The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2014.
Anyone taking the dog-walking path left from the Court Lane Gate can’t miss the massed aerial activity around a partly pollarded copper beech trunk down there. From a central rot hole in a cut limb about 4 metres up a cloud of 50 to 100 bees circles restlessly. There’s nothing to worry about, though, these are tree bumblebees, and as everyone knows bumblebees are cute and cuddly and very docile.
When, in 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh was introduced to some bees nesting in a tree, E.H. Shepard made a terrible entomological faux pas by drawing bumblebees when, of course, he should have drawn honeybees instead. Only honeybees make honey, and although most live domesticated lives in hives, the occasional swarm escape sets up what can really only be described as a feral nest in a hollow trunk, or a rock cavity. His error was doubly troubling to British entomologists because bumblebees also didn’t nest in trees. They do now.
In July 2001 a ‘new’ bumblebee species to Britain was found in the village of Landford, Wiltshire; highly characteristic with its strong tawny orange thorax, black body and bright white tail tip, quite how Bombus hypnorum arrived on the edges of the New Forest is still a mystery, but once arrived it soon started to spread. It is now common throughout all of England, much of Wales and has started to appear in odd bits of Scotland. On the continent it occurs right up to the Arctic Circle; like many animals common on the mainland it just seems to have been kept at bay by the Channel, since the glacial retreat and rising sea levels after the last ice age about 15,000 years ago.
As well as its distinctive colour pattern, this new bee also shows a very unusual behavioural trait. Whereas most bumblebees nest low down, in the ground, compost bins, hollow logs or large grass tussocks, Bombus hypnorum has a tendency to make its colonies in tree holes. Since a new common British bee required a new English common name, “tree bumblebee” was the obvious choice.
Old woodpecker nests and tree rot holes are not the only nest sites in Dulwich. The Lodge House at the College Road entrance has two swift nesting boxes fixed up under the eaves to encourage these charismatic birds, but the early-rising tree bumbles got into one first. Eventually, the nest will wind down and all the bees will die off except a new cohort of queens (fertile females), mated, and storing the sperm they will need to lay the eggs when they found a new nest on their own from scratch next spring. These queens will search out dry sheltered nooks in which to hibernate. It’s at this point that the empty box can be cleaned out to discourage another colony next year. The house in Dovercourt Road can then have the small loft hole plugged too.
Having a noisy crowd of potentially stinging insects buzzing around the roof, or the airbrick, or the garden nest box, might cause some initial anxiety, but I offer the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s advice if you find some tree bumblebees nesting close to you: consider yourself lucky, just leave them alone, and let them get on with it. But remember, they will never give you any honey.
Richard Jones is an entomologist and writer; luckily, his next book House Guests, House Pests (Bloomsbury, due October 2014) will include an entry on loft-nesting bees, including the cuddly Bombus hypnorum.
In the Foreword to this gloriously entertaining book, the theatre critic Benedict Nightingale is at a loss on how to describe it and ends up with ‘quirky’. He is quite right. How do you consider a romp through all the plays of England’s greatest writer from the pen (or laptop) of an author who advertises it on the cover as – ‘an actor’s saga of near misses and dogged endurance? Of course David Weston is not talking about the Bard but rather his own sixty years of playing his creations.
In 2011, Weston’s earlier book Covering McKellen: An understudy’s Tale, won that year’s Theatre Book Prize and Dulwich audiences had the opportunity of hearing the author talk about his hopes to play one of his life’s ambitions – King Lear, on the world tour. As he amusingly told us, Ian McKellen did not miss a single performance and so his dream remains unfulfilled. Last year he published a novel of the further adventures of Dickens’s Artful Dodger after his transportation entitled Dodger Down Under.
Weston has worshipped two gods in his life. The first was Michael Croft, a teacher at Alleyn’s in the 1950’s who was considered by his colleagues at the school, as either a charming genius who was an inspiration to work with, or a total education subversive. It would be Croft, with his visionary Shakespearean productions at Alleyn’s, who would launch the National Youth Theatre, and with it the careers not only of David Weston, but a host of others, and as Weston would be the first to admit, better known actors than he.
If you want to know who they are, this book will tell you. The author’s career has spanned six decades and I suspect that if a part came up that might moderately interest him, David Weston would still play it. There can be few actors still working that can recall performing in Moscow when the Cold War was at its height, or in Berlin as the Wall was literally being built next to the theatre he was playing.
Weston’s other god is Shakespeare whose authorship of all the plays printed under his name Weston will defend to the death. Drawing upon his long experience in performing Shakespeare, Weston is ever ready to take up the cudgels against the welter of academics who express differing views on authorship, style and substance to his own; illustrating his points from his close observation of the text with which he is so familiar.
He has performed in twenty-nine of the listed thirty-seven Shakespeare plays, in some he has played several different characters. In Covering Shakespeare he addresses each play in turn. He describes its history under his term ‘Tattle’, with also some great quotes – Samuel Pepys for example described Romeo and Juliet thus – “It is the worst play I ever heard in my life.”
