”. It was at this time that he articulated his belief in education as a force for good when talking about a slum, “…it was a disgrace to civilisation and the only way to improve it – short of improving it off the face of the earth – was to educate its children”.
This school, in Golden Lane, the poorest part of a poverty-stricken area, was built on the site of Edward Alleyn’s Fortune Theatre, on land owned by the Dulwich Estate. The foundation stone was laid in 1856 by William Gladstone and the ceremony was attended by an Earl, a Lord, a Bishop and three Deans (“I have always been well off for Deans”). The school was opened in 1857 by Prince Albert who told Rogers in his speech that his “noble and Christian like exertions have attracted the notice and admiration of your sovereign”.
His educational work was undertaken at a time when education for the poorest classes was not a popular cause among Victorians; Rogers was one of the first reformers, paving the way by devising everything from funding schemes to timetables and all the while insisting that the poorest of the poor should have access to free education. Rogers was committed to national education, universal, compulsory and free but in the country as a whole there was an array of opposition to education for all, including his own church. Eventually in 1870 the Education Act was passed which gave rise to a national system of state education and many of Rogers’ ideas were incorporated into these schools, although he took little part in the national debate due to the amount of energy expended on the religious question; he preferred to get on and do things.
Having previously been appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria and a prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral, in 1863 Rogers was made the Rector of St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, another poverty-stricken area, this time on the eastern outskirts of the City but with more ample resources available to the parish for good deeds. 43 years old he was to remain in Bishopsgate until his death 34 years later and continued to devote himself to the cause of education. Having started many schools for the very poorest his attention turned more to “middle class” schools which educated the sons (and later the daughters) of clerks and tradesmen.
Rogers was one of the first exponents of secular education, a lonely position for a clergyman and this may have been part of the reason he never achieved high honours in the church. At the opening of his school in Bath Street in 1866, he was asked to reply to the vote of thanks. “From the beginning we have been confronted with the economical question and the religious question and if we had waited until they were settled we should have been waiting still, so I say “Hang economy! Hang theology! Let us begin!” From then on he was known as “Hang Theology” Rogers.
His parish comprised one third Roman Catholics and many Jews and Quakers who were often foremost among his benefactors; it was obvious to him that it would become increasingly difficult to use their money to fund Church of England schools. In fact his main argument for a secular education sounds startlingly modern, “…in a school of this nature open to all classes in a community like that of the City of London…doctrinal teaching should be left to parents and those ministers whom they may select”. Despite his support for secular schools, politically he was a strong antidisestablishmentarian although it was still felt by some in the Church establishment that he was opposed to the true interests of religion.
Having previously taken over buildings and converted them to use as schools, Rogers now decided that nothing short of a purpose-built school would suit his ambitions for the children of the middle classes. He found two acres in Cowper Street, Finsbury and in 1868 he built the Middle Class School for boys. The school was a model of its kind and he raised £20,000 to build it. Rogers also took over an existing charity school for girls in his parish and united the two under the headship of the Rev Smith, his curate. When Liverpool St Station needed to expand onto land occupied by his girls’ school he persuaded the railway company both to pay handsomely for the land and to buy the school a new site.
Middle Class School, Cowper St, later renamed Central Foundation Boys’ School
In 1857 Prince Albert personally requested that Rogers be made a Governor of Dulwich College. Rogers went on to replace his friend the Duke of Wellington as Chairman in 1862 and remained so until his death in 1896. He took an interest in all parts of the College and was often seen as a spectator at sports matches. He was a principal agent of change in Dulwich and played a major role in the reconstruction of the Alleyn charity when the Upper School became Dulwich College and the Lower School became Alleyn’s. He had a less than harmonious working relationship with the Master, Canon Carver, due both to their vastly differing ideas as to the future direction of the College and also to Carver’s belief (undoubtedly correct) that Rogers intended large amounts of the endowment to be diverted to his parish schools, funds which Carver believed should be used in the furtherance of his own lofty aims for the College. Despite this tension, by the end of Rogers’ and Carver’s tenure the schools in the Foundation had been regenerated to a remarkable degree and in his Reminiscences Rogers was generous in his praise of Carver, saying the College had made “great strides” under Carver’s “wise management and great zeal”. Between the two of them they had produced a college “worthy of our aspirations and resources”.
