The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2013.
It has come as a great shock to residents that a local sports club, Southwark Community Sports Trust, which took over the former playing fields of the University of the Southbank when the latter terminated its use of its ground in Turney Road, has found it necessary to contemplate providing an additional building for use by a children’s nursery to balance its books.
The Trust maintains the extensive grounds very well and the team of volunteers who give up so much of their time for the benefit of many youngsters and other users of the facilities deserve our praise and support.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the Trust’s concerns about viability were not communicated early enough, and the, perhaps, rash decision to build a classroom for a nursery on Metropolitan Open Land, and indeed put down concrete foundations without due permission, must be regarded as reckless.
A number of sports clubs around Dulwich hire their pavilions out to nurseries during the week and this seems to satisfy a demand for a nursery education while at the same time helping the clubs pay their own rent and maintenance expenses. The difference in this case is that Southwark Community Sports Trust wants to build a separate new building for the purpose.
Those opposed to this extra structure, a proposed addition to an already considerable collection of buildings, have rightly pointed out that there is sufficient space in the existing pavilion to accommodate a nursery.
It is however the question of contemplating building on MOL which should exert as much opposition as possible. If one portacabin classroom is provided, what is to stop it being two? Once the principal of protecting MOL is thrown out any forms of development might be contemplated.
Dulwich is unique in London in the amount of open space it has. It also has a lot of schools in and around the area. If the pupils are to receive opportunities for sport, promised as a legacy of the London Olympics, then Dulwich’s playing fields must be defended against any attempt to interfere with the concept of Metropolitan Open Land.
Just as the Journal was about to go to press we learned of the sad news of the death of Wilfred Taylor. An obituary will be published in the next issue. Wilf had only recently decided to retire from his office as membership secretary of the Society and passed over to his successor his meticulous records which he had brought up to date by adopting the latest information technology, a skill which he easily assimilated.
Like others before him who have served the Dulwich Society so well over its fifty years, he will be much missed. Gaps in organisations such as ours need to be constantly filled and if you, dear member, have a particular interest in any of the areas covered by our sub-committees then please make that interest known to the respective chairmen. Naturally, the Journal itself depends on its contributors and it always welcomes news, articles and illustrations.
Schools are currently a hot topic of conversation in Dulwich after the recent arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane and a contentious proposal by the Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) to incorporate a nursery in a new building on its site in Turney Road.
We already have a good number of high quality state and private schools in the Dulwich area but a brief on line check shows that there are also well over 40 nursery schools, nurseries, play groups and pre-school facilities.
The main foundation schools all have nursery schools, as do the private prep schools like Dulwich Prep London, Herne Hill School, Oakfield, and Rosemead on Thurlow Park Road. In the state sector, the C of E School in the Village offers one, as does Langbourne School on the Kingswood Estate – and there are others at Kingswood, the Dog Kennel Hill Estate and the Peabody Estate in Herne Hill.
Nurseries appear to be mainly commercial operations including Nelly’s, which has three sites, and is looking for a fourth, and a brand new one, ‘Under the Willow Nursery’, purpose built on former rail land off Croxted Road. There are also two in Rosendale Road and Norwood Road and one in each of Barry Road, Tell Grove, Greendale, Lancaster Road, Crystal Palace Road, Upland Road, Herne Hill, Chancellor Grove, Chatsworth Way, Lacon Road, Colby Road and Gipsy Road.
Churches like St Stephens and All Saints have nurseries in their halls, St Faiths has a German Kindergarten and the Mustard Seed Christian pre-school is in the Baptist Church in Half Moon Lane. There are also three Montessori Schools in other halls. At least two sports clubs have them, the Dulwich Village pre-school in the Edward Alleyn Sports Ground off Dulwich Common and the Little Fingers Montessori Nursery in the Edward Alleyn Club behind Burbage Road.
What does this all prove? It confirms the area’s pre-eminence as a centre of educational excellence (in 2013 speak of course) – in the old days it just had good schools. It also shows that all parts of Dulwich have become a magnet for young families and that we will soon need more primary and secondary school places – which, in fairness Southwark is trying to provide - but it now has to rely on privately promoted ‘free’ schools or ‘academies’ as current government policy precludes any more local authority run primaries.
The long term impact of school growth is of course on traffic, the numbers of cars and coaches in the mornings and afternoons in the area are already too much - and the arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane, with its additional 350 pupils, many drawn from outside our area, will not help
We need to look urgently at alternative ways of bringing children to school. The Society supports the ‘safer routes to school’ group but it will need a real change in the parental mind set to solve this problem – perhaps the solution for older children is the suggestion from Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, that all children should be dropped off some way from the school gate, with the additional benefit that they will all get a little exercise walking to it.
50th Anniversary Party
All members are warmly invited to attend the Society’s 50th anniversary party on Saturday October 12th 7.30-9,30pm at St Barnabas Parish Hall, Dulwich Village. The cost is £7.50 per person which includes drinks and light refreshments (the Society is subsidising the event!). The evening will include musical entertainment and a further showing of the 1967 Dulwich Millennium remastered film The date chosen is a mere two days off from the date of the Society’s inaugural meeting in 1963.
If you are intending coming to the party please complete the enclosed application form.
We are still looking for further volunteers to deliver Journals in the local area, particularly in the Alleyn Road/Alleyn Park area and in Great Brownings on College Road. Please contact the chairman on
Southwark Council gives planning consent for a new development on Metropolitan Open Land in Dulwich
Sue Badman reports:
On Tuesday 23rd July, Southwark Council Planning Sub-committee A gave planning consent to Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) who run the Dulwich Sports Ground in Turney Road to construct a temporary modular standalone building (portakabin) on a site adjacent to the club pavilion and an iconic willow tree, on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) The portakabin would be clad to blend with the environment, and would house a daytime nursery and a wet weather sports teaching facility at other times.