The second, and principal element of the book is the part he calls Memories. Here he reveals what a precarious life an actor has. It is fine when young and carefree, but when parts dry up and responsibilities begin to arrive, life for an actor can be demoralising. It was in the mid-1970’s that Weston began to realise that the glittering career he had once confidently expected would not arrive. It had all started so well; starring as Mark Anthony in Michael Croft’s NYT production at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue with Martin Jarvis as Cassius, John Shrapnel as Caesar, Simon Ward as Octavius, Michael York as Messala and Ian McShane as Strato. Weston thinks it was the best thing he has ever done. Following the opening there were three top theatre agents clamouring for his attention. A star role as the young monk, Brother John opposite Richard Burton in the movie Beckett followed.
Other movie roles were forthcoming, including The Heroes of Telemark, and the starring role in Disney’s Dick Turpin. In 1967 he shared the stage with Charles Laughton and Ian Holm at the RSC at Stratford, even accompanying both of them to reflect upon their roles as Lear and his Fool in the storm scene at the Rollright Stones, the stone circle some twenty miles away. Such lengths do some actors go to find their characters.
There is a poignant moment in the book when his career is in a downward spiral, he has two young sons and his wife, Dora’s dress design business had yet to take off. To make ends meet he takes to mini-cabbing and one day has Sir John Gielgud as a passenger. He had played a scene with him in Becket and both were favourably mentioned in the same review in The Observer. Weston screwed up his courage and blurted out “You remember me, Sir John. We worked together on Becket.” Gielgud wrinkled his nose and looked out of the window. “Really, what were you? One of the extras.”
This was perhaps a turning point and Weston fought his way back into the theatre. A good job he did, he still had a further forty years to go in the profession; no, never at the top, but doing what he likes best, acting and being in the company of actors. The index to Covering Shakespeare names over 500 actors, directors, writers and critics, most of whom Weston has worked with and tells anecdotes about. He is generous in what he says, never jealous of the success of others, never mean-spirited. The book gives a vivid, yet entertaining glimpse behind the curtain.
Covering Shakespeare by David Weston is published by Oberon Books £14.95
By any standard, even today, a journey to the Dales of North Yorkshire would not be undertaken lightly. A careful motorist would certainly check the tyre pressure, make sure there was a full tank of fuel and think where a couple of stops en route might be taken.
What must a journey have been like in 1626? Roads were bad, safety uncertain, accommodation sparse. It would need careful planning and could only sensibly be made in summer when the weather would be kinder. And how to make such a journey? The only apparent option was to travel by horseback. A sea journey along the coast for some of the route is possibly feasible, but it would still require a lengthy east to west overland journey through Richmond and along the Ure. A ride on haulage carts travelling to say, York sounds equally unlikely.
And then there was the danger of banditry in Wensleydale. In 1609, men were still living who recalled that to pass through the forest a fine had to be paid to avoid attack.
So why did Edward Alleyn, at the age of 60 undertake such an uncomfortable and hazardous trip?
Edward Alleyn’s first wife, Joan had died in June 1623. Five months later he married Constance Donne, the eldest of John Donne’s, Dean of St Paul’s, seven surviving children. She was 40 years his junior.
The match was probably arranged by the wife of his friend and neighbour, Sir Thomas Grymes of Peckham, whose wife was Constance’s maternal aunt (and related to Sir Thomas More).
So we must question again, why, why, at the age of 60, with a young wife of less than three years, contemplate such a journey? Was it an act of bravado to impress a young wife – he could certainly boast of such journeys taken in the past when he went on year-long theatrical tours when the plague closed the London playhouses. But that was thirty years earlier, when he was a young man as tough as old boots. Or was he keen for one last great trip because he was bored in his retirement; his College established and running smoothly, his estate ticking over, his theatre performance days long over.
Yet he was still running at least one theatre and he was still apparently interested in property speculation. It was the intercedence of a lawyer from the Inner Temple, George Cole which persuaded him to make what would be his final great journey.
George Cole was born in Stokesley, Yorkshire and was a a wealthy man, In 1616 he and his brother Thomas had bought a third of the vast manor of Simondstone, Aysgarth, Yorkshire for £4750 and soon after he purchased a further third. To give some idea of property prices, Edward Alleyn had bought the more valuable manor of Dulwich, comprising 1500 acres, in 1605 for £5000.
Cole had bought the Yorkshire manor, which had a number of leases which were due to expire in 1626, from the Crown. The manor was originally vested in the Abbey of Jervauix and following the Dissolution of the Monasteries was acquired by the Duke of Lennox, reverting later to the Crown.
George Cole, who appears to have acted for Alleyn as his lawyer must have persuaded Alleyn that it would be a good deal to buy some of this land situated in Simondstone in the parish of Aysgarth. Convinced, Alleyn bought the land, which seems to have comprised nine farms of varying sizes, in February 1626. In July of that year he decided to make the long journey to have a look at it.
The parish of Aysgarth was one of extremes, extreme remoteness, extreme size. It extended to 80,000 acres. Although it is now divided into four parishes, Aysgarth itself, is still one of the largest parishes in the country. The church of St Andrew’s in Aysgarth also has a 4 acre churchyard which claims to be the biggest in the country.
However, the area is thinly populated even today, and that population is in decline still. Aysgarth’s population today is 178, half of what it was a century ago.
St Andrew’s possesses the screen and Abbott’s stall from Jervauix Abbey, the former a remarkably rare survivor of the Reformation. When the Dissolution of the Monasteries took place the monks of Jervauix appear to have been awarded St Andrew’s and with the apparent agreement of the parishioners set about its restoration in 1536. It was restored again in 1866 – the same year Christ’s Chapel, in Dulwich, was restored.
