The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2016.
Anniversaries serve as reminders of times past. They are also a useful means of giving prominence to an institution, person or an event. It is said, that when the BBC is running short of ideas for its programmes, the calendar is looked at to see which anniversary might be highlighted and developed to fill a space in its schedules. All parties therefore derive a benefit.
The same might be said for a number of events which are to be commemorated in Dulwich this Autumn. Depending on one’s interests, it might be the 100th anniversary of the Battle of High Wood on the Somme on September 15th 1916, the continuing events marking the year of the death of William Shakespeare, or of course the 400th anniversary of the building of Edward Alleyn’s Chapel, Almshouse and College in Dulwich.
As this time the Dulwich Society has no particular anniversary itself to celebrate, it has instead decided to take a leaf from the pages of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and give itself an un-birthday party!
According to our secretary, Sue Badman, who has perused the Society’s Minute Books, there used to be frequent parties; there was once, even a ‘social committee’. Can we deduce from this worthy exploration of our archives that we have become more serious, more troubled by the woes of the world, less gregarious? Further research suggests that the Society is actually enjoying quite a successful period at the moment - membership is at an all-time high, finances are sound, and as the pages of this Journal demonstrate, our activities are wide, interesting and well-supported. Should we risk all this by having a party?
Of course it all depends on what kind of a party. For a description of this we might well be advised to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which produces the ideal word (in French) for it:
soirée /ˈswɑːreɪ/ (noun) 1820 (Fr..f..soir evening)
an evening party, gathering, or social meeting, for conversation or music.
synonyms: social gathering, gathering, social occasion, social event;
There is actually a little extra planned. An exhibition of old photographs will recall the decline of farming in Dulwich, the three paintings by C B Core, recently given to the Society will be on display, the reception will be accompanied by jazz piano music, and during the evening a young folk group, an a capella choir and a string quartet will entertain us.
An application form for tickets is enclosed with this Journal. Don’t miss it - we may not have anything else to celebrate for ages!
September 1st sees the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, now the Dulwich Estate. Any organisation that has lasted for that length of time has clearly changed over the years - it must have responded positively, if perhaps sometimes reluctantly, to changes in society’s attitudes.
When it was set up in 1616 the foundation’s aim was to assuage Edward Alleyn’s conscience as he neared the end of his life - his business interests had been successful but not always straight forward. In setting it up he wanted to help not only his fellow Dulwich residents (the chapel and burial ground) but also some of the poor youngsters (12 poor scholars) and elderly people (6 poor brethren and 6 poor sisters) in the four local parishes where he was born, or had lived and worked. The total population of these parishes was quite small so, in an age that lacked any form of state funded social services, an offer to provide education and alms-house accommodation was a substantial benefit.
But times have changed, and while there are still only 14 almshouse residents, the number of pupils now going to the seven beneficiary schools is around 8,000 - quite a few more than originally intended, and not all of them poor. Perhaps this anniversary might be a good time for the Dulwich Estate not only to look back but also to look forward - and decide where it is going to be in the next 100 years, or perhaps even in the next 10 years.
The Estate’s website says two things about its objectives. The first is that ‘The Board of Trustees seeks to manage the endowment in the long-term interests of all the Charity’s Beneficiaries’ - a worthy statement to which few can object. It is sufficiently general to mean anything and says nothing about what those long-term interests might be.
The next paragraph, however, is very clear. It says that ‘Success in achieving this objective is measured in terms of increasing, in real terms after allowing for inflation, the annual income distribution to the Beneficiaries and maintaining the value of the Charity’s assets.’ For the year 2014/15 the Estate distributed £6.78M to its Beneficiaries, up from £6.26M the previous year - and its most recent accounts also note that in 2012, 2013 and 2014 the Beneficiaries received a substantial capital distribution as well. Clearly, on these criteria for the measurement of success, the Estate does very well.
But if we go back to the ‘long term interests of the Beneficiaries’ is it doing so well? Members will be aware of the less than positive press coverage that the Estate (and the three local beneficiary schools) has recently received over the Almshouse Charity’s proposal to build on the open space next to the new Judith Kerr Primary School. This critical coverage has also referred to the Estate’s policy of maximising shop rents without consideration of either their tenants’ viability or the needs of local users. Rents have increased by 50% on some units in Dulwich Village and it is very possible that some of the traders will close. Recent experience has shown that the shops will be re-let but with very different types of occupiers.