Planning Confusion and Poor Consultation
SCST submitted a planning application to Southwark at the end of May but the application and drawings were first published on 3rd July due to delays within the Council. After some initial confusion, the Council announced that the closing date for the consultation was 27th July. It then emerged that the planning hearing would take place on 23rd July some four days before the end of the consultation. Residents and local councillors complained but Southwark Planning insisted that holding the hearing before the end of the consultation was perfectly acceptable and not unusual. If objectors raise a material issue before the end of the consultation period, officers will refer the application back to the planning committee in September and the decision notice will therefore be held over. In such circumstances, SCST could not proceed with the work.
Up to now residents have enjoyed good relationships with SCST and were disappointed and surprised that SCST had elected not to hold a pre-planning public consultation with local residents and amenity groups. Furthermore SCST decided to start work on the site foundations early without consent which further enflamed local opinion against the development.
Travesty at the Planning Committee
Some 55 local residents attended two public meetings with SCST, and the application attracted over 90 objections (as well as approx. 10 letters of support) from across Dulwich. The Turney Road residents affected by the proposed building strongly objected on the grounds of inappropriate commercial development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL)/green space, and the precedent that would set for landowners and developers to trample over our green spaces.
Residents attended the planning hearing on 23rd July in force but the committee didn’t listen to residents’ or local councillors’ concerns. Any exploration of the issues around MOL by the committee members fizzled out or got blocked by planners who were resolved to grant consent.
Consent was granted subject to conditions relating to the tree and a green transport plan, and to no new material concerns emerging before the end of the consultation period.
All is not lost
At the time of writing, a number of residents have written to challenge Southwark’s interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), now in force, in relation to MOL and green space, and the lack of attention to the flood risk.
We’ll report back in the next journal.
S G Smith in Dulwich Village
It has been confirmed that S G Smith are moving their Audi servicing business out of Dulwich though they will still sell cars from the showroom at the front. This is very good news for Dulwich, it will remove the parking stress being experienced by Gilkes Crescent and other roads near the centre of the Village and considerably improve the physical environment. The Dulwich Estate proposes to build nine houses on the site and a public consultation was held on 15 and 16 July at S G Smith’s showroom.
The Society welcomes the principle of residential development but is also keen to see provision for older residents, particularly the introduction of warden controlled flats – this is a central location and would enable those older residents who wish to remain in Dulwich to downsize in the area.
Trees Committee Autumn Colour Coach Trip
The now annual fixture in the Society ‘s calendar, the Trees Committee’s Autumn colour coach trip will this year be to Myddelton House Gardens and Capel Manor Gardens on Thursday 24th October (see booking form page ?). Myddelton House was the home of the famous plantsman E A Bowles and the garden has recently been restored. Capel Manor College trains the horticulturalists of the future. It has 30 acres of themed gardens.
The Society on BBC Television
The Society appeared on two programmes on BBC London local news in June and July. The first instance was in an article about the war memorial plaques from Christchurch East Dulwich recently found at Wellingborough Prison. Brian Green from the Society described the importance of the plaques and our wish to return them to their original location.
The second was the dedication of the memorial plaque for bombing victims of WW2 at Park Hall Road. The plaque was unveiled by one of the survivors who lived nearby.
Gardens Group Summer Visit
The Autumn colour trip compliments the Summer trip organized by the Society’s Gardens Group which this year visited Parham. Bernard Victor reports:
The house and gardens of Parham were specially opened for the Dulwich Society, so we did not have to contend with other visitors. We were greeted by the Curator, who split us into two parties, one to tour the gardens in the morning and the other to be taken around the house, the process reversing in the afternoon. However before starting on our visit we all enjoyed coffee and cake in the 15th century Big Kitchen.
I was in the gardens’ morning group, which was led by the young, witty and very knowledgeable Head Gardener. After a short talk on the development of the garden, we were conducted through the conservatory to the walled kitchen garden ( which is still dedicated to producing a regular supply of flowers to decorate the house and vegetables for use in the kitchen). We then moved onto the small but very well planned rose garden. Unlike some rose gardens which are filled with many different varieties, the number of varieties here was restricted to just a few to get the maximum effect. Our garden visit ended at the herbaceous borders and the old orchard and there was a chance to buy some plants before we enjoyed a pre-ordered cold lunch. After lunch, my party was taken for a tour of the house. This too was led by a very knowledgeable guide.
Premier Hire, Burbage Road
This plant hire business which operates from the northern Network Rail railway arches in Burbage Road is seeking to expand its operations. Local residents are already concerned over the number of trucks parking illegally in the road and the amount of noise and disruption that they are experiencing early in the morning. The Council parking enforcement teams have promised to monitor the situation but questions are being asked as to whether this is an appropriate type of business to be carried on in a residential area.
Judith Kerr Free School, Half Moon Lane:
The Society welcomed the new school on the former Sir James Black Laboratory Site in Half Moon Lane in principle but shares local residents’ concerns over the traffic and parking implications. Although the plans suggest that parents will drive in and out of the site, the proposed gate is not wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass. Traffic will back up along Half Moon Lane and impact on cars coming down Holmdene Avenue directly opposite. It is likely that the new access will lead to changes in the layout of Half Moon Lane, including moving the adjacent pedestrian crossing, and the introduction of a 20mph zone complete with raised tables and footway build outs.
Dulwich Society Newsletter Digitalisation
For the past ten years, firstly the Newsletter and more recently the renamed Journal has been available to be read online and has been a valuable tool for anyone interested in Dulwich. The Archives Department of Dulwich College has now offered to digitalise the earlier issues. Our secretary, Patrick Spencer has a complete run for our own archive with the exception of nos. 58 & 72. He would be very grateful if any member could supply these. The process requires a second set which can be taken apart for the digitalization process. There is a second set but we are missing Newsletters nos. 85,88,94,98, 103-4.
The Concrete House – Restored at last!