The church’s list of vicars shows that a Samuel Jonson was vicar at the time of Alleyn’s visit. Something of a coincidence, considering that the actor and contemporary, Ben Jonson, was a friend and great admirer of Alleyn. Trinity College, Cambridge is the lay rector of St Andrews and it insists that its records name the spelling as Janson.
Did Edward Alleyn take time to admire the spectacular series of waterfalls on the River Ure as it passes through the village? At what date Alleyn made the return journey from Aysgarth in the summer of 1626 we do not know. What is certain is that it did him no good at all and he fell very ill soon after, rallying somewhat in November before succumbing in December.
He left to Constance, his young wife, her jewels, £100 and the interest in an investment of £1500. In 1630 she married Samuel Harvey of Albury Hatch, Surrey.
Lawyer,George Cole was also. it seems, a friend of DrJohn Donne, because it was in Cole’s house that Donne himself fell ill and died a year later.
Separated from the rest of Dulwich, of which it was once an important part, by a railway line and a large council estate, it is now easy to think of the area of Champion Hill as being more part of Camberwell with which it shares a postal code. Yet it has always been part of the historic Manor of Dulwich and remains part of the Dulwich Estate. Several boundary stones dating from 1806 when a large scale redevelopment of Dulwich was contemplated, survive.
In this, the first part of a two- part look at the area, Bernard Nurse and Ian Mcinnes examine the Cleeve Hall council estate which extends eastwards from Greendale foot/cycle path and Sharon O’Connor considers the extensive German colony which settled on Champion Hill.
The Cleve Hall Estate, a post-war council estate, is named after the former Cleve Hall Hotel which occupied two large houses on Champion Hill with extensive grounds and fine views towards the south west. Hill Lodge was built about 1804 on the corner of Champion Hill and Green Lane; Cleve Hall was built next to it in 1807 fronting onto to Champion Hill. Both had gardens stretching almost 200 yards down the hill, Cleve Hall featuring a lake at the end. They were built for wealthy merchants taking advantage of the new extension to Champion Hill laid out by the Dulwich College estate, the easy access to central London and the available land.
The first resident of Hill Lodge was Peter Martineau, whose family owned a sugar refining business for several generations. In the early 19th century, Cleve Hall seems to have been called Dulwich Hill House, Champion Hill and later, Rydal Mount. An 84 year lease was granted to George Sharp in 1807; one of the tenants from about 1825 to about 1840 was the financier and leading member of the Jewish community, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (1778-1859). He was described by the Charity Commissioners in 1839 as Sharp’s tenant of the mansion house, pleasure ground and gardens with four acres of land. Goldsmid was made a baronet in 1841, the first Jew to receive an English hereditary title. Evidence of his political connections is provided in a report in the Court Journal for 17 July 1833 for a dinner he gave at his Champion Hill house which was attended by several members of the cabinet and the Duke of Sussex. The journal noted that: “Mr Goldsmid’s residence on Champion Hill is one of the most tasteful near the metropolis and the gardens are laid out in equally good style”. Three years later, the Gardener’s Magazine reported that Goldsmid’s gardener had developed a way of growing vines on trellises in his greenhouse to bring them on quicker.
By the 1890s it was no longer possible to find tenants for such large properties, and the premises were acquired by the Pelican House School. This was a girls’ residential boarding school, founded in Peckham in the 1820s, which had moved to Grove Park by 1881 and then the short distance to Champion Hill about ten years later, by which time the numbers of pupils had trebled to 36, aged 10-17. The Dulwich Estate granted the headmistress, Sarah Ann Bennett, a 21 year lease in 1895 and it was still advertising for pupils in the Solicitors’ Journal for 1900, claiming ‘six resident governesses’. However, when the census was taken in 1901, the premises were occupied by a private boys’ school with a headmaster, Frederick Jones, five other teachers and eight boys aged 8-14 living there.
With the expansion of state education and the development of larger public schools, small private schools in London found it difficult to survive. The building entered its final phase as a residential hotel, just a few years earlier than the neighbouring properties of Bessemer House and Ruskin Manor on Denmark Hill. In 1904, William Rogers became the tenant and later acquired the lease which passed on to his widow after his death in 1922 and their son, Captain William P J Rogers. To begin with the business prospered: 79 boarders were living there in 1911, including retired army officers, some clerks and teachers and several with no occupation, presumably with private means. There were 14 servants. The property next door, Hill Lodge, was acquired shortly afterwards, and a handsome booklet was produced about 1913, advertising the quality services offered:
“Situated almost in sight of St. Paul’s and within sound of its chimes [the Cleve Hall Residential Hotels] occupy an unrivalled position on the crest of Champion Hill, and command entrancing views…and yet they are really within the City cab radius. The establishment which is now world-wide in its reputation, and by far the largest kind in the metropolis consists of Cleve Hall, comprising the Entrance Hall, and lounge, new Dining Room (capable of dining 200 guests), the noble Smoke-Room and Drawing-Room, with the Grand Winter Garden Lounge (and beautiful Italian Crystal Fountain), Billiard Room and Ballroom. For the young there is an endless variety of sports, tennis courts, croquet, badminton, clock golf and bowls.”