The Dulwich Society’s is not alone in saying that the time has come for the Dulwich Estate to have a serious discussion with its Beneficiaries, particularly the local schools, on what their long term interests really are. Is it just about money or should a wider more inclusive policy be adopted? How about one that takes local residents’ views into account in decisions that directly affect them, and is more responsive to the values and aspirations of contemporary society?
Four hundred years ago, to the day, the celebrated Elizabethan actor and theatre owner opened his charitable foundation in Dulwich. The almspeople and poor boys who were to benefit from his charity began arriving, in ones and twos, over the following days. His staff of a preacher, schoolmaster, organist and usher had been recruited and, keeping it in the family, two cousins, Thomas and Matthias assisted him in setting up this remarkable and enduring enterprise.
But what was Edward Alleyn really like? His portrait, by an unknown artist of course exists and is printed here. We thought it might be interesting to imagine what he might look like if he was alive today; so we asked graphic artist, Alison Winfield, to digitalise his portrait, remove his hat, beard and gown and dress him in a jacket and tie and holding a mobile phone instead of a glove. It strikes us that he comes across as a remarkably energetic, even intense person; one who certainly has a ‘can-do’ character. Which, is what we suppose, he really was like.
On Thursday 1st September at 6pm, on Edward Alleyn’s birthday, and the 400th anniversary of the consecration of Christ’s Chapel, there will be an Evening Sung Eucharist, celebrated by the Bishop of Southwark. There will be a special floral display inside the Chapel. In March of this year, it will be recalled, the Foundation schools gave a celebratory concert at the Royal Festival Hall to mark the Chapel’s quater-centenary. During the autumn, there will be an exhibition recounting the history of both the Chapel and the Dulwich Almshouse in the library at Dulwich College. Organised by Robert Weaver, assistant archivist at the College, it will include a number of books and objects connected with these institutions. The chapel is a beautiful building and has a fascinating history. Both are captured in the illustrated guide book on sale at the Chapel and at the Dulwich Estate office price £5.
Dulwich Almshouse Charity
To celebrate four hundred years of providing a comfortable and secure home to hundreds of poorer men and women the trustees of the Dulwich almshouse asked local historian Brian Green to write an account of its history. This will be published as a book and given to libraries, schools and various charities with which it has a connection. Thanks to a Southwark Council grant, the full text and illustrations is also being made available to be read or downloaded free online from the 1st October and may be accessed through the Dulwich Almshouse Charity website.
Admission to the almshouse depends on a number of factors including living in one of the parishes with which Edward Alleyn had a connection. These were, (and remain) St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, the parish where he was baptised and grew up; St Giles Cripplegate, later devolved to the new and adjacent parish of St Luke’s Finsbury, where he built his theatre named The Fortune; St Saviour’s Southwark where he lived and acted and where he was churchwarden, and Camberwell, the parish in which he had established his College.
In the past each parish was allowed to nominate three aged poor men and women to fill the vacancies. All the parishes experienced a rapid growth in population over the centuries thus ensuring a constant flow of needy residents to the Dulwich almshouse. During the nineteenth century, the Foundation was reformed, the almshouse extended and the accommodation increased to sixteen flats with facilities for up to four married couples. In more recent times, the Second World War caused massive damage to some areas, particularly St Giles Cripplegate, a parish now largely covered by the Barbican complex which was then re-amalgamated with St Luke’s Finsbury.
Today, with Islington Borough Council and the City of London providing housing within the parishes of Bishopsgate and Finsbury, the majority of residents of Edward Alleyn House are drawn from Southwark. An on-going programme of modernisation has taken place and ensuite facilities, stair lifts and a secure entry system have all been installed. Nevertheless, the eighteenth century building which accommodates the almshouse, whilst maintained to a very high standard, has its limitations. The rooms are small and lofty and inconvenient for those with mobility problems. There is also an opinion that to support the services of a full-time warden, at least twenty flats are required. The view of the trustees is that the only way these problems might be solved is to build up- to- date accommodation elsewhere.
Two of the present residents have celebrated their 100th birthdays this year and will be present at a tea party in September when the book will be launched and the anniversary celebrated.