The listed Concrete House, 549 Lordship Lane, has for several decades been a worsening eyesore on the edge of Dulwich opposite St Peter’s Church in Lordship Lane. Under the guidance of Diana Beattie (who is a Dulwich Society member) Director of the Heritage of London Trust and with the assistance of Southwark Council, English Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Dulwich Society the house has been rescued from the brink of ruin and restored. Interestingly, it was Piloti of Private Eye who first flagged up the dodgy owner of the property who was interested in seeing the house crumble so that the site could be redeveloped.
The Concrete House was formally opened by the Duke of Gloucester on 13th June. The Hexagon Housing Association is now managing the property which accommodates five affordable flats. Members of the public will be able to see the house during Open House Weekend / September.
The full story of the builder of the house, Charles Drake was the subject of an article by his grandson, David Scott Cowan which appeared in the Journal in the winter edition 2010 (it can be read on the online Journal archive). The restoration itself was so complex that we asked the architect, Paul Latham. to allow us to reproduce his account of the work, which appeared in the booklet put together by Ian McInnes for the opening ceremony.
Charles Drake. The builder of the Concrete House, worked as a manager for Joseph Tall who patented a standardised method of forming concrete walls using timber shuttering. In 1868 Drake, aware of the commercial possibilities of using iron shuttering, set up a rival business and patented his 'Concrete Building Apparatus'. The use of flanged plates of iron enameled or glazed on the side facing the wall and slotted wrought iron vertical channels enabled continuous vertical casting of a concrete wall, exactly the same principle as modern 'slip form' concrete construction today.
Drake had extensively experimented with different forms of mass concrete for use in his apparatus. His mix consisted of a coarse early form of Portland Cement mixed one part to nine with cheap aggregates such as gravel, colliery slag, broken stones, broken tiles, fired clay nodules or chimney cinders. No sand ‘fines’ were used. About a third of the mix consisted of air voids. The material possessed exceptional thermal, fire and vermin- proof properties and had the advantage it could be erected rapidly and cheaply using unskilled labour. Analysis of the material at Lordship Lane revealed it consisted of some 50% burnt clay nodules, 30% void and the rest a coarse, carbonated Portland Cement. It did however require cement rendering to exclude the dampness.
Drake is credited with working with a number of notable architects including F.P Cockerell at Down Hall in Harlow and G.E. Street at the Masters House, Marlborough College. But despite cost savings of 50% over traditional brick construction, his ‘Concrete Builder’ was not to revolutionise the way buildings were built as Drake had hoped. He met fierce resistance from the mainstream architectural establishment who saw concrete as the product of the machine, and therefore abhorrent to the burgeoning renaissance in the decorative arts and the role of the craftsman under the influence of Ruskin and the Aesthetic Movement in the latter half of the 19c.
549 Lordship Lane was Drake's own house, built no doubt as a show-piece for his new system. To court wider acceptability for his invention, he chose a conservative Gothic style. The house survives today as testament to the giant leap forward in the standardisation of building production which the architectural establishment was only able to absorb into architectural expression during the next century in the Modern Movement. Drake seems to have been aware of the portents for in a prophetic speech to the Civil and Mechanical Engineer's Society in 1874 he concluded saying "Much has been written and said lately about the demand for a new style of architecture. May I suggest that this may be found in studying the right architectural treatment of concrete buildings." But it is as a 'show home' produced by a leading Victorian technologist to display the technical innovation of its construction that is the special significance of Drake's villa.
Ultimately, Drake's Patent was to lead him into legal disputes with Tall and his partner Reid. His company manufactured his Concrete Builder and laid claim to sales to ‘all parts of the United Kingdom, South Africa and India’. But he quickly over-extended himself and ran into financial difficulties, Drake himself suffering ill-health, and apparently being forced to sell his house in 1876, only three years after its construction.
When we commenced the project, the house was a ruined shell after determined attempts by a previous owner to encourage its collapse. Only the outside concrete walls survived and these were open to the elements. The porch, east bay window and half the roof had collapsed. The south bay window was detached and leaning outwards. A large section of wall in the north west corner had been pulled away leaving a tall concrete chimney precariously unsupported over three storeys. Internal floors and most windows and doors had been robbed. Fortuitously, Drake's system proved it could outlast a brick house which would have collapsed under similar treatment. Despite numerous cracks and deep cuts made into external walls, the un-reinforced concrete house refused to collapse. The building, which was Listed Grade 2 and is on the Heritage At Risk Register, was in a parlous state and in urgent need of repair.
A partnership between Southwark Council, the London-wide building preservation Trust, Heritage of London Trust Operations Limited (HOLTOP), and a local Housing Association came together at the instigation of local campaigners and Southwark Council to save the building. Southwark were successful in a Compulsory Purchase Order with a back-to-back transfer to HOLTOP, and an agreed sale after conservation and repair to Hexagon Housing Association creating five affordable flats. The creation of rented accommodation qualified for grant support from the London Development Agency.
To begin with, our job as conservation architects was archaeological. Many of the building’s elaborate Gothic window mouldings and the collapsed porch were buried and in pieces. The site was carefully cleared and excavated by hand, all original fabric catalogued and set aside.
Most of the concrete staircase had been destroyed in an air raid in October 1940 and poorly repaired. To avoid a conjectural repair and further damage to surviving internal concrete supporting walls, archaeological records were used to recreate an 1870's timber staircase with turned timber balustrading.
For the window mouldings, instead of traditional lime stucco, Drake used an unusual mixture of one part Portland cement probably gauged with one part hydraulic lime for workability, and 6 parts mixed silica sand creating an extremely dense hard cement-based material. Original mouldings had been formed on site as Drake's system evidently could not 'standardise' the production of Gothic window heads which had to rely upon the traditional skills of the craftsman due to their shape and slight variations in window widths produced by his apparatus. Analysis of the surface pebble-dash revealed that graded chert pebbles had been thrown onto the wet binder then lightly pressed into the surface, giving an attractive warm ‘pebble-stone’ appearance.