By the time the next brochure was issued about 1932, a five valve wireless installation was available, principal rooms had hot and cold running water with box spring mattresses and there was central heating and electric lighting. The rates for full board and lodging were very similar to those twenty years previously (3 guineas in 1932 is equivalent to about £200 today, and prices fell most years between 1920 and 1932).
Despite the brochure, over the next two years business appeared to drop off substantially. In April 1934 Captain Rogers approached the Governors with a plan to improve the hotel but, not unreasonably, he asked for a lease extension. The Governors declined. In September 1935 he suggested that he might demolish the existing houses and build a large block of flats- the Governors declined yet again.
It is difficult to understand the Governors’ actions as they must have known that the hotel was not trading well and yet when the business went into receivership in February 1936, they had no redevelopment plan in place. Rogers was funded by the National Bank and they appointed a Mr Gilbert Allen as receiver.
By 23rd July the bank had secured an offer from a property development syndicate to keep the main house as a hotel and run it as a country hotel on the lines of Selsdon Park in Croydon. The other buildings would be demolished to allow the construction of a block of flats The Governors were unhappy about the flats. The bank sent more details early in September but the Governors were unmoved.
On 24 September the Manager reported on a circular letter he had seen from the local branch of the International friendship League. It advertised a large event at the old hotel “in honour of his imperial majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia”. The Governors reminded them that it was supposed to be a boarding house and, when the bank pressed them, agreed to the event but said there were to be no speeches, publicity or press. Not surprisingly the event was cancelled.
Nothing more was heard until till October 1937 when the receiver asked for permission to hold an auction sale of furniture and effects and reported that contracts were about to be exchanged with a Mr and Mrs Rees Jones who ran a smaller boarding house at ‘Old Durlstone Manor’ on Champion Hill. The bank installed a caretaker as a temporary measure to look after the premises but, unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Rees Jones proved unable to sell their existing business and the offer lapsed.
In February 1939 the Governors received a letter from a builder, Mr Styles, of Herne Place, Herne Hill, and Bloomsbury Square. With masterly understatement he wrote “I observe that these properties have been unoccupied for some time now and possibly you are experiencing some difficulty in finding suitable tenants for such large houses in the district, and the cost of putting such house in order, I venture to suggest, would be considerable.
With these facts in view I have caused a lay out plan to be prepared for the development of the property in suitable plots for convenient size houses, which I think would readily sell and would be a great asset to your Estate, the selling price I propose is £1250.
The plan is for a roadway to be constructed through the middle of the land with houses on both sides and no house to front upon Greendale in case there should be any difficulty in making up the road.
There would be 38 plots with an average frontage of 35 feet and an average depth of 200 feet, which would permit a good class of houses to be built.
I would vary the design of the houses and endeavour to lay them out in a pleasing way, and to this end would engage the services of an architect.” Styles proposal was accepted and he planned to built 34 houses in a new road named by the LCC as Cleve Hall Crescent.
In July 1940 the Manager reported that the first part of the road was complete but added “at the present time, it seems unlikely that Mr Styles will carry out this work.” –Building Licence legislation produced in 1940 stopped all new work that was not specifically in support of the war effort. There was also concern that RAF personnel from the nearby barrage balloon site were parking vehicles on the new road illegally and gates were put up at each end to allow the work to proceed – it was finally finished in March 1941. The last we hear of Mr Styles is shortly afterwards when he asked whether the Governors would be entitled to compensation in the event of any war damage to the road.
The site and buildings remained vacant for the rest of the war and on into 1947. They came out of the war undamaged but the Governors did nothing to try and find a user. Although the site was not considered in the first tranche of compulsory purchase orders that Camberwell and the LCC served on the Estate it is likely that the Governors were sitting waiting for an offer – which duly arrived on 26th April 1947.
The Estate lodged an appeal against the order in July and the public enquiry was held on 6 January 1948. The Estate made a half-hearted effort to influence the outcome by saying that a builder had been going to develop the site before the war but, they could not show that anything was happening, or likely to happen soon, and the CPO was approved.
The LCC did not consider the site a priority and it took four years for the financial settlement to be agreed. In February 1952 the Estate accepted £9,500, not much perhaps by today’s’ standards, but equal to roughly 20 years times the ground rent originally agreed with Mr Styles pre-war.
The site was built out with 171 flats and houses between 1952 and 1956 and included a pub, the Greendale. This closed in the 1990s and, following an interim period as the unsuccessful and much complained about ‘Owiru Spot’, it was demolished in 2012. Its replacement, an attractive block of 20 flats, was designed by Southwark practice Alan Camp Architects and completed in 2013
With acknowledgements to Christine Camplin, Peckham Society, for information about the Pelican House School.
South London housed one of the largest German communities in England in Victorian times. Forest Hill and Sydenham were home to German clerks and musicians but Champion Hill was the choice of a group of entrepreneurial German businessmen who went on to found City firms many of which still survive in some form today. Attracted to London by its increasing importance in world trade and to South London by the proximity of the City and the fresh air, the Germans of Champion Hill were clever, ambitious, became as rich as Croesus and though at first they moved in a strictly Teutonic world they later became assimilated, disappearing into the English upper middle classes and becoming ‘more English than the English’.