The Old Burial Ground
In the late morning of 1 September 1616, after he had dedicated the chapel, George Abbot (1562-1633), the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined Edward Alleyn in a procession along the high street to consecrate a piece of ground "adjoining the royal road leading from the village of Camberwell” as a burial ground.
To mark the anniversary the Dulwich Society will open the Burial Ground as part of the London Open House Weekend on 17/18 September. Opening times are from 1-5pm on both Saturday and Sunday and there will be talks on the monuments, and some of the people buried there, on the hour every hour.
As part of its plans for the event the Society has secured Cleaner Greener Safer funding from the Council to produce a free explanatory leaflet for visitors, local schools and interested residents. A copy of this is enclosed with this Journal. In addition a small information board giving a brief history of the site will be installed on the railings, and there will also be a new website. Not only will that give the names and information on the people buried there but there will also be an interactive electronic map of the Burial Ground which will enable users to find out more about each individual grave by clicking on the number of a grave.
Crown & Greyhound
Mitchells and Butler, the tenant, have confirmed that the pub and hotel will open on 7th November. The hotel will trade under the ‘Innkeeper’s Lodge’ brand and, under a heading of ‘More than just a good night's sleep’, the company’s website says ‘Whatever your plans for the day, you can rely on Innkeeper's Lodge to provide a night of comfort for an affordable price, with a complimentary buffet breakfast provided. Each hotel has a cosy pub conveniently located right on the doorstep and with nearly 50 locations, from Brighton to Edinburgh and everywhere in-between, Innkeeper's Lodge can always be first choice for stays in the UK.’
S G Smith housing development:
The site has been acquired by McCullogh Homes Ltd, a developer/builder based in Bromley. They will build the scheme that has planning consent, and will now come under the Scheme of Management. This consists of 8 three-storey town 4 and 5 bed houses, and four affordable dwellings- 1 three bed wheelchair accessible house, a two bed house and 2 one bed flats. Parking for all the properties will be in a basement car park, with access off Gilkes Place. A social housing provider is already on board to manage the social housing and the company will be working up the detailed planning submissions over the next few months.
Cycling Quietway 7:
The Dulwich Community Council meeting (DCC) on 22 June heard representations from local residents, Southwark Cyclists, Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School, and local MP Helen Hayes over the implementation of the proposed new Quietway. Local councillors recommended a pause in the process while key issues were reviewed.
They suggested a trial, not only of the change of priority at the junction in Dulwich Village, but also the reduction of three lanes to two on Court Lane/Calton Avenue. They also wanted no further action on the current proposals until the results were in from a study into alternative routes for the school coaches for Alleyn’s, JAGS and Dulwich College, which all currently use the proposed Quietway
Dulwich Village Farmers’ Market:
A planning application has been made to run a farmer’s market on the playground of the Dulwich Infants School in Dulwich Village. It started in June, without any consent and appears to be quite successful. There have been, as yet, no complaints about additional parking stress in the area, the main comment has been the proliferation of signs, banners on the railings in the Village, and AA signs on lamp posts. These need to be removed.
Impact of new North Dulwich Triangle controlled parking zone:
While the CPZ has made a considerable difference to parking availability for residents in the roads in the North Dulwich triangle, as was expected, it is also now very clear that it has displaced parking further south into the Village, Turney and Burbage Roads. How long before residents there ask for a CPZ?
JAGS Music School:
Revised plans for the JAGS music school have been submitted to Southwark Council (Southwark ref: 16/AP/2403). The scheme has been reviewed following the arrival of a new Head last autumn and both reduced in size and modified to integrate better with the existing school buildings.
C B Core Paintings presented to Society:
The Society has recently been generously given three pictures of Dulwich scenes painted in the 1920s and 30s by local artist Charles Browne Core. They show the Tollgate, Pickwick Cottage and the Dulwich Picture Gallery and will be hung in Rosebery Lodge. They were acquired by the donor’s grandmother who worked between 1945-52 as secretary to Miss Barnes, the Head of the Dulwich Hamlet School in the Village. The donor thinks they were bought at a sale following the artist’s death in 1947.
C B Core was a well-known local builder whose office was where the chemist’s now stands in Dulwich Village. He lived at 57 Dulwich Village, the Georgian house next to the Burial ground, from the 1920s until his death in 1947 aged 86. The picture shows him and his two sons outside his office in about 1910. Sadly both his sons were killed in action in the First World War.