With Charles Druce, the Foundation solicitor, Rogers was instrumental in the sale of a hundred acres of estate land to the railways for £100,000 (“an uncommonly good bargain”), the vast majority of which was spent on building the new College. New buildings for Alleyn’s and James Allen’s Girls’ School followed within the next few years. Rogers was particularly gratified at the secure establishment of Alleyn’s, as he said it was destined to play a “still greater part in the work of middle class education”, a cause so dear to his own heart. He was pleased also that its first headmaster when it moved to new premises in Townley Road was the Rev J H Smith who had been one of his teachers in Charterhouse, his curate and head teacher in Bishopsgate before joining the Lower School in Dulwich in 1875.
In his original scheme Edward Alleyn named four parishes which could nominate poor boys to attend his College: St Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate, where he was born and baptised; St Giles, Cripplegate Without (now St Luke’s, Finsbury), where he built his Fortune Theatre; St Saviour’s, Southwark, where he married and was churchwarden; and St Giles, Camberwell, where he lived and set up his Foundation. As part of the 1857 reconstruction of Alleyn’s charity Rogers persuaded the governors that in lieu of nominating scholars, the founding parishes should instead receive an educational endowment consisting of a capital sum and an annual income. This enabled Rogers to place his Middle Class School and his girls’ school, both subsequently re-named Central Foundation, onto a firm financial footing, since both were within Edward Alleyn’s original parishes.
Rev William Rogers, date unknown
As well as education, he was active in many other areas of social reform. He was a pioneer of the movement for converting City burial grounds into gardens and this was one of his first acts on arriving at St Botolph’s. This enhanced his reputation for atheism but was an act much appreciated by City workers who even today still use the gardens to sit and eat their lunch. He opened bathhouses and washrooms, drinking fountains and public urinals. He raised funds for soup kitchens and hospitals. He supported playgrounds and open spaces, picture galleries and free libraries. He inaugurated days out in the country for his pupils (“hardest day’s work I have ever done) on a Sunday, thus annoying the Sabbatarian wing of the Church. Finally, on his 75th birthday he opened “the crowning work of my life”, the Bishopsgate Institute, “for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement of literature, science and the fine arts”. The Institute, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend who went on to design the Horniman Museum, is still active today as a centre for culture and learning.
The Bishopsgate Institute
He died in 1896 and was buried in Mickleham, Surrey where his family had lived for more than two hundred years. In his day he was popularly known by a remark in a speech he once made, “Hang Theology” but I prefer to remember him by another quote, one he made time and time again and which sums up his outlook, “There is no darkness but ignorance”.
William Rogers towards the end of his life, at the family home in Mickleham, Surrey
Boxall Road (originally Boxall Row) was named after Robert Boxall, the lessee, in the 1770s, of the old 'Greyhound Inn’ located nearby. Originally a carpenter, he had lived in Dulwich since 1759, and had become prosperous enough to turn his hand to property development. He purchased a site along the west side of ‘High Street Dulwich’, just north of his inn, and paid a local builder, William Levens, to construct the cottages at nos. 84-86 Dulwich Village and behind them, a row of six even smaller cottages and a wheelright’s shop, Boxall Row. Over the next few years he added three more cottages on the south side and four on the north side - behind The Laurels and The Hollies (originally built in 1767).
Boxall Row was extended up to Turney Road in 1876 when the Dulwich Cottage Company built 6 cottages on the spare site nearest to Turney Road. A report in the contemporary Builder magazine said “the promoters of the undertaking are desirous that the cottages to be built should harmonise, as far as possible, with the general character of the locality”. By 1895 the road width varied from 28 feet at the north end, to 18 feet at its opening into the Village.