In 1829 Hermann Greverus, descended from a long line of German theologians, moved to England and settled in Denmark Hill. A charming, good-looking man originally intended for the church, Herman instead went into commodity broking, opening an office off Lombard St. He made a great deal of money both for his firm and for himself, earning the equivalent of around £150,000 a year from trading on his personal account alone. He was the London agent for Drake Brothers, then the largest sugar and tobacco shipper in Cuba, and often dealt with a young German executive there called Alexander Friedrich Kleinwort. Alexander Friedrich was ambitious and as Drake’s business expanded, so Greverus and Co also prospered. When Alexander came to London he stayed with the Greverus family and soon fell in love with Herman’s only child Sophie, asking for her hand in marriage. Alexander Kleinwort was a cautious man and their courtship lasted six years while he remained in Cuba, accumulating capital with the aim of starting his own business. He saw that the real profits would come not from physically trading commodities but from financing that trading. When he did decide to set the date he acted decisively however, and Sophie was given just 10 days notice of her wedding. She told her bridesmaids: ‘Do not trouble yourself much about dress. I have no time to be particular’. The couple married in 1852, Sophie was 32 and Alexander Friedrich 36 years old. They moved to Cuba but the climate did not agree with Sophie so after three years they returned to London where her father bought them The Glebe at one end of Champion Hill.
Sophie was a vivacious woman and, though weakened by bouts of tropical fever and difficult labours, she provided a convivial, sociable home for her highly driven, commercially minded husband. The Glebe was an extensive house, convenient for Alexander Friedrich’s office in the City to which he walked each day, yet in a salubrious rural location that was not yet part of London. It stood on a hill in its own large grounds with a view of the new Crystal Palace. The Kleinworts had more than a dozen live-in indoor staff alone with a further half a dozen gardeners and an unknown number of ‘dailies’ or adhoc staff. Alexander must have thought life was good as he surveyed his house, young family and flourishing business.
Alexander Friedrich and Sophie lived in an unassimilated German community. Germans imported both their domestic staff and their spouses from Germany. Known to some as ‘Little Germany’, Camberwell shops sold German food, toys and clothes and many displayed little signs in the windows: ‘Hier spricht man deutsch’. Miss Stoffell the German dressmaker was employed by the wives of the German bankers, Mr Steiert the clockmaker mended the clocks of the large villas of Champion Hill. There were lectures from visiting German academics and recitals from German musicians. Around eighty German families lived within walking distance of each other and the Kleinworts socialised and did business with the Greveruses, Schroders, Beneckes, Donners, Huths and Brandts amongst others. Sadly, they were only married for eight years when Sophie died aged 40. Their eldest child, Minnie, was seven and Alexander, their youngest, only two. Their father had Alexander’s cot moved into his bedroom and by all accounts was loving and affectionate towards his children. A cousin later reminded them that Alexander Friedrich often spent his Saturday mornings playing with them in the chicken yard at The Glebe.
At first all four children were educated at home. They had lessons in the morning and in the afternoons went riding around Camberwell with their friends. Like many German fathers, Alexander Friedrich then sent his two sons Herman and Alexander, to school in Germany while Minnie and Sophie continued to be educated at home. Later still, the next generation would be educated at Dulwich College.
German families in Champion Hill had been worshipping at the ancient St Marien-Kirche at the Savoy Palace until it was demolished to make way for the Victoria Embankment. It then moved to Bloomsbury but by 1855 there was a large enough congregation for South London to merit its own church. Built in Windsor Road (now Walk) for £2,000 and paid for by local German families it held services in German for congregations of several hundred and helped to reinforce the sense of community among the German residents.
In 1875 an additional church was built in Forest Hill, partly due to expanding migration of Germans to the greener suburbs of South London but also due to theological differences; the two churches reflected the wider German Protestant divisions of the time. At first Windsor Road followed orthodox Lutheranism; the pastor reporting back to Germany that ‘The women are German and still very attached to the church. The proletariat is not much in evidence’. Their faith was similar in some respects to Puritanism but from 1871 began to move towards a more open version of Protestantism. The German families welcomed this change and it was said they wanted ‘Goethe and Schiller in the pulpit’. Schiller was certainly popular: in 1859 over 10,000 people, mostly German, attended a celebration of the centenary of his birth at Crystal Palace. The musical celebrations, torchlight processions, firework displays, speeches and poems were a staggering success, so much so that it was all repeated a year later in honour of Felix Mendelssohn.
Like other sons of merchant banking families, the young Kleinworts began clerkships in their father’s firm, walking to work with their father each morning. They were paid the same salary as any other clerk and Alexander Friedrich was determined they should learn every aspect of the firm before they took charge, sending them on an eighteen-month tour of the bank’s agents and clients around the world.
Both Kleinwort daughters married German cousins. Minnie married the deceptively British sounding Robert Martin who also lived on Champion Hill and Sophie met her husband John Charles Andreae, known as Carlo, when he came over from Germany to stay with his Martin cousins.
Minnie and Robert Martin set up home in Redcourt on Champion Hill.
Redcourt. Source: ideal-homes.org
Sophie and Carlo Andreae moved into Crestalta, Champion Hill which was opposite Redcourt. Carlo was a ‘jolly, exuberant’ man who would take his eldest sons and their Martin cousins out riding every day. Their sons went to Dulwich College along with their Andreae cousins. Sadly, Carlo died from pneumonia in 1888 when Herman was only 12 and the youngest child, Frank, was only one year old. Aunt Minnie wrote poignantly of how the children tried to cheer their mother up. Herman Andreae, was very like his father and was similarly described as ‘larger than life’.