It was agreed we could not begin the process of restoring buried pieces of mouldings to the correct places because of the dangerous condition of the structure. After much discussion with contractors and conservation engineers' The Morton Partnership, we determined the safest approach was to secure the surviving concrete walls by stitching together all the cracks with stainless steel needles set in resin to create a stable 'box' followed by underpinning the entire house. The precarious north west corner was carefully cut away to allow re-casting a new section of wall using the nearest match to the original no-fines concrete, modern Lytag lightweight concrete. Missing window bays were cast in the same material, recovered pieces of window moulding being fixed in their original places. These preliminary works allowed timber floors to be safely re-inserted and the roof repaired to tie the structure together.
One section of the ruins we could piece together was the Porch which was recovered from buried remains in 11 separate pieces. The attractive Fleur-de-lis clay ridge tiles were hand made to a special mould. The numerous stitch repairs dramatically illustrate the many repaired fractures. These visual anomalies due to previous structural trauma formed a significant part of the story of the house and they were only lightly patinated with sooty water so as not to completely hide our surgical efforts. Missing sections of moulded window surrounds were formed in-situ replicating the original Portland cement:lime:silver sand mix by our specialists Rominar.
One of the advantages of conservation of a Victorian building is the survival of original catalogues and other archival material. An early 20th century photograph recorded the fashionable 'Aesthetic' foliate design of the front railings, no doubt included to curry favour with the supporters of Ruskin. We discovered the model in MacFarlane’s 19c Castings Catalogue helpfully reprinted by Historic Scotland. The railings were reproduced in cast iron from a special mould. Repairs to the damaged Gothic iron bell pull and missing door furniture followed Archibald Kenrick's 1876 catalogue.
The only evidence we had for the Garden was an early photograph showing curving perimeter gravel paths and a central bed laid to lawn. This, together with the original name of the house, 'The Ferns' gave us a clue that Drake's garden had followed William Robinson's 'Wild Garden' concept which was fashionable by 1870. The Garden designer, Allen Scott Landscape Architecture adopted the theme using plants and tree varieties introduced from the late 19c. We mimicked the curving gravel pathways of a Wild Garden, avoiding the hard lines and municipal appearance of concrete curbs by using partially buried timber railway sleepers cut and mitred into curves to support reinforced gravel parking areas.
In the process of bringing Drake's ruined concrete house back to use, we have learnt and documented how Drake constructed his innovative 'show house' and joined with him in the thoroughly modern excitement of building using unusual techniques and materials, working within the established Gothic style with 'Aesthetic' embellishments, to sell to a sceptical 19c architectural establishment.
The finished project has demonstrated to us the driving force and influence of Charles Drake, a technological innovator working 50 years ahead of his time in a wholly modern material, concrete, within an era in which the architectural expression of material was still only a matter of historical style. The project has also provided an exemplar for Conservation Officers on what can be achieved by a co-operative approach using Local Authority Compulsory Purchase Powers, working back-to-back with a Building Preservation Trust, with an end sale to a local Housing Association.
Paul Latham, AABC, ASCHB, IHBC
The Regeneration Practice
20th Dulwich Festival
The 2013 Dulwich Festival was largely blessed with good weather which allowed the large number of outdoor events to pass off successfully. As reported in the Spring Journal, street art played an important role in this year’s festival some of which has left a legacy of twelve massive murals painted on the end walls of buildings throughout Dulwich. The project, organised by Ingrid Beazley, led to leading street artists being invited to Dulwich Picture Gallery to take inspiration from its Baroque paintings and reinterpret their choice on the walls around the Dulwich area. To view these again, and hear an explanation join Ingrid on Sunday 26th September at 2pm, when she will conduct a walk to look at these murals. Baroque the Street tickets are available at the Gallery at £10.
Southwark Council sponsored several major street art initiatives during the festival, one of which was the SCARECROWS project, created by Graham Shackell of Sometime Soon Arts, a historically inspired type of performance art where scarecrows carrying messages of incidents or people from Dulwich’s past were made by schools, clubs and groups and placed at sites around the area – and mysteriously moved at night! They were a source of great fun for children who followed a printed trail leading to them in the course of which they were made aware of some of Dulwich’s historical heritage.
Traffic congestion has been a feature in Dulwich this summer and drivers’ tempers have flared and P4 buses have been delayed. The last weekend of the Festival was a problem again and it is hoped that in future, arrangements will be made to place No Parking cones down one side of College Road and on the build out on both sides of Gallery Road if the event is held in Dulwich Park next year.
The problem was repeated several other times during the summer, especially on Sunday 23rd June when there was a major cycling event finishing at the Velodrome, a new exhibition at the Gallery, a large football tournament at the Pelo ground in Gallery Road, a fun fair at Belair, the Dulwich Players were performing an open-air Shakespeare production in the Park, a major cricket day was in progress at Southwark Community Sports Trust ground in Turney Road and it was as a sunny day which made Dulwich Park extra busy as well.
At the end of July Southwark Council circulated a consultation document regarding car parking in Dulwich Park where there has been serious congestion on some occasions during the summer months and setting out options to improve the matter. The options which people were asked to consider was limiting parking to 4 hours; making the display of a blue badge mandatory when parking in disabled blue bays; enforcement against dangerous or obstructive parking.
Perhaps parking on the long driveway from the Queen Mary Gate with access from Dulwich Common might be considered for busy weekend, provided of course that the road is closed off where it joins the main park loop.
Local police safer neighbourhood team
The local Safer Neighbourhood Teams in College, East Dulwich and Village Wards moved their home base to Camberwell Police Station on 24th June, and the new policing model came into force. We welcome a new sergeant on Village ward, Pete Shaw, while Stewart Turnbull and Warren Gregory remain at East Dulwich and College respectively. They all come under the Southwark South West Quadrant led by Inspector Richard Hynes.