Eighteenth Century standards of construction, particularly for houses for poorer people, were not good, and when the leases on the houses expired in 1895 the Architect and Surveyor summarised his report on their condition by saying “in my opinion they are not worth repairing and should be pulled down”. He then went on to note “In this road there are 14 Cottages which are both internally and externally in a dilapidated state. The roofs are covered in plain tiles and are in a very bad condition, many of the timbers being decayed at the ends, consequently serious settlements occur. There are no gutters to carry off the rainwater. The brickwork in many places much decayed and crumbling away and the flooring to living rooms, with one exception, is laid immediately on the clay soil and consequently is continually decaying owing to the want of proper ground ventilation.
The drainage to these cottages has for some time past given considerable trouble and I find that the premises are drained by an old brick sewer with branches from the WC’s at right angles to the main drain. There is only an intermittent supply of water to the premises, and the only storage accommodation consists of old and leaky water butts. Many of the cottagers have no supply within the house, and have to go outside in all weathers for water.
The Governors agreed that the cottages should be replaced and the Surveyor put forward a plan for 10 new cottages on the south side and 3 on the north side. They were to be built on an 18 foot frontage and set back approximately 10 feet from the road. The projected cost was £200 to £300 each and the suggested ground rent £3 per house.
The Surveyor considered that an average street width of 25 feet would be ample for this locality but flagged up the possibility that the London County Council, “under section 9, Part II, of the Building Act 1894”, might require a depth of 40 feet. This would of course mean that the cottages on the north side could not be built.
In May 1896 he reported “I am sorry to say that the LCC have again refused their sanction to the proposed widening and equalising the width of Boxall Row, and I am quite at a loss to understand why they have done so, and thus delayed and possibly prevented a manifest public improvement.” A possible compromise, which he explained in detail to the Governors on their Annual Review tour in June, was to build on the south side only and leave the width of the road to be agreed later, and this is what they did.
In July 1896 the Manager received an offer from Mr R Pearson, builder, of Dulwich Rise, to take a building lease for a “term of 84 years from Michaelmas 1896”. He noted that the cottages were to be built in pairs, with a common porch entrance to each pair, and that the accommodation to be provided was a sitting room, kitchen, scullery & WC on the ground floor, with three bedrooms above (there were no bathrooms). Mr Pearson offered to start building the 13 cottages at once at a total cost of £2000 but there was a slight delay when, in August 1896, the LCC confirmed that they required the cottage fronts to be 20 feet from the centre of the road rather than 15.
In 1895 the former Wheelwrights shop at the end of Boxall Row (now the Park Motor Garage) was in temporary use as a forge by a Mr Dudman though up until 1890 it had been a small workshop occupied by Mr Walton, a coach builder. The Surveyor noted that Mr Pearson wanted to control the whole frontage “so that the corner plot should not be let for trade purposes, which he alleges would be detrimental to the future tenants of the cottages” but in the end he had to agree to doing without it.
The lease was granted in February 1897 and by early January 1900 Mr Pearson had completed 12 of the cottages, and was about to start on the thirteenth. Before doing so he asked permission to vary the original plan by enlarging the back addition in order to provide increased accommodation. His experience with the other cottages, apparently, was that the sub-letting of rooms by the tenants was leading to overcrowding – records on other houses built for poorer ‘working class’ tenants (eg Dekker Road) confirm that many tenants could only afford the rents if they sublet rooms to other families.
Little happened in the road until October 1946 when, after an inspection by the Estate Trees and Surveys Committee, the footpath was found to be in a dangerous condition. Three estimates for tar spraying were obtained - the lowest was Messrs Johnson Bros (Aylesford) Ltd, but work was delayed endlessly while the appropriate building licence was obtained.
In February 1948 the Camberwell District Surveyor served a dangerous structure notice on the lessee of the Park Motor Garage, Mr F D Bolwell, saying that the rear wall was in a dangerous condition and would have to be rebuilt. Work started immediately but by late April the Surveyor reported that “much more work needed than originally thought including new foundations”. The final cost was £193 and the lessee asked for a contribution. The Governors offered £64 later raising the figure to £80.