In 1912 one of their daughters, Caroline, married Frank Trier, a civil engineer, who lived on Denmark Hill and had been at Dulwich College with her brothers. They were married in the German church of course and the bride’s brother, Rev Alexander Andreae, a Unitarian minister, officiated. Frank’s father, also named Frank, was instrumental in creating Ruskin Park. Caroline and Frank lived at Black Forest Villa on Champion Hill
The Germans brought their love of music with them from the old country, setting up the Camberwell German Choir and enjoying musical soirees in the villas of Champion Hill. It was while staying in the area that Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write his lyrical ‘Spring Song’, originally entitled ‘Camberwell Green’. He had been engaged to perform in London in 1842 but finding the city too stuffy, he and his wife left central London to stay with her aunt, Mrs Benecke, on Denmark Hill. One day a picnic to Windsor Park was arranged but Mendelsohn stayed behind with the children (picnic fun was strictly for the grown-ups). The quaver rests and the staccato notes in Spring Song are said to represent the continual breaks in his piano playing as the children try to drag him away to join their games. Mendelssohn gave the piece to Clara Schumann as a birthday present. Later Berlioz came to visit another branch of the Benecke family on Denmark Hill and sang with the daughters of the house. He said the audience ‘drank it up like consecrated milk’. Richard Wagner also visited the Beneckes.
Marguerite Gunther was very rich, she had a personal fortune of £300,000, equivalent to millions today. Her father, Otto, was a cousin and business connection of the Kleinworts and one day Marguerite came home to be told by Otto, ‘There are seven umbrellas in the hall and they belong to seven suitors. Only one of them is worth considering: Herman Kleinwort’. Herman and Marguerite married and went on to have seven daughters. In 1900 moved to the Platanes, an imposing house which still survives on Champion Hill. Originally built eight years earlier for George Egmont Bieber, another German merchant, and named for German plane trees, The Platanes was close to other family members at the Glebe, Redcourt and Crestalta.
Alexander Friedrich had anchored his family firmly on Champion Hill. He used to visit his daughters every day on his way back from the office and on Sundays his children, their families and assorted governesses, nannies and nursemaids would decamp to The Glebe: ‘It was like an anthill’, Gussie Martin remembered. Christmas alternated between The Glebe and Crestalta and Grandpa Alexander would send the children into fits of laughter with his party trick of pushing his dentures in and out.
When Alexander Friedrich died his son, Alexander, as yet unmarried, continued to live at The Glebe. He had been a slightly depressed, aimless young man but when his brother-in-law Carlo died he took on the role of father figure to his sister Sophie’s children and this new purpose in life appeared to be the making of him. He supervised his nephews’ education, enrolling them at Dulwich College then sending them to Germany and Antwerp to perfect their languages and begin their business training. He took a more active role in the bank and he found himself a wife, Etiennette Girard.
All the Kleinworts were now extremely rich and began to follow the traditions of the English gentry while also being conscious that Champion Hill was losing its prestige. Alexander sold The Glebe and moved to Curzon St, buying a country estate in Sussex at the same time. Similarly Herman moved to Belgrave Square and had an estate in Kent, donating The Platanes to King’s College Hospital when he could not find a buyer for it. Herman was very much interested in health, especially his own: he paid his London doctor £500 and his Kent doctor £200 pa to visit him daily, regardless of whether he was ill or not. From being wrapped up in the ‘Little Germany’ of Camberwell, the Kleinworts began to socialise with the English aristocracy where the beautiful Marguerite Kleinwort caught the eye of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII and Alexander received a baronetcy from Lloyd George ‘soon after writing a cheque for £20,000’. Sophie Andreae stayed loyal to Champion Hill and continued to live at Crestalta well into old age but her children moved out; her son Herman, for example, bought an estate in Hampshire and also bought three Hebridean islands, South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay for sporting purposes.
In the build-up to the First World War there was an increase in anti-German feeling. German names were dispensed with or anglicised: just as the royal family became Windsor and the Battenbergs became Mountbatten, so the Gutentags became Goodays, the Waldsteins became Waltons. The Bechstein Hall became the Wigmore and even German shepherd dogs became known by the more euphemistic ‘Alsatian’. The Kleinworts however, resisted an associate’s suggestion that they change their name to Kenilworth, a nickname given to Alexander Friedrich when he arrived in England all those years before. The public was urged to boycott any ‘enemy alien’ establishments so the shops in Camberwell took down their ‘German spoken here’ signs and stopped selling German delicacies. There were frequent disturbances and Zollers, a bakery in Brixton, was surrounded by an angry mob of over five hundred people but the police managed to keep the peace. For the younger members of the German colony this must have been as baffling as it was frightening. Born and bred in England, educated in English schools, they found themselves ostracised and the target of attacks on both person and property. The Stock Exchange told members of German or Austrian birth not to attend until further notice. Although they did not have to apply for licences like their German-born employees, like many of German extraction they were placed under surveillance. A retired admiral was billeted as a ‘guest’ at Herman’s country residence which Herman found particularly insulting, especially as his daughters’ husbands were away fighting at the Front.
As London encroached on the pleasant backwater of Champion Hill and more and more fields were built over, members of the German colony dispersed, moving further into the countryside. The German community melted away: assimilated, name-changed and relocated. They sold or in some cases gave away the huge houses that were proving to be white elephants in the post-war economic climate, where servants were in short supply and it was easier to live in the country and commute to work. The German church was finally demolished in the 1970s after it had fallen into disrepair and used by a witches’ coven. There is little evidence for Little Germany now: only Frankfurt Road, named for a villa on Denmark Hill, remains.