Barbara Hepworth Statue Replacement
The four artists selected to design the replacement artwork for the stolen Barbara Hepworth statue - Anya Gallaccio, Ryan Gander, Eva Rothschild and Conrad Shawcross - will present their formal submissions for public consultation on the last two weekends of September at an exhibition in the Francis Peak Community Centre, Dulwich Park.
In 1963, life in Dulwich was very different for mothers of pre-school children. Nowadays, starting with an NCT group for pregnant mothers, and moving on to a Parent and Toddler group for every morning of the week, their time is fully structured. Not so then.
Then, except for the rich or desperately poor, the mother was the primary carer for her young child, all day, every day, until the Reception class received the five-year-old and she got a few blessed hours of freedom. As young married couples, we had mostly moved into Dulwich to be near the husbands’ work, far from our own families and friends. And from eight till six, how desperately lonely we were. With a good education, and previously in professional jobs, we felt our potential was being frittered away, but what could we do?
When we did meet each other, in the baby clinic or at the swings, we began to talk about how we could let our children meet and play together regularly. We read about the work of Susan Isaacs and Margaret Macmillan, and realised that our children could gain enormously from being in small regular groups with caring adults, where they had freedom to develop social skills and explore a wide range of educational materials. They would make friends, and just as important, so would we. We read about something called Playgroups in New Zealand, where the parents initiated and managed groups that met for a couple of hours, several times a week. We became very excited about the possibilities, and put a home- made poster in Rumsey the chemist’s shop in the village, asking if others would like to join us in this venture.
They certainly would. Paddy McCloy’s phone never stopped ringing. With greater confidence we persuaded the Dulwich Hamlet Old Scholars’ Association to let us use their club house, the Old Grammar School, every week day morning. We produced a budget (nowadays they call it a business plan) which showed that if we paid a very modest fee to an experienced leader, we could still make ends meet. But it was not to be a business. Following our mentors in New Zealand, it was to be a parent co-operative. Parents would form a committee to manage the business side of the group, and all would be obliged to help out at the group regularly.
In May, 1963, we had assembled a minimal stock of play equipment, formed a parents’ committee, and taken on a very part-time “supervisor”. We were amazed and delighted to have the services of Lady Hutton, of Howletts Mead. Together we were able to open our doors to forty three-and-four-year-olds from the area. Twenty attended on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the other twenty on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was not very long before we were forced, by pressure of numbers, to also run afternoon session for a further twenty children.
Many of the mothers who volunteered to help, realised that there was a lot to learn about early childhood development, and how it could be fostered and guided. By the end of the nineteen sixties, adult education courses for parents had been set up all over London. In fact, one of our own playgroup mothers, Pat Kidd, was instrumental in setting up and guiding the courses under the sponsorship of the Inner London Education Authority. Many of the people who attended the courses became playgroup leaders themselves.
Meanwhile, massive changes were taking place in society around us. Women’s Lib came, and women claimed a right to work. First they took very part time work, to be done while the children were at playgroup, and qualifying them for what was called “pin money”. But the rising cost of mortgages and the fulfilment of doing “a proper job” forced them into working longer hours. The demand came to extend the hours of care. Regular parent helpers were no longer available, and costs increased, but the government recognised the need, and began to subsidise the places, first for four-year-olds, and now also for three-year-olds, up to fifteen hours per week.
Through all these changes, Dulwich Village Playgroup continued to flourish, holding on to its guiding principles of being a parent managed group, and encouraging the children to grow and develop through free expression and free play. In keeping with the times it changed its name to Dulwich Village Pre-school. Twice it has had to move to different premises, After the Old Grammar School became part of the Estate offices, they moved to the Lloyds Register Cricket Club in Gallery Road. When those premises were taken over by Dulwich Prep, they were able to move to the Old Alleynian Club on Dulwich Common, where they have been happily settled for the last 13 years.
Perhaps more disturbing have been the changing expectations of society. Mothers now expect to be able to have their children cared for throughout the day, and for that care to extend to two-year-olds. There is pressure to have a much larger group, but the children are still treated as individuals, and sub-divided into age groups a lot of the time. They are subject to inspections by Ofsted, and all the rigorous form-filling and monitoring that goes with this, and there are now six paid members of staff.
With stable staffing, good premises, and strong government support, there is less for the parent committee to do these days, but the group is still a parent-co-operative charity. In May this year, the parents inspired and managed a Jubilee Barbecue to mark their fiftieth anniversary. They invited along about fifteen parents and play leaders they were able to contact from the earliest years. We were delighted to find that in spite of the flashier premises, paid and qualified staff and first class equipment, the group still encourages parents to take part whenever and however possible. And it is, in spite of all the changes, a group that exudes happy vibes. Long live Dulwich Village Pre-school.
The Dulwich Society's programme of marking its fiftieth year by the placing of twelve plaques around Dulwich at the sites of significant civilian loss of life in World War ll is now over halfway through. In September there will be three installations, two of which are on Dog Kennel Hill, in one of which there was a great loss of life, and the third at Dulwich Library commemorating deaths in Woodwarde Road. In October a plaque will be fixed on the railings of Alleyn's School commemorating those killed in Dovercourt Road. The final ceremony, in November, will be at the corner of Friern Road and Lordship Lane, where the greatest amount of devastation and a large loss of life occurred.
Those unveilings which have so far taken place have been very moving. On a number of occasions survivors of the bombs, or relatives of those killed have unveiled the plaques and read out the list of names. Dr. Kenneth Wolfe, the Society's vice chairman has conducted these modest ceremonies with great skill and the Society is grateful to him.