His claim to fame artistically was his conspicuous failure to have any of his paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy. An article on him appeared in the Daily Mirror in May 1939 headed ‘UNLUCKY FORTY YEARS, HOPING’. It said that every year from 1899 until 1939 he submitted three pictures to the Academy - and all of them were returned (it may have been 50 years as a cut out from another newspaper on the back of one of the paintings says he started sending pictures in 1888). He was quoted as saying “All I can think is that some of the pictures are never seen by the committee. Many of the pictures hung are excellent, but some of the stuff that gets on the Academy walls is absolute tripe. Every other exhibition I have tried has been pleased to accept my work, though I have not been able to sell any of it.”
Trees Walk Dulwich Park - 29th October. 10am - 12noon, meet inside the Court Lane gates. The walk will be led by Daniel Greenwood of the London Wildlife Trust. Daniel will focus on native and long-established trees in Dulwich and their associated wildlife.
The walk is being sponsored by the Dulwich Society and is free to members and suitable for children and wheel chair users.
Some 50 entries were received, with the overall high standard making judging a challenging task. The competition was open to all Dulwich households.
First Prize, of £100 in garden vouchers, went to 101 Woodwarde Road. Whilst a relatively small front garden, it had strong kerb side appeal. This was helped by a strong design structure and the use of varied planting including hydrangeas providing both showmanship and interest through different leaf shapes, heights and colours. A vertical dimension was also achieved through a climbing hydrangea on the front of the house; there were buddleias for bees and butterflies; and window boxes added a final flourish. The garden also showed a high standard of husbandry and maintenance.
Five Gold Prizes of £50 each went to entries for 82 Henslowe Road, 17, 142 and 148 Burbage Road, and 186 Peckham Rye. Five Silver prizes of £25 each went to entries for 60 and 76 Burbage Road, 134 Court Lane, 50 Park Hall Road and 88 Woodwarde Road.
Two Special Prizes of £25 have been given - to 171 Rosendale Road for their tree pit planting in the nearby traffic island, and to Glyn Davies of 130 Court Lane for maintaining the neatest front garden in Dulwich over many years.
All prize winners also received a certificate designed by the illustrator and artist Greg Becker, who lives in East Dulwich.
We would like to congratulate all the entrants, as well as the prize winners. Their attractive front gardens will have given and will continue to give pleasure to local residents, and we hope will inspire others to copy them.
Reviewed by Bernard Nurse
Edward Alleyn’s foundation 400 years ago of the College of God’s Gift is best known today for the Dulwich schools and the Picture Gallery, both of which have developed far beyond what their humble origins would have suggested. However, the plight of the elde,lmm7uyrly poor featured larger in his bequest than the education of the twelve poor scholars which he provided for then. His will of 1626 envisaged not just supporting almshouses in Dulwich for the same number of residents as the College but also in other London parishes with which he had connections.
Brian Green has taken the opportunity of its 400th anniversary this year to record the extraordinary fortunes of the almshouses in Dulwich and elsewhere, and set their history in context. When he stipulated that the six poor brethren and six poor sisters be given places should be over sixty, religious and sober, receive free accommodation, a pension and even a share of any surplus income from the estate, the welfare state was a long way off and average life expectancy was about 35. Unfortunately, as the author points outs, individual stories are missing from surviving records. Over 1000 have been assisted in Dulwich, but only those who were punished for bad behaviour (particularly drunkenness) or taking in relatives seem to have got noticed. The thoroughly researched story focuses more on the effect of the various schemes of reform from 1834 onwards and negotiations with the Charity Commissioners and the other beneficiaries over the share of income from Alleyn’s estate.
While upgrading the premises as far as possible since the 1950s, proposals to find more space or move nearby are common themes which emerge strikingly from this account. Those familiar with the temporary exhibition area in the Picture Gallery may not realise that this was originally constructed to provide rooms for the six poor sisters and accommodated them for about seventy years. Now fourteen residents are settled in the east wing of the Old College, renamed Edward Alleyn House to reflect the transformation from almshouses to the present warden-assisted housing for which the residents pay rent. The present trustees recognize that it is not possible to adapt the present building to meet modern standards and provide the desired facilities for more people; only a new site and building will answer current needs. This book issued on the occasion of the 400th anniversary provides useful support for their policy at a critical time.