From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia
1 November 2014 - 8 March 2015
Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first major solo exhibition in Europe dedicated to Canadian artist Emily Carr (1871–1945). Gathering together her paintings of the aboriginal settlements she encountered during her travels up the West Coast of Canada and her formidable landscapes and seascapes, the show exemplifies Carr’s life-long artistic evolution and the eventual discovery of a freedom in style that secured her position as one of Canada’s best loved artists. In challenging circumstances Carr’s success as both an artist and a celebrated author challenged the status quo with Georgia O’Keeffe calling her a “darling of the women’s movement”.
A pioneer of modernism, fully aware of international movements in art such as Fauvism and Post-Impressionism, Carr was fascinated by the indigenous populations of British Columbia. She immersed herself in the people and landscape and drew upon both for inspiration and subject matter. From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia presents a focused selection of over 140 works and indigenous artefacts as well as the recently discovered illustrated journal, Sister and I in Alaska, in which Carr documented her pivotal 1907 trip up and down the Northwest Coast.
“Working on Canada’s West Coast in relative isolation, away from the wellsprings of European culture, Emily Carr’s determined progress as an artist, travelling halfway across the world to San Francisco, London and Paris to improve her considerable skills, makes for an inspiring story of driven creativity, against the odds” said Sackler Director and co-curator of the show Ian Dejardin. “Her passionate engagement with both Northwest Coast indigenous culture and European modernism produced a body of work that is unique, rooted in the forests and landscapes of British Columbia – powerful and evocative, her late images of shimmering sea, living forest and ecstatic skies are a pinnacle of Canadian landscape painting. Her story is one of extraordinary determination which we will bring in to view with this show. This exhibition will be a revelation to British and Canadian audiences alike.”
Linking Carr’s paintings will be an intimate look at the artist’s explorations of the aboriginal coastal communities bringing together a carefully selected sampling of previously unseen writings and over 30 indigenous objects which follow a parallel trajectory from winter ritual to summer activity. The display includes masks, baskets and ceremonial objects by Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Salish, Tsimshian and Tlingit makers as well as objects on loan from the Murderme collection and Horniman Museum and Gardens.
Building on the success of Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2011, this show will focus on Carr’s equally distinctive vision of Canada. Her encounter with the Group of Seven in 1927 validated her work, with Lawren Harris telling Carr, until then unappreciated as an artist, "you are one of us." With Harris's encouragement and having witnessed the boldness of vision of the Group of Seven artists, Carr was determined to infuse her rendering of the natural world with equivalent power, emotion and spirituality and she began to explore her own profound feelings for the landscape of British Columbia - its deep rainforests and vast skyscapes. She painted Totem and Forest which, unlike her earlier paintings, becomes more abstract and stylized, and Indian Church, painted during the most prolific period of Carr’s career and distinctly cubist in its simplification of form.
The exhibition follows a dramatic journey from darkness to light, beginning with Carr’s dark and rhythmic forest scenes including Totem and Forest, a large and dominating work, and culminates with the euphoric skyscapes and seascapes Carr painted towards the end of her career including Untitled (Seascape). Displayed for the first time are the ‘momentary records’ Carr left behind in her trunk with the desire for the world to see after she died, including View in Victoria Harbour. These compositional sketches show the rigour of her process and the determination Carr had not only in researching and documenting but also in practising and developing her artistic style.
From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia has been organised by Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario with the generous collaboration of the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery and the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.
After 32 years of living in Oxford I relocated to Dulwich in January to be near my family. Leafy, green, clean, practically graffiti free and no rusty cars littering front gardens and pavements so who wouldn’t be delighted to move to such an idyllic place. But is it as idyllic as it seems on the surface. For me, no: don’t get me wrong I love Dulwich and am happy to be here but, and it is a big but, I am bitterly disappointed. Confused? Think my two statements don’t add up? I am one of the 9.4 million registered disabled people in the UK. and rely heavily on a mobility scooter to keep me independent, active and able to enjoy a social life and this is where my problems lie. It is called access but here in Dulwich on a scale of 1 – 10 how accessible is it.?
Coming from a city that must be one of the most accessible cities in England it was a culture shock that didn’t take long to rear its ugly head. Cars parked on pavements having no regard to the 2.0metre statutory space to allow wheelchairs room to turn if necessary, shops that showed surprise when I asked for a ramp and a large supermarket that seemed confused when I asked for a trolley that fitted onto the front of a wheelchair; to give them their due they did eventually unearth some, in pristine condition, from the basement. All these challenges I bore in silence(more or less) until the day I read about a public meeting to discuss safety on the roads in Dulwich.
This is a subject dear to my heart and into which I had a great input in Oxford. Just up my street (forgive the pun) so I put a must attend label in my diary. Emailing the Chair to ask if the venue was accessible to wheelchairs I received the answer no. A further email from me brought an apology and news of a change of venue. Great news, but where are all the other people living with a disability? Why hadn’t they made a protest about inaccessible events before I arrived? We are part of society not an add-on to be borne with fortitude. What we were promised was a fair and equal society and we must work together to make this happen. Now let us think about the proposal by NHS London that the Rosendale Surgery should be relocated in West Norwood. Surely they, of all people, should understand the needs of disabled and elderly people. How about getting a group of people together to have a site visit and present them with the challenge to walk to the proposed site( and let us pray for a rainy day!!) In my opinion it is practical actions like this that have more impact.