Apart from the unveiling in Friern Road in November, the other forthcoming ceremonies commemorate those killed in the Blitz. The Blitz (short for Blitzkreig) opened on Saturday 7th September 1940. It was a beautiful sunny day. Dulwich’s first serious raid was a couple of days later, on Monday 9th September when two high explosive bombs simultaneously hit an air raid shelter at Wheatland House, Dog Kennel Hill. A tree was uprooted in the explosion and fell across the safety exit. A newspaper report says that only the two people standing on the steps of the entrance survived, 29 were killed.
So great was this tragedy that the King and Queen visited the scene two days later when bodies were still being removed. They clearly put themselves at some risk as the raids were in daylight hours and another serious incident took place the following week in nearby Quorn Road. There is no doubt that this royal visit raised morale and one survivor writes to the Journal from her home in Canada to say that although she was only aged 4 at the time and cannot remember the raid, she can still remember the visit of the King and Queen to Dog Kennel Hill.
The ‘Stretcher Railings’
In July 1940 Camberwell Borough Council announced that it was collecting all metal railings from churches and houses and other buildings to be turned into weapons. In the following March, during the Blitz, the South London Observer noted that 34 garages at the uncompleted Ruskin Park House luxury flats on Champion Hill, were being used as a mortuary for fatal air raid victims. It is very likely that the metal fencing placed on Dog Kennel Hill and in Quorn Road after the war, to replace the original removed metal railings, was in fact the recycled metal mortuary stretchers. The photograph also shows the metal stretchers being used for training by civil defence teams before the Blitz started. The stretcher fencing, which is still in place in some roads, is to be removed this year when further refurbishing of the estate takes place but one of the stretchers is to be retained and the plaque commemorating the victims of the Quorn Road attack will be incorporated within it.
The Arrival of the V2 rocket
The Friern Road explosion was caused by a V2 rocket which fell on 1st November 1944. However, by the beginning of 1945 the end of the war was in sight, even after the Allied set back in the Ardennes. The Home Guard had been disbanded and some street lighting was being restored after years of the ‘blackout’, but V1 Flying bombs were still being launched although in much reduced numbers. More feared was the newly launched V2 which flew at super-sonic speed and exploded without warning. However, because of the perception that the end of the war was so close (Victory Europe was announced on 8th May) and flying bombs were far fewer, many Londoners declined to sleep in the bomb shelters.
Brian Green recalls:
One such was my father who was an air raid warden. On the night of 4th January 1945 I was an eight year old and went down as usual into the Anderson shelter in the garden of 24 Glengarry Road, opposite Dulwich Hospital, where I lived. Also in the shelter was my mother as well as Florence Reeves and her daughter Phyllis who lived in the flat upstairs. Florence had lost her other daughter, Winnie, who was killed outside the door of her house in Camberwell on the first night of the Blitz.
In the early part of the night there was a massive explosion close by. We emerged from the shelter to see what had happened, but there was nothing obvious to see. My father was getting dressed to report to his ARP post in Greendale upon hearing the explosion. As usual, he gave his tin hat a quick whisk with a duster and set off on his bicycle. He was not long in returning after finding out that the explosion was actually a house two doors away!
Until now I have never considered myself particularly lucky during the war, but hearing the various accounts of people’s experiences during this year I realise I was. I had been evacuated three times, all as it transpired in periods of relative quiet, paradoxically returning to Dulwich in times of maximum danger. And I was very lucky that night. The V2 had exploded in mid-air above our home. The nose cone crashed through the roof of our near neighbours’ house, splintering the rafters as it did so and pinning the couple who were sleeping in the upstairs bedroom by splinters to their bed which then crashed through one or more floors. Miraculously they survived, largely through the skill of local surgeon John Stevens at Dulwich Hospital .
Today, Glengarry Road looks as if it never went to war.
A couple of months earlier than the V2 explosion in Glengarry Road, a V2 had exploded in Friern Road close to the junction with Etherow Street. Both Etherow Street and that part of Friern Road to the junction with Lordship Lane were totally devastated and have since been rebuilt. One of the few survivors was James Clynch who died in 2011. His son also named James, remembers his father telling him of the event.
On the night of 1st November 1944, my father’s grandmother and grandfather, who also lived in Friern Road, decided to go to the Underground for shelter. They asked my father’s parents to go with them but as his mother, Kathleen was heavily pregnant (she was actually in labour), they decided to stay at home at 261 Friern Road with their three children, Michael aged 3, Terry aged 8 and my father, James then aged 7 and sleep in the indoor Morrison shelter. When the V2 rocket hit the house it, in my father’s words “bounced around the house for a while” before killing his mother and two brothers. My father and his father were buried for about 8 hours until they were found and pulled out of the debris by a fireman. He remembered the fireman saying “We’ve got one here, come on son.”
The first that the grandparents knew of the incident was when they returned in the morning to find the shell of the house. After the bombing my father went to live with his grandparents who had by then moved to Grove Hill Road. Counselling wasn’t offered in those days but after recovering from his injuries my father returned to Dog Kennel School where a collection had been made and he was presented with a bike at the Assembly. He remembered being told to cycle across the stage.
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to the victims of Wheatland House Air Raid Shelter, Dog Kennel Hill on Sunday 8th September at 12 noon at the community centre, Albrighton Road
In commemoration of those killed in the public air raid shelter of Wheatland House on 9th September 1940 by the simultaneous explosion of two high explosive bombs on the third night of the Blitz
Henry Bourne 41, Margaret Bourne, 38, Frederick Branch 28, Charles Brown 13, Elizabeth Brown 52, Philip Brown 50, Dennis Cleary 51, Fanny Cleary 43, Ellen Connor 34, Patrick Connor 11, Sheila Connor 4, Thomas Connor 12, Daisy Elliott 20, Rosie Elliott 17, Florence Lands 19, Louisa Lands 61, Alan Lockey 5, Helena Lockey 36, Henry Lockey 38, Mary Price-Howells 54, Myrddin Price-Howells 19, Hilda Roper 29, Leonard Roper 30, James South 37, Mabel South 41, Margaret South 4, Patricia South 14, Derek Stevens 10, Bessie Thomas 37.