In July 1950 the Manager inspected the exteriors of the houses, now nearly 60 years old, and reported “the whole block shows evidence of deterioration and neglect, brickwork flaking, painting very poor and woodwork suffering thereby, gutters and rainwater pipes needing overhaul etc. I understand from the tenant that internally the premises are in a similar state of neglect. The premises are held on leases, expiring at Michaelmas 1980 by the Universal Property and Investment Company Ltd at a total ground rent of £22 per annum and I am of the opinion that the Architect & Surveyor should be instructed to inspect and schedule the wants of repair”.
The schedule outlining the external repairs required came to £4000 and was served on the landlord on January 1952. In October the Manager reported that some work had been carried out, but that there was still much to be done, and that he was now receiving serious complaints from the occupiers about the condition of the interiors. He suggested that the Solicitor should be instructed to take action against the landlord and after some negotiations through following year, a reduced scope of works was agreed, but still nothing happened.
One positive, however, was that, while the Estate was trying to progress Nos 5-17 Boxall Road, it had the opportunity to acquire the former Dulwich Cottages Co. Ltd properties at the north end of Boxall Road, Nos 21- 29, and No 246 Turney Road. In February 1955 it paid £750 for these properties (and Nos 2 - 20 even Calton Avenue) – agreeing to waive any dilapidations.
In June 1956 the Surveyor inspected all the houses again. He said that “the property is still in the same unsatisfactory condition. I understand that the Sanitary Authorities have now served notices under the Public Health Acts on several of the houses in respect of defective roofs, windows, fireplaces, WC’s, sinks etc.”
The Solicitor was instructed to go to court and finally the properties were made habitable. The Estate became the owners in 1980 when the leases ran out and the properties have been subsequently refurbished and sold on to private owners.
In the last issue of the Journal some information was given regarding the Dulwich Society’s plans to mark, with plaques, the sites where there were multiple civilian deaths in Dulwich (to include adjacent areas of East Dulwich) as a result of air-raids in World War Two. The plaques will be in engraved stainless steel, where necessary fixed to an upright stainless steel post. The precise wording on the plaques has yet to be finalised, but will include the date of the attack, the number of victims killed as a result of the incident and the type of bomb or rocket used. The Society would like to contact as many of the relatives of those killed as possible, to inform them of progress in the commemoration and to invite them to the unveiling of individual plaques in 2013.
Please inform Patrick Spencer, Hon. Secretary, The Dulwich Society, 7 Pond Cottages SE21 7LE of their names and addresses as soon as possible.
The specific sites so far identified are:
- Albrighton Road, Dog Kennel Hill, 29 killed in an air-raid shelter by high explosive bomb 9.9.1940. The site subsequently visited by the HM The King and Queen. The plaque to be placed in the garden of the community building in Albrighton Road.
- Burbage Road 4 killed 16.4.1941 by high explosive bomb, 4 killed 22.6.1944 by V1 rocket. A plaque to commemorate both incidents to be placed on grass triangle at the crossroads of Burbage/Turney Roads.
- Court Lane (at the junction with Dovercourt Road) 7 killed 6.1.1945 by V2 rocket. A plaque to be fixed above the seat, to the railings enclosing the green, opposite Court Lane Gardens.
- Friern Road/Etherow Street 24 killed 1.11.1944 by V2 rocket. A plaque to be placed on the grass triangle at the junction of Friern Road/Lordship Lane.
- Lordship Lane Co-op Stores 23 killed 5.8.1944 by V1 rocket. A plaque to be placed on wall on the site.
- Lytcott Grove/Melbourne Grove/Playfield Crescent 9 killed 16.9.1940 by high explosive bomb. 11 killed 17.1.1943 by parachute mine. A plaque, commemorating both incidents, to be placed on the grassed area at the junction of Melbourne Grove/Lytcott Grove.
- Park Hall Road 4 killed 4.7.1944 by V1 rocket. A plaque to be placed in raised flower bed at the junction of Park Hall Road/Croxted Road.
- Woodwarde Road/Lordship Lane 14 killed 6.7.1944 by V1 rocket. A plaque to be placed in front of Dulwich Library.
- Quorn Road/Dog Kennel Hill 6 killed 15.9.1940 by High Explosive bomb. Plaque to be placed on railings junction of Quorn Road/Dog Kennel Hill.
Consideration is being given to the inclusion of other sites.