What have the Edward Alleyn statue by Louise Simson, the Old Grammar School and Christ’s Chapel clocktower got in common? Answer: they all feature in the current Pokemon Go treasure hunt craze included on a telephone app.
Images of Dulwich
This calendar of local scenes which proved very popular last year is being published again for 2017 with new images and is available now from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village in A4 and A3 sizes at £9.95 and £14.95 each.1
Historic Kingswood House - The Architecture
London Open House Day, 12.30-4.30pm Sunday 18 September
Visit Kingswood House, enjoy music, take cream tea (1 to 3.30pm) or picnic in the park. Described by Historic England as rambling baronialised Victorian Tudor, the House lies at the heart of Kingswood Estate SE21, near Gipsy Hill. Built in 1811, partly rebuilt in 1890s, the House reflects eclectic tastes of “Mr. Bovril” John Lawson Johnston. The architect Lanchester later became famous as architect of Edwardian municipal buildings and promoter of town planning.
Enter our drawing competition inspired by the House (adult, 18 or 11 years and under); details from Kingswood Library or contact
Britain’s First 'pop-up' Sustainable Department Store
St Barnabas Parish Hall, 23 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BT, Saturday October 1st 2016, 10 am - 6 pm On Saturday 1st October, the ‘Blue Patch Department Store’ will open its doors to the public for one day only, giving customers the opportunity to browse a selection of innovative, sustainable and quality creations from some of Britain’s best designers and producers, who will be on hand to discuss their handiwork.Visitors will be able to feel fabulously soft British Alpaca, discover Mr Dulwich, a very local fashion label , sample beauty products made with the help of British bees and try out handcrafted designer furniture made from reclaimed and sustainable wood. All the companies with products at the store are part of the Blue Patch collective, a social enterprise that’s uniting small British manufacturers and independent workshops that are continually improving their sustainable practices and to providing exceptional service to their customers.
Entry is free. The store also provides informal drop-in advice for people starting their own businesses and an afternoon ‘conversation’ on 'High Streets of the Future’ so come and have your say! You can follow Blue Patch on twitter @BluePatchTeam
If music be the food of love . . .
then join Dulwich Chamber Choir for an evening of music, poetry, prose (and food) to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare on Friday, 23rd September 2016 at 7pm The Old Library, Dulwich College, Dulwich Common SE21 7LD Tickets on the door: £15/£10, or a family ticket for £20
The Ionian Singers
Saturday 12 November at All Saints Church, West Dulwich. CONCERT -The Ionian Singers, conductor and pianist Timothy Salter and cellist Karolina Ohman, English, French and German choral and instrumental music from the late 19C to the present.
7.30pm £12.50 (£10 concessions) at the door or from 0208 693 1051 or
By Khurshid Bamboat
Around 1984/5, in South London, a group of ladies met regularly to learn patchwork and quilting. They enjoyed themselves so much that they decided to continue meeting and quilting together on a regular basis.
In 1986, Dulwich Quilters was formed and this year we celebrate 30 years as a group. We have kept to the original ethos - we meet twice a month in members’ homes and for that reason, membership is restricted to 25 active members. Although small in numbers, we are very cosmopolitan as well as versatile in our work. We have, for many years, made quilts for Project Linus and deliver these on a regular basis for the children’s wards at Kings College Hospital. We also raffle a group quilt for a chosen charity at our exhibition and over the years, have given to many worthwhile causes.
This November, Dulwich Quilters will hold their exhibition on 5th & 6th November at The Old Library, Dulwich College SE21 7LD from 10 am to 5 pm both days. Individual members’ quilts, the Chairman’s Challenge as well as The Pearl Anniversary hanging, made especially to celebrate this milestone, will be on show. Our group quilt - A QUILT OF MANY COLOURS will be raffled on the Sunday in aid of HANDS UP FOR UGANDA, a project run by Bobby Britnell, a well known quilter/textile artist. The charity was created ‘with the overriding aim of empowering the people of Kisaabwa (a very poor rural community in South Uganda) giving them hope of a self supporting and sustainable future. HANDS UP was chosen not only because it is such a worthwhile project and deserves support, but also because three of our members grew up in Uganda. Do come and see the show!