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to the victims of Quorn Road, Dog Kennel Hill on Sunday 15th September at 12 noon
In commemoration of those killed in an air raid in Quorn Road during the Blitz on 15th September 1940.
Eileen Ashby 4, Charles Moakes 38, Florence Moakes 37, John Moakes 15, William Moakes 28, Robert Palmer 59.
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to the victims of Woodwarde Road on Sunday 22nd September at 12 noon at Dulwich Library
In commemoration of those killed in an air raid in Woodwarde Road during the Blitz on 24th September 1940.
Rosie Crawford 54, Ruth Stacey 28, Walter Stacey 29
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to the victims of Dovercourt Road on Saturday 19th October at 12 noon on the railings of Alleyn's School, Townley Road
In commemoration of those killed in an air raid in Dovercourt Road during the Blitz on 19th October 1940.
Eveline Stewart 32, George Stewart 60, Lilian Stewart 61, May Stewart 26
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to the victims of Friern Road on Saturday 2nd November at 12 noon at the junction with Lordship Lane
In commemoration of those killed in Friern Road by a V2 rocket on 1st November 1944
Edith Barratt 64, Millicent Barratt 37, Ida Byford 48, Kathleen Clynch 27, Michael Clynch 3, Terence Clynch 8, Brian Cornwell 8, Gertrude Cornwell 35, Harry Cornwell 37, Jessie Coughtrey 39, William Coxall 86, Harry Greenwood 67, Minnie Greenwood 69, David Hancock 2, Dennis Holter 6, Neta Howell 40, Elsie Lomas 33, Pauline Lomas 8 months, Joyce Lowden 20, Richard Mountjoy 62, Elizabeth Standing 53, Joan Strivens 25, Lucy Strivens 67, May Strivens 30
The plaque will be unveiled by James Clynch, the son of James Clynch snr. who died last year and who had survived the explosion which killed his mother Kathleen and his brothers Michael aged 3 and Terence aged 8. James Clynch’s great grandson Harry will read the list of the names of those killed.
Less well known than Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Upper Wood in Farquhar Road. The present day shape of Dulwich Upper Wood can be traced back to the Great North Wood and the rapid land-use changes within the Crystal Palace area since the mid 1800s. From the 12th to the 15th century the Manor of Dulwich, the area which today contains the wood, belonged to the Abbot of Bermondsey. The Manor stretched for more than two miles from Herne Hill to the southern tip of Sydenham Ridge. This was mostly covered by mixed Oak woodland and was part of the Great North Wood which then extended from New Cross to Croydon. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1542, he had the Dulwich estate surveyed. In 1605 the Manor was sold to Edward Alleyn, who later set up the College of Gods Gift which today owns Dulwich Upper Wood. In the woodland there are two old Woodland boundaries, a line of Ancient Coppiced and Pollarded trees and a ditch marking the subdivisions of the Great North Wood.
In 1852 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park (The Crystal Palace) was re-erected on the ridge of Sydenham Hill. With the Crystal Palace came the High Level Railway Station and residential roads. It was at this time that eight large houses with gardens were built along the east side of Farquhar Road.
In 1936 the Crystal Palace burnt down and thereafter the area went into decline. The High Level Railway Station fell into disuse and was demolished and prefabs were erected on the vacant site. Some of the Victorian houses were bombed during World War II and others were neglected. By 1960 most of the site was overgrown and only number 18 Farquhar Road was still lived in. The basements of the houses can still be seen today and have become an important feature of the wood.
In 1981 the Dulwich Society, together with the Greater London Council and the London Borough of Southwark (who lease the Wood from the Dulwich Estate) arranged for the Trust for Urban Ecology (then the Ecological Parks Trust) to manage the wood as a Nature Reserve. Spinney Gardens Housing Estate was built in 1986 replacing the prefabs, with Bowley Lane linking it to Farquhar Road. This link road cut through the southern section of the wood separating a small triangle of land from the rest of the wood.
Since 1988 a number of improvements have been made to the site to enhance wildlife value, improve educational facilities and disabled access. This includes the Fungi & Fern Gardens developed in the basements and a Pond/Marsh area. A grant was obtained in 2003 to renovate the Terraces/Wild area.
A new Woodland Centre is being built on the site using Traditional Oak building techniques; this will be a focus for the site and increase educational and community use. In 2010 a Woodland Food Garden was created at the end of the wood to show Shaded Gardening, where our food comes from, and wild edible plants.
A name change means that The Conservation Volunteers Urban Ecology now manage the Wood that has also been designated by Natural England & Southwark Council as a Local Nature Reserve.
Over the last two years we managed to gain a Green Flag Community Award for the wood with a very strong likelihood it will be repeated this year. We are pleased to be part of a nationwide scheme that recognises good practice and management for parks and wildlife sites.
We were fortunate to get a grant of £5000 from “Cleaner Greener Safer” Southwark council for “Greening the Portakabin” - we aim to cover the outside with green walls consisting of varied insect habitats and places for shade loving plants to grow out of the wall. We will also put on a green roof with ferns & possibly sedges. As well as providing habitats this will insulate the Portakabin, help with security and the visual appeal. Also for security we will be putting in some Bat Friendly lighting.
We are running a Fungi course on 7th of September a day course of Identifying Wild Mushrooms & information about Edible & poisonous species. This is being run through the Friends of Dulwich Upper Wood & costs £40 with all monies going to help manage the Woodland. Contact Jim Murphy on
The Friends of Dulwich Upper Wood & The Conservation Volunteers have a blog type in Dulwichupperwoodfriendsblog to reach it. The Conservation Volunteers also have a website where you can find out more about volunteering and the work that we do. www.tcv.org.uk
From a sightings perspective we have had all three Woodpeckers, and Tree Creepers seen in the last year. Stag Beetles are out in the wood at the moment with a number of sightings of this endangered species and because of the amount of Dead Wood on the site, these numbers are likely to keep increasing.