Have you looked at your front hedges and trees lately? If so are you one of the guilty ones that have overhanging branches ready to give someone with sight difficulties a slap in the face, or hedges that take up most of the pavement. Yes I know we want Dulwich to be green and leafy but too much of a good thing is not acceptable.
Complacent shops that do not welcome disabled people unless they are willing to stand on the pavement to be served; no pleasure of just browsing or having an impulse buy. An example of good practice that should be taken note of was my vet who, realising how important it is for an owner to be present when her pet receives treatment immediately went out and had a ramp made. This happened 3 days after I moved in so what a surprise I had as I tried to access other places to find this was far from the norm.
What is needed is a team of disabled people in Dulwich concentrating on making Dulwich, our Dulwich, the best place in Southwark for disabled people to live. Are you up for the challenge? If so I would be delighted to hear from you on 0208 670 9699 or email
In the 1920s, Miss Marguerite Hoe (also known as Mrs Margery Matthews), a trained elocution teacher, set up a small school for 5 to 8 year olds in her house at 90 Croxted Road. She dispensed Victorian governess education to twelve children who sat at tables in front of a large coal fire in the front room. With her piercing green eyes and strongly modulated voice, combined with eccentric 1920s dresses, long chains of beads and plaited earphones hairdo, she apparently exerted an iron control over both pupils and parents.
A former pupil from the 1950s has never forgotten the morning rituals – “Miss Hoe at the door to greet the children with Mrs Robertson, dressed in formal maid’s uniform including white starched cap, always smiling, never speaking and always there to hand out milk and mop up accidents (use of the outside lavatory was not encouraged and normally we would wait cross legged until we got home). After the Register came the morning catechism – we quickly learnt to smile and blithely fib – “Hot Water” (we raised our hands – yes we had all drunk half a pint of hot water before breakfast, a 19th century form of colonic irrigation which our parents in private forbade, preferring us to eat porridge, but told us to pretend that we had taken) – “Beds” (yes we had stripped and made our own beds) – “Dusting” (oh yes we had dusted our rooms before school) -“Handkerchiefs” (we waved them, they were often needed). “Reports” - this was bad news – parents had to write a behaviour report every Sunday evening in a little Blue Notebook; this was handed over fearfully to Miss Hoe on Monday morning and she would write a response report to take home the next day. No school report in my subsequent education could aspire to such awfulness! My father used to make some of it up to fill the space. Another pupil who was there in the early 1940s remembers it as a black book and still has his copy to prove it - perhaps the colour changed in the 50s.
After the introductory morning rites the children would move to the drawing room where Miss Hoe’s forceful piano playing led them in “There is a Green Hill Far Away” and other such hymns, then a quick prayer for the needy and it was back to the schoolroom for sums. “We learnt every table from pounds and ounces to rods and perches. We learnt all our multiplication tables backwards before the age of six. We did long division that stretched the entire length of a page. With nib pens we were taught complex decorative copperplate handwriting that a Dickensian clerk would have yearned over, and above all we learnt poetry, not Shakespeare or Milton but fey rhymes about pixies and hedgehogs” Another pupil even remembers one after nearly 75 years:
“The Sponge is not as you suppose a funny kind of weed but an animal like you and me.”
“The whimsical aura included the garden where we sat in summer – either in Chatterbox Corner (old logs) or under Friar Tuck (an elderly pear tree), every bush or plant named as a fairy character. Comically the train to Victoria (including the Golden Arrow) steamed past every twenty minutes – we were disciplined to freeze solemnly in motionless silence until the train had gone and then continue as if nothing had happened.”
Miss Hoe was devoted to A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. When Milne became ill she took the head girl (aged seven), and her dutiful mother, to Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly to assemble a present for him. She insisted that the Food Hall break up boxed sets of little honey pots to extract only the blue pots because that was her and A A Milne’s favourite colour. The manager was called and “Miss Hoe in full ‘Hoe-flow’ proclaimed her mission, the manager quailed and twelve blue pots, one from each Little Twelve pupil, were repacked and sent to a doubtless bemused A. A. Milne- he wrote a very heartfelt thank you letter.”
A parent whose daughter went to the school just before it closed in the mid-sixties also remembers it fondly: “I heard about the little school and visited it, and Miss Hoe, in August 1965, liking the idea of a gentle introduction to the wider world of mass education. Our daughter, then aged four and a half, joined it in September, and enjoyed it. The weekly “reports” were still a feature and we parents quickly learned to make such reports positive in nature yet credible. Lessons included memorising tables of numbers and spelling which our daughter has found were useful in later life! Sad to say, Miss Hoe was not free of favouritism––there was one little girl who was particularly targeted for fidgeting. As our daughter was one of the youngest, she may have been a bit of a pet.”
In February 1966, Miss Hoe fell ill with influenza – though she had a locum who kept the school going. She sent out a letter to say that unfortunately, the school would have to close down, due to the state of her health although she must have recovered enough to give a final Christmas party for her pupils in December 1966.
Today’s Ofsted would probably have been horrified by the discipline and astonished by the educational achievement.