By Brian Green
Years ago, I had a great friend who had fought near the Somme in 1916. His spell there was fairly short, his regiment, the 2nd Battalion The First Surrey Rifles were redeployed to Salonika and then to Egypt and Palestine. I remember him describing to me the scene when he first went into the line at Anzin, close to Ypres, in July 1916. The battalion had been drafted to France after only a few weeks of training and had relieved a Highland Brigade. It was not a pretty sight, especially for a young and inexperienced soldier. He recalled that when they passed the Scottish regiments they could not see where their tunics ended and their trousers started, they were so covered in yellow mud. My friend was also horrified to see that they were also covered in lice. He would shortly have the same unpleasant experience. He was one of the lucky ones. Although a bullet grazed his helmet on his first day in the line, he survived. Only recurring bouts of malaria which he picked up when his battalion was sent to the Middle East returned to trouble him over the years.
I was living in Dovercourt Road at the time and my next door neighbour was W J Hahn who had been the Camberwell Borough Chief Librarian. He was also a leading member of the FSR Association and had actually fought in and survived the battle of High Wood. Most of his comrades in the 1st Battalion of the First Surreys were not so lucky. The 1st Battalion formed one of the battalions of the London Regiment whose war memorial stands outside the Royal Exchange. Another was the Queen’s (Royal West Surreys) who recruited at Kennington (the First Surreys were based at Flodden Road, Camberwell). One hundred years ago, on 15 September 1916 they shared the same attack in which the First Surreys were virtually annihilated at the battle for High Wood.
The First Surreys continued afer WW1 as a Territorial battalion and were reformed as an anti-aircraft artillery regiment in WW2. Afterwards, it was gradually wound down and finally disbanded. Jeffery James is one of the few remaining members of the FSR Association and its archivist and is keen that this anniversary does not go unmarked, especially as the association is to close in two years time. He writes :
‘Several years ago I embarked on a quest to discover what did happen to the 1/21st London Regiment - The First Surreys, on the afternoon of 15th September 1916.
You may have the impression of another waste of young men on a battlefield in France, part of the Somme offensive. The true story is one of heroism and denial, by their regiment, of those who took part, the recognition of a feat of arms.
It may surprise you to learn the ‘Official History’ of the Great War was not completed until 1948! In correspondence, in June 1935, with the Official Historian, Brigadier General J E Edmonds, the commanding officer of the Royal West Surreys, Colonel Parker, writes about the very battle involving his regiment and The First Surreys.
He said, ‘ ….in an operation which involved two armies, seven corps, sixteen divisions and thirty-five brigades, it is significant that only the Brigade Commander 124th Brigade and the 122nd sent his Brigade Major up, in each case with the happiest results. Future generations….will probably comment…of the sixty Commanders of the various formations higher than Battalions, only one took a personal part in the battle. I am convinced had any senior officer of the 47th Division been on the spot, the disastrous attack of the 1/21st and 1/24th down a forward slope in broad daylight and in plain sight of something like one hundred German Forward Observation Officers, would never have been ordered’.
To close a gap between the British troops who had occupied High Wood, at great cost, the day before, the First Surreys were ordered to attack. Alone and unsupported, they captured Starfish Redoubt - a fortified German position - and part of the Starfish Line, part of the Flers-Courcelette battle,
Others watched them go in. An extract from the War Diary of 1/15th Battalion (The Civil Service Rifles) records : ‘6pm 21st London Regiment attacked from High Wood on West Half of Starfish and Cough Drop Practically annihilated by Artillery and Machine Gun fire’.
Starfish was the fifth item on their orders issued by Lt Col Kennedy,the FSR’s Commanding Officer. The Cough Drop was a secondary objective. There is no mention in the First Surreys regimental history, published Christmas Day 1927 of either. The attack is recorded as an, ‘ill-fated venture’.
In the 111 Corps ‘Summary of Operations’ for the day, ‘The 21st Battalion, after suffering heavy casualties, captured the Starfish and a small portion of the Starfish Line to the west of it, but were unable to capture the Cough Drop’. The 47th Division book published 1921 says, ‘the capture of the Starfish Line was considered essential and about 6pm the 21st and 24th Battalions attacked with this object….On the right the 21st Battalion (FSR) attacked the Starfish Line and captured Starfish Redoubt itself, but their attempt to get onto the Cough Drop did not succeed’.