Some interesting Fungi are already emerging this year and come autumn this will increase as the site has records of over 400 different species.
Site Manager Dulwich Upper Wood LNR
Although this article is being written during a July heat wave Autumn will be approaching by the time it is read. But it has been a difficult year to assess. The cold start to the summer caused everything to be nearly a month late and Hawthorn blossom that is normally in full bloom on May Day was at its best in the third week. The result was bumper blossom in June. It will be difficult to know what effect this seasonal variation will have had on our nesting birds. The seed eating finches, tits and sparrows change their diet to small caterpillars while feeding their young which is why they do not often visit feeders at this time. Those that nested at their usual time may not have had sufficient availability of small caterpillars to achieve fledging of all their broods. It is interesting to note that they do return to feeders in July and in the present heat appear to be as hungry as during the winter and queuing at the birdbaths for a drink.
There has been anxiety nationally about falls in population of Swifts and House Martins. Swifts nest in the crevices of our older houses. During May and June many not sitting on eggs depart out of town to collect insect feed and we only see the numbers in early morning and evening. In July the young fledge and the families can be seen at daytime in screaming parties around houses as well as high altitude feeding. Fortunately there have been sufficient numbers this July to suggest adequate breeding and the hot weather will have given them a bonus of high flying small insects drawn up by rising air currents.
In Dulwich we are fortunate to have woodland and green areas which support populations of Woodpeckers. Our commonest are Great Spotted Woodpeckers which we see often on our tit feeders, but also Green Woodpeckers that come to our lawns and mown fields to feed on ants with the aid of their long tongues. Both Richard Robinson in Great Brownings and Martin Bagley have recently reported the much rarer Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which nationally is considered to be endangered.
It is easy to be confused in the identification of the two spotted Woodpeckers.
A young Great Spotted Woodpecker as shown in this excellent photograph supplied by Bryce and Mary Caller has a red cap. However after its first moult the red cap is lost and the females have no red on their heads with the males having just a red disc in the nape of their necks. The adult Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers confusingly have red caps similar to the juvenile Great Spotted as adult plumage. But they are much smaller than the Great Spotted, being no bigger than a Starling and generally much more difficult to see. Their other distinguishing feature is that the large oval white path on the wing coverts is replaced by a series of white bars, so that they are sometimes known as the Barred Woodpecker.
As this little Woodpecker is becoming so rare it is well worth sending in records when we are lucky enough to see them. They are difficult to spot so that often the best way is having heard a rather strident call that sounds like a cross between a Starling and an angry Blackbird. It will usually come from fairly dense canopy, whereas the “chit chit” call of the Great Spotted will often come from the top point of a tall tree such as a conifer. In the breeding season both woodpeckers will “drum” by repeatedly beak hitting a dead wood branch which substitutes for song. There is a difference between both species, the Greater Spotted’s drums are louder and shorter. Green woodpeckers sensibly don’t drum but make a loud laughing call which gives them their other name – the Yaffle.
I would like to hear of any records of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers particularly if a bird is seen to be nesting. And of course I am happy to hear of any unusual sightings or discuss identification problems.
Wildlife Recorder (telephone: 020 7274 4567)
First, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I was seeing double! I had never seen a white squirrel before, and there it was, at the bottom of my garden in Stradella Road, frisking around the old sycamore tree. And the very next day there were two – chasing one another up and down the sycamore and round about the railway embankment. The first solo show, on 7 June, and the duet the next day, had me reaching for Google. I learned from their pink eyes that my squirrels are albinos, which makes them extremely rare. According to wildlife experts the odds against a pure white squirrel being born in Britain are one in 100,000. With a grey squirrel population of more than 2.5 million, this would suggest that there are only 25 albinos out there at any one time.
Albinism is a genetic defect that occurs in both humans and animals due to a lack of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for most hair colour. Their coats are white and their eyes pink or blue. According to the White Squirrel Research Institute in the United States, which keeps extensive records, they are recessive to the normal or wild condition, meaning they have to get an albino gene from both parents to be white. A squirrel with one normal melanin gene and one albino gene will appear normal. Several colonies of non-albino white squirrels exist in the United States. They exhibit a rare fur colouration known as leucism that is the result of a recessive gene found within certain Eastern grey squirrel populations.
Olney, Illinois, is known as the “White Squirrel Capital of the World”. These squirrels are so treasured they have the right of way on all streets, with a $500 fine for hitting one. The University of Texas in Austin has a white squirrel population, which spurred a myth of the albino squirrel as a good luck charm. Students believe that if they spot a white squirrel before an exam they will ace it. In Thailand, folklore has it that a Naga shape shifted into a white squirrel was killed by a hunter and was magically transformed into meat equal to 8,000 cartloads. As punishment for eating the tainted flesh the water god Phaya Nak transformed the land into a vast swamp of which Nong Han Kumphawapi lake is a remnant.
Here in Britain the white squirrel has made less of an impression. Maybe we lack some imagination. Surrey has produced a number of white squirrel sightings. There was some excitement in 2003 when two boys playing football accidentally knocked a baby albino squirrel out of a tree. The squirrel and his brother were taken to London Wildcare Centre in Wallington where they spent the (undisclosed) remainder of their days. Another white squirrel lived happily in a Dorking churchyard for a few years before being killed on a nearby road. I could not find any reports of white squirrel sightings in the Dulwich/Herne Hill area, although a friend reports seeing one in Brockwell Park some years ago.
I think my pair must be quite young, perhaps from this Spring’s litter. They certainly appear youthful and puppyish and this is their first appearance. White squirrels may be vulnerable as they lack the camouflage of greys, but I can’t think of many predators in our area that would take one on. They are said to have relatively poor eyesight, but my pair leap and scurry about the high branches with no apparent problems.
And grey squirrels do not appear to be prejudiced against them. My pair often play with a grey companion.