The First Surreys dead, and with several hundred wounded, were eight officers and one hundred and twenty-five other ranks. A further nine died of wounds. Their names are recorded at the following cemeteries, Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumount, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Thiepval Memorial and Warlencourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais.
One was 2nd Lt Harrison Edkins, age 20, who went to Dulwich College and is buried at Adanac. At Caterpillar Valley lies Rifleman Frederick Clarke, age 22 from West Norwood. At Thiepval, is Rifleman Frederick Evers, age 19,from Landells Road, East Dulwich, The First Surrey Rifles Association is due to close in 2018. A representative will lay a wreath at the Cross on Sunday 18th September, assembly for 12 noon.
If you pass by St Giles Church, Camberwell you will see the First Surreys’ Memorial Cross. Remember the men who gave their lives.’
Brian Green writes:
To commemorate the regiment’s sacrifice at High Wood, a detachment from the Dulwich Air Cadets, accompanied by their Chaplain, the Reverend Maria Coulter, vicar of St Clements with St Peter’s, East Dulwich will visit High Wood and lay a wreath there on the 100th anniversary of the battle.
The history of the 47th (London) Division, 1914-1919 vividly describes the battle.
“We never saw anything quite like High Wood... it was a wood only in name,
ragged stumps sticking out of churned-up earth, poisoned with
fumes of high explosives, the whole a mass of corruption
Imagine Hampstead Heath made of cocoa-powder, and the
natural surface folds further complicated by countless shell-holes,
each deep enough to hold a man, and everywhere meandering
crevices where men live below the surface of the ground, and you
will get some idea of the terrain of the attack."
High Wood, had been almost occupied at great cost the previous day but a gap existed between two of the British brigades of the Division. The closing of the gap in what was named the Starfish Line, was considered essential. Tanks had been used at High Wood for the first time in warfare. The terrain of shell holes and the stumps of blasted trees made their use largely ineffective and several had broken down. It was the presence of the tanks that determined that there would be no creeping barrage of artillery when, at about 6 p.m.(other accounts say 4pm) the 21st(First Surrey Rifles) and 24th Battalions attacked without artillery support. This disastrous decision exposed the assaulting troops to concentrated machine gun fire and they suffered fearfully, the 21st Battalion (FSR) having only 2 officers and 60 other ranks left unwounded out of 17 officers and 550 other ranks who attacked.
So is Jeffery James correct in his belief that after the war, the details of the catastrophe were glossed over in the regimental history? It is only in very recent times that individuals have been held to account or blame be apportioned for some military disaster or failure. My opinion is that the First World War was so terrible and so futile - the FSR lost over 1100 dead in total, that the enormity of the losses was beyond human understanding.
In the summer of 1917, the FSR launched a monthly regimental magazine, its masthead stating: ‘published on active service’. While it did not hide the regiment’s losses - it reported 28 killed on 25 May 1917 and dozens wounded throughout three of its four companies, it nevertheless adopted a jocular tone in articles and cartoons, highlighting the eccentricities of some its officers and senior NCO’s. It was as if the war itself was some incidental farce, a treatment so brilliantly typified in the musical, “Oh, What a Lovely War”. When days got bleak, humour switched on. Even the tragedy of High Wood was parodied - the rotting stench of corpses persuading E A MacIntosh to put new words to a song which was made popular at the time by music hall star Gertrie Miller called “From Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green” to become - “From High Wood to Waterlot Farm”. Oddly, you can still listen to the original song today on YouTube.
High Wood to Waterlot Farm
Tune: "Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green"
There is a wood at the top of a hill,
If it's not shifted it's standing there still;
There is a farm a short distance away,
But I'd not advise you to go there by day,
For the snipers abound, and the shells are not rare,
And a man's only chance is to run like a hare,
So take my advice if you're chancing your arm
From High Wood to Waterlot Farm.
High Wood to Waterlot Farm,
All on a summer's day,
Up you get to the top of the trench
Though you're sniped at all the way.
If you've got a smoke helmet there
You'd best put it on if you could,
For the wood down by Waterlot Farm
Is a bloody high